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Building the healthcare brand called YOU!

The power of 'hyphenated skills': Craft a multi-dimensional healthcare brand that's consistent and trustworthy, with a provocative mystique.
By admin
May 8, 2024, 4:52 PM

Great global brands have a combination of trust and emotion. Building your own personal brand is no different. In fact, considering the stakes in healthcare, these attributes are even more important than with consumer product brands.

I’ve had the great thrill of teaching hundreds of graduate students how to build personal brands that can travel well around the world, or across cultures. In the past, a “domestic personal brand” was perfectly fine. But in our diverse healthcare systems, one need not travel outside the walls of the American facility to realize that an understanding of navigating cultures is absolutely critical.

Regardless of whether you want a global or domestic presence, building a brand is still critical not only to get more money or authority but mostly for personal satisfaction and fulfillment. In fact, I would argue that fulfilling personal brands is an antidote for burnout and stress.

So, what are a few things you can do to start the Global Brand Called YOU! process?


Personal brand complexity

There is always a risk of a branding strategy that creates the impression of being unfocused. However, if one strategically creates a complexity to their brand that can been visualized and verbalized, it can be a very powerful thing.

This is sometimes referred to as cross-functional skills or double, triple, and comb-shaped skills as in the image below. I. sometimes refer to them as “hyphenated skills.”

Essentially this strategy is one of developing a diversity of complimentary personal brand attributes that reflect the complexities of the modern healthcare landscape.

For example, your core brand (on the horizontal axis) may be as a ward nurse which in and of itself is something to be proud of. But think about sub-brands that could be added to add even more stimulation and greater brand value in the eyes of management.

So perhaps you decide that you may want to add two tines to your brand comb such as informatics and telemedicine.  You may already have these skills, but the key is being able to think of them as a purposeful aspect of verbalizing your brand.

A valuable exercise is to develop a hyphenated string starting with your core brand and then becoming more granular with sub-brands.

For example:

Internal medicine physician-Health Equity-Hospital @ Home

Again, the string or tines must make complete sense when aggregating into the master brand to avoid the perception it is not seen as being professionally schizophrenic.


Discreetly promoting your personal brand

Approaching your personal brand promotion the way personal injury lawyers do on television spots could be risky.

While brands need to have a healthy ego, there is always a risk of trying too hard in the eyes of colleagues and management. That does not mean you can’t be bold in your approach.

I’ve found one of the best ways to initiate a personal brand is to develop a series of themes that sound provocative and that result in someone responding, “That’s interesting, I understand all the words, but tell me what that means”.

For example, I once wrote a blog entitled “What Ramen Noodles Can Teach You About Digital Innovation.”

You may have read that and said “What the hell is he talking about?”


Personal branding requires creating a provocative mystique. It begs the audience to want storytelling about the topic.

Even though you may be promoting something that is mainstream in healthcare, you need to do it with an edge. If the title was simply “Thoughts on Digital Transformation in Healthcare,” a large part of the target audience would yawn and move on.

Think about themes in your professional life that you can add some constructive complexity too. Much like Monty Python called “And Now for Something Completely Different.”


Building the global brand

The internet is packed with stories of cross-cultural communication failures. Whether on a semester abroad or during a family vacation, most of us have experienced the horror of cultural missteps. As mentioned above, with the diversity of the modern healthcare workforce personal brands need to be in tune with how their attributes travel across cultures. Equally important they need to understand how various cultures receive information differently and how your personal brand might not translate well.

Think of this the same way that McDonald’s modifies its menu around the world. While many items are consistent around the world, many items are country-specific based on local norms.

My mantra in creating brands that travel well, whether personal or consumer is “Global Chassis- Local Body”. Your brand must be consistent and trustworthy but adjusted based on cultural contexts from cultural sociologists like Geert Hofstede that include collectivism, long-term orientation, uncertainty avoidance, etc..

 Personal brands need to be socialized

 There is no shortage of outlets for promoting your personal brand in an age of social media. However, there is the challenge of getting your message to stand out above the noise. A simple web search on any topic will confirm that healthcare is no different. Search on something seemingly focused as “clinical burnout in rural hospitals” and you’ll find that there are 2,830,000 hits with some reference to that topic.

It reminds me of the famous Yogi Berra quote “No one goes to that restaurant anymore because it’s too crowded.”

That said there are many less-crowded outlets for getting your personal brand differentiator out.  For example: by-lined articles in internal newsletters at work; Linked-In posts in like-minded groups; X/Twitter feeds; lunch and learns; calls for presentations at conferences; Zoom webinars whether on your own or via another organization; and certification courses like CHIME Bootcamps.


Personal brand retrospection is critical

Brands are organic. They have ebbs and flows. They may be unrecognizable from when the process started. This is good!  Think about any consumer brand that is exactly the same as it was 10 years ago. Most of us remember when Amazon was only an online bookstore, now they’re a healthcare provider and suborbital space travel company!

While elements of your personal brand will evolve into something completely different, always reflect on the “core brand” that will always remain.

For example, I started my career as a special education teacher in the ‘70s. As my career evolved into international media and healthcare, I had an epiphany that my “core brand” was still being able to teach complex topics in a way that people/customers could comprehend them. That NEVER went away, nor will it. It transformed into what my brand is today.


Think about “re-wirement”

As many of us get older we wonder whether we can afford to totally retire our current personal brand or if we want to develop a new brand that better reflects where we are in life at this moment.

In my career, a seminal work entitled “The Portfolio Life” was groundbreaking. It introduced the concept of “re-wirement” versus retirement. This does not mean a complete unraveling of your professional skills, although it could. But what it does refer to is taking your current skills and rewiring them into something that is just different enough that it feels fresh and new in the latter phase of the career, or even in retirement.

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