Building a Personal Brand Quickly & Inexpensive

 Last month Charlotte Observer Editor Rick Thames spoke at Packard Place (a hub for area start-ups) about the importance of being extraordinary when trying to attract media attention. 

Rick Thames, Editor Charlotte Observer. Photo from

Rick Thames, Editor Charlotte Observer. Photo from

I help clients capitalize on what makes them unusual or exceptional, finding the things that pushes them beyond their competitors. Extraordinary - this sums up my  philosophy on effective marketing and communications.

Boom! Hello, case study. And so began my personal branding exercise - a path to show just how simple it can be to make yourself extraordinary.

All I needed was a little moxie, 3 weeks and $275 to stand out and be memorable.

Three Initial Steps

The first extraordinary thing people usually notice about me is my name. Start with the basics.


1.) Went to zazzle and ordered over-sized, brightly colored business cards featuring feathers.  ($43, including rush shipping)

2.)  Built a simple website on sqaurespace ($192/year) using feather imagery from my own photo library and purchased a few from ($27) to ensure I had the proper rights to the images. A few dollars for a photo is absolutely worth not having to worry. Please inform yourselves about legalities.

3.)  Purchased 2 envelopes of inexpensive, colorful craft feathers.  ($8)  


Giving it a go.

My first testing ground for the new brand was at last week's Public Relations Society of America Counselor's Academy conference in Austin, TX. PRSA Counselor's Academy comprises many of the top public relations agency owners and executives in the country.  I was a newbie, and didn't know a single attendee. Getting them to remember me was going to be no small feat. 

In Sunday's pre-conference photography class, I made sure to incorporate some of the craft feathers into my "10 Images in 10 Minutes" assignments.  Throughout the conference I posted additional images to the group Facebook page to keep my brand top of mind.

A brand is more than a logo or catchphrase. It's how people feel about you. I needed to build awareness and foster familiarity.

Knowing feathers alone wouldn't be enough, I decided to tap into that moxie.  I wore a colorful dress in a print that resembled layers of feathers. (One that was already in the closet, so don't add that to my tab.) In our group songwriting competition, I did not shy away from a leadership role despite my intimidation.  (I taught public school for 7 years - I am programmed to organize chaos.)  

"We've Got the Power" written and performed by the S*** Kickers with considerable help from Brandon Hill

"We've Got the Power" written and performed by the S*** Kickers with considerable help from Brandon Hill

In retrospect, I came on too strongly.  One group member later jovially called me "Hurricane Forest".  <blush>  Perhaps a little overcompensation for my nervousness. Lesson learned. But mission accomplished. People knew who I was on Day 1. Our group song won the competition, and I made sure I was front and center.


The Results, So Far

Image edited by  Paul M. Bowers .&nbsp;

Image edited by Paul M. Bowers

1.) Paul Bowers, elite photographer, edited and posted one of my feather images on Monday. 

2.)  Gini Deitrich, founder of Arment Dietrich and lead blogger at Spin Sucks, included two of my photographs in a post "Four Tips to Take Photos for your Content" on Tuesday. (Over 87 comments on her informative article to date.)

After the presentation with Eric Morgenstern. So flattered!

After the presentation with Eric Morgenstern. So flattered!

3.) Eric Morgenstern, founder and CEO of Morningstar Communications, showcased my business card and "Be Extraordinary" tag line in his Tuesday morning presentation about attraction marketing and effective networking skills. He pointed me out to the entire room!

4.)  Engrained in the brain! Dozens of attendees later greeted me just to see if I'd reply to their salutations with "Extraordinarily well, thank you." My name and tagline were sticking. 

5.) Social Media traction. Check out a screenshots from one of the Facebook interactions. Even after the close of the conference, my BRAND was still on the brain.  To note, Dana Hughens was the Conference Chair and this was her post.

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Return on Investment

Getting to know this group of people was a life changing and inspiring experience. One with immeasurable value.  Becoming a small part of the conference culture was incredibly flattering - and a mini-case study on the effectiveness of low cost personal branding and how quickly it can gain traction in a targeted market.   Not a bad return for under $300.