Branding is hot
The trend of developing a ‘personal brand’ has been getting a lot of attention—like it’s something they just thought of. There is nothing new about it, except now there are many online services available to help you craft and market your personal brand. Some charge big bucks to bang out some edgy jive. A lot of the personal brand statements I have read are variations on the same theme, anagrams of a finite collection of all-purpose self-empowerment words. You know what they are—the same words you put on your resume or job application—the crap we’re forced to write about ourselves that makes a sane person cringe. The more statements I read, the less meaning they hold; the more forced they sound, the less I believe in them.
Other services advise flooding your brand into the right directories, social media, forums, etc., with the content and frequency of each post carefully designed to reinforce your image. There are people who expend enormous time and effort to promote their brand. It’s dizzying, isn’t it? Who the hell has time for all this? What about life?
Go with the flow but obsession not necessary
With the current pathetic job situation and more people than ever competing for what crumbs are available, as well as more people trying to make ends meet on their own, you need more than solid work experience, a good resume, and respectable references. We’re told we need every weapon we can lay our hands on, every angle, every app. We are encouraged to regard ourselves as commodities and to strategically manage our images as if we were products. One brand-developing service promises to help you build meaningful relationships within your organization’s power structure, another advises that your clothing match your business card, stationery, and the background color of your professional photo! So where do you fit into this gaseous miasma?
Is your brand really you or did you make it up?
Your brand is supposed to reflect who you are as perceived by the world. So, can your brand be an invention hatched by your wannabe self? And if it is invented, can you grow into the persona you’re trying to create? I’m not talking about mean-people brands—any bully can easily maintain a negative brand if that’s what they are and have no aspirations to rise above it. But maybe, if people are putting some effort into maintaining an honorable brand, and sincere about living up to it—then maybe a heightened awareness about your image isn’t such a bad thing.
Do we all need a brand?
Your brand is about the business of you. You don’t have to be a high-level player to have a brand. Maybe, like lots of us, you’re just a refugee from something or someplace, trying to survive with a few shreds of dignity intact. We might not be CEOs of big corporations—but we’re CEOs of ourselves.
We are already branded
Every single one of us already has a brand. Would people describe you as unreliable? Forgets important stuff? Won’t shut up? Doesn’t listen? Interrupts? Doesn’t keep your word? Doesn’t tell the truth? Always has an excuse? Passive-aggressive? Business owners or employees who promote themselves as ethical, sincere, or hardworking will eventually be outed if that’s a crock, as well they should be, the posers.
Have you ever been kept waiting by someone who claims to be dependable, snapped at by someone who feigns friendliness, or lied to by someone who swears by sincerity? Ever been stood up, let down, stiffed, screwed? No self-packaging hype or resume fluffing or inflated mission statement is going to change how people perceive you if you’re a phony. Your brand is built-in, so if it’s bullshit, eventually you’ll be exposed.
Create your own brand by example
So yes, a brand can be invented, but it takes effort to make it yours. You do have a choice in how you interact with the world—and, you should periodically assess your style to help keep glitches in check. If you really, really, don’t care about your image and want no part of this, do note that a brand will be assigned to you regardless of your level of participation—and it may be one that’s less than flattering. The idea behind branding is you get to create the image, but it’s up to you to own it. Damage control is much more work, effort and stress than doing the right thing in the first place.
Branding for real people—be authentic
You could hire a personal branding expert to give you a makeover and then market you like you’re the next miracle eye cream. But I firmly believe that you, your brand, your resume, your reputation—the extract yielded when your actions are compressed—is about integrity and credibility in the face of whatever circumstances you find yourself in. If you’re a consistently thoughtful, responsible, and rational person because that’s who you really are, then that will shine through in all aspects of your life. And if that is the extent of your brand, I think you’re doing damn well.