While preparing a slide deck for an upcoming webinar, I remembered this post, originally published in November 2009 at Mountain State University LeaderTalk. I no longer live in the home that contained that kitchen. I wanted to repost this here (with permission) because it contains important reminders for all of us as we establish or build our  personal (or business) brands. After you read this post, spend 12 minutes thinking about your brand. What differentiates you? How are you presenting your brand in memorable, authentic ways?

This is my kitchen.

It has never looked this way before.

For days, I have been in the middle of packing up and putting away, clearing off and sweeping out. With a combination of hard work and window cleaner, I am making the surfaces in my home shine.

We are staging; strategically arranging our home to look its best for potential buyers. In this market, our realtor tells us, it is important to get everything right — starting with the price — to increase our chances of success.

Most of our rooms now contain about half of what they did before. By the time our home goes on the market later this week, many traces of our family’s personality will be removed to present a glossy, photo ready space. Counters clear, half empty and tidy closets, books lonely on the shelves.

This is not really how people live.

Of course, I know that, and realtors know that, and buyers know that. But the message we are creating is that of the better and happier life that they can achieve by buying a new home. And it works.

In many ways, branding is a similar process.

Branding is put-your-best-foot-forward, minimize your weakness, highlight your strengths, be competitive in today’s competitive work/business environment. Branding is a new way of life, critical for us as individuals and important for every business.

Branding is NOT about projecting an unrealistic ideal. If your personal (or business) brand is unrealistically perfect, those who follow will inevitably feel discouraged. A staged home permits people to use their imaginations to consider how they can express themselves in the space. As you are honest about imperfections and foibles, you help others embrace the freedom to be who they are, releasing them from the need to live up to your ideal.

Branding is NOT about crafting a false impression of your value. As you work at expressing your brand, you are showcasing your inherent value.

Branding is NOT about hiding your personality. Instead, it IS about shining: allowing who you are deep down to shine through in a way that allows you to connect with others and make an impact through what you do.

Branding must be strategic. The way you present yourself to others should be well-planned, thought-through, and carefully considered.

Branding sends a message. To create a brand, you clarify who you are and what you can do. Then, you present it to others in a holistic and recognizable package. As you interact in the workplace, your community, and the cyber-world, you gain personal and brand recognition, creating opportunities to engage and influence others with increasing success.

And it works.