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Building the Nursing Brand Called YOU!

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

Nurse Pointing Finger At You

Great global brands have a combination of trust and emotion. But have we thought that personal brands as with nurses need to do the same? Since healthcare can literally be a life and death proposition, it seems to me the importance of building trust and a very strong emotional connection is even more critical.

In over 20 years I’ve had the thrill of teaching hundreds of graduate students and industry professionals how to build personal brands that can travel well around the world, or across cultures (both international and organizational).

In the past, a “domestic personal brand” was perfectly fine. But in our diverse healthcare systems, one need not travel outside the walls of an American hospital to realize that an understanding of navigating multiple cultures is absolutely critical. The title of this piece should actually be called The GLOBAL Brand Called YOU.

Regardless of whether you choose to be a global or domestic brand, building any personal brand is still critical not only to get more money or authority but mostly for personal satisfaction and fulfillment. In fact, I would argue that there is a direct correlation between personal brands as an antidote for burnout and stress.

So what are some key elements in a blueprint for building the Global Brand Called YOU?

Personal Brand Complexity

There is always a risk of a branding strategy that creates the impression of being unfocused. Scattered thinking about the professional journey is not a road to strong branding. However if one creates a complexity to their brand by design that can be visualized and verbalized, it can be a very powerful thing.

This strategy is sometimes referred to as cross-functional skills or double, triple, and comb-shaped skills as in the image below. I sometimes refer to them as “hyphenated skills”.

Cross functional skills

Essentially this strategy is one of developing a diversity of complimentary personal brand attributes that reflect the complexities of the modern healthcare landscape.

For example, your core brand as a nurse or even as a ward nurse (on the horizontal axis) which in and of itself is something to be proud of. But think about sub-brands that could be added to provide even more intellectual stimulation and greater brand value in the eyes of management, peers, or especially patients!

So perhaps you decide that you may want to add two tines to your brand comb such as informatics and telemedicine. You may already have these skills, but the key is being able to think of them as a purposeful aspect of verbalizing and promoting your brand.

A valuable exercise is to develop a hyphenated string starting with your core brand (nurse) and then adding more granular sub-brands.

For example:

Nurse manager-Health Equity-Hospital @ Home-compliance

Again the string or tines must make complete sense when aggregating into the master brand to avoid the perception it is not seen as being professionally schizophrenic.

Discreetly Promoting Your Personal Brand

Approaching your personal brand promotion the way personal injury lawyers do on television spots could be risky.

Brands whether cola or cardiologist need to have a healthy ego and bravado but there is always a risk of trying too hard in the eyes of colleagues and management. That does not mean you can’t be bold in your approach, it just means you need to look at the process from the outside in.

I’ve found one of the best ways to initiate a personal brand is to develop a series of themes in staff presentations or on social media that sound provocative and that result in someone asking “That’s interesting, I understand all the words, but tell me what that means”.

For example, I once wrote a blog entitled What Ramen Noodles Can Teach You About Digital Innovation”

You may have read that and said “What the hell is he talking about?”

If so… SUCCESS!! Your brand should beg someone to ask you to tell a story. Think of broadcast ads that made you weep when the company told a story.

Personal branding requires the same process of creating a provocative mystique. It begs the audience to want storytelling about the topic.

Even though you may be promoting something that is mainstream in healthcare. You need to do it with an edge…If the title was simply “Thoughts on Digital Transformation in Healthcare” a large part of the target audience would yawn and move on.

Think about themes in your professional life that you can add some constructive complexity to, much like Monty Python's “And Now for Something Completely Different".

Building the Global Brand

The internet is packed with stories of cross-cultural communication failures. Whether on a semester abroad or during a family vacation, most of us have experienced the horror of cultural missteps. As mentioned above, with the diversity of the modern healthcare workforce, personal brands need to be in tune with how their attributes travel across cultures. Equally important they need to understand how various cultures receive information differently and how your personal brand might not translate well.

Think of this the same way that Mcdonalds' modifies its menu around the world. While there are many items that are consistent around the world, many items are country-specific based on local norms.

My mantra in creating brands that travel well, whether personal or consumer is “Global Chassis - Local Body”. Your brand must be consistent and trustworthy but adjusted based on cultural contexts from cultural sociologists like Geert Hofstede that include collectivism, long-term orientation, uncertainty avoidance, etc.

Personal Brands Need to Be Socialized

There is no shortage of outlets for promoting your personal brand in an age of social media. However there is the challenge of getting your message to stand out above the noise. A simple web search on any topic will confirm that healthcare is no different. Search on something seemingly focused as “clinical burnout in rural hospitals” and you’ll find that there are 2,830,000 hits with some reference to that topic.

It reminds me of the famous Yogi Berra quote “No one goes to that restaurant anymore because it’s too crowded”.

That said, there are many less-crowded outlets for getting your personal brand differentiator out. For example by-lined articles in internal newsletters at work; LinkedIn posts in like-minded groups; Twitter feeds; lunch and learns; calls for presentations at conferences; zoom webinars whether on your own or via another organization.

Personal Brand Retrospection is Critical

Brands are organic. They have ebbs and flows. They may be unrecognizable from when the process started. This is good! Think about any consumer brand that is exactly the same as it was 10 years ago. Most of us remember when Amazon was only an online bookstore, now they’re a healthcare provider!

While elements of your personal brand will evolve into something completely different, always reflect on the “core brand“ that will always remain.

For example, I started my career as a special education teacher in the 70s. As my career evolved into international media and healthcare I had an epiphany that my “core brand’ was still being able to teach complex topics in a way that people/customers could comprehend them. That NEVER went away, nor will it. It transformed into what my brand is today.

Think About “Re-wirement”

As many of us get older we wonder whether we can afford to totally retire our current personal brand or if we want to develop a new brand that better reflects where we are in life at this moment.

In my career, a seminal work entitled “The Portfolio Life” was groundbreaking. It introduced the concept of “re-wirement” versus retirement. This does not mean a complete unraveling of your professional skills, although it could. But what it does refer to is taking your current skills and rewiring them into something that is just different enough that it feels fresh and new in the latter phase of the career, or even in retirement.

We’ll be covering more aspects of the Healthcare Brand Called YOU in future posts and conferences.

For more insights on Leadership, Patient Experience, Hospital@Home, Burnout, and Equity log into ICD Healthcare Network

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