Personal Branding for Life Sciences Professionals

Your brand should help you generate enthusiasm in others for what you’ve accomplished.

Not so long ago, the idea of life sciences professionals branding themselves was anathema in the discipline. Today, however, the need for personal branding in the competitive life sciences sector could not be greater. A key reason, Peter J. Hotez asserts, “is the abrupt rise in well-funded and organized anti-science movements, especially in North America and Europe, such that society now benefits from scientists with strong personal brands and public personas who are willing to engage general audiences.”

Hotez also notes that brands are portable, which is important at a time when life sciences professionals no longer necessarily spend their entire careers at one institution. “Owning a strong brand can sometimes create easier paths for transitions and mobility,” Hotez suggests.

A personal brand is a way to show how and why your work and research matter, Alec Masella says. Your brand should help you generate enthusiasm in others for what you’ve accomplished.

A personal brand is especially important in the life sciences profession for conveying demonstrable expertise, writes James Mathison. “Expertise is a valuable currency,” Mathison says.” If you can demonstrate a deep understanding of your field, employers and customers alike will give you a second look.”

To gauge the quality of your current branding, try Googling yourself. Are you well represented in the results? What message comes across in the results? Do the results point to a consistent brand -- or a collection of disparate data points about you? If you don’t like what the results say about you, consider developing your brand.

In the marketing world, a brand is a promise to customers; it’s a way to build trust with an audience. Your brand should sum up your value proposition, encapsulate your reputation, showcase what sets you apart from others and describe the added value you bring to a situation. In the life sciences world, “added value” may translate to what Hotez describes as “the major problem you want to solve and what you want to achieve through your science.”

No universal formula exists for developing a personal brand, but experts have suggested self-assessment that covers:

  • What makes you different? What qualities or characteristics make you distinctive?
  • What have you accomplished?
  • What is your most noteworthy personal trait?
  • What benefits (problems solved) do you offer?
  • What do others say about you? (Don’t be afraid to ask them.)
  • What audience do you primarily want to reach with your brand?

The Science Personality Assessment from The Science Advisory Board may assist you in developing your brand. Consider also constructing a “brand story” to support your brand. Think of this story as content for an “About Me” page on your website, whether you actually have a site or not. This 7-step template from story guru Michael Margolis is helpful in constructing a brand story.

In reality, our brand is not what we say it is, but rather what our audience perceives our brand to be. Still, we can influence that perception by framing a personal brand as a positioning statement. Consider this template (from Meredith Hart at Hubspot):

For [your target audience] who [target market need], [your name] provides [main benefit that differentiates your offering from competitors] because [reason why target audience should believe your differentiation statement.]

For medical practitioners who seek high quality-of-life pharmaceutical products and services, Sally Johnson applies [knowledge of medicine, science, and nutrition] because [she is uniquely equipped with a wealth and diversity of skills in management, education, and human relations.]

On a resume or other job-search communication, this statement might be expressed this way:

Bringing a wealth and diversity of skills in management, education, and human relations and prepared to apply knowledge of medicine, science, and nutrition to enhance quality of life by promoting pharmaceutical products and services.

Once you have a good handle on what your what your brand is, you’ll need to put it out there. Ways to disseminate your brand include:

  • Launching your own website
  • Writing a blog and/or contributing guest posts to the blogs of others.
  • Presenting at conferences.
  • Writing a book or articles.
  • Publishing in academic journals.
  • Disseminating media releases about your breakthroughs.
  • Maintaining a robust social-media presence.
  • Serving as a mentor.
  • Producing or participating in podcasts.

These efforts to communicate and extend your brand will take patience, but eventually you can expect to Google yourself and find a rich and consistently branded collection of results that effectively convey who you are, your promise of value, and why you should be sought out.