Here are some of the answers to the questions that were asked. Not a true transcript, but more of a summary. If you are looking to build or refine your personal brand and can’t wrap your head around why or how, have a read. And always, please ask questions on Twitter @brandinista and I will answer in my new weekly column called Ask Brandinista.

When we think about a person as a brand these days, the first thing that comes to mind are YouTubers or Kim Kardashian. What does a “personal brand” mean when it comes to the rest of us?

Personal brand is where your business and personal mission unite. It’s about merging who you are and what you believe in with the mission of your company or career goals.

When work with influencers to build their personal brand I ask them to give me three words that their family and friends would use to describe them. Then I ask them about their professional mission–whether they own their own company, work for a company, or looking for a job. I ask what unique views they have about their industry, what they want to do with their career and life. After some deep digging around those two tenets, I develop a personal position.

When did you first become aware of your own PERSONAL BRAND? Were you consciously building that brand? Or did it come about on its own organically?

When I worked at Saatchi + Saatchi, my team made me a birthday card. It was an illustration of me with big hair, cool flair pants, and big shoes. People associated me with knowing about trends–what to wear and where to go. I merged my ability to start and spot trends with what I love to do and my professional goals of building great brands that people connect with. Those are the principles behind Brandinista®–“drive people crazy for your brand.”

Is building your personal brand about communicating to the world who you already are? Or who you want to be?

Your personal brand should include both who you are and who you want to be–inspirational and aspirational. You need to throw the hat over the fence and be what you want to be– starting today. ‘What you want to be,’ however, can’t be misleading. For example, you can’t say you are a “designer for the people, of the people, and with the people” if you aren’t a designer or you aren’t currently involved in becoming one. Make sense? If you believe in what you want to be, you are actively involved in achieving it, you will become it.

Alona Elkayam at NYU with New York Women In Communications discuss building personal brand

What is your advice to these young people about this idea of a personal brand? When should one begin thinking about that? Can you change your personal brand later?

It doesn’t matter how old/young you are. It’s never too soon to get in touch with yourself on that level. Your personal brand is you. Your professional goals are you. It’s all you. It’s already there. You just need to uncover it. If you define a personal brand and then you evolve and your truths change, that’s not only okay, but that is beautiful. The journey is part of life and what a great thing to share with people.

alonaelkayam_nyu_session_personalbrand

Building your own business, is it possible to create an identity for your business separate from your own personal brand? Best to keep them separate? Or ok to merge them?

Think of your personal brand as the big overarching brand that sits on top of your business brand. Unless your identity and entity is exactly the same, like Ellen DeGeneres + Ellen show where they are one and the same, then your business and personal brand should be separate. I mean, the content for your personal and business brand may differ in specific ways, but there would exist shared content themes. Unless you are Ellen or Oprah right now, I don’t recommend merging them because there are elements of your business like promotions and advertising that your personal networks don’t really want to subscribe to and isn’t what you are about as a whole.

What has been the most surprising thing – good or bad – you’ve learned along your career path?

I’ve had the support of some amazing mentors and clients who believed in me so much. They gave me their trust and their business. It surprised me in the beginning when people could see on the outside how I felt about what I do on the inside. They saw the talent I felt I had. That congruency feels so good. Looking back, I wish more of those people that believed in me were women. I wish the women that managed me in my career were more supportive. I’ve got stories. I strive to be that inspiration and support for every woman I meet and let them know I see each and every one of them as a gift, leader, and change-maker.