Jennifer Ransaw Smith is a personal brand strategist, leadership mentor and the founding CEO of Brand id|Strategic Partners. After more than a decade of helping some of the nation’s most prominent brands such as Burger King, AT&T, Texaco, Clairol and Coca-Cola differentiate themselves in the marketplace, Ransaw Smith recognized the urgent need for an agency that positions people the way that marketing and advertising agencies position products and services.
Her tips, tools and strategies have appeared on ABC, The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun.
How to Get Noticed
How is branding a person different from branding a product?
It isn’t. Both involve managing a reputation, which is what your brand is. Your brand is what others are saying about you when you aren’t in the room. So whether you are talking about a product or a person, both brands center on a reputation. The question becomes, will it be strategically crafted or left up to chance? Both involve deciding what you want the client to believe and then putting the steps in motion to make it so.
What fields and backgrounds do your clients come from?
My clients come from every field imaginable. In the past year alone, I have had the privilege of working with several attorneys, a physicist, a dentist, a senior government executive, a gym owner, a makeup artist and countless entrepreneurs. Anybody who is ready to make a name for themselves in their industry is an ideal client.
What is one piece of personal branding advice that you might give to professionals in any discipline?
It doesn’t matter how great you are if nobody knows who you are. It is your job to become chief marketing officer of You, Inc. Too often, we spend our blood, sweat and tears building someone else’s brand, never giving ours much thought. However, the game has changed dramatically during the past decade. No longer can you sit back and expect to be recognized.
Why does someone need a branding coach?
It is extremely hard to get to the next level in any industry all by yourself. You must have mentors, sponsors or a coach. Successful people in every industry embrace this concept: in order to advance you need a personal dream team helping you identify where you need to go and what you need to do to get there.
What are some of your clients’ most common requests?
A great deal of the work I do is changing the way my clients see themselves. I call this internal branding. Too often, my clients hold themselves back from the opportunities they deserve. I had this amazingly high-profile client with several Ivy League degrees—a woman—who didn’t understand how game changing she was. She had risen to the top of her company and was ready to leave, but couldn’t see that she was fierce. So, in situations like this, a client won’t get what she wants until she reverses her mindset.
What trends in advertising are you most interested in and why?
For the first time in history, a budget isn’t indicative of viewership. You can literally have someone sitting at home in their fuzzy bunny slippers making a commercial that gets more traction than the entire team of a company with a multi-million dollar advertising budget. This takes away the excuses. You can absolutely connect with your core audience if you are creative and strategic. Another trend is the ability to leverage. Gone are the days you can just do your job and go home. Even corporate workers are creating movements: Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski. You can now round out your career by speaking at events, authoring a book, and dropping in as a guest creative director to become a trusted resource for industry professionals.
What was your riskiest professional decision?
Early in my career, I was working as a copywriter at small boutique agency outside of Washington, DC. I realized if my goal was to get to New York, I had better go now. I wasn’t married, I had no attachments. So I put my 30 days in, packed up my car and my portfolio—still filled with a lot of spec work from the Portfolio Center—and headed to New York. Within a week, I had five offers. It taught me to always pay attention to my gut and go for it. I drew on that experience years later, when I decided to leave my job and officially launch a full-service personal branding agency.
What are you looking forward to most at the 2014 3% Conference?
Empowering a group of women who have dedicated their entire professional careers to elevating everybody else’s brand to finally do the same for themselves.