The Personal Brand
I am conflicted by the idea of personal branding.
While I am a borderline zealot on the belief that you must own your story in the modern marketplace. From my perspective this means first, understanding yourself and then applying that understanding to manifest your story and actively share your process with your audience. Or to use start-up terminology, finding a product-market match and executing to plan.
With that said, in the era of bloggers, social influencers, and over-sharing, the idea or act of personal branding is a breeding ground for:
- Trying Too Hard: Attempting to get attention in an inauthentic manner.
- Being Something You Are Not (BSYN): Mis-identifying your purpose and therefore attempting to manifest something that is not natural to you.
- Copy-Catting: Trying to be someone else by imitating their appearance, actions, or path.
- Reputation Sabotage: Sharing things you cannot take back, that end up defining your personal brand unintentionally.
This makes personal branding a dangerous practice. The line between sharing in a positive and constructive manner as opposed to a way that closes doors or attracts negative attention is fine. I would be lying if I said that I have not posted something on one of my feeds to only delete it a moment later for fear of it not being positive or appropriate for what I feel is the highest and best version of myself, aka my personal brand.
Just last week I ran into a photographer working at an event who is very well known for taking raunchy, sexist, debaucherous photographs at events. He actively shares and cultivates this image through his website and multiple social platforms, but when I ran into him was working as an “event” photographer for a major corporation who stated they “love his photographs.” Now in “real life,” this guy is a meaningfully talented photographer and a genuinely nice fellow. Let’s assume, and I could be wrong, that one day he would like to settle down, get married, have kids, be someone’s role model, maybe even take his photographic work in a different direction. How is he going to pivot? How is he going to escape his early personal branding efforts? Is the image he has built really a manifestation of his purpose? Or just a stage that he has taken way too far that will define him for years to come. It is the social media version of the child actor that can never escape the part they played as a 5 year old, except it is happening to the majority of an entire generation.
I don’t think we have seen the idea of personal branding in the modern paradigm reach maturity. There is no doubt that there is tremendous value in executing the practice well. Just think of the difference between Taylor Swift and Lindsay Lohan. While some may argue there are circumstantial factors at play, Taylor is clearly managing her personal brand at a much higher level than Lindsay. As tribes become segmented into smaller groups, they are influenced or lead by lesser known individuals. This phenomena makes everyone subject to the Taylor:Lindsay equation to some degree, whether they have a million followers in their tribe or just fifty.
This has lead me to the following conclusion:
Understanding branding, the manifestation and management of what makes you different, is a crucial skill in the modern paradigm. Based on the current communication models and relevance of social platforms, the ability to effectively manage your brand and understand the positive and negative consequences of your efforts is a vital component to manifesting the highest and best version of yourself. These skills should no longer only be available to celebrities or CEO’s, as resources and opportunities become accessible to everyone, so to must the skills needed to manage these opportunities to effectively manifest your magic.