Branding You for Social Entrepreneurs

  Perception is you.

Adebayo Alonge

The Solutions Ideator
(picture credit

What comes to your mind when you hear these names- Mohammed Yunus, Bill Gates, Tony Elumelu? Did the following words come up in your mind- microfinance, health philanthropy and “Africapitalism”? This is the power of a brand- a consistently uniform perception you conjure when your name is mentioned.

Now ask yourself, when your name is mentioned what do people immediately associate with you? This is your brand and is how you are perceived by others.

A brand is a bundle of perceptions both positive and negative.

Donna Rachelson

Branding and marketing thought leader
(picture credit

Your brand should evoke emotions and it is much better if the emotions evoked are as you intend. You could control how you are perceived or leave it to others to decide for you. As a social entrepreneur it is better to be in control of your brand because it helps you create reputation that precedes you, increases your visibility and makes you out as the first point of call in your field.

Google your name right now and assess the first two pages of the search results using these criteria-

a) Visibility:

Do you show up first as against others bearing your name? What about the images that show up? What do you see?

Your visibility is driven by volume. The more content you push out online and in print,the greater your visibility will be.

Commit to publishing content around the area of your work regularly. Also commit to speaking engagements and ensure that you circulate your profile in all the media platforms of these conferences.

b) Relevance:

Look closely at the content associated with the search results. Does it represent the work you do and what you want to be known for?

This criteria is very important if you want to be called for opportunities in your field. Make a commitment to create relevant content that positions you as a thought leader and go to person in your work. You can even go the extra mile to remove irrelevant content that comes up along with the search results.

c) Purity:

Look at the search results again. How uniquely do you stand out from others with a similar profile as yours who also work in the same area.

To improve on how you perform in this area, you need to feature on multiple media platforms and in different channels- text, video etc. Ask popular media platforms to feature your work and ask to be invited to talk shows. Ensure that you leverage these platforms to discuss the area of your work.

d) Diversity:

Do you show up in multimedia? Are you purely text based?

Try to create and push out relevant content in a variety of formats- text, video, infographics etc.

Branding You

To create your brand, you need to do the following-

a) Create your legacy statement:

What do you want to be remembered for?

” I want to be remembered for improving healthcare access for low income communities in Africa”

Your legacy helps you focus on where you want to work and for whom. It is in essence the single sentence that defines your life’s mission.

b) Create your personal brand signature:

Your personal brand signature should serve as your profile. It is created from combining your legacy statement with the top three strengths that your closest contacts say you possess and your achievements in the area of your work. Including your achievements gives your signature a stamp of credibility.

For example after asking 10 people who know you to list your strengths, you should take out the top three that appear consistently in the feedback. You could come up with the following strengths-visionary, tenacious and implementer. Combining this with the legacy statement above you have the following brand signature-

I am a visionary healthcare leader who creates and tenaciously delivers healthcare solutions to low income communities in Africa. I want to be known for solving problems associated with delivering healthcare solutions to low income communities globally. I combine training in the health sciences and business as well as five years experience developing new markets worth over $1 million for multinationals and start-ups in Africa.

Your brand signature should evoke an image, it should elicit emotions and should be action oriented.

c) Create your personal brand pitch:

Remember that you create an impression within the first seven seconds of meeting someone. Nowadays you have the opportunity to decide how you want to impress. Most conversations with powerful people usually start with them asking ‘so what do you do?’

Do not bore them with a long winding story of all the things you do- from watching movies to solving all the wars happening globally. You want to answer with an elevator pitch delivered precisely in 30 seconds. Long enough to inspire interest and short enough to generate curiosity. You brand pitch is successful if you make them say ‘tell me more’.

Take for example this below-

I enable access to quality healthcare in low income communities in Africa.

What do you think the most likely response will be? I can sure bet it will be, ‘how do you do this?’

Now that is what the brand pitch is aimed at- to create a platform for conversation.

d) Develop your brand story:

Your brand story is essentially a story that tells people why you do what you are doing. Great brand stories are emotional and memorable. We all know Oprah Winfrey’s story. Now do not be shy to tell yours. As a social entrepreneur, telling your story helps people connect with the underlying driver of your passion. It helps people connect with you emotionally-and believe me, the goodwill it helps you generate is tremendous.

A good story is composed of the following elements-

i)              A background:

What happened in your past that directed you towards your life work?

ii)             Personal solutions:

How have your personals struggles with what happened to you shape your work and helped you?

iii)            Helping others:

How are you using your personal lessons to help others?

Look at this story below:

The background:

I was nine years old when I suffered from traumatic shock as a result of a violent robbery I experienced at home. As a result of the shock, I began to suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that made it difficult for me to breath. The cheap medications my dad bought failed to relieve my breathing and I had to go to the hospital almost every weekend for a special procedure to clear my airways of mucus. The cheap medications my dad could afford were often adulterated and even worse the weekly hospital admissions were crippling his finances. I had to find a way to stay alive and avoid destroying my family financially.

Personal Solution:

I was introduced to Chinese herbal medicine as a solution to the health crisis I faced. However, in order for me to afford the herbals for my condition, I had to sell herbals, for various conditions such as obesity, to professionals in banks and industries. The profit I made from selling these herbals, helped pay for my own medications. Within a year, I was free from the debilitating illness that only some few months back would have killed me and impoverished my family.

Helping others:

Today, I distribute medicines in Nigeria using a cross subsidy model that involves sales at competitive rates in urban areas while providing subsidized medicines in low income areas. This is in order to enable access to high quality healthcare for low income communities across Africa.

The brand story above shows you why I am passionate about healthcare access in low income communities and why I do what I do.

Brand you and watch your work blossom.

*This article is part of the training materials I have developed for my Mandela Washington Fellowship Mentorship series. It is designed to prepare participants for the ‘Startup Day’ events which will be held across Nigeria in 2015.


1. Donna Rachelson,

Special gratitude to Michael Cappello and his team of the Yale World Fellows who organized a fantastic 6-weeks executive business leadership program that redefined how I think about and conduct business today.

Special thanks also to Barack Obama and the people of the United States of America for organizing the young African leaders initiative aimed at empowering young business leaders from Africa to conduct business ethically and in a socially sustainable and responsible way


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