That Personal Brand Thing – it’s Baaack!!!!

Every few months, we get to revisit an old chestnut here on the intewebz, the personal brand question. Is there such a thing? Is it any different from reputation? How does one’s personal brand interact with a corporate (employer) brand?

This time, the discussion was renewed by the hack piece in Fortune written about Scott Monty and Ford – in which Josh Hyatt, the author, takes a well-deserved beating in the comments. Here’s a good follow-up piece on the broader topic by Rohit Bhargava.

People get all bent out of shape by two things, primarily, when “personal branding” comes up:

> 1. “It’s just wrong to build a personal brand that might detract from an employer’s brand.”

> 2. “All attempts at branding oneself are false.”

I “get” where these concerns are coming from – but we can also argue that all business is bad because some of it is done unscrupulously.

Instead, let’s just look at what personal branding is. Two words, really:

You – Projected.

That’s it. The real you, accurately projected outward for others to see. Your brand is authentic when your expressed message and person reflect who you really are. Not sure I see a problem here.

What’s my brand? I’m a Connection Agent. That reflects who I am and what I do. I am also a husband, a father, a healthcare/pharma guy, a social networking person, a wine drinker, a griller, a dog owner, a photographer – and all of that gets projected in my various platforms of expression (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, etc.)

I happen to work on my own, but like Scott Monty and many others, that personal brand could be harnessed to do good for an employer, and an employer’s brand can reflect well on an individual. Strong, authentic brands working together can be mutually beneficial.

When Scott Monty or anyone else projects their personality, interests, reputation, and skills out into the marketplace, that’s not some cause for suspicion. It’s actually part of the new economy. Let’s get used to it…and find creative ways to succeed with it!


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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

6 Responses to That Personal Brand Thing – it’s Baaack!!!!

  1. Gah! Personal Branding again? Where’s my big foam Whack-a-Mole” hammer when I need it?

    One thing I’d be swinging at (respectfully) is your definition “You Projected” or “The real you, accurately projected outward for others to see.”

    I totally love the idea of projection – as in intentionally creating a brand as a thing that is apart from yourself.

    But sorry, I can’t buy the other bit that I call the “authenticity trap” – the idea that a brand can capture “THE you” or THE cola” or “THE anything”.

    Because it’s a projection, it can only ever project “*A* you”. The stuff that gets projected is chosen, filtered, curated to create a certain impression. Yes, projected with clarity, consistency, and the integrity to fulfill promises, but in the service of USEFULNESS not AUTHENTICITY.

    In my practice, I’ve found the word “Authenticity” turns a brand inward into unhealthy introspection – as does the very term “Personal Branding”. The key question becomes “who am I / are we” as opposed to “how can we best serve other people?”

    Here’s more on my struggle as a multiple personality brand:

    Have an authentic day Steve!

  2. Brett Duncan says:

    Like Dennis, I’m sick of the term “personal branding,” but I’m not sick of the concept. I’m with Steve here in that this is what we should all be going for.

    It helps me to think of a sports team. Let’s look at the Cowboys, for example. They are harnessing the talents and personalities of each individual player to make up the team. More broadly, they are fusing together (most of the time) the personal brands of each player to amplify and influence the Cowboys brand. And every year, at least to some extent, your pool of personal brands to pull from changes. So you enjoy them while they’re there, and leverage them for all you can, with the end goals being winning, ticket sales and licensing deals.

    That’s how employers need to start looking at employees. At least the good ones. Leverage everything about them that you can for your company while they’re on your payroll. Sure, there are lines they simply can’t cross, but there are also ceilings they can bust through that no one else on your staff has been able to do just yet.

    As for Dennis’ rant on A brand vs. The brand, I see your point. However, everything out there has multiple facets to it. But we still have to pick one position that resonates most with the fans we’re trying to attract, and then let that initial interaction turn into several, and during the process the other facets of our “brand” come out.

    When I first met my wife, in my mind she was positioned as “Hot and Out of My League.” Then I added “Smart, Christian, Mysterious and Great Cook.” Then lots more came after that, as you can imagine.

    Nice conversation, Steve and Dennis.


  3. I’m with Steve as well…there is no denying that personal branding not only exists, but has been around for ages, it’s nothing new. I’ve yet to read the Scott Monty and Ford piece though.

    What I can say is that yes, “You-Projected” is spot on. For me, design is my life…it’s a way of life, and permeates almost everything I do…to the way a picture is hung on a wall, the color the living room is painted, to (yeah, really) the way I set up an outdoor party/BBQ – with table cloths etc…I pay attention to detail and presentation. I had a professor once who taught me about that, “Presentation is everything.”

    Why else would someone come to me, a friend, to consult with them about a house paint color? It’s not what I do for a living, but…it happens. That’s just one of many examples.

    When an employer hires you, they are buying, no, investing in your personal brand. “Not hired because wasn’t strong as a team player,” comes to mind. Being a team player does spill over into your personal life.

  4. Ian Truscott says:

    I’m a week late coming to this, but I really enjoy these conversations about personal brand and I think these are great points Steve – there’s no right answer, the resulting debates are often interesting and these are great comments.

    I think it is so of our time as we are all suddenly exposed to this giant social event we call the web today. I wrote a bit about this last year, I rather crudely described it as Personal Brand or Not Want to Look Like a Total C**k.

    I absolutely agree about the new economy, that employers need to figure out how to embrace personal brand – but will the result be that your twitter following becomes an important part of your resume?

  5. Ian Truscott says:

    Ah. Sorry – tried to insert a link into my last comment and it’s been parsed out – it’s here:

  6. Chris Thiede says:

    Whether it’s a company or an individual, every brand has multiple facets to it that usually cannot be boiled down to a single brand. But still, I think it behooves those companies/people to engage in branding. It helps you to be known for something, and when your customers, fans, friends need that thing, you want them calling you and no one else. Sure, when they get to know you, they’ll see what else you have to offer.

    What it comes down to is making decisions. Deciding how you want to project yourself. It’s hard because you don’t want to leave any stone unturned. But that’s what makes the good brands so good. They’re managed by people who make the hard decision to forgo certain aspects of themselves and project a simple, strong brand to the market.

    Good discussion. Thanks!

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