Jennifer Johnston Canfield’s Personal Brand

One of my favorite places to get good articles on social media is Socialmediatoday. I read an excellent article on inbound marketing there recently and found that the author, Jennifer Johnston Canfield, is also a current MBA student. I am VERY excited that she agreed to let us feature her brand here, because she is doing an exceptional job.  I now subscribe both to her blog on women and leadership and to her blog on inbound marketing – they are that good.

The links to her online brand are below, but make sure to read my interview with her because she offers some very valuable advice. Thanks, Jennifer!

Think Big at

UnMarketing Blog at

LinkedIn Profile at

Twitter at @jbjcanfield

1.  This is the Student Branding Blog, so tell us something about your background as a student and then bring us up-to-date on what you are doing now.

Thanks for having me, Bret. I’ll be finishing up my MBA this August, then working in social media and inbound marketing in the Boston area. I’m not a traditional marketer, just passionate about using technology to connect for impact.

I held leadership positions in nonprofits for 15 years before seeking my MBA to acquire more rigorous business analytic skills. I chose the Simmons School of Management for my MBA because I believed in their brand promise – to educate women for power and principled leadership. Wow, have they delivered. I couldn’t be more pleased with my leadership skills, both the relational and technical ones.

I started two blogs last semester as part of an independent study I created on social media and inbound marketing. The Think Big project is all about women’s leadership, and my UnMarketing Blog is about pushing social media and inbound marketing principles beyond the marketing and sales function.

Part of this self-directed study included a literature review of the most influential Web 2.0 and social media books of 2009 and 2010. My blogs allowed me to test out the theories laid out in these books and to share my insights on them. One of the books I came across was Dan Schawbel’s Me 2.0, which brings me to your next question.

2.  How and why did you get started with personal branding?

Me 2.0 formally introduced me to personal branding. Though written for Gen Ys (I’m Gen X) most of the principles resonated with me.

I subscribe to the school of thought that believes marketing in its most powerful form is an orientation, not a function. A company’s brand should be embedded in operations, finance, corporate strategy, and in every employee, not just in a silo-ed department.  Brand should represent the promise made by the product or company to the consumer. Brand should extend the values of the company and permeate the entire organization.

For me, personal branding should do the same. My brand is all about my values and my promise to you, the employer or client. My values should be clearly visible in my brand, and they should guide every decision I make and every contribution I add.

Many people hear “personal branding” and think “egotistical self-promoting”. It is critical that personal brands stand for something that is authentic, resonant, relevant, and sustainable. Honesty and self-reflection are essential.

Moving from the nonprofit to for-profit sector, I recognized that personal branding filled a need I had – to tell my story in a way that highlighted my core strengths and transferable skills. Nowadays, recruiters have more applicants than they need. They are looking for reasons not to hire you. I wasn’t going to let my incredibly valuable nonprofit leadership experience be an excuse for a for-profit sector recruiter.

I won’t leave it up to recruiters to draw my story out of a bunch of job descriptions on a piece of paper. I drive that car. In my interviews, resumes and cover letters, I demonstrate clearly and succinctly what I stand for and how it will be of value to the hiring company. This is all done via my personal brand.

3.  How would you describe your personal brand? Which online platforms have been the most effective for you in spreading the word about your brand?

My brand is built the key thematic contributions I’ve made consistently throughout my career. These are the most powerful roles I have assumed in every job or project I have ever worked on. They are themes in my professional and personal life. They also reflect my values.

  • I create.
  • I build.
  • I teach.

Creating is all about envisioning a future. It is about creating ideas and processes, as well as more tangible programs and websites. The key message is I have the ability to create something that is novel, relevant and valuable.

Building is about execution. Again, I build programs, organizations, websites, communities and teams. I build capabilities – in myself and in others. I build excitement around new ideas and change.

Teaching is about expanding the new and impacting change in others and throughout communities. Coaching and mentoring are extensions of teaching. My message here is that I have the unique ability to both understand the complex and simplify it in order to create understanding. Teaching is where impact really takes place.

These three platforms are entirely authentic to me. I spent quality time reflecting on my past contributions and achievements and on the activities that really inspire me.

As for specific networks, I use Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook primarily. Like many others, my blog is my #1 personal branding tool. My blog allows me to demonstrate my thought leadership, analytical and technical skills, and my creativity. My blogs also demonstrate my passion and work ethic. I don’t have to run two blogs, I do it because I care about building women leaders and pushing the social media dialogue beyond marketing.

4.  What personal branding advice do you have for students?

Recent studies show that the majority of recruiters are checking applicant web presence before or after an interview. Google yourself. What’s out there? What does it say about you? If you don’t have an online presence, it is a missed opportunity to differentiate yourself.

A personal brand gives you a virtual foot in the door. It is an asset worth investing in. So, don’t let the technology prevent you from getting online. The world is getting increasingly social and networked, so is business. It is critical to keep up. Don’t fall behind. If you need advice on the technology, you’ll find the blogosphere and social world are very welcoming (and fun). Feel free to email me if you want help getting up and running. I still turn to my social media mentor for advice now and again.

Finally, personal branding is a way of life. You don’t just do it once and forget about it. You build it over time, redirecting and repositioning as you grow and change your roles and aspirations.

5. What is your biggest personal branding challenge?

My personal challenge is taking my brand to the next level. To me that includes, improving my blog design to reflect my artistic savvy (I used to be a professional artist) and building my community to create impact.

In terms of design, this will include updating things like my photo (which is a bit more formal than I am), designing a logo for my site (almost completed), and delivering more value per pixel (what will differentiate my site and deliver the most use to others). In terms of building community, I plan to reach out to other bloggers and online influencers, as well as run a subscription campaign. Ultimately, it is all about impact. My brand means nothing unless I do something worthwhile with it.

Great advice, Jennifer. Thanks!


Bret Simmons is an Assistant Professor of Management in the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), where he teaches courses in organizational behavior, leadership, and personal branding to both undergraduate and MBA students. He has a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Oklahoma State University. Bret practices personal branding at his website Positive Organizational Behavior where he blogs about leadership, followership, and personal branding. His purpose is “to change your mind about the value of partnering with others to build healthy, responsible organizations where everyone can thrive.” You can also find Bret on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.

Related posts:

  1. Greg de Lima’s Personal Brand
  2. Show Me Your Personal Brand
  3. Values, Engagement, and Your Personal Brand

One Response to “Jennifer Johnston Canfield’s Personal Brand”

  1. [...] Johnston Canfield has a fantastic personal brand, and I am delighted to feature her in my most recent article at The Student Branding Blog. I found [...]

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