Personal Branding is Not Merely an Option – It's Crucial to Success
By Mitch Joel
The Montreal Gazette
More layoffs. Giving back bonuses. Fewer work days to save the company from firing people. Doing the job of the three people that were let go in your department. Not hiring the five people you were thinking about hiring. Trying to find a job in this climate.
Whether you are an employee in a big, medium or small business, or an entrepreneur, or about to enter the workforce, never has it been more important to understand the power of having, maintaining and developing a strong personal brand. Never before has there been more ways for you to connect and build your personal brand through digital channels.
Never has a simple search on Google been able to tell us more about a person, who they are, what they do, and why they matter.
What does Google say about you?
If brands matter more than ever (and they do, just ask Apple, Starbucks and Twitter), then the ability for individuals to build a personal brand has never been more important.
Maybe the idea of “branding yourself” seems ridiculous. It's not. It's a subject that famed management guru and author of the best-selling business book, In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters, first tackled in 1997 for an article in Fast Company magazine titled The Brand Called You.
“Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You. … You're every bit as much a brand as Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop.
“To start thinking like your own favourite brand manager, ask yourself the same question the brand managers at Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop ask themselves: What is it that my product or service does that makes it different?
“Give yourself the traditional 15-words-or-less contest challenge. Take the time to write down your answer. And then take the time to read it. Several times.”
Peters gave us the beginning of an insight: like big corporate brands, all of the people we connect with have some kind of similar emotions and thoughts when they think about us as people. That mental tattoo that our personas and reputations create in their mind's eye is the essence of our personal brand.
But Peters wrote this in a world where individuals were limited by how they could spread their personal brands – the Internet was just taking its commercial shape in 1997.
Now, in world of Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, our personal brands are resonating 24-hours-a-day, and the content we put in there and link to says more about who we are, as individuals than any one-page resumé ever could.
There's a small caution. People working on their personal brand sometimes seem a little snake-oil salesy-like. They would state that they were working on their personal brand in a way that made it look like they were trying too hard. They were the same kind of people who manoeuvred through the local chamber of commerce event dumping business cards in any available and open hand.
No need to be that person.
The amazing thing about developing your personal brand online in social networks and by blogging, is that you can hone in on connecting with those that have shared values and similar interests.
One of the best places to get started is a search engine. Start looking for blogs in your industry, and start following some of the more notable people on Twitter. After you get a feel for the type of content people are publishing, you can dip you toes into the personal branding waters by leaving comments on those blogs or spaces. You can even go neck deep and start your own blog to demonstrate your own, unique, perspective.
Personal branding and new media space create unique and mutually beneficial relationships. Anyone can express who they are to the world. And, if you're not sure what you have to say that is unique and different, just remember the immortal words of Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”
Mitch Joel is president of digital marketing and communications agency Twist Image.