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Acad Med. 2019 Sep;94(9):1293-1298. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002737.

Knowing Your Personal Brand: What Academics Can Learn From Marketing 101.

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E. Borman-Shoap is assistant professor and vice chair of education, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, Minneapolis, Minnesota; ORCID: S.T.T. Li is professor and vice chair of education, Department of Pediatrics, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, California; ORCID: N.E. St Clair is associate professor and director, Pediatric Residency Global Health Track, Department of Pediatrics, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin; ORCID: G. Rosenbluth is professor of pediatrics and director, Quality and Safety Programs, Office of Graduate Medical Education, University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, San Francisco, California. S. Pitt is brand strategist and marketing manager, General Mills, Golden Valley, Minnesota. M.B. Pitt is associate professor and associate chair, Faculty Development, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota; ORCID:


Academic departments are increasingly borrowing from the business world as they encourage faculty members to consider their personal mission, vision, and values statements in crafting their plans for engagement and advancement. Business organizations have long known that although doing the work necessary to refine these internal guideposts is important, failing to understand what consumers actually perceive about their product is detrimental. In the business world, perception is reality, and understanding the external shorthand of what consumers perceive-that is, the brand-is essential. Academic clinicians have a brand whether they take ownership of it or not. A faculty member's brand is both what their work (academic products) and how they do their work say about them to those who encounter it. In this Perspective, the authors explore the brand framework informed by marketing literature, and they outline a four-step process for faculty members to identify their own personal brands. The authors share how knowing one's academic brand can (1) help faculty members approach projects and other responsibilities through the lens of building or detracting from that brand, (2) provide a framework for determining how faculty members might best work within their institutions, and (3) help faculty members better understand and advocate their own engagement and advancement. The authors also share a paradigm for finding one's brand sweet spot at the intersection of passion, skill, and institutional need, and they propose how working outside of this sweet spot is a setup for failure.

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