Interview: NJ Adviser to Startups Robert Donnelly Talks About Book: Personal Brand Planning for Life

Photo: Robert M. Donnelly is the author of Personal Brand Planning for Life. Photo Credit: Courtesy Robert Donnelly
Robert M. Donnelly is the author of Personal Brand Planning for Life. | Courtesy Robert Donnelly

[I first met Robert M. Donnelly at various tech meetings around New Jersey and got to know him as a mentor at TechLaunch. Donnelly is a marketing strategy adviser who specializes in internet marketing and writes on management and entrepreneurship issues. He is also a professor, teaching in on-campus EMBA, MBA and MS programs, as well as courses at corporate sites and online; and he’s known as a “Distinguished Professor” at Rushmore University. He has taught at St. Peter’s University, Montclair State University, Stevens Institute of Technology and Fairleigh Dickinson.

Now Donnelly has written a book about personal branding called Personal Brand Planning for Life. He says that in the book, readers will learn to assess their aptitudes, discover their unique sets of skills and develop a winning branding strategy for life. Everyone has some specific talent or skill, Donnelly contends, but may need help in discovering what it is. In combination with a better understanding of his own personality and the personality traits of others, the reader will be able to reposition himself to optimize his natural abilities and persona, and invest in himself for the balance of his career.

Tell me about your background.

I started my corporate life with IBM, moved on to Pfizer and then worked with Exxon in their Venture Group, where I acquired 40 technologies for Exxon. Then I joined a boutique international consultancy specializing in the transfer of technology on a global scale, as a senior partner. During this period, I became the CEO of the North American subsidiary of a Dutch multinational firm and developed an unknown foreign product in the process control industry into the market leader. I participated in the sale of that company to a Fortune 100 corporation. Based on that success, I then became the CEO of the U.S. subsidiary if an Israeli multinational, and concluded my corporate life as the CEO of the U.S. subsidiary of an Indian multinational firm. These days, besides my academic affiliations, I am an interim executive — currently serving as the chief marketing officer for a growing firm focusing on process control automation.

How did you get the idea for this book?

The idea for the book came from my realizing that the branding process for a product is the same as the branding process for a person. The 4 P’s of marketing — product, promotion, price and place — apply as much to a person as it does to a product. Let’s review: You are the product. You have to package yourself as attractively as you would a product. Then you have to promote yourself in a similar fashion as you would a product. Who else is promoting you besides Mom and Dad? You have to price yourself for what you are worth, just as you price a product for the value that it delivers. And, lastly, you have to be at the right place at the right time, which the Internet now allows. Almost all jobs today are on the Internet and easy to access if you are out there surfing. As a matter of fact, it is easier today to see what jobs are worth and how to apply for them than ever before. However, if you haven’t developed your personal brand marketing materials, you won’t be as attractive a candidate as you could be if you had. 

How did you go about gathering material for this book?

I gathered the ideas from my knowledge and experience in building brand equity for products. The 4 P’s of marketing apply as much to an individual as they do to a product. Everyone is a brand, but most people don’t recognize that fact.

Who should read the book and why?

Technology is automating jobs out of existence and significantly altering traditional career paths. Competition for the remaining jobs is increasing exponentially. Anyone who wants to be successful in the new world of work has to take control of his destiny and market himself more effectively. My book will help everyone discover his unique skill set and persona so that he can market himself either as an entrepreneur or as a valuable prospective employee.

Is there anything else you want people to know about this book?

Besides functioning as an invaluable education in building a personal brand, the book is chock-full of helpful information on how to utilize social media to let the world know that you exist! In addition, for folks in the tech industry specifically, it allows them to get a much-needed perspective on the importance and value of marketing.

Please give the readers three takeaways from the book.

1. The book provides a step-by-step process for developing a personal brand.

2. You’ll learn the introspective value of exploring your unique skill set and persona.Most people spend their lives trying to figure out what they are good at, and many never do. It’s a fact that those people who are doing what they are best at and enjoy it the most have more fulfilling careers and are more financially secure than those who don’t.

3. You’ll gain insights into to the value of using social media to advance your career. Most people, including techies, are happy just sending pictures and texts about their daily lives to others via Facebook, or have incomplete LinkedIn profiles or wonder what Twitter is all about. Social media is the most valuable tool you have for promoting yourself and your personal brand, and for finding new opportunities

What two quotes best represent the book?

“Your career plan is your personal business plan,” and, “Personal branding is a process of self-discovery and using the results of that analysis to create an image of yourself that captures the essence of your uniqueness and the marketability of you.”

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