Often Zhan

4 minute read

A Reflection on Self-Branding


Recently, I’ve been reading through the book “Branding Pays” by Karen Kang. I decided to buy the book after reading the following introduction:

Personal branding—that is, creating your image and guiding your reputation—has never been more important than it is today. Why? Because globalization and social media have made the world smaller, more connected and infinitely more competitive. Your competition for a job or business opportunity may be anywhere in the world—at the desk next to you or continents away. It has never been more important to differentiate yourself from the pack…

Karen Kang (Branding Pays)

This “creating your image, and guiding your reputation” resonates because it fits into one of my major life goals:

Life Goal #6 – Taking ownership of my life—including my actions, desires, and mistakes.

I finished the last page yesterday, and despite its usefulness, I’ve decided that this book will not be deigned the privilege of a permanent space in my library. This book is useful for a specific stage in life like pregnancy or getting into college. Also, the relevant and essential material of the book could probably be summarized in 5 pages or less. I’ll probably read it one more time, take personal notes of the book, and then gift it to a friend.

Commitment to Transparency and Ownership

After reading this book, it’s contents helped strengthen my commitment to be publicly clear about who I am and about my intentions. This desire to be vocal about my beliefs arose from three recent life events:

  1. I’ve recently been placed in a situation where my reputation is on the line.
  2. I am serving in a ministry where there is mistrust between leaders. Whatever I make from now on, I want to be proud of my final product and be willing to share them publicly without shame. If I am wrong, I’ll openly admit my fault and take ownership of my mistake. (I was inspired to share my ideas openly and publicly after seeing a proposal by MYT.)


One of my concerns about sharing this book to a friend is that it was clearly meant for a secular audience. While not stated directly outright, the author frames self-branding as a means to leverage oneself into an advantageous position in the workplace. My interest in “self-branding” is to primarily build a character of authenticity and transparency. My hope is to take ownership of my reputation in order to promote mutual cooperation, clarify personal vision, and flesh out my inchoate ideas with everyone around me. I’m not saying that the book’s overall message is bad. It’s intent is just not what I am looking for at this point in my life. As a result, I focused more on the templates and applicable tools provided in the book rather than on the underlying philosophy that the author was trying to promote.

*“BrandingPays System – The 5 Steps The “BrandingPays System”*—as the book calls it—is divided into five steps.

The 5 key steps are the following:

(The short description of each step is summarized by me in italics. If you want a more detailed description, you should just buy the book.)

  • Step 1: PositioningArticulate your uniqueness in your area of interest.
  • Step 2: MessagingDescribe yourself in a way that is memorable and evidence based.
  • Step 3: Brand StrategyBuild a framework of your reputation based on both skills and personality.
  • Step 4: EcosystemBuild a network of support and fellow leaders.
  • Step 5: Action PlanDevelop and execute a plan that concurrently builds skill, expertise, and publicity.

(Branding Pays also talk about symbols, personal vision, and social media.)

Opinion and Summary

I like the author’s step-wise approach to self-branding. One aspect I like about this book is how overflowingly resource rich it is through its supplementary resources in each chapter.

If I could summarize what I learned from this book in my own words, it would be the following:

Whether or not you take ownership of your reputation, you already have a reputation. Your boss won’t promote your reputation, nor will your hard work, nor will your accomplishments. You are living in the epoch of the digital age where anyone can look you up and judge you from the little information available. Now is the time to stand up and take action or be left behind.

Often Z.