“People think the concept of branding is incredibly easy,” she says. “Branding is actually very complex and it’s not something that happens overnight. There’s a strong component of thinking up what makes your brand special and unique, but together with that, there’s also a vital element of delivery and delighting and surpassing expectations. Personal branding is no different – it’s a multi-faceted concept.”
Rachelson believes that there is a strong case for personal branding whether you are an entrepreneur or work in a corporate environment. She notes that when one thinks of one’s personal banking service or accounting firm, one generally thinks of one’s personal banker or accountant rather than the institution he or she represents.

Many people haven’t thought through what makes them unique and distinctive. “One of the first authors of the concept Brand You Inc, Tom Peters, suggests that in many cases your unique selling proposition (USP) is more important than your CV,” she says. “What differentiates you from all the millions of other financial advisors, accountants or bankers out there? What makes you stand out from the clutter? If I own a corner café and you own a corner café, what’s going to make someone go to your corner café as opposed to mine?

Once you have identified your USP and established the type of personal brand you want to create, it’s important to ensure that you demonstrate the characteristics of your brand (your brand promise, as such) in everything you do.

The concept of positioning your brand is an important one. Personal branding can be likened to mental real estate (a concept was first proposed by Peter Montoya), which seeks to find out which what area in other peoples’ head you occupy.

“People are always interested in the stories we tell about ourselves,” says Rachelson. “When you talk about yourself, do you reflect your brand in the best possible light? How do you effectively demonstrate that your business experience positions you in the best possible way?”

She believes that if you’ve given thought to your unique characteristics, the values that form the foundation of your brand, as well as ways in which you add measurable value, you are in a far better position to make yourself stand out. This is, however, only the first part of the process. Once you’ve defined and positioned your personal brand, you need to consider how to go out and market the brand in a way that is authentic and builds credibility.

“Authenticity is so vital,” says Rachelson. “Everything you do needs to tie up in terms of the message you’re giving about your brand. You can’t spend so much time on branding yourself and developing a fabulous positioning that you forget to deliver. Awesome brands always deliver.”
Once you’ve created a personal brand, you need to focus on the five pillars of personal marketing: Learn how to create an awesome impression; build and protect your reputation; nurture and build relationships; embark on a personal visibility campaign and use others to promote word of mouth advertising about yourself.

“Word of mouth is an extremely important facet of personal marketing,” Rachelson stresses. “Think of the service you buy or use in your life – whether you’re looking for a new hairdresser or invest in the stock market, chances are you will ask other people whom you trust for their recommendations. I’m busy redoing my kitchen. I chose the contractor out of a few recommendations from friends because the “brands” they’ve used have proven to deliver. I didn’t pick up the Yellow Pages or search the internet – I asked people I trust.”


In maintaining and marketing your brand, Rachelson notes that there are other areas that you may need to target specifically, as every individual has different needs and deficiencies. “I work with other people who are best in class in different facets of branding, including key aspects like enhancing your profile on social media platforms, networking, high performance communication and learning to create an image and style that match your brand objectives.”
In conclusion, she makes the observation that passion is the best fuel that you can feed your brand. “Great brands take a stance and communicate their position – regularly and consistently. What have you done lately to enhance your brand?”


About Donna

Donna Rachelson is an expert in personal branding and marketing, as well as an entrepreneur and a marketing specialist.

Key positions she has held the position of Marketing Director at Nando’s, the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants and DNA Supply Chains. Other career highlights include her position as Project Manager: Priority Banking at Standard Bank of South Africa, and various management positions at African Explosives and Chemical Industries (AECI).

Rachelson obtained her BA (Social Work) degree and BA Honours in Industrial Social Work through the University of the Witwatersrand. She completed her MBA through Wits Business School (WBS).
She has worked with a range of blue chip clients in financial services, professional services and the logistics industry.

Married with two children, she is passionate about her family and about assisting non profit organisations to market their businesses.


Further information is available from: Donna Rachelson, Tel: 083 307 7100, email:

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