Case study No. 3: Branding, not bragging

July 30, 2010: 3:00 AM ET

Marvin Smith, talent sourcer, Microsoft

Marvin Smith, a talent sourcer in Microsoft's entertainment devices division, is an expert on incorporating Web 2.0 tech and social communities into the recruiting process. He's also a major voice at recruiting-industry conventions, in trade groups, and on blogs. Yet until recently Smith, 60, didn't have a personal brand portal—otherwise known as a blog. "I wasn't sure what voice I wanted to put forth," he says, a bit hesitantly.

Smith's goal was to develop his own reputation within the community, but not so much that people might think he was piggybacking on the Microsoft name to start his own shop. Yet while he was finding success on the outside, that success was hurting him at the office. After attending conferences, he would casually pass along a business guru's impressions of Microsoft, hoping to be helpful. He soon noticed that no one was listening. At meetings "they thought I was namedropping," he says. "They would just look at me and say, 'Oh, really.' " He realized that sometimes the best form of brand building is one that chooses discretion over self-promotion. "It's very difficult to share those experiences with your peers without having them think that you are full of yourself," says Smith. Now, even if he thinks he wowed a crowd, "I let that success filter back on its own," he says. "I don't talk about it."

Smith is also careful to pursue certain activities on his own time. Even though he could have justified it for work, Smith recently used a vacation day to talk to a group of recruiters. He had already taken a few business trips that month, and felt like "internally, it was beginning to seem that I was gone a lot—and, after all, what is my job?" Smith now chooses carefully which speaking engagements to accept and where to publish, being "very sensitive that I am seen as a good corporate citizen on behalf of Microsoft." Smith is savvy enough to recognize that a successful brand-within-a-brand makes both sides look good.

By Josh Hyatt, contributor

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Building your brand (and keeping your job)

Case study No. 1: Don't be overeager

Case study No. 2: The brand rehabber

Case study No. 3: Branding, not bragging

Case study No. 4: Edit thyself

Case study No. 5: Be sensitive to changing priorities

The promised brand: How to get there

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