What Personal Branding is NOT

by Meg Guiseppi on December 4, 2009

Not true personal branding

Branding is big buzz these days.

On the one hand, that’s good. With more information out there, the value of personal branding is hitting home with more people and branding is more likely to become embedded in the fabric of healthy career management, job search, and career marketing.

On the other hand, that’s bad. With all the buzz come thousands of talking heads and self-professed experts who constantly pound us with misinformation. With so much noise, flash, and bravado, it’s no wonder so many people are confused about personal branding.

They’re busy latching on to bits and pieces and stopping short of the whole picture.

Things I’ve read from various misinformed bloggers:

“Most of the time ‘personal branding’ is a fancy word for ‘narcissism’.”

“In a sense, it is shameless self publicity.”

“The premise of personal branding (in case you haven’t been exposed to it) is that success doesn’t come from personal development or hard work or intelligence. Instead, personal branding proponents claim that success comes from self-packaging.”

“I think personal branding is a sham. The idea that you can have one thing that consistently defines you in all contexts of your life is ridiculous.”

If you believe these and other disparagers who feel compelled to set the world straight about the frivolity of personal branding, you may never know the true value of defining and communicating your own authentic brand.

To be clear:

  • Personal branding is NOT just a buzz word, the latest passing fad.
  • Personal branding is NOT merely ego-stroking and self-promotion.
  • Personal branding is NOT just a catchy logo or tagline.

Here’s the real deal:

Personal branding is not new. It’s always been with us. Before there was a name for it, people were assessing other people’s reputation and promise of value before deciding whether to partner, hire, or do business with them.

Tom Peters coined the phrase in his Fast Company article “The Brand Called You” in 1997 and explained it this way:

“We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc.

You’re hired, you report to work, you join a team — and you immediately start figuring out how to deliver value to the customer. Along the way, you learn stuff, develop your skills, hone your abilities, move from project to project.

And if you’re really smart, you figure out how to distinguish yourself from all the other very smart people walking around with $1,500 suits, high-powered laptops, and well-polished resumes. Along the way, if you’re really smart, you figure out what it takes to create a distinctive role for yourself — you create a message and a strategy to promote the brand called You.”

According to William Arruda, personal branding pioneer and founder of Reach Branding, “Your brand resides in the hearts and minds of those around you.”

You already have a brand. Your brand is your reputation.

To get a handle on and communicate the unique value you offer – your brand – you need to do some digging to define the unique set of strengths, personal attributes, and drivers that differentiate you from your peers and competitors.

Along with introspection, the true measure of your brand comes from eliciting and assimilating feedback from those who know you best. They already know what your brand is about. They know what you’re the “go to” person for.

The branding process also includes identifying your target audience so that your brand positioning message will resonate with them.

But branding isn’t just about marketing yourself.

Because the defining and development process looks at your vision, purpose, values and passions, branding is also a personal development tool. With this introspection comes a keener understanding of what kind of work is a best fit for you.

Branding helps you position yourself to move toward career fulfillment and work your passion.

In your career marketing communications, branding helps generate chemistry in you, what you’re like to work with, how you make things happen, and what you have to offer that no one else does.

Once you’ve defined what differentiates you and pulled together your brand, you can build a career marketing strategy to consistently communicate your unique promise of value to your target audience across multiple channels, online and offline.

Your brand makes it easier for recruiters and hiring decision makers to decide if you’re a good fit for their organization, and whether to hire you or do business with you.

If working through the personal branding process can help you find career fulfillment, better communicate to employers why you’re the best hiring choice, make their hiring decision easier, and most likely get you into your next great gig faster, isn’t it worth the effort?
 

Related posts:

10 Steps to an Authentic, Magnetic Personal Brand: The Executive Personal Brand Worksheet

Best of Personal Branding Strategies, Lessons, and News

photo by bgottsab

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Meg Guiseppi January 4, 2010 at 6:53 am

Hi Imran,

Thanks very much for commenting and for your kindness. I try to respond to everyone who comments on my blogs and guest blog posts (and my tweets, for that matter). I’m flattered and honored when people take the time to compose and post a comment, and I’m always happy when my posts bring value to them.

Best wishes for 2010 and beyond!

Meg

2 Meg Guiseppi January 4, 2010 at 6:53 am

Hi Imran,

Thanks very much for commenting and for your kindness. I try to respond to everyone who comments on my blogs and guest blog posts (and my tweets, for that matter). I’m flattered and honored when people take the time to compose and post a comment, and I’m always happy when my posts bring value to them.

Best wishes for 2010 and beyond!

Meg

3 Imran M. Ismail December 31, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Hello Meg

I am amazed to see how consistently you are responding to the responses to your article. In my view it is rare quality not very often found among bloggers and writers.

Thanks for providing such an interesting and wonderful perspective on personal branding.

Imran

4 Meg Guiseppi December 8, 2009 at 5:44 am

Hi Meghan!

Thanks for your very kind words about my second blog home and this blog post.

It concerns me that there’s so much misinformation and disparaging of personal branding in various publications. Job-seekers have the daunting task of sifting through all the muck out there and latching on to a branding strategy that will work for them and resonate with their target audience.

I’m looking forward to the launch of your brand new blog, too.

Best,
Meg

5 Meghan M. Biro December 7, 2009 at 6:54 pm

I love your new blog home = nice to see Meg. This is a valuable + well thought out post. The concept of personal branding has been around for many years, it’s simply a new vocabulary.

Very true, it’s about branding one’s authentic self first and foremost. Ideally, the rest falls into place from there…

Bravo!

6 Meg Guiseppi December 4, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Thanks for commenting, Mohammed. I’m glad you like my second blog home. I’m having a ball building it!

Best,
Meg

7 Meg Guiseppi December 4, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Hi Daulton,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. You’re right on the mark when you say “There have always been those that would shamelessly promote themselves, way before “personal branding” was in our vocabulary.” It’s unfortunate that some people point to those who shamelessly promote themselves and use it as an excuse to disparage personal branding in general.

Those doing the self-promoting and those pointing the finger at branding are both in the dark about what authentic branding is.

Thanks for your continued re-tweets, too! It’s always great to swap juicy RTs!

Best,
Meg

8 Meg Guiseppi December 4, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Thanks for commenting, Anthony.

Web 2.0 has certainly brought personal branding to the forefront and given us all easy access to wide spread dissemination of what makes us unique and valuable.

-Meg

9 Mohammed Al-Taee, PMP December 4, 2009 at 10:25 am

I love the post and so the new blog design.

Good Job!

10 Daulton West, Jr. December 4, 2009 at 10:07 am

Meg,
Great article and insight into the “real deal” for what personal branding IS and is NOT. Reputation, perception, persona, and more recently – “personal branding”, has been around a while, and how we manage it, or present ourselves, will define how others view us.

There have always been those that would shamelessly promote themselves, way before “personal branding” was in our vocabulary.
It seems to me that we need to embrace branding as “our reputation”, and own it, monitor it, and build it in a positive way, and not be dissuaded by those who view branding in a negative light, just because some see personal branding as an opportunity to “sell you something.”

I really liked your comment, “you need to do some digging to define the unique set of strengths, personal attributes, and drivers that differentiate you from your peers and competitors.”

Thanks for sharing,
– Daulton

11 Daulton West, Jr. December 4, 2009 at 10:07 am

Meg,
Great article and insight into the “real deal” for what personal branding IS and is NOT. Reputation, perception, persona, and more recently – “personal branding”, has been around a while, and how we manage it, or present ourselves, will define how others view us.

There have always been those that would shamelessly promote themselves, way before “personal branding” was in our vocabulary.
It seems to me that we need to embrace branding as “our reputation”, and own it, monitor it, and build it in a positive way, and not be dissuaded by those who view branding in a negative light, just because some see personal branding as an opportunity to “sell you something.”

I really liked your comment, “you need to do some digging to define the unique set of strengths, personal attributes, and drivers that differentiate you from your peers and competitors.”

Thanks for sharing,
– Daulton

12 Anthony Grolleau-Fricard December 4, 2009 at 8:40 am

Very good article. I totaly agree with the idea that Personal Branding is not new. Web 2.0 changes the way to create and manage the personal branding. But, we were already doing that by going to cocktail, publishing articles in professionnal review, presenting conferences in symposiums, managing your network and your visibility etc.

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