Interview with Ernest Owens, Ernest Media Empire LLC

For many leaders in business, personal brand is often forgotten in favor of a company’s own brand. However, there’s a connection between the two that leaders need to learn and take advantage of. 

This interview on personal brand is with Ernest Owens, an award-winning journalist and CEO of Ernest Media Empire, LLC.

How do you define your personal brand?

For the most part, my personal brand is an introspection of my various identities: I am Black, I am queer, and I am a millennial who is navigating professional life. This is who I fundamentally am as a person, which makes both my personal brand and my professional image more genuine. At the same time, these identities have many implications in American society — being a Black, queer person in America adds complex perspectives and challenges to my personal brand that ultimately make it a truer representation of me. 

What is the relationship between your personal brand and your organization’s brand?

There is an exceptionally close relationship between my personal brand and my organization’s brand. I am a very outspoken person who tells it like it is. I’m interested in media, especially social media and its ability to bring to light issues that would otherwise receive little-to-no attention. My personal brand’s honesty serves as a foundation upon which my organization’s brand acts, namely through its use of media and engagement with journalism. This is why there is also a focus on transparency between the media and the public. The emphasis my personal brand places on transparency within journalism transfers over into my organization’s brand, specifically in how it engages with and perceives information and the public. 

Can you tell us about your journey to identify and develop your personal brand?  Did you have to overcome any fears, concerns, or challenges?

Early in my career, people told me to “tone down” the fact that I am unapologetically proud to be Black and queer — that I would have to soften my Blackness because it would make others uncomfortable to speak about racial injustice. I eventually realized that suppressing my identity wasn’t going to make me as successful and productive as I wanted to be. Success, to me, was never going to feel right if I couldn’t be my true self while achieving it. And so I navigated my career being as open and fearless as I had intended, entering each room feeling like my authentic self. 

I’ve met many people in the past who have had to “tone down their Blackness” or hide their sexual orientation. To me, that impeded on their work. They say looking back that they were depressed or felt limited because they weren’t their true selves. And I decided I wasn’t going to make those same mistakes.

What have you found are the most effective ways to promote your personal brand or thought leadership?

Social media allows me to be able to connect with other people from around the country, allowing me to build a deep community that I feel I can always engage with; this is especially important in the Coronavirus era! I love initiating conversations on social media in which we can amplify each other’s diverse voices. This digital community of Black and queer perspectives is so insightful and empowering and really speaks to my personal brand.

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