Building Your Personal Brand Through Social Impact

By Jeff Edmondson
Never before have there been so many ways for an individual to express their individuality.
Social media in particular enables people to share not just their own perspectives and experiences, but support and affiliate themselves with organizations, movements and ideas they find to be meaningful.
In essence, this vast array of opportunities means GenDIY has to learn how to manage not just their image per se, but also build a brand for themselves. Much has been written about this phenomenon actually. An article from March 2015 in Inc. went right to the experts on this topic–Millennials–to identify their top five tips for building a personal brand. Without going into deep explanation, here are the headings:
1.    Create a consistent personal social media brand.
2.    Activate your presence across as many social media platforms as you can manage.
3.    Create a singular value proposition.
4.    Map out a content strategy and stick to it.
5.    Sprinkle in stories about yourself to humanize and let your persona shine.
I want to jump straight to number three: create a singular value proposition. The article encourages people to focus on a particular topic like cooking or home. This is certainly valuable and many people are interested in specific areas of interest of this sort.
But if you want to set yourself apart, it could be more powerful to build your brand around a singular result, such as eliminating disparities in high school graduation rates or increasing access to high quality early learning to improve kindergarten readiness. By focusing on results instead of topics, you have an opportunity to not only stand out, but be a part of a larger effort in your community to achieve something meaningful in our society.

Collective Impact

Over the last decade, I have had the unique opportunity to work with more than 60 communities looking to focus people on measurably improving outcomes in education, instead of simply focusing on specific and isolated programs like those listed above.
The work we have done was captured in the concept called “collective impact.” This work differs from traditional collaboration in many ways, but the primary difference is that people rally around moving a specific outcome as opposed to falling in love with the latest, greatest idea or focusing myopically on a single intervention.
So why would this make any difference? When you come together around measurable outcomes instead of predetermined solutions, you are able to help people identify how what they do contributes to a bigger goal. Let’s say the result people organize around is one of those mentioned above, eliminating disparities in early grade reading scores. The first question the group needs to ask is not what more should we be doing, but rather: Where is the real need? What is already working? What can we learn? How can we build on the existing success?
Here is what we are seeing in communities that truly embrace this work: those individuals and organizations that have the courage to look at data on the impact of the work they are doing in the social sector against a specific outcome are starting to stand out from those who are hiding behind a history of work without any measurable impact. They become the bright spots. They become the people others want to rally around. And isn’t that the goal of just about any brand: making sure what you are doing stands out in the crowd?

A GenDIY Community Challenge

So here is my challenge to the GenDIY community: take the lessons we are learning related to doing quality collective impact and implement them your community. Identify an area you want to make real change and build your brand around that. Don’t build it around an issue. Build your brand around a specific result and “map your content strategy” back to showing how what you and your colleagues are doing to make measurable improvement.
Not expected improvement. Not desired improvement. But actual improvement.
If you do that, you will not only build a powerful personal brand, but be a critical piece in making an impact that will change lives forever.

About “GenDIY”

eduInnovation and Getting Smart have partnered with The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation to produce a thought leadership campaign called Generation Do-It-Yourself (GenDIY)–how young people are hacking a pathway to a career they love–on The Huffington Post and This campaign about reimagining secondary and postsecondary education and career skills will explore the new generation building a global economy and experiences that are impact driven and entrepreneurial.

For more on GenDIY:

Jeff Edmondson is the Managing Director of StriveTogether. You can follow him on Twitter at @EdmondsonC2C

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