It’s impossible to do justice to the topic of personal branding in a single blog post. It attracts both praise and ridicule but is nevertheless an important part of the online media world. Having been involved in the media game for a while, I wanted to start sharing my thoughts and advice on personal branding at what I believe to be the core of the topic: the perception of being awesome.
A ‘personal brand’ is a deliberately crafted extension of you reputation. Your reputation is made up many things including your accomplishments, your style, your thoughts, and many more. While everyone has these, some people take the time to craft and highlight these beyond the norm.
At a superficial level, developing a personal brand is focusing energy on building the perception of being awesome. Some people are amazing at building this perception, but the truth is, if you focus on the ‘being awesome’ part, then ‘the perception’ bit becomes infinitely easier. First and foremost, be awesome at what you do, then learn how to tell that story in a compelling way. That should be the personal branding goal.
The vast majority of well-known people are well known because of their skills in a specific field: from authors to sports people. They’re recognisable and often influential. There are also ‘un-branded’ people within companies who have accomplished amazing things, from developing new medicines to building new products. These people’s careers will flourish based on their accomplishments, not their ‘personal brand’.
I see two different scenarios: the first is someone who, based on their experience, skill and accomplishments, has risen to be recognisable and influential within their field. Because we know who they are we often mislabel them as having great personal brands. While they’re quite famous they may never have spent a second thinking about their ‘personal brand’. Their accomplishments don’t need to be dressed up.
Then you get people who are recognisable because of their personal brand, not necessarily because of what they’ve accomplished. The Kim Kardashian joke is that everyone knows who she is, but no one knows why. Becoming famous is her accomplishment. Some people believe that fame alone is something worth achieving, but most would want their fame to actually be underpinned by something of value.
Focus on the foundations of your brand – your knowledge and skill, your experience and accomplishments. Recognise the difference between earning your story and telling your story. The earning and telling of your story can absolutely run concurrently. By all means document your journey to greatness, make it look amazing, and attract an audience who want to follow your progress.
Ben Saunders is a British polar explorer. He regularly speaks at TED and other high profile conferences, he’s sponsored by Land Rover, and he has a strong following on social media. People admire him and hold him in very high esteem. He has accomplished ‘personal brand’ success, not by setting out to build a personal brand, but by both walking to the north pole and back alone, and a few years later doing an un-aided walk to the south pole and back.
If you are accomplishing great things, your personal brand starts to take care of itself. Then the brand requirement is one of curating a well-founded image, recognising that you have value to add to an attentive audience, and finding a suitable place to be able to share your story.