Last night a client invited me to her alumni association event on personal branding. While interesting, we both agreed later that the session had missed it’s mark – career management as viewed by HR experts is not personal branding.

I’m passionate about this: personal branding transcends employment. It’s not about getting to the next level – it’s about being you to the world, whoever, whenever and where ever you are.

Having said that, there’s no question personal branding is important from an employment perspective – for several reasons – 1) how you promote your personal brand should support, not hinder personal employment goals – being a Girls Gone Wild participant may get in the way of becoming the next VP of Supply Chain – and 2) you will get fired or be otherwise unemployed at some point (count on it) – how strong your personal brand is, will (thanks to the internet and other changing factors) be an increasingly important factor in how long you stay unemployed.

So, how to build a personal brand? Well, in traditional marketing there are either four or five key elements of the brand marketing mix depending who’s defining it. They’re called the 4 (or 5) P’s of marketing. Here’s how I see them applied to personal branding.

P1 – Product. You. What are you? What do you deliver? What are your values? If I’m going to invest in associating with you, what am I investing in? What value do I get?

P2 – Price. What’s the cost of doing business with you? Let’s call it dollars plus friction. Are you expensive, inexpensive, a pain in the ass or easy to deal with?

P3 – Place. Where are you located? Where do you hang-out? Where are you accessible? One of the reasons personal branding is becoming so much more important is thanks to the internet. Now, P3 – Place, can be everywhere, from anywhere. Now, we all have the opportunity to be our own world-wide brand like Pepsi or Apple.

P4 – Promotion. Thank you internet. Google yourself. If you don’t show up, you either don’t have a brand or the scope of your brand is very small. Fixing it is easy. Take 5 minutes to upgrade your LinkedIn profile. No, it won’t make you Pepsi but it’s a start. Keep going. Write a blog. Claim your name on Twitter. Join a community. There’s never been an easier time to get your product in front of customers.

P5 – The 5th P is up for grabs. In many books its PEOPLE. But we are people, so I’m pushing something else – PACKAGING. How do you dress? Accessorize? Look? Are you 50 and look 60? 30 and look 18? Are you over-packaged? Under-packaged? Does your packaging DIFFERENTIATE you in any (positive!) way, from all the other brands out there?

Many people are uncomfortable with personal branding. I get that. ‘Putting myself out there’ is/feels like a big, unknown risk. However, we probably all need to keep this in mind: whether we participate in personal branding or not WE ALL HAVE a personal brand. We’re already being talked about, slotted, respected, dissed or ignored.

I’d prefer to have some input to that discussion.