We Are All Personal Brands

Personal branding – few words inspire a strong emotional response such as this word. I’m objectively biased. I live by my mission and it’s highly rooted in the notion of a personal brand.

Some context – I have a marketing background. I’ve been on both sides, or rather all 3 sides, of the business coin. I’ve worked in nonprofit, for profit and at struggling start-ups. Yes, there is a difference.

There has been a shift, somewhere around 2003-2004, where the Internet seemed to truly blossom. I remember MiGente and Black Planet as THE social network to meet and greet for friends & hook-ups.

There was Ryze which was a booming professional network, pre-Linked In.

Even in college, before 2000, there was chat rooms on Yahoo, Altavista and Lycos. Who can forget ICQ, that mischievous little green flower which, when lit up, meant you were not sleeping or attending classes.

This shift set into motion a chain reaction that has given us this amazing opportunity for global connectivity. Simply log onto any of the various social media platforms and you have an audience at your fingertips.

You can connect with people who you would have never come across, people who you would pass by in the streets and not give a second notice to. This culture has laid a foundation for a heighten level of individuality that was not possible 20 years ago.

Fast forward to today. There are easily over 200 million blogs. This is aggregate of numbers from Tumblr, Livejournal and WordPress. This does not include self installation of WordPress, Drupal, Joomla or Squarespace. This does not account for all the sites setup using Wix, Godaddy or other free site builders.

To call the world wide web over-populated would be an understatement. For the record, I am not placing judgement or asserting a right/wrong stance for setting up shop online. I’m simply laying down the realities and looking at the landscape from an objective corner. There’s A LOT of websites and the competition for attention becomes downright brutal.

Creating a personal brand is not only practical but it’s a smart avenue to pursue. Not because it’s a cliche but because among the noise, your personal brand is the only element of your business that’s unique enough to qualify as an unfair advantage.

Branding is much more than a logo.

It’s much deeper than a color palette.

Branding is a holistic approach to expressing the values and principles that you or your brand hold dear.

It’s about being aligned with a consistent and collective effort to represent these values and principles so that you are on message, at any given time.

Personal branding shows up with the clothing you wear, the language you use, the choices you make, the opinions you advocate.

It’s no coincidence that those who advocate against a personal brand tend to be the type who are willfully acting against their message. These are the people who’s actions are inconsistent with who they are. They’ll do one thing but believe another. They won’t buy into the concept of a personal brand because, at the core of owning your personal brand is accountability.

Here’s where the friction seems to play itself out.

Cultivating a personal brand is not limited to entrepreneurs. Strategic career professionals benefit from nurturing their personal brand. In this culture, we live in a like/unlike world. If someone likes you, they play with you. They work with you. They hire you. They endorse you. If someone doesn’t like you, then they don’t.

The playground rules still apply.

This is probably why the naysayers shun the idea of a personal brand. They ridicule the notion because they don’t buy this new culture. They don’t want their personality to factor in when someone’s deciding to engage with them. “It’s business” after all, not personal.

Sadly, they ignored the memo. It is personal. We live in a personal world. If the quantity of your engagement factors into the decision process when a professional relationship is in its infancy, then how can we deny the realities of a like/unlike world?

Facebook fans? Twitter followers? RTs? Repins? Instagram likes?

It only takes one minute to look at the cautionary tales of personal brands gone wrong, to see the impact that creating a bad one can have on your income, social status and business prospects. Paula Deen comes to mind.

The choice is simple: let others control the message your personal brand tells or be proactive and control it yourself.

If you walk away with one point, it’s that regardless of your own personal opinion, you have a personal brand. Others will use it to or against your advantage. You don’t have to actively cultivate it, however it will cultivate itself with the choices you make, the actions you take and the words that you use.

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