The P.I.E. Model

Ed Burghard

Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Choose your words, for they become actions. Understand your actions, for they become habits. Study your habits, for they will become your character. Develop your character, for it becomes your destiny.


One of the better personal branding models I have been exposed to is the P.I.E. Model (Performance, Image, Exposure).

The model helps you better understand the unwritten rules of success in a corporate environment. It can also be extrapolated to help you understand how to self-brand in a less structured working situation.

The basic concept is that by focusing on balancing the relationship between these three key dimensions you can positively impact your career. If you get the balance right, then you are well positioned for success.


I believe truth has limits, and all models are simply aids to help you understand complex situations. Models attempt to describe the underlying truths in a given situation, but their ability to simulate or explain every facet is limited. As a consequence, you should interpret any model with the clear recognition that there are always exceptions. The value will be in seeking to enhance your understanding of the fundamentals and simply accepting the limits of the model. In other words, don’t focus on what is wrong with a model, try to understand what is right about it and recognize when the model breaks down in the real world.


High performance is a “ticket to entry” in most job situations. It is the expectation a company has of its employees. Without consistently high personal performance, the “I” and the “E” don’t come into play. Typically, performance is judged based on 1) your personal contributions to the company goals, 2) Management’s perception of whether you are fully utilizing your skills and abilities, and 3) Management’s perception of your opportunity for continued development. You need to strive for consistently over delivering against your Manger’s performance expectations, and to do so you need to understand where your Manager has set the bar.


This is about your reputation, including how others in and outside your Organization perceive you.  Your image impacts the first impression people have when they meet you and how they interact with you on an on-going basis. Remember the phrase “your reputation precedes you”? People often form an opinion of you before ever meeting you. There are a lot of things that contribute to your image. Some include – a) the results you’ve historically delivered, b) he credibility you’ve established within the company (are you ethical, fair, trustworthy?), c) your work style (are you collaborative or confrontational, personally engaging?), and d) your operational savviness. Often people sabotage their image by their behaviors. For example, all work and no play, being a perfectionist, constantly minimizing the value of your work, being too modest, refusing high profile assignments, ignoring quid pro quo, skipping or being late for meetings. Your behaviors definitely help shape you image, and you should be cognizant of whether you are shooting yourself in the foot or not.


This is about being a real member if the team, having access to Management, getting proper visibility for yourself and your work, having positive sponsorship and trustworthy mentors, and earning people’s confidence in you. Exposure acts as the catalyst for both Image and Performance. Gaining advocacy is critical in your career. That means getting visibility with Executive leadership, networking effectively, and creating one-on-one relationships of mutual respect with mentors that are committed to helping you succeed.


Typically, you need P.I.E. in your career to be successful. The truth is that if you don’t proactively shape your personal brand, others will shape it for you and you might not like or agree with the perception that gets created. The “P” is mandatory for the long-term. Without it, the rest doesn’t matter. The “I” and “E” tend to be critical tie-breakers when you are competing with others for a plum assignment or a promotion.

Having said that, we all know people who have been promoted beyond their real contributions or abilities simply because they were masters at the “I” and the “E”. In fact, the well-known “Peter Principle”  is intended to describe those very people. It is definitely possible, and highlights one of the limits of the P.I.E. model to explain personal branding. But, I’d argue that the most reliable way to create a strong and sustainable personal brand is to focus on the entire P.I.E..

Other Reading You Might Be Interested In:

Annual Personal Brand Audit

Who Are You Really?

Self-Branding Resources

Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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