Brand “YOU” – The Power of Personal Branding

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By Hume Johnson, PhD

Who are you?We shouldn’t but we judge a book by its cover. Psychologists say when we meet someone, our brain compiles all the information we can gather in thirty seconds about them to form and impression – image, body language, stance, posture, smell, tone of voice, attitude etc.

If you don’t project a certain image – look, sound and behave appropriately, incorrect assumptions can be made about you and your abilities. This is your brand. Your brand is the image you project to others; how you choose to present yourself to others. ‘Its is about discovering what is true and unique about you, and letting everyone know about it’ (Schawbel et, al. 2009). Personal branding is an amalgamation of your assets, skills, abilities, experiences and values. It is a way of honestly reflecting your identity and reputation (Andrea Molloy).

‘Personal branding is the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out in a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition (whether professional or personal) and then leverage it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal’ (Schawbel, 2010).standing out

Why Brand Yourself

Personal branding:

  • can enhance recognition as an expert in your field,
  • establish your reputation and credibility,
  • advance your career and,
  • build your self-confidence.

Developing your personal brand makes you a more valuable asset. We are not here talking about creating a false image – an image that is not you. It is important for you to be authentic; sincere – about what is truthful and amazing about you and work hard to make the most of it. Authenticity and sincerity means showcasing exactly who you are, and what you can deliver. If you claim to be a freelance writer, then you have to show a portfolio of solid writing samples.

Aim is to help you to discover your personal brand, and, become the driving force in marketing your personal brand. To get started, you must be willing to do two things: (1) Acknowledge first that you are a brand, and (2) Accept that no one can market your brand better than you. In short, you are responsible for marketing your personal brand.


You brandYour Personal Brand Approach should be based on two principles:

  • Differentiation – Standing out in the crowd by focusing on your unique gifts and what makes you different.
  • Marketability – Providing something that other people want or need.

Why should people choose your brand?

  • You have a robust professional network
  • You get endorsements to show from respected colleagues
  • You deliver results. (Accomplishments with catalogued results)
  • You have a diverse and unique skill set.

 Thanks to technology and the worldwide web, you have the ability, for example, to use your social media page as a personal billboard to advertise your talents and expertise.


Why Take a Public Speaking Class?

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Hume Johnson, PhD

public-speakingOur culture values oral communication skills. Employers see employees with great speaking skills as an asset to their organisations. In addition, public speaking can develop critical thinking skills – engaging in reasoned discourse where you can display your analytical skills. You can also develop professional, civic and personal skills.

I would like you to reflect on your own public speaking goals. Below I have provided a series of questions, I would like you to provide answers to them.

  • Why they are taking public speaking?
  • What knowledge and skills do you bring to the subject?
  • What new skills and competencies do I wish to develop during this course?
  • What role does public speaking and listening play in your life now?
  • What role can public speaking play in your future?

Use the comment section of this post to insert your responses.

Don’t Clam Up: Make a Conversation with Anyone, Anytime!

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Hume Johnson, PhD

Former PM of Jamaica, Most Hon. PJ Patterson chats with author, Dr. Hume Johnson, and Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness. Jamaica' in Kingston, Jamaica, 2012.
Former PM of Jamaica, Most Hon. PJ Patterson chats with author, Dr. Hume Johnson, and Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness. Jamaica’ in Kingston, Jamaica, 2012.

Take a moment and visualize all the successful people you know or admire. Notice that the majority of them exhibit an extraordinary capacity to hold a good conversation. Experts agree that the ability to hold a good conversation promotes an image of self-confidence, intelligence and wit. Indeed people who always seem to be on top of their field professionally and are well respected by others share the ability to converse with anybody in every situation. People who can speak effectively and effortlessly with others are usually more popular (well-liked) and are more often than not, highly successful.

Conversation can be categorized into three parts

  1. The first part is ‘small talk’. Small talk is guided by social rules. These include polite greetings and salutations; inquiries about the well-being of others etc.
  2. The second part signals the end of ‘small talk’ and moves into the purpose of the conversation. This maybe business, the sharing of opinions and personal views. Without the capacity to express yourself effectively, the conversation can very easily slip back into small talk. This lessens the chances of accomplishing the initial goal of the conversation.
  3. The third part of a conversation is where the various ideas and views expressed can be merged into a satisfying end for all parties involved in the conversation.

The art of conversation can be learned. Again, note that it is common among successful energetic people. If you are unable to effectively express yourself in any situation, you will likely find that you do not attract the attention and command the respect that is bestowed upon some others. REMEMBER – People who talk freely and openly with others usually find more professional and personal fulfillment than those who are introverted and silent. If you want to improve your professional and social standing, learn to communicate effectively and in a positive manner. You will notice a dramatic difference in the way other people perceive you if you demonstrate self-confidence and project a friendly, informed image.

Here are a few tips that will help you improve your conversation skills and ramp up your image.

  1. DON’T SUFFER FROM GROUP-THINK. Always express YOUR opinions; and not what you think others want to hear, or want you to say. In professional contexts, feel free to say what is on your mind in a non-threatening and positive way. By doing this, you invite reactions and responses. Effective leaders are never afraid to say what their views are. If you display the courage to speak your mind and also listen openly to the views of others, you will earn respect and admiration of all those you encounter.
  2. LISTEN; GIVE YOUR FULL ATTENTION TO THE SPEAKER: When people are speaking with you listen empathetically. Hear not just what they say but all the emotions and motivations behind what they say and sympathise with where they are coming from. People will sometimes interpret what people say in a way which clouds their ability to hear what the person truly intends to say. If in doubt, repeat what they say to be clear that you are understanding their point of view before you respond.
  3. TRY TO MAKE SENSE OF THE SPEAKER: Not everybody will speak clearly. This does not mean they do not have a view and a reasonable perspective. If they seem unclear, try to find the meaning and give coherence to the words they are saying; Offer them the respect of hearing what they want you to hear. Give and receiving respect is essential to good conversation; it’s a give and take between parties; not one person speaking and the other merely listening.

Here’s wishing you great conversations!

10 Steps to Writing a Great Profile Feature

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Hume Johnson. PHD

A “profile feature” is an article that explores the background and character of a particular person (or group). The focus should be on a news angle or a single aspect of the subject’s personal or professional life. The article usually begins with the reason the subject is newsworthy at this time, and is based (not exclusively) on an extensive interview with the subject (New York Times, 1999). Profiles are therefore a useful Public Relations tool that can establish favourable opinion about individual clients. Here are ten steps to guide you on your way to writing a great profile feature piece for your client.

1. Research, Research, Research 

You must gather a minimum of 5 articles on the subject for your research. This is important to that you can have various perspectives on the subject. It should be written as an interesting conversation piece, not like a eulogy or a Wikipedia article. Biographical material is important, but should not be overemphasized: the biography is background to the news. Readers should be allowed to better understand the subject by seeing this person in the context of his or her interests and career, educational and family background.

2. Decide on an approach. Outlining your story is the best way to start. This means reviewing your notes, marking the most interesting or articulate quotes, making a list of important points, and creating a structure into which you can fit your information. Spend extra time of the beginning of your story. Readers will decide whether to proceed based on the capacity of your lead to grab their interest.

3. Focus on what’s most compelling. Before you start writing, think through all the information you have and all the points you plan to make. What’s surprising? What’s important? What’s useful?

4. Show, don’t tell. It is tempting to describe a room as messy or a person as nice. But carefully-observed details and well-chosen verbs will “show” the reader who the person is, and makes a much stronger impression than adjectives.

5. Put your story in context. You must help answer a reader’s biggest question about any story: Why should I care? What makes your subject special or significant? Why should readers care to know about him or her?

6. Don’t overuse direct quotes. Sometimes you can best capture a mood with your own prose. Think of direct quotes as icing on a cake — they enhance, but they shouldn’t form the substance of your story. The quotes you do use must be attributed, always. The reader should not have to guess who is talking.

7. Fill holes. Are there questions raised by your story that you have not answered? Ask a friend or colleague to read through your story and tell you what else he or she would want to know.

8. Triple-check for accuracy. Spell names right. Get titles right. Get facts right. If you are unsure of something and cannot verify it, leave it out. Before you turn in your story, ask yourself these questions: Have I attributed or documented all my facts? Are the quotes in my story presented fairly and in context? Am I prepared to publicly defend my facts if they are questioned?

9. Proofread. Do not turn in a story with spelling or grammatical mistakes.

10. Don’t end with a conclusion, so to speak: Don’t end your article with a conclusion. Consider saving a particularly resonant quote for the last sentence. This way your article will end with a voice the reader may be left hearing long after he or she has finished your story. You can also close with a statement that sums up the person and their accomplishment, or says something significant that resonates with the reader.

* Parts of this article taken from ‘How to Write a Profile Feature’, New York Times, 1999.

8 Things You Should be Doing When Delivering a Speech

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redman, speakingTo deliver a speech well, there are a few essential things that you must ne doing. Simply having a great written speech is not enough. It’s your delivery which will make it resonate with the audience. Last week, the students in my  Speech class were practicing at the podium for a formal speech assessment. We used the opportunity to make note of the crucial elements of good speech delivery. As you prepare to deliver your next speech, be sure to illustrate and exhibit these eight ingredients in order to capture your audience, hold their attention and for your delivery to be on point!

1. Sound Conversational

In order to be believable and to win the attention of your audience, it is important to speak in a conversational style. To sound conversational, pretend as if you are delivering your speech to only one person such as your grandmother or a respected friend. Instead of reading to your audience word for word what’s on your script, try to simply talk to them. Connect with them in the same way you would telling a story about an event in your day to a close friend.

2. Project Your Voice

You must attempt to project your voice and sustain this projection throughout your presentation. Some people have a naturally soft voice. Others have been conditioned to speak in very low tones. However, persons at the back of the room should still be able to hear you even without a microphone. Projecting your voice is not the same as shouting. The voice is produced by the control of breath from the diaphragm. This breath allows the voice volume and the ability to carry in a large room. Resist the temptation to sink into a low tone. Projecting your voice gives force to your speech, shows your personality and makes you appear more confident.

3. Make Eye Contact

It is incredibly important to connect with the people who are talking to. The most effective way is at first to make eye contact with them. Do not stare at one person, but make your eyes wander around the room as you speak. A good technique which I have used is to focus my eyes on the left of the room (left focus), then right of the room (right focus) and then to the middle of the room (centre focus). My most important points and the beginning and end of my speech are usually centre focus.  Eye contact says you are confident, you know what you are talking about, you are aiming to connect and engage with audience.

4. Pace Yourself

Some folks speak way too fast. Others speak in a slow pedantic fashion which is likely to bore their audience. Pace yourself. This means try not to speak too fast or too slow. For naturally fast speakers, slow down and ensure that the audience hears and understand what you saying. For slower speakers, my advice is to pick up the pace a bit. Show your personality; be animated and the audience will become engaged with you as well.public-speaking

5. Gesticulate

It is important to use your hands, in the same way you would when having a normal conversation. With a podium, some people simply hang on to it and forget to use their hands. To gesticulate offers naturalness; it makes you seem more comfortable and you will appear more confident to your audience. Resist the urge to hug the podium. Let go.

6. Have Good Posture

Posture and body language are essential to good speech delivery. Stand straight, imagine that each vertebrae in your spine sitting on top of each other and your head on top of the last vertebrae. Try not to slouch, or to dance. This will be distracting to your audience. Aim for an erect, confident posture.

7. Be Confident

Confidence is the core element of effective speech delivery. Watch some speech samples on Youtube and pay attention to what great speakers have in common. They are usually confident and engaging. If you are not naturally confident, pretend that you are. Fake it til you make it. The more you project, exhibit a confident air, the more it will become like second nature to you. Go ahead, try it, and tell me the results.

8. Speak Passionately

Finally, invest your speech with passion. Be excited about your topic; show your enthusiasm, Do not be afraid to laugh, smile, become animated while delivering your speech. Be yourself. I promise the audience will connect more with you than if you stand there stiff reading from a script. They have come to hear you and to engage with the person you are. Show them.

These are the top 8 things that I believe you should be doing if you wish to make an excellent and engaging delivery. Good luck. Put them into practice and let us know how you go!

10 Tips for Writing an Awesome Speech

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Think of the last great speech you heard. What made it so wonderful that it grabbed your attention and had you hooked? Was it the delivery? The speaker’s words and ideas?  Great speeches are those we remember even when we have left the room. The speaker’s ideas are often interesting, convincing and/or entertaining. Their ideas seem to flow and make sense, and you are able to follow the speaker to the end without being distracted. Great speeches begin with great writing. You too can write memorable and interesting speeches that holds the attention of your audience, if you follow my ten golden rules of speechwriting.

1. Create a Speech Plan & Structure

It is important to establish a basic structure for how your speech will go. It helps to organize your thoughts, makes you appear competent (that you know what you are talking about) to the audience, and, believe it or not, helps to overcome speech anxiety as the more prepared you are for speech presentations, the less anxious people tend to feel. This speech plan should include a) main purpose of the speech, b) your core idea and c) three or four main points you wish to make.

2. Decide on a Pattern of Organisation

Speeches can be organized chronologically, spatially, using different topics; they can also be organized in terms of cause and effect, or based on a problem/solution format. Do some research on these different modes of organizing your speech and decide – based on your topic – which is most suited to your speech and write with this in mind.

3. Write Rough Drafts

Your first draft is never going to be perfect. Create a rough draft using your speech plan and structure as a guide, and as you conduct your research or develop your ideas, continue polishing your speech until you are comfortable with how it sounds.

4. Write for the Audience

You have to write your speech with the audience in mind. Audiences are usually keen to know what’s in it for them; why should they listen, so make your speech resonate with their needs and values.

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5. Write Your Conclusion First

Yes, I know it sounds odd but what do you want your audience to take away from your speech. What do you want them to think or do as a result of your speech. Start here and the body of your speech will be sure to more accurately reflect this.

6. Write as if you are having a conversation with a respected friend

Your speech needs to have a conversational quality. Speeches ought to be written for the ear, not the eyes. This means you have to write your speech as if it is to be listened to, not read. It needs to come across as more of a conversation with an individual than a pastor preaching from pulpit.

7. Put Your Own Take on the Material

You may find information in books or on the internet for your speech but it need not sound so flat and boring. Put your own spin on the material. Invest your personality in what you write. This gives your speech a sense of authenticity and when you deliver the speech, you will come across with more credibility

8. Craft a Take Away

Remember I asked you to consider what you want your audience to take away from your speech? Well, put this in a nugget of information called a ‘take away’. It is that essential notion you want people to walk away with even if they do not remember anything else from your speech.

9. Remove Fluff

Read over your speech and remove all unnecessary information. Stick with the most important ideas you want your audience to know, and develop those ideas. This is especially important is you have a time limit. You also do not want to stray from your essential points.

10. Prepare Visual Aids

You need not do a fancy PowerPoint presentation for every speech. Indeed a speech at a wedding or a funeral would surely not require this. However, there are devices that one can use that helps the audience to stay engaged in your talk e/g. questions, role play, quizzes, etc

If you follow my ten tips for writing an awesome speech, I promise that you will be rewarded with rapt attention and a confidence boost.


Dr. Hume Johnson, a Professor of Public Relations and Media Studies, is a leading communications authority specializing in public relations, crisis communication, as well as media relations and public speaking coaching.  She is the Founder and CEO of Hume Johnson Consulting, a communications consulting firm that helps organisations and professionals improve their communication skills to achieve more success in business and life. Dr. Johnson is also the founder of the nation brand think thank, The Re:Imagine Jamaica Project, an organisation dedicated to promoting global knowledge and understanding of Jamaica through scholarly research  and content marketing. She is also author of ‘Challenges to Civil Society: Protest and Governance in Jamaica’, and has published myriad articles on nation brand, media politics, crime and governance issues in the developing world.

Listen Up! Without this Skill, Communication can be painful

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How many times has someone been talking to you and you zoned out, or you are merely waiting for your turn to speak. You are completely clueless about what is being said. You just know you don’t necessarily agree and you cant wait to insert your own perspective. I have been trying to listen more these days, not just to hear what the other person is saying but to understand. Hearing is not the same as listening.


Listening means paying close attention to, and making sense of what we hear. Research shows that 60 % of the errors made in business come from poor listening. Most of your time at work is spent listening to colleagues, clients and supervisors. At college. students spend long hours listening to lectures and discussions. Indeed, studies show a strong correlation between listening and academic success. Students with the highest grades are usually those with the strongest listening skills.The reverse is also true, those students with the lowest grades are the ones with weak listening skills. Same applies to work and personal situations. Better listeners tend to foster better relationships, generate greater respect, grasp ideas better and a generally more effective professionals.

 To become a great communicator, listening is an essential skill. Most of our ideas tend to come from television, radio, conversations, lectures. If you do not listen well, you will not understand what you hear and may pass along your misunderstanding to others.  In his book, The Art of Public Speaking, Stephen Lucas talks about four different types of listening:


  • Appreciative Listening – Listening for pleasure or enjoyment comedy routine or entertaining speech.
  • Empathetic Listening – Listening to provide emotional support for a speaker. EG: psychiatrists listening to patients
  • Comprehensive Listening – Listening to understand the message of a speaker – classroom lecture; listening for directions
  • Critical Listening – Listening to evaluate a message for the purposes of accepting or rejecting it. (Sales pitch; campaign speech). Critical thinking involves a number of skills: summarizing information, Recalling facts, Distinguishing main points from minor points, Separating fact from opinion, Spotting weaknesses in reasoning and judging the soundness of evidence.

To listen wee, you have to use your mind, as well as your ears, and at times, even your heart.When your mind is not actively involved – when you are not actively paying attention to a speaker’s words, you are hearing but you are not listening. Think of speakers to whom you nearly always pay attention to? Why are these speakers easier to listen to than others? What do you think are the causes of poor listening? It can be not concentrating, listening too hard (yes there is such a think as listening too keenly); jumping to conclusions, and focusing on delivery and personal appearance.


  • Take listening seriously – give it the seriousness it deserves
  • Be an active listener – give the person undivided attention
  • Resist distractions – Do not stare at everything around you or at your phone. Make eye contact and nod to illustrate that you are indeed listening
  • Don’t be diverted by the person’s appearance or delivery. Give them the respect of hearing their perspective even if you disagree.
  • Suspend judgment – Though it may be tempting to immediately express disagreement, suspend your judgment and hear the person out.
  • Focus your Listening – listen for main points, evidence and techniques
  • Develop note-taking skills – If its a workshop, lecture or professional talk, jot down notes, keywords and phrases so as to be able to converse about the topic later.

Challenge yourself this week to become an active listener. Let us know how you go!

Happy listening!