Alan Vitberg

Developing Your Personal Brand Equity

If you have a considerable degree of creativity and insight, this just might be the job for you.

July 22, 2010
by Alan Vitberg/Journal of Accountancy

Building a reputation in the accounting profession takes time, but is critical to success. Traditionally, partners built their reputation, or personal brand, by pushing information out to clients, prospects and friends. The timeworn mantra “it’s not what you know, but who you know” has been a fundamental building block for counseling younger partners and rising stars.

With the explosion of social media and other new digital tactics, however, “push” is giving way to “dialogue,” where people-to-people-driven information is becoming an important way to create personal awareness, establish credibility, drive differentiation at the personal level and invite prospects into relationships that can be transformed into new business. The new mantra for today’s younger partners and rising stars is: it’s not who you know, but who knows you; and it’s not what you know, but how quickly you share your knowledge, observations and insights. Now, more than ever, talented professionals need to be able to distinguish themselves quickly across a series of networking platforms. If you are a young CPA interested in building your reputation and developing your own personal brand equity (PBE), this article is for you. CPA firm partners and managers can also benefit from understanding the importance of personal brand equity and the effect it can have on your firm.

Building a Personal Brand

Personal brand equity combines thought leadership and relationship building. Follow these steps for building personal brand equity.

Understand personal brand equity and the process of branding. Basically, PBE consists of:

  1. The intangible value individuals bring to the firm in terms of their ability to influence others by leveraging their experience, expertise and reputation,
  2. The relationships they have built and maintained and
  3. The tangible value they bring in terms of their contribution to firm revenue and growth.

Managing partners and executive committees need to understand the concept of personal branding and its importance for a firm’s growth and legacy. Personal branding can be a strategic objective for the firm, as well as a process that allows younger partners and rising stars to stand out from a crowd by identifying their unique value proposition, articulating it through a consistent message and then delivering it across multiple media platforms.

Craft personal brand statements and brand positioning. Each younger partner and rising star’s brand should be built on a “position” that can be articulated in a personal brand statement. They need to answer this question as a start: What makes you different and why should people care?

A personal brand position statement has four key elements:

  1. Identifying a target market by niche or by job title;
  2. Choosing personal attributes and characteristics that define how the individual wants to be perceived;
  3. Defining and selecting the technical skills he or she wishes to highlight; and
  4. Conveying what makes him or her different.

Examples: “I am a dedicated professional who helps owners of small manufacturing businesses develop and execute succession plans that guarantee firm continuity. No other CPA in the market can combine innovative thinking with resources, contacts and experience like I do.”

Another example: “I am a manager who uses the audit process as a steppingstone to understand and help my tax-exempt clients solve their business issues. My clients think of me as a team player and a ‘go-to’ resource who can find ways to solve their problems.”

This article has been excerpted from the Journal of Accountancy. View the full article here.