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What's With the Dog?

This post originally appeared in Susan Kostal's Legal Marketing Bits & Bites Newsletter. Sign up for more content here.

I once saw a great tweet that said, roughly, If you think you don’t have a personal brand, the one you have is pretty bad. Personal branding is about marketing yourself as if you were a product. Think about consumer product marketing. It’s more than just talking about what the product is. It’s about what it does, how it does it, why it does it better and, most importantly, how you feel when you use it. Identify your strengths and values and play to them. Be the marathoner or the political junkie. Be the attorney who collects first editions or volunteers each year with Habitat for Humanity. Whatever you are, own it and lean on it in the creation of your professional and digital identity. Add your volunteer and board work to your resume or CV. Showcase your interests in your carefully managed LinkedIn profile, blog, articles that disseminate original ideas, third-party reviews of your work and online following. Let your personality, interests, and even your quirks become part of your personal brand. It helps you stand out from the crowd and labels you an authentic voice. This Relates to Dogs How? Two years ago, I adopted a Jack Russell-Chihuahua named Linus. Aside from sleeping and shedding, Linus is my service dog. He is my constant companion, including at client meetings, professional events and conferences. He even sat on the dais with me before a 500+ audience at a keynote Q&A last year.

Linus the Super Service Dog!

So how do I explain a dog at conferences or networking events?Should I make an excuse? Come out as needing a service dog? Make a joke? How should I answer honestly without oversharing? If Linus was going to be a permanent and persistent staple of my professional life, I needed to make him part of the “Susan Kostal” brand: energy, creativity, communication, and human connection. Building the Brand I started to include him occasionally in my Twitter stream, which includes a blend of personal and professional tweets. We then built him a Twitter persona where he is known as @COMMSdog, reinforcing my work in communications and PR. If I live-tweeted an event, I included "his" reviews of programs. Linus has attended all of my networking events over the past two years and has brought up the energy at five major conferences to date, earning his own hashtag during live-tweeting, being featured in post-event marketing materials, and posing for photos with CEOs. Not only is he memorable as the only dog attendee, his presence draws attention to me. Attendees often ask why he is there. By providing a confident answer, Linus and I can stand out as candid, open, friendly, and honest in what can be a sea of professional marketers spinning stories. So, What’s Your Little Dog? When you’re building a professional brand, embrace all aspects of yourself. Authenticity is the most important feature of your brand. Find a way to spin something that will elicit questions into a memorable quirk: find and use your “little dog” strategically.

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