Personal branding is not about burning a circle K onto your butt. Nor is it the pinnacle of narcissism. It’s not about screaming, “Look at me! Look at me!” No one wants to be THAT guy! (Unless you’re narcissistic, of course — then you don’t care what others think!)
Personal branding is making sure you stand out. It’s making sure you are different and amazing. In this changing economy, average no longer cuts it.
Before I tell you what personal branding means to me, let me tell you my background. I have a marketing degree from the University of Tennessee. That was thanks to the advice of my Dad — “Even if you choose cartooning, you will have to sell yourself and your work — get a marketing degree.” Good advice, Dad. You were right. I’ve also been a “Creative Director” at a newspaper and for a newspaper syndicate. And thanks to a changing career, I’ve had to figure out a way to keep food on the table.
That’s my resume. Sorry, no Ivy League Business School. Just 25 years of practical experience of making lots and lots of mistakes.
So here’s my definition:
My personal brand is simply an accurate reflection of who I am as a person. It is what people expect when they see my work, read my writing or hear me speak.
I said, “accurate.” I’m not a good liar (ask my wife — I have a horrible poker face.) And the truth is much easier to keep track of. You might have noticed that the biggest public implosions of personal brands are from people straying too far from their public image in their personal life. Ask Tiger Woods or Lance Armstrong about it sometime.
It’s as simple as deciding who you want to be and being it.
Recently, I was having a conversation with a fellow writer about personal branding. She was worried because she didn’t want to make her work about herself. I agreed with her 100% — I once knew a newspaper editor who made the paper he/she/it edits about him/her/it. I quit reading it because although the paper covers a really cool topic, the editor isn’t that interesting. People don’t want to hear Me! Me! Me! Trust me, it is easy to fall into that trap (I know from personal experience.) Valerie Gellar, a successful radio consultant, once told me that the second favorite word that people like to hear after their name is “you.” So make your work “You! You! You!” Make it relevant to people. Ask yourself, “how can you help them? How can you make others’ lives better?” I told my friend to make her work her personal brand so when people read her byline, they new to expect amazing writing and storytelling. She has and does. And I think she has an amazing personal brand. Her work speaks for who she is.
Social media is an amazing tool in your personal branding toolbox. And because it is an instantaneous, unfiltered reflection of who you are, it also can bring about your doom (ask Anthony Weiner). Tread carefully and purposefully. Don’t react. Think. Pause. Reflect. Post things you think others will find interesting. It’s cool to show lunch every once in a while — but you don’t need to tell us when you have a bowel movement.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc are nothing more than platforms for great short story telling. Have a great story to tell. People will notice — even if it is a prospective boss who is doing a little research on you. Imagine if you have post after post complaining about your old boss. Ouch.
I make sure everything I do fits into my personal brand of humor and inspiration. My radio show, cartoons, speaking, social media and writing all fit under the main umbrella of who I am as a person.
So, just think of your personal brand as how you present yourself. Make it an accurate reflection of who you are as a person. It’s what people expect when they see your work.
And then make yourself special. The rest will fall into place.