Personal branding has become the topic of hot debate amongst marketers, executives, students, believers and deniers alike.
In previous Virgin articles on personal branding and how one should tell their story, I define the concept as identifying, positioning and promoting one’s self all while blending professionalism, creativity and strategy. I passionately argue it's importance is undeniable in today's age of online living with permanent digital footprints. After all, we are what we share, whether we're conscious of it or not.
However, many consistently argue "I don't have a personal brand" or even "I don't want one." Unfortunately, I come bearing bad news to those individuals.
Today, every man and woman in the professional world has a personal brand, whether they like it or not.
A LinkedIn profile picture, a tweet, a blog post, an email to a client, a comment on a news site, and a photo from Facebook all accumulate to an image for others to view us by. This is what renowned sociologist Erving Goffman defines as “The Presentation of Self.” We put forth a presence for others to define us by. Quick judgement is instinctual, and arguably an evolutionary necessity.
This dangerously leads us toward the argument: if one wants to acknowledge their personal brand, they must regard it like the marketers at Nike, McDonald's and Starbucks. But, this is where many misunderstand personal branding.
Personal branding is not perfecting or cultivating an unrealistic version of you. Personal branding is the humble promotion of your genuine, rounded identity, the one that makes you, you.
Ironically, personal branding has a branding problem. When envisioning the term, many associate consumer product branding with the previously mentioned Nike, McDonald's and Starbucks. This speaks to the larger problem regarding advertising today, which fights for attention with strobing lights, unskippable messages, and an arms race for likes.
Personal branding has a different agenda though. Instead, the movement of personal branding asks us to acknowledge the opportunity to double down on our personality, background and goals, publicizing what makes us unique in a competitive landscape.
You are not a product, but a person. But just like there are many similar products, there are many similar job titles. Within your profession, it is your responsibility to define yourself and promote your uniqueness no matter who you are, or what you do.
As Tom Peters wrote in his renowned article A Brand Called You in 1997, "We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You."
But many don't know where to begin.
That's where services like PRSNL Branding come into play. PRSNL Branding is the first creative digital agency for emerging professionals' online identities working explicitly on résumés, LinkedIn, personal sites, online privacy, social strategy, SEO and creative personal branding. With the number of college admissions and HR departments screening applicants via Google and social media increasing this year, personal branding is becoming too hard to ignore.
Now is the time to recognise the opportunity to control the image that others see and judge us by. We all have a brand. And when one claims “Personal branding is not for them”, just remember that’s just a part of their brand.