There is no question that we have entered a world where personal branding is important. Whether looking for a new career, a new customer or more visibility within your current organization, personal branding is an invaluable asset in these ventures. Having said that, part of personal branding requires a willingness to create, share and draw attention to yourself. Considering that some of the strongest ways to build a personal brand are through publishing your thoughts, public speaking and social media; there really isn’t a means to develop a strong personal brand without raising your hand and saying “I’m okay with being highly visible.”
For some people this type of high visibility is easy. From celebrities to high profile business executives to social media ninjas and rock stars, some people just don’t mind being the center of attention. Not only are they willing to share every thought that comes through their mind as if we would all be missing out if they didn’t share it, but they enjoy it. Worse yet, it isn’t always just their thoughts (perhaps we could live with that) but rather it is their every accomplishment no matter how small; you just cooked and then proceeded to eat the best cheeseburger on the planet…Good for you! It’s a blurry line between narcissism, psychopathy and a genuine desire to help a company (yours or someone else’s) drive there thoughts, ideas and messages forward. This is why personal branding is such a messy topic because we all need to be marketable, but there is without a doubt a point where we cross from informing, educating and inspiring to build a personal brand to just becoming self absorbed. It doesn’t matter how many times you start a Facebook post with how honored or humbled you are that you were selected for having the best Eyebrows on a Wednesday by Joe Nobody's Blog; At some point it isn’t humble at all…it’s bragging and it’s obnoxious.
To some extent my overarching resentful tone is probably rooted somewhere in my own insecurities. Over the past 5 years I have constantly found myself in a state of uncertainty as it relates to personal branding. I love to write, speak and share ideas that drive conversations forward. I have written 3 books, been published in countless national and global media outlets, keynoted terrific events and built a personal brand that has worked well for the business I am in (even that was hard to write).
For all intents and purposes I have nothing to complain about, but yet I have this sometimes not so subtle irritation that has been exacerbated by social media and the shameless self promotion that so many feel no remorse for. Perhaps my favorite is when I hear people who speak on leadership or communication that suggest building relationships through empathy posting on Twitter or LinkedIn about all of the recent recognition they have received for a talk they gave or a book they wrote. Doesn’t that type of self-promoting banter seem hypocritical? If you tell me great leaders need to give, not take credit, then why are you publicly taking credit for your awesomeness? Shouldn’t those that you have impacted become your advocates? Isn’t that the power of word of mouth? Maybe word of mouth isn’t as powerful as we thought, or perhaps we aren’t quite as good we think we are. I would just think that if our work resonated our personal brand would be a byproduct; do we really need to toot our own horn?
Personal Branding Is Important - But It Isn’t Bragging, It’s Adding Value
There may be nothing more powerful than a great story. When your brand story is a journey that people resonate with the message will spread. When the messages you share impact and help others, whether a few or many, people will take notice. If you share the thoughts and ideas of your brand or your company to help proliferate advocacy, and it works, people will want to share your insights.
Time and time again this has been at the root of personal branding. In fact this is what personal branding is all about. It’s about showing an ability to impact others through your work and ideas. Personal brand is earned, it’s not a right and it can’t be short circuited through self-serving antics. They may work in the short term, but in the long run they will more likely make you look like an egomaniac.
I promise you I get the hustle. Sometimes you have to raise your hand at the right time, or take a big chance to be seen. Just about every star in every field had their moment(s) where they shined at just the right time. However, for most who rise in their field it is a lot of really smart work, long hours and a willingness to earn your stripes through continuing to share your ideas and thoughts one after another until something sticks.
Much like the theme behind TED, “Ideas Worth Spreading,” every speaker that they bring in goes on stage and shares their ideas, and they pepper their presentations with stories, but rarely, if ever, will you hear the speakers provide a list of their accomplishments. If they are up there, chances are they did something pretty miraculous, no need to brag.
I think in the end this is the root of the personal branding dilemma. A personal brand can and should be built through being consistently good or even great at what you do. If sharing your work is part of the process then share away. But I will say, and many may disagree that there is no need to brag, boast or even “Humbly” provide the world with your every accomplishment. Save those times for when you’ve hit the proverbial home run in your life or career. Funny thing is at the moment in which you’ve achieved that once unattainable benchmark; chances are you won’t have to tell anyone because your world (no matter how large or small) will be inclined to share it for you.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons