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Summary:

In a recent conversation with some Internet pros about different aspects of personal branding, one thing really struck me: we all fell into one of two opinion groups. One group thought personal branding is natural and necessary, while the other group felt that personal branding is […]

iStock_000000658672XSmallIn a recent conversation with some Internet pros about different aspects of personal branding, one thing really struck me: we all fell into one of two opinion groups. One group thought personal branding is natural and necessary, while the other group felt that personal branding is icky. I’m convinced the reason those in the second group feel that way is down to the use of the word “brand.” It’s the baggage associated with that word that gives “personal branding” a bad name. So let’s not call it that. Instead, let’s call it “image” and talk about what it is and what it isn’t (or what it shouldn’t be).

But first, some basics. You are being Googled. If you haven’t done so lately, do a vanity search and try to objectively assess the impression people will get when they see the results. Who’s Googling you? Potential partners (of the love and work variety), clients, investors…all kinds of people are doing a quick background check on you. As a professional, what you want to accomplish with your image is credibility. You want those search results to show that you know what you’re doing. This is true whether you’re an artist, a dog groomer, a developer or a wedding planner.

What It Is

Image is unavoidable. If you have an online presence, people are making assumptions and forming opinions about you. They’re putting you into categories. It’s what people do. The conclusion they reach constitutes your image, whether you like it or not.

Maybe you don’t care. Not caring is certainly an option. But if you’re a professional, and I’m assuming you are if you’re reading this, you should probably care.

Image is like a shirt. Every morning you get up and pick out clothes that will be appropriate for what you’re going to do and who you’re going to see that day. So you just have to decide if the “online you” that you present is a guy in flip-flops with two days of stubble, or a well-groomed guy in a smart suit, or something in between. And you can have an “off-duty online you” and a “professional online you,” no problem! It doesn’t hurt someone’s image to seem like a well-rounded, multifaceted person.

What It Isn’t (Or Shouldn’t Be)

Image shouldn’t be artificial. A lot of people seem to have that ickiness reaction because they perceive that a personal brand is something like a fake facade. But the general consensus is that you have to be genuine in this day and age. So, just be yourself. Or, more accurately, your image should reflect the parts of your self that you want to show the world. If your image is a fabrication, people will figure it out eventually, so honesty is the best policy.

A Definition of Branding

Wikipedia offers this definition of branding:

People engaged in branding seek to develop or align the expectations behind the brand experience, creating the impression that a brand associated with a product or service has certain qualities or characteristics that make it special or unique.

Clearly, the image you project online serves a similar purpose. As a professional, you want to have some control over people’s opinion of who you are and what you do. And you want them to get the impression that you and what you do are in some way special. You can accomplish this without artifice, so what’s the problem?

Image Is a Societal and Business Reality

These days, with more and more big companies putting on a human face, and more and more people parlaying their personalities into companies (think Gary Vaynerchuk), the line between business branding and personal branding is becoming blurred. For these reasons, it’s especially important for people who run a one-man-show or a little shop, which many of us do, to consider the issue of personal branding seriously.

This is the first in a series of posts about personal branding/image that we’ll be publishing here on WebWorkerDaily, presenting both sides of the argument.What do you think about personal branding/image?

By Pamela Poole

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  1. Great post…I particularly agree with your comment “image shouldn’t be artificial.” You might be interested in reading “Personal Branding Done Right” which points out the flaws of form over substance as it applies to personal branding: http://www.n2growth.com/blog/personal-branding-done-right

  2. Robert Dempsey Monday, July 13, 2009

    Great article Pamela. The importance of and how to do personal branding is one of the things we are trying to teach college folk at Rock the Job. With the lines between online/offline practically gone, personal branding is that much more important.

  3. Matthew Bowe Monday, July 13, 2009

    Personal Branding/Image is something that seems to be a hot topic. Chris Brogan touched on this today:
    His post.

    Personal branding is critical. And so is the marketing of your brand. And so is the actual product that YOU are. If we only think of ourselves from a branding perspective we run the risk of not being as effective in communicating or representing the value we have in the market place. I touched on this today in a post on my blog: A Company of One.

    Great discussion going on here!

  4. Nice article.

    I definitely fall in the “it’s icky” camp. Mostly because I equate personal branding with self-censorship.

    Most of what I post on-line creates an acceptable personal/pro image in the country I live in. But some of it (posts or songs with naughty words, drawings with naughty bits) would probably tar my reputation elsewhere (follow my gaze).

    The moral of the story is that if you go beyond discussing the weather, you’re going to irk somebody, somewhere, so as Pamela said, you might as well be true to yourself and be prepared to live with the (unforeseeable) consequences.

  5. Definitely agree with you that personal branding is important. There are many popular company are trying to act like a person and engage in many social media activities.

  6. Nikhil Kadadi Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    I agree that personal branding is important, but feel that ‘branding’ is not a new thing, it has existed since a long time & is a natural phenomenon. An image is being created by default when we interact (online, offline) with other people, based on their experience with us other people create an image of us in their minds.The problem about image being artificial, most of the times arises when we ‘try & build’ an image in others minds, that is when we try too hard to impress the other person, this is when we run the risk of looking artificial, thus the best way to create an natural image of ourself is to relax and just be ‘US’

  7. Awesome post. This is something I am always aware of and definitely need to keep in mind.

    And now that you mention it, I have noticed larger companies are trying to come across as much more personable now days…

  8. Hi all – it’s a bit of a blatant plug – although the first couple of sessions are a freebie…

    Lesley Everett, one of the world’s foremost experts on Personal Branding has delivered training programmes on this subject around the world to 000’s of people has produced a video course on Personal branding in conjunction with The 8.45 Club.

    Access the trial for free here:

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  9. Nancy Grossbart Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Loved the post. I really understand the “icky” comment. Everyday, as I Tweet, FB, LinkIn, Digg and all the others, I am always aware that I must “think before talking” because I’m going to have live with what I say FOREVER…maybe. When you are with new people, you usually “feel the situation out” before you speak. It may take a few years before this comes natural to all of us.

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  11. Actually, Gary Vaynerchuk is a great reason NOT to make your personality your brand, as that dude is totally unwatchable due to his endless shouting, tics and spasms.

    People find “personal brands” icky simply not because they’re contrived (come on, most are) or some sort of facade, but because they’re often just not good.

  12. Velit Dundar Friday, July 17, 2009

    hi, Thanks for the great post. I do believe personal branding will become more important aspect in the future. The same rules of company branding applies to personal branding but with in different way. Social Media helps personal branding and provides the platform to with endless options. Overall personal branding is all about sharing your knowledge and providing valuable information that benefit others. Soon or late it will be discovered by others.

  13. Good post,

    I think…yet, reading the comments…this was a “great” or “awesome” post? Was there a page two that I missed? Which was the great or awesome part? It didn’t actually say anything, other than repeating “personal branding is important” over and over again in a variety of different ways just my opinion.

    Thanks,
    Mealton

  14. You’ve done a great job defining what is personal branding and why should people care!

    Recently, I’ve wrote an article that shows you how you can benefit from Coca-Cola’s history, go from being great to be seen as great and change the World.

    It’s called: Be like Coca-Cola.

    I hope that you find it usefull!

    Best regards,
    Bruno Coelho

  15. Pamela Poole Monday, July 20, 2009

    I appreciate all your comments and apologize for not responding sooner, but I had a big project that ate up the last two weeks and weekends. Barely had the time to walk the dog! (Guess I need to work on my work/life balance.) Anyway, turned it in today.

    @Matthew Bowe, I liked your point about being “a company of one.” If you think of corporations, their brand reputation has as much to do with all the activities (customer service, marketing) that aren’t directly related to the things they sell. We all have to do all of those things. (Somebody should pay us more!) And thanks for the link to Chris Brogan’s post. Hadn’t thought of that angle, but he has something there!

    @Nikhil You’re right, it’s not new at all. But it used to be easier when there wasn’t a record of everything you ever said written in “stone!” Nowadays you just have to take more care.

    @Nancy Grossbart You’re right, and I think the fact that it hasn’t become second nature yet is in part why the topic is so popular at the moment.

    @Uh Well, maybe he’s an acquired taste! But I chose him because he’s a — striking – example! And you’re right, some of what people do to market themselves is no good. But I imagine if everybody was good at design and marketing, they wouldn’t be multi-kazillion-dollar industries. Unfortunately, those of us with a one-man-show or small shop are often stuck having to do all these things ourselves and hoping for the best. But it’s true, I’ve seen some stuff (websites, logos) that probably do more harm than good to a professional’s image.

    @BCoelho Not sure I buy that Coca-Cola is bringing beauty to the world; I read somewhere it takes 9 liters of water to make a liter of Coke. Then there is R&D that produces this kind of nonsense: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2007/09/13/drink-with-chill-factor-115875-19783048/ And then there are the two million plastic beverage bottles used every five minutes in the US: http://www.theglobalintelligencer.com/december07/chrisjordan.php

    But there are some interesting points in your post and there is probably plenty to learn from the big corporations, they’ve certainly spent the bucks to get it “right.” Thanks for the link.

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  17. Personally I think that your online personal brand is poised to obsolete resume’s and CV’s. Why? Effectively, your brand becomes defined by how you interact with other people, which when we’re talking about online media (it’ll all be in a few years), becomes indelible. A resume is a carefully prepared document that doesn’t provide the same level of transparency as a Google-trail of real-world interactions.

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