How to develop a mission-driven personal brand

We see examples of personal branding every day on TV and social media. Sometimes these catch our attention, and sometimes they annoy us. That’s the thing about personal branding: it can be trustworthy or cringe-worthy.

While personal branding may look many ways, it can broaden the impact of your mission and purpose when done well.

Approaching personal branding through a mission-driven lens spotlights ideas over egos and purpose over promotion. By personally teaching others or adding to a broader conversation, you draw people in and create connections.

Why personal branding?

Branding is the image your name creates in the minds of your audience. For example, when you hear ‘Harvard Medical School’ or ‘Dr. Fauci,’ an image comes to mind.

Now, Most physicians don’t think of themselves as a brand. In fact, many assume that’s self-serving. But in the long run, physicians can make a more significant impact and increase their reach by focusing on their personal, not institutional, brand. Why? The first thing potential patients or media do when they come across a name is to look it up online.

Having a strong personal brand accelerates audiences’ speed of trust and differentiates you from others. You can share your mission in your way, distinct from your institution. Ultimately, that also makes it a great onramp back to your institution or practice, with you as the entry point.

Start generating an image in people’s minds with these four steps.

See what Google says about you

If a patient is referred to you, if an institution is considering hiring you, or if a journalist is looking for an expert to interview, the first thing they will do is Google your name.

When physicians Google their name, it’s common to find two types of top results. The first is their current institution’s website. That’s not bad, but the second typical result is online review websites. This isn’t ideal. A lack of reviews, or even one negative review, can damage a physician’s reputation.

Google yourself. Does anything about you show up in the top five search results? That is what we call discoverable. Your goal is to have media you control, like a personal website, social media channels, or thought leadership, in those top five links.

If you are discoverable, congratulations! Now, assess that first impression. Does it align with the reputation you want? If not, we’ll talk about improving that in the next section.

If you are not discoverable, we have a problem. This often stems from one of two things. First, you might have a common name. For example, “John Anderson” has 5.8 million search results — playing in that field will be hard. If that’s the case, consider adding a middle initial or middle name to distinguish you. Secondly, some people simply don’t have an online presence yet. That means you have to start, so keep reading.

Discoverability is the first step to building a personal brand, but how do you control what people discover?

Own your first impressions online

You want to make an intentional first impression. If your results only trace back to your institution, that’s not bad, but it’s not yours, and review websites commodify you.

To take ownership of your first impressions, optimize your personal website or your social media networks. Remember, your goal is for sites you own or control to be the top search results.

Build a personal brand website. It doesn’t have to be robust — even a landing page works. We recommend using your name and credentials as the URL. For example, a good URL is or This will help you show up in direct search results and will leave a specific impression with whoever is searching.

If you can’t build a website, optimize your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a top-ranked site within Google’s algorithms, so it shows up in top search results. Plus, your profile has enough content to validate your authority and credentials.

Now, extend yourself beyond your immediate network and develop new connections.

Build authority through micromedia

High-value press is the quickest way to build credibility and authority. But, high-value press is more than just mass media. In today’s landscape, micromedia reigns. Micromedia includes online-only publications, podcasts, email newsletters, and blogs. These channels build authority quickly because they have loyal followings with high trust. With mass media, people have to invest a lot of time (scrolling, watching commercials, etc.) to get a fraction of what they want. Micromedia gives its audience exactly what they want.

Make Google your publicist. Set up Google Alerts for 3 to 5 keywords in your topic area, and each morning Google will email you search results. Review the stories from micromedia outlets and consider how you can add to the discussion. Share the article on Twitter, adding your perspective and tagging the author, or write a blog post or LinkedIn articles and use the keywords important to your work.

Use social media to start meaningful conversations

When it comes to social media, embrace a micromedia mindset. That means sharing entertaining, informative content that provides value. Think of yourself as the editor of your newspaper. Newspapers include various content: current events, interviews, information and research, op-eds, and more. Some of these are news-driven — like current events and information and research. Some are relationship-driven — like interviews. And some are self-driven — like op-eds.

Jump into social media by sharing content in thirds. Aim for 1/3 news, 1/3 relationships, and 1/3 you. Don’t start building your personal brand with too much focus on you. If you fill your feeds with op-eds, that will be hard for you to sustain, and it will ultimately turn audiences away.

An important outcome of creating a personal brand is that it’s yours. It will go wherever you go. If you’re building a new practice, applying for a new job, jumping into the industry from medical school, or establishing your legacy, your personal brand is the path to take.

Paige Velasquez Budde is CEO, Zilker Media and can be reached on Twitter @PaigeVelasquez. Learn more about The Personal Brand Bootcamp for Healthcare Professionals.

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