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Building Your Personal Brand - The ERG Leader Amplifier Effect

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by Debra Bass, Worldwide Vice President, Global Marketing, DePuy Synthes Companies

Recently, I had the opportunity to convene at the American Express Corporate Headquarters in New York City, along with approximately 200 other Employee Resource Group (ERG) Leaders from Aetna, American Express, Ernst & Young, and Johnson & Johnson for a Leadership Development Summit.  The purpose of the summit was to develop our ERG leaders and empower them with skills to enable cross company networking and facilitate best practice sharing.

As background, ERGs are groups of employees who join together based upon shared characteristics, life experiences and commons goals.  ERGs can serve many purposes, including enhancing business, talent and community agendas. They also help build a culture of diversity and inclusion and enable engaged members to develop their leadership skills, build powerful networks and lend meaningful insights to businesses.

I’m honored to serve as the Medical Devices & Diagnostics WLI Co-Chair.  To me, this represents an opportunity to bring my energy to a space I am personally passionate about.  I truly believe that growing women will grow our business and greatly enrich the fabric of our culture by weaving in different skills and thinking.  All of which unleashes the power of diversity at work and in our communities!

One of summit’s workshops I found most helpful was the “ERG Leadership Driving Career Development.”  This workshop provided guidance for defining and communicating our personal brands.  “If you don’t brand yourself, someone else will,” said Robin Fisher Roffer, Founder and CEO of Big Fish Marketing, a corporate branding firm.  That makes a lot of sense.  After all, many of us were trained in the 4P’s of Marketing (Product, Price, Promotion, Place) and now we were introduced to the 3C’s of Personal Branding: Clarity, Consistency, and Constancy.

The 3C’s offer a smart way to shape our personal brands AND enable crisp “elevator speeches” to socialize them with others.

At this Leadership Development Summit, we were encouraged to think of our ERG operations like running a business---rooted in a vision, clear growth strategies, executional excellence and metrics that matter.  Along that same line of thinking:  since brands are valuable business assets and great talent is the lifeblood of any successful business, developing and leveraging our personal brands is integral to both business growth and our individual career fulfillment. Smart business discipline is required to shape our ERG mission/vision/plans, define our personal brands and thus unlock a company’s full potential.

The key takeaway was companies should embrace ERGs as incubators for fresh insights, innovation and an infectious growth mindset. As ERG Leaders, we were encouraged to test new ideas with a high tolerance for failure and high applause/acclaim for success.   We were also encouraged to bring our “unique and authentic” selves to our ERG missions/business plans. Uniqueness or claimable differentiations are important attributes to help a brand stand out in a crowded marketplace. Also, today’s customers place a premium on authenticity!

The essence of my personal brand is to be a lightning rod for bold ideas that transform organizations- a change agent in short. I am strengthening my personal brand through my role as a WLI leader with a commitment to transform the leadership landscape to unlock the full potential of the other 50% of our employees.

Now let me ask you: What is the essence of your personal brand? How are you utilizing the 3Cs to build your career and business?  The answers to these questions have the potential to open you, your career and business to limitless opportunities for success.

Across the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, we have many different employee resource groups including: Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), Asian Society for Innovation and Achievement (ASIA), African American Leadership Council (AALC), Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Achievement (HOLA), Veteran’s Leadership Council (V.L.C.), and Gay and Lesbian Organization for Business and Leadership (GLOBAL).


Debra is Worldwide Vice President of Global Marketing for the DePuy Synthes Companies of Johnson & Johnson. In this role, she has established a new Marketing Center of Excellence and is responsible for creating/building the global DePuy master-brand, and leading the Marketing Communications and Digital Marketing functions for DePuy Companies. The integrated effort/impact of the DePuy Masterbrand was awarded with a 2011 James E. Burke Award for best New Business Model. Debra has played an active role in the Synthes integration lead the development of the new corporate brand strategy and identity and is currently shaping a new Marketing Center of Excellence to serve DePuy Synthes Companies.

Debra has a broad base of business/marketing experience gained through diverse industry, company, and brand experiences. Key highlights include brand management roles in both the Laundry and Beauty Care Sectors of the Procter & Gamble Company, line marketing experience in the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, direct to patient marketing experience at the Bristol Myers Squibb Company, and more recently consumer durables marketing experience while serving on the North American Management Board at the Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company.

In addition to her business commitments, Debra is actively committed to supporting women and girls serving J&J as an MD&D WLI Co-Chair and serving her community as a Girl Scout Troop Co-leader.

Debra holds a B.A. in Public Policy from Duke University and an M.B.A. in General Management/Marketing from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

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