A brand has always been about the collective emotion and attachment a group feels about a product or service. It's the culmination of everything from the reputation and graphical representation to how the product works to how it is placed and perceived in the marketplace.
These new online social spaces have empowered individuals to promote their personal brands (and, yes, every individual does have a personal brand). That being said, a brand is not an icon that only represents one, specific, point of view. A brand like Apple has many brand attributes (from creativity and innovation to style and lifestyle) as does Starbucks (a third space after home and office, a personal indulgence, higher quality coffee, expensive, personal touch, etc…) that collectively creates many emotions that individuals are attracted to (or not).
The sad reality is that when most people discuss Personal Branding, what they’re really doing is using a nicer phrase for the words, “self promotion.”
Most people talking about “personal branding” are not using these channels to expand their network and provide value to build awareness, trust and reputation. Most people use these digital channels to simply promote themselves. A real personal brand is not about self-promotion. A strong and substantive personal brand is about using these channels to communicate who you are and your knowledge to other like-minded individuals. In doing so, you are marketing yourself by adding real value to your business, demonstrating what makes you better (or different) and, ultimately, when done well should connect you to some kind of community (or even establish you as one of the leaders). In doing so, you should be able to expand your network of influence and visibility, and then (if you’re doing things ethically) have people who are interested in who you are and what you represent connect in a mutually beneficial relationship – as all great brands do.
This will (and does) grow your business.
Were it not for Blogs, Podcasting, Twitter, etc… you would have ever been able to tap into the knowledge and insights of so many sharp and brilliant individuals (each of them with very distinct personal brands). People like Geoff Livingston, Shel Holtz, Kate Trgovac and C.C. Chapman are using these channels in this particular way. In doing so, these individuals have built tremendously powerful personal brands. The sad part is that most other people talking about Personal Branding are simply using these channels to scream out, “hey, look at me!” and are doing it for their own self-centered benefit.
Don’t believe it? Try connecting to some of the so-called A-listers from these social spaces. Now that they have used these channels to self-promote, score a book deal, get a speaking bureau to represent them or grow their business, they hardly have time to even respond to the exact people and channels who helped them get to this point in the first place.
There were high hopes that these digital channels would bring forward individuals who would nurture and build powerful personal brands (and some have), but for the most part, it is still the same old “look at me!” These new channels and tools have made it easy and cheap to publish, so most are using it for the sole purpose of self-promotion. That being said, those who do provide value are making an impact on others and, in doing so, are setting a foundation of trust, reliability, value and growing their own business all along the way… like all good brands do.
Does having a personal brand matter in times of recession when we need to be focusing on closing more deals or is it just valueless self-promotion? What's your take?
(This Blog posting started off as a comment on The Buzz Bin Blog by Geoff Livingston in response to an amazing post he published today titled, I Don’t Care About Your Personal Brand. Thanks for the inspiration Geoff).