What’s your personal brand, and how does one maintain it in our digital era?

What would you even consider your personal brand? Is it your personality behind the bar? Does it link to your personality when you’re not behind the bar? Is it your digital brand? What exactly are we talking about here?

Well, the answer to all these questions is—yes. By definition, a “brand” is a characteristic or distinctive kind. Sounds like your typical bartender. We, in our own right, are a distinctive kind. If I had to create my own definition of a personal brand, it would be: The characteristics that are intrinsic to the individual in how they represent themselves in their work or personal life (i.e., what you do and how you carry yourself both behind and away from the bar).

So let’s dig into the three critical traits of your personal brand: emotional intelligence, actions and words, and digital face.

mixologist shaking and stirring

Mixologist Patrick Abalos of the Chilled 100 Shakin’ and Stirrin’

Photo by Shannon Sturgis

Emotional Intelligence

Most of us should have a grasp of what makes us tick and also what makes us unique. One fun experiment I like doing during my interview process for new bartenders is asking them, “What would your former managers, coworkers, friends, and regulars say about you?” You’d be surprised by the responses I’ve received. Some go with generic answers like “fun” and “outgoing.” Then there are a few rare times when the answer is more in-depth and shows that the applicant is very emotionally aware of how they carry themselves. Are you at a low or high level of emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the greatest asset to have when we start talking our personal brand. It is absolutely critical that people learn to develop their own emotional intelligence. Bartenders are constantly in front of a wide and diverse audience, so it’s important that we learn to keep our emotions in check and consider the thoughts and feelings of our guests, coworkers, friends, colleagues, etc. A lot of what is said can be interpreted in many different ways. Have you ever received a text message and interpreted it in a completely differently way than what the sender meant?

That’s exactly how today’s environment is—more reactive then proactive. We, as bartenders, need to be more proactive than reactive in our approaches. We can definitely be an opinionated bunch, but there’s always a time and place. Some might disagree with this approach, and that is absolutely okay. If you are passionate about something and need to speak up, go for it, but always be aware of how others feel. It all comes down to your personal emotions. Are you in control of them or are they in control of you?

Emotional intelligence revolves around the following traits and actions

Feelings: Think about your feelings and how others might feel. Put yourself in their shoes. Everyone is going through their own struggles.

Thoughts: Control your thought process. Take time to assess the situation. Have situational awareness. Be proactive and not reactive.

Authenticity: Be true to yourself. Don’t be fake.

Empathy: Be understanding of other people’s situations. Show remorse.

Give praise/feedback: Congratulate others and give positive reinforcement.

Keep an open mind: Take criticism as a learning experience. I know that constructive feedback can sometimes be hard to swallow, but it’s the only way we learn.

Admit and accept: Apologize for mistakes. Practice forgiving and forgetting.

Be noble: Always keep your word.

Step up: Be the first to help others.

As you can see, emotional intelligence is key. Your brand is 100% affected by these factors; therefore, it’s critical to be aware of yourself and others.

Group of Mixologist in Lounge Area

Group of Mixologist in Lounge Area

Photo by Shannon Sturgis

Actions and Words

Most of us have heard the phrase “actions speak louder than words.” It’s still a valid statement. But in today’s era, words reverberate just as strongly. What you post on social media, send in emails, and text can do great or damaging things to your personal brand. One misworded post, email, or text can have long-lasting effects. If you think you’re the best bartender in the world, then you must be sure your actions and words mirror that perception. Many bartenders fall into the mindset of “I’m better than you” when, in reality, we should all be supporting each other and working to elevate our craft. We might be stronger at some things as opposed to others, but it’s important to remain humble. Don’t become known as someone with a chip on their shoulder.

Be aware of your body language. Don’t walk into a new bar and scoff at the bartenders, cocktails, or concept. If you meet bartenders who are just getting into the craft and excited to have you taste one of their cocktails, be excited with them. We should be encouraging and supporting novice bartenders, because they’re the future of our industry. I have met too many bartenders who are quick to judge. That’s not what our industry is about. We should be working together to continue the advancement of the craft. It’s not a competition, but rather a “brain trust,” where new and experienced bartenders come together to support and inspire the next generation. It all comes down to how you carry yourself, what actions you take, and how you convey your thoughts into words. Always keep that in mind.

Digital Face

Social media is something that can make or break your personal brand and business. Look at what’s happening in the market today. One wrong word can cause a chain reaction that leads to huge damage that will take years to recover from … if you ever do recover. What you post online can last forever. There is no real delete button. Anyone can take a screenshot or picture and save it. Don’t post anything in the heat of the moment. Take time to get your thoughts in order and determine if it merits being said online. Most things should be solved offline and face to face. Pay attention to your likes on social media. When you enter competitions, be aware that brands will look at your social media accounts. Many have marketing codes that you have to sign stating what you can and can’t post. Always remember to post responsibly. Don’t post yourself taking laybacks or imbibing irresponsibly.

Your digital brand and personal brand both should mirror each other. Your ethos, pathos, and logos should be identical online. One thing everyone should do is Google themselves to see what comes up.

So as you can see, as bartenders, we work in the service industry, and it takes a special type of person to work in this field. There are some of us who are more on the quieter, reserved side, and then there are those of us who are on the outgoing and boisterous side. If you were to survey and build a graph of all bartenders, you might find a good spread of personality types. That’s what makes this industry so much fun. We all have our own individual traits. These traits all play a major role in our personal brand.