“We think branding is what you do when you want likes or fans, or you want to be famous…actually, anyone who interacts with other people needs to think about branding. Your brand is how the world experiences you and what they believe to be true.”

—Personal branding expert Lida Citroën

I recently had the privilege of attending the Texas Women’s Conference, and one of the panels that I found most valuable was called, “Your Brand: How to Define and Market Yourself.” We often think that personal branding is only important for influencers and celebrities, but the truth is that we are expressing our personal brand constantly—from the words that we choose to use to the energy that we bring into a room.

 There are many ways to assess and build a personal brand, but I think Simidele Adeagbo explained it in the simplest way. Simidele, who led marketing campaigns at Nike for 15 years while training for the Olympics, described a process that Nike uses called “DIG.” 


Personal branding is anchored in what you believe. If someone took these things away, you wouldn’t be you. If you don’t know where to start, seek outside perspectives and feedback, whether it be from friends, peers or coworkers. Spend time examining the things that you’re good at.

Think about four core ideas or topics that are central to your identity and points of activation for your brand (aka brand pillars). Yes you, as a person, will have brand pillars.


This is where you should begin to focus on the narrative surrounding your brand. The way that your brand shows up is in your reputation. This does not just mean verbal cues, such as the way we speak, but nonverbal cues as well, such as our level of eye contact or our posture.

How do you talk about yourself? That sets the foundation for how others see us. How do you introduce yourself? It’s not just about your title, it’s about why you do what you do. Credential yourself, talk about your “why” and make it personal. That is what makes for an interesting elevator pitch. 

You should set the expectation with confidence, clarity and intention. People will believe what you tell them until you prove otherwise.  

Think about how you can establish a position around the things that make you unique. What are the ways in which this could manifest itself out in the world? Ideate around that.


Own it. Step into uncomfortable places and have the courage to take on the tasks that scare you or that others never would. People are drawn to realness, and if you let them come along, they will help you build your brand. Embrace the journey. Authenticity can be difficult, awkward and scary, but it’s about consistency, not perfection.

Be resourceful. Who is in the space that you want to be in? Connect with like-minded people. Surround yourself with people, environments and jobs that allow you to do what you’re good at.

When we think about “showing up,” we often think of social media, but we have the opportunity to show up far beyond that. The clothes that we wear, the products that we choose to buy and our professional network are all ways that we show up. They are all opportunities for us to tell our stories and they are all reflections of our brand.

Think about the ways you can tell your story and take action to show up in those spaces.

When you put all of these things into action, you will shine through in your personal and professional interactions AND your brand will be unstoppable. Keep discovering, ideating and going. Just keep DIGging.

Recently, Austin was named one of the top 10 best places for the LGBTQ+ community to live, just in time for Austin Pride this weekend. Ahead of the celebration, we chatted with members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies within the agency about what inclusivity means to them and how creativity can’t thrive without it. Keep reading to learn more about how an inclusive city and work environment makes all the difference.

Kirya Francis, VP of Diversity and Inclusion

How do you define inclusion?

I like to think of inclusion to be more like a salad. You come together as individuals and you get to stay an individual, but your presence will be missed if you are not there. 

Why is it important for a company to participate in inclusive initiatives? 

A company’s primary responsibility is to be profitable so that it can stay in business and employ talent. Inclusion makes people happier to be there, and happier people make a better product.  

Kyle Nguyen, Media Planner/Campaign Manager

How have you experienced inclusion at GSD&M?

GSD&M’s culture is inherently inclusive with participation in community events like the Allies Diversity Summit and various panels where GSD&Mers share their stories. 

How does an inclusive environment benefit the work that comes out of GSD&M?

It breaks down walls. The less time we worry about how others perceive us, the more time we have to focus that energy on actually working by bringing our authentic selves to work.

Josh Andrews, Assistant Account Manager 

Why is it important for a company to participate in inclusive initiatives?

It’s important for employees to see reflections of themselves and their identities at work. Without a place to be yourself, employees risk losing themselves to the nature of putting up a guard to those around them. 

How have you experienced inclusion in Austin and at GSD&M?

There are LGBTQIA sports teams, book clubs and even Zilker meet-ups. I’m very happy to see the solidarity of GSD&M walking in Austin’s Pride parade, so cheers to that!

Ashley Davidson, Digital Producer

How do you define inclusion? 

Inclusion is providing an atmosphere of support and involvement for all people regardless of race, religion, background, abilities, gender or sexual orientation. An inclusive environment empowers, educates and collaborates so an individual’s worth is recognized by all.

Why is it important for a company to participate in inclusive initiatives? 

Inclusivity initiatives that support all groups are important for morale, productivity, safety and community-building. You build a stronger company where people both tolerate and celebrate each other’s differences.

Ana Leen, Account Leadership

How have you experienced inclusion at GSD&M? 

Through partnering with organizations like ADCOLOR, E4Youth, Time’s Up/Advertising, Austin Pride and more, we’re both impacting and learning from our community that feeds the pipeline of creativity.

How does an inclusive environment benefit the work that comes out of GSD&M? 

We will think beyond the norm. We will come up with ideas and creative that connect with people in new ways. We will give brands the opportunity to do things differently and stand out from the competition.

Companies need to push inclusion initiatives throughout the year, not just during Pride month. While we’re lucky to live in a welcoming city like Austin, we should never take that for granted. We must continuously celebrate and advocate for inclusion to better our community, our industry and the society in which we live. It’s a disservice to creativity and culture at large if we are not including and representing all voices and speaking up for those who aren’t heard. 

One of the cool things about working in advertising is that inspiration is basically unavoidable. It’s all around you all the time, especially in an atmosphere like GSD&M’s which is so creatively fueled. To help harness that inspiration and bring new ideas to the office, I often turn to books. This year, I challenged myself to finish two books every month—one fiction and one nonfiction—because balance, you know?

Since then, I’ve found books that have both challenged me to grow and left my imagination running, which in turn have benefited how I work and think. Of the books I’ve read so far this year, below are my personal top four summer reads—good for beach days or lunch break reads.     


By Dale Carnegie

An oldie, but a classic. Published in 1936 and revised in 1981, over 15 million copies have been sold. It’s one of the most successful books in American history, for a good reason. 

In just under 300 pages, this book taught me the fundamentals of interacting with people, winning people over, persuasion and being a leader. Being in business development, learning these skills was an integral aspect in my career and how I interacted with coworkers and clients alike. My biggest learnings from the book were how to positively handle conflict and be confident in my own opinion, both of which are incredibly helpful in my career and personal life.


By Mark Manson

AKA: The self-help book for people who do not read self-help books. Mark Manson contradicts the cultural idea of mindless positivity that isn’t practical or helpful to most people. What did I gain from his argument? I gained the understanding that life’s struggles provide more meaning and are a realistic approach to misfortune in a society that’s constantly trying to appear happy. 

Manson’s book taught me how to take a deep breath and focus on what truly matters. If it’s not worth the fight, then let it go. My mom always said, “pick your battles,” and this book exponentially reinforced what I’d been hearing my whole life. 


By Gillian Flynn

This one’s a not-so-guilty pleasure. Dealing with class issues in rural America, intense poverty and the Satanic cult hysteria that swept the United States in the 1980s. It’s a truly chilling novel. From a small-town massacre to the uncovering of endless horrors and secrets, it’s the kind of book that makes you terrified to turn the page but leaves you with no choice but to see what happens next. 

I love a book with twisted characters and a dark storyline, and this is the only book that has ever scared me to my core. While I love nonfiction and gaining knowledge, sometimes it’s nice to escape into a completely different world—even if I have to sleep with the lights on.


By S.J. Watson 

You won’t be able to put this one down. In a few words, Before I Go to Sleep is a disturbing, psychological thriller. It’s one of those storylines that is real enough to make you a bit paranoid in the weeks after you finish it. Playing with the grey area between real life and make-believe makes for a mind-bending reading experience.

What’s interesting about this novel is that it offers unexpected perspectives that really shift how you look at the story. It’s easy to get lost in one character’s point of view, but it’s a good reminder that there really are two sides to every story. 

So while you’re on vacation this summer or just looking for a fresh perspective to bring to the office, don’t forget to pack one (or all) of these reads. Whether you’re on a work trip, the beach or your couch, any one of these books is sure to teach you something or keep you on your toes. Or better yet, both! 

Happy reading!

Suc·cess /səkˈses/

Attainment of wealth, favor or eminence


Most would agree with this definition. Money, popularity and power don’t seem so bad, right?

As a centennial entering the workforce, I’ve learned that humanity desires much more. Success is not the attainment of wealth, favor or eminence, but rather perpetual joy.

GSD&M interns have Internship Experience Meetings which teach us about different departments within the agency. While learning about said departments, these meetings also helped me come up with what I consider to be the five necessities for true success:

Stay curious. I’m an acting major who interned with GSD&M’s communications team. Kelly Clemons is an architecture major turned IT intern, and Jack Epsteen—once a design major—is now the head of GSD&M’s production department. My point is: shadow people that are doing things of your interest, ask questions and don’t limit yourself. Never stop learning, because curiosity is key to being an active part of the world around you and can lead to paths unknown.

Serve others. Become a servant to those less fortunate than you by volunteering. The one thing no one can get back is time (sorry, guys, still no time travel). It’s the most valuable gift one can give. Staying concerned with the well-being of others can spill over into your work life and will contribute to your journey of success. 

You can’t do it alone. Staying humble is valuable because it drives you to create meaningful work. Remember that no one produces good work alone, so let your team know how grateful you are for them, and use them as a resource for constant inspiration and learning.

Got balance? Miguel Masso, a decision sciences intern, is a firm believer in putting work down at the end of the day and not picking it up until the following morning. Everyone’s beliefs on balance are different, but what we all know to be true is that if you aren’t healthy physically or mentally, what you produce won’t be your best product. We have to put ourselves first. 

Love the environment you’re in. Having a healthy work environment is genuinely rewarding. Any conflict or friction is easier dealt with because it’s known that we have a common goal. Regardless of your title, learn what that “common goal” is and keep it in mind when communicating and working with others. Love and care for your work environment, and it will do the same for you.

Internship Experience Meetings were meant to teach us about several departments within the agency, but for me, the outcome was a lesson about what success really is. At the end of the day, we are not accomplishments and titles. As human beings, we need to find joy in the process. That process is the journey, not a goal.


Suc·cess /səkˈses/

Attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence joy

ADCOLOR exists to establish a community of diverse professionals to support and celebrate one another. Every year, those diverse professionals attend a conference full of the brightest, diverse and innovative minds in the industry. This year, a total of nine GSD&M employees attended, and they returned with meaningful, game-changing insights and inspiration. Along with our attendance, we were an incredibly proud sponsor and as such, wanted to create something as a little reminder of the change we have the power to make. These pins were sent home with every attendee:


I caught up with the folks who attended to see what they learned, so I’ll let the people at the forefront of diversity and inclusion do the talking.

How can the ad industry influence and inspire more work toward diversity in other industries and beyond?

What was your personal most important takeaway from ADCOLOR?


This industry has the power to cultivate change—and it must start where the work happens. These conversations must continue to take place inside and outside of agencies and brands, and although we have a ways to go, we should be incredibly proud and excited to have minds like these fighting for diversity in our industry.

Until next year, ADCOLOR. Here’s to progress.

Dedicating 40+ hours a week to one office, one specialty, one computer, can be especially draining when we get sucked into the routine. That’s where a side hustle comes in—an outlet to create outside of the workplace and make some money while doing it. This year, over 44 million Americans reported having some sort of side hustle.

GSD&M employs a whole slew of crazy-talented folks, so you bet there are some side hustles around here. I dug a little deeper into the double lives of ad gurus by day and hustlers by night to see what passions they’re turning into profit.

Chelsey Korman, founder of Peach Electric: a real rad vintage shop for rad, real women

What took your side hustle beyond a hobby?

I’ve loved the art of fashion and the beauty of a thought-out outfit my entire life, and have wanted to explore it as a business for as long as I can remember. One day, I just figured I’d better start somewhere. This is just the beginning, I feel.

How has your side hustle made a difference in your day job?

It makes me appreciate all the departments in GSD&M. Reaching 100 Instagram followers was a huge achievement and honestly, some were sympathy followers. Ha. But seriously, social media experts are seriously smart and creative, and they understand what it means to “reach and connect” with an audience. We all have so much to learn from each other.


Laura Guardalabene, Cofounder of JUNK-O: creators of enamel pins inspired by pop culture and progressive political ideology

Where do you find inspiration to keep up the side hustle?

I follow a lot of other pin makers and small independent clothing brands. Companies like Lazy Oaf and Big Bud Press show me the growth potential JUNK-O has and how far hustling can get you.

How has your side hustle made a difference in your day job?

It has fueled my creativity tenfold. I no longer experience creative blocks or burnouts because I’m constantly challenging my mind and keeping it in shape.


Julia Elizondo, Cofounder of LA LO LA: a luxe resortwear line offering small batch collections

Where do you find inspiration to keep up the side hustle?

Through everyday things like a new issue of W Magazine or Condé Nast Traveler or just the simple dream of wanting to see women in our clothes. I want the chance to keep evolving the styles and collections into what I really want. 

What does this work outside of the office mean to you?

It means that I can pursue my dream while still being able to make a living working in a dynamic place like GSD&M. It’s an outlet for me too.


Jeffrey Butterworth, founder of ArterBarter: a website to auction off original art pieces one by one, for anything BUT cash

What took your side hustle beyond a hobby?

Bringing a concept to satisfy the question I have been asking myself, “What am I going to do with my art?”

How has your side hustle made a difference in your day job?

A big part of what I do at work is trying to put together things that people would be interested in and attach it to a brand that makes sense. This is no different, it’s just that I’m the brand I’m attaching the idea to.


Turning a passion into profit is hard, rewarding, meaningful work. Judging from the side hustlers above, work outside of the office creates a source of energy, drive and satisfaction that might otherwise go unused. Everyone needs an outlet, so might as well make some extra cash while you’re at it. Keeping your brain “in shape” isn’t a bad way to get your exercise, either. If you’ve got something in mind, why not give it a go and see what happens?

How often in this industry can we say we’re truly changing lives? How often are we given an opportunity to sell hope instead of product? Those briefs are few and far between. So when Walgreens asked us to create a campaign for their HIV-specialized pharmacies that could help build a better future for those affected by the disease, I was both humbled and elated.

Going into this project, I didn’t know much about HIV. I knew there had been advances in treatment and that people were living longer. But I didn’t know that doctors now consider HIV a chronic disease, not unlike diabetes or high blood pressure. If you’re diagnosed early and adhere to your treatment regimen, you can live a long, healthy life. That was news to me. And as we learned during our briefing, it was still news to the rest of world.

Stigma and fear are the biggest deterrents to getting tested and beginning treatment.

A few days after the briefing, I was sitting in my partner’s office kicking around ideas when he threw out, “Let’s Grow Old Together.” We saw the genius in it immediately. What better way to tell people that their diagnosis is not a death sentence than with the promise of old age. While the line was great, saying you were going to live a long time wasn’t enough. We needed to show people that they could actually grow old with HIV. And that’s when the idea of a virtual timeline came into existence—starting with diagnosis and going through every milestone of the HIV journey, all the way to retirement.

And what if we had people living with HIV be our guides along that timeline, sharing their stories, advice and inspiration at each milestone?

It was a big, ambitious idea—much bigger than the print ads, banners and trade show booths the client was expecting. It was also a digital-first idea, requiring a highly emotive and immersive site experience to truly do it justice. One of the first challenges we faced was integrating that experience into Walgreens.com, a primarily e-commerce destination. Finding the appropriate solution wasn’t easy. We worked tirelessly with Walgreens web team and our dev partner MediaMonks, ultimately landing on an elegant solution (plus I learned what canonical tags are).

With the technical part mostly ironed out, it was time to produce the content for the site. Two rounds of casting led us to seven amazing people leading full, happy lives in spite of their diagnosis.

Like a man who’d been diagnosed in the ’80s, an HIV-positive and HIV-negative married couple and a woman who’d only had two T cells at the time of her diagnosis. Walgreens also introduced us to an HIV pharmacist who has an incredible relationship with his patients—a you-couldn’t-script-something-this-sincere-and-heartwarming relationship.

The shoot was filled with tears, revelations and, most importantly, hope.

On the last day, one of the women we were interviewing revealed she’d never really believed she had a bright future until this shoot. Hearing the stories of others just like her had given her a new perspective. If creating the site was this meaningful for the HIV patients we were filming, imagine how transformative it could be for the rest of the HIV community.

Nearly a year from concept to creation, the site is now live, and we’re beginning to hear positive responses from the HIV community. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t go into advertising to change lives. But now I can say it’s the reason I’ll stay in it.

Visit and experience “Let’s Grow Old Together” here.

Aerie, American Eagle’s undies brand, has done away with advertising retouched models and is keeping it au naturel, and we (and its sales numbers) are in favor. As a group of strong-minded, creative female consumers in the advertising industry, we had some opinions about this business decision and its recent news, naturally.

Heather Apple, senior writer. Bold as she is blonde.

“Brands can support women for good and for profit. That’s what Aerie’s success proves: These aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s common sense. We spend so much time trying to understand our target; we should represent them—all of them.

“We still have a lot of strides to make to represent women of different sizes, ages and ethnicities, so if we could stop overlooking (and Photoshopping) those women, that’d be a big deal. If one brand shows real women, other brands will follow. Then eventually, we’ll see powerful, smart women of all shapes and sizes portrayed in the media.”

Alicia Ross, project manager. Only thing realer than her is her curls.

“I have two teenage sisters, 18 and 16. And even though we’re close, with social media, I have so much access into their personal thoughts because it’s 2016, and if they don’t tweet about it, then it didn’t happen.

“A recent tweet from my 18-year-old sister: ‘Buy all this makeup and I’m still ugly.’

“What? Nooooo.

“And from my 16-year-old sister: ‘This last year of body positivity toward myself (and everyone else) has really paid off. I love myself; ain’t no shame in my game. But as with anything, I still have progress to make.’

“That makes me super happy, but damn, why do 16-year-olds have to spend a year focusing on body positivity?

“So, if they’re shopping at a place where they can walk in and see attainable, realistic beauty where there are pictures of girls with folds in their stomach while sitting at the beach—because THAT’S WHAT BODIES ACTUALLY DO WHEN YOU SIT ON THE BEACH—then I feel really awesome about that. That’s where I want them to shop. That’s where I want to shop for them.”

Summer Ortiz, studio artist. You should see the girl sketch.

“Having had my own body issues through my adolescence and into adulthood, I’ll admit that I’ve been the person to give a perplexed sneer at this movement toward ‘real’ women in advertising.

“I’ve thought to myself: ‘Why is she in an ad? If a woman who looks like that can be in something like this, anyone could. I could.’

“But isn’t that the point? I was conditioned to think I should feel inferior to the women in ads. But why? Real women are beautiful.

“And from a sales perspective, this tactic is smart. If I see a woman with a body that more closely resembles mine, wearing something I too think I can look good in, I feel more confident purchasing it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something on a model and purchased it, only to try it on and be reminded that I am not 6’1″ and a size 00. And then, not only do I feel badly about myself, but I feel negatively toward that brand, and I am less likely to buy from it again.

“This kind of advertising could change that cycle.”

Leslie Shaffer, creative director. She woke up like this.

“I love that this was a pure business move. Aerie didn’t stop retouching because of its own principles. It did it because it knew young women would be into it and spend their money with Aerie. That says a lot for a generation that gets a bad rap most of the time.

“Let’s stop advertising to some sad, imagined lowest common denominator and start assuming people are as smart and confident as they really are.”

Our experiences are different, but among us women, there’s a common trend: We’re all craving some realness and some rawness—some curves on the beach and some butts at the pool—because it’s time for brands to start reflecting its audience, not the other way around. Talk about an idea that makes a difference.

Reverend Roy. He’s known for co-founding GSD&M in 1971 with partners Judy Trabulsi, Steve Gurasich and Tim McClure, but he’s perhaps best known for his electric and passionate personality. So, it was with joy and pride, yet little surprise, when we learned our fearless leader would be the first Austinite and second Texan to be inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s 67th Annual Advertising Hall of Fame. His accomplishments include bringing on renowned brands like Southwest Airlines, Walmart, AT&T and Charles Schwab to the GSD&M roster, authoring three books, co-founding The Purpose Institute to help companies find their core purpose and values, and even starting his own hot sauce line, Royito’s. But it is Roy’s heart, as President Bill Clinton noted at the induction ceremony, that’s led him to success in advertising, leadership and all aspects of life. We couldn’t be more proud of you, Reverend Roy. Ride At Dawn! 

“I remember thinking ‘Wow, I wish I heard some of these insights when I was first getting started in this business,’” said Shannon Moorman, GSD&M’s VP of talent acquisition.

I recently returned from the 3% Conference, which focused on championing creative female talent and leadership in the advertising industry. Inspired and energized by the message shared at the conference, I took a moment to reflect on our ever-changing advertising industry by focusing on a set of guidelines to help young—or any—women in this business thrive.

Appoint your own “board of directors.” You should include a broad swath of advisors—men and women, young and old—with various backgrounds to help guide you in your career and personal life.

Speak up and use your voice. It was said that many women won’t speak up in meetings for fear of not sounding smart or insightful enough. The advice from the panelists: speak up. Even if you don’t think it’s important, contribute your voice and your POV. Your contribution is as important as anyone else’s in the room and is the only way to reach a level of comfort in sharing your own thoughts without continuing to run them through the “fear filter.”

Own your brand. We are in the business of building brands, and you are your brand. The more effectively you can establish and own your personal/professional brand, the easier it will be to compete in this male-dominated industry. Decide what you want your brand to be and be strategic in how you work to build it.

Presentation is key. Learn how to present your thoughts and ideas in an organized manner. It will not only evoke confidence from those who work around you, but it increases your degree of influence. Often women avoid presenting due to the critical voice within. Take an improv class, sign up for Toastmasters—do something that will help you increase your confidence in communicating and presenting.

Purposefully seek out mentors. Look to women who inspire you and ask them for advice on how they arrived at where they are. This can create a pathway for you to reach your goals and offer helpful, experienced guidance on how to surpass career hurdles.

As women, we are a team and should stand as a united front. Clear on our purpose, women should mentor and champion other women in the business, create a culture of advocacy and advise all their female peers to be thoughtful and intentional about the direction of their career.