“I need to develop my brand.”
“Oh, so how are you going to do that?”
“Well, first, I’m going to get on Twitter, then get a Facebook Fan Page, then I’ll redesign my website…”
“Wait, I thought you said you needed to develop your brand?”
“Yes I did. Now, would you please pay attention? Next, I’ll upload a new profile picture…”
“But you haven’t said anything about developing yourself.”
“I’m talking about my BUH-RAND here. Social media lets me be whoever I want!”
“Oh. I get it. Cool.”
Alright, so this may be an exaggeration. I hope you keep reading despite my blatant attempt to ’setup’ this blog post.
I know a whole bunch of folks out there in 2009 will be hitching their respective wagon’s onto the Personal Branding star – and I’m absolutely OK with that. In fact, if you’re still oblivious to how you’re being perceived on the internet, many of the concepts wrapped-up in the topic of Personal Branding should be very eye-opening and helpful for you. I encourage everyone to get familiar with the concept, especially if you’re in the job market or starting a business.
Branding is definitely NOT a new concept. Brands have existed for hundreds of years, and as a child of the 80’s I’m pretty sure I’ve been over-exposed to branding – everything from Pepsi to McDonalds, Chevy to Folger’s. I’m convinced I grew up in the pinnacle of the advertising age. Brands as we know them today have expanded far beyond letterhead and uniforms. They have grown into huge, multi-billion dollar, living, breathing giants. But in the same brief span of my life, they have also begun to shrink back down into tiny, subconscious, minute-detail things; like organic packaging materials and personalized M&Ms.
So when did people – just regular folks like you and me – start to view ourselves as brands? I’m really not sure where it started. But it has definitely become the norm. Most everyone in business has taken to to idea, and not only in business. Social activist groups, Churches (even Pastors), Politicians (of course) and, on a whole new level, entertainers and athletes all consider themselves brands. This may sound a bit obvious, I know, but things haven’t always been this way.
Entertainers and athletes use to let managers and producers handle their brand. Not anymore. Increasingly they have leveraged their own popularity and fame to launch products like books, blogs, cookware, tv shows, fashion, clothing, restaurants – the list goes on. Watching these people pitch their products during interviews on whatever talk show, they unwittingly fall into one of two categories: believable or laughable. If Gwyneth Paltrow is touting her lifestyle blog, I’m inclined to believe in that product. Why? Because she embodies those things. She has a lavish lifestyle, she’s traveled the world and experienced life on a whole different level than the average person. However, if Madonna writes a children’s book…well…I think you get my point. How is this authentic? Could my kid relate to the imaginings of a over-sexed, should-be-retired pop star? It just doesn’t fit (although I’m sure the books still sell – one of the perks of being famous).
Branding is important, don’t get me wrong. But personal branding should not be like building a house of cards. Why I said you “don’t need Personal Branding” is because you really don’t. What you do need is a clear idea of who you want to be, and where you want to go in life. Once you’ve got that down, uploading this information to the internet won’t feel like you’re ‘re-branding’ yourself at all. It will seem natural, not forced. Publishing your thoughts and ideas on your blog, Facebook, and Twitter won’t take a ton of effort. Yes, you may have to edit yourself here or there, but you won’t have to struggle with what to say. Learning how to say it may take some finesse, no question.
If the goal in developing your brand is to further a cause: be it personal, professional or philanthropic – then it has to come from an authentic spirit. Nobody is going to buy into your brand unless you’ve done the work. Become the person you want to be. Challenge, question, and develop yourself and your ‘brand’ will fall into place. Be real, and people will believe in the product you’re selling – because they will believe in you first.