Personal Branding is Not Optional

I had the opportunity this past week to speak to a group of entrepreneurs about personal branding.  As you might imagine, I was delighted to share my experience and its significance with the large crowd.  Much like a prizefighter, I was warming up back stage, as I was getting ready to deliver a knock out talk to a packed room.

Shortly after I began, an older man in the back of the room raised his hand with a question.  He asked, “Is this personal branding stuff nothing more than me just setting up a Facebook page and doing some of the Twitter stuff?”  I could not help but laugh to myself at the timing of his question.  It occurred to me at that moment that the direction that I was about to head with my talk would have been a complete disaster.  Why?  I assumed that this group had a reasonable grasp on what personal branding was and were more so looking for some specific ways to leverage their brands to drive more exposure, attention and differentiation in the marketplace.  I had planned to discuss and highlight all the great tools now available do build a bulletproof brand.   I was fortunate to get that question early in my talk as I was about to take these folks on a road trip along an unpaved highway.

The majority of the group had no real concept of what personal branding was or why they should pay attention.   It became even more apparent that there were quite a few folks who very skeptical about personal branding and its relevance for them.  They showed up for one reason and that was to see and hear whether personal branding was nothing more than smoke and mirrors.  That being the case, I guess I was David Copperfield for the day expected to dazzle people with one trick after another.  Nothing against Mr. Copperfield but I was never a big fan of pulling rabbits from my hat.  Instead, I did something a tad bit more provocative.  I announced to the room that 50% of them would be out of business or barely in business if they continued to ignore personal branding.  At this point, an eerie  silence took over the room and I noticed that I now had everyone’s attention.    I scrapped the slides, left the podium and went out into the audience to talk about the realities of the digital marketplace.  It ended up being a great experience for me and the audience based on the feedback that I received after the talk.

I learned a valuable lesson that day.  In my rush to tell the how and what related to personal branding, I almost forget to highlight the “why”, “why me” and “why right now”:   Context is indeed king and without it, people are often not moved to act or listen.  The idea of maintaining one’s personal brand may be obvious to some, but certainly not everyone.  We still have some work to do.

It is about progress not perfection!

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Comments

  1. I don’t know much about “personal branding” either, but I was definitely inspired by your last sentence; it’s progress not perfection that we are working for.

    I am trying to maintain a personal business that offers very specific skills that have been honed and sharpened from many years of labor and experience. The youngsters are quickly grabbing the career title and are offering services at a cheaper price but with less experience. In these tough economic times, I must attain some sort of edge to stay in business; and I must market that edge wisely to keep progressing and maintaining my successful career. Is that what you mean by “personal branding”?

    • Devin C. Hughes says:

      Hi Brenda-

      I appreciate you sharing your story with me. Every interaction contributes to the personal brand you create — enhancing your brand or detracting from it. Your personal brand is your promise to the marketplace and the world. Some interactions don’t contribute positively or negatively to your personal brand, rather providing more information about what your brand stands for. Personal branding is about intentionally influencing how the world sees you. It’s about purposefully packaging that “brand called You.” It is a method to uncover and differentiate the personal attributes and hard strengths you possess that outdistance your competition with your target industry and customers.

  2. I don’t know much about “personal branding” either, but I was definitely inspired by your last sentence; it’s progress not perfection that we are working for.

    I am trying to maintain a personal business that offers very specific skills that have been honed and sharpened from many years of labor and experience. The youngsters are quickly grabbing the career title and are offering services at a cheaper price but with less experience. In these tough economic times, I must attain some sort of edge to stay in business; and I must market that edge wisely to keep progressing and maintaining my successful career. Is that what you mean by “personal branding”?

    • Devin C. Hughes says:

      Hi Brenda-

      I appreciate you sharing your story with me. Every interaction contributes to the personal brand you create — enhancing your brand or detracting from it. Your personal brand is your promise to the marketplace and the world. Some interactions don’t contribute positively or negatively to your personal brand, rather providing more information about what your brand stands for. Personal branding is about intentionally influencing how the world sees you. It’s about purposefully packaging that “brand called You.” It is a method to uncover and differentiate the personal attributes and hard strengths you possess that outdistance your competition with your target industry and customers.

  3. Thanks, Devin. I am trying to sell my university students on precisely this. Can you recommend a good book/source that might be useful/relevant to them? They can only hear it from me and from our Career Center so many times before they start to tune us out! Thanks for your work.

    • Devin C. Hughes says:

      Thanks for your comment. I am curious as to what they do not understand about the concept. There are lots of great resourcess out there about the topic and I am happy to point you in that directions. I also speak about it as well and something for you to consider if it makes sense. Stay in touch!

  4. Thanks, Devin. I am trying to sell my university students on precisely this. Can you recommend a good book/source that might be useful/relevant to them? They can only hear it from me and from our Career Center so many times before they start to tune us out! Thanks for your work.

    • Devin C. Hughes says:

      Thanks for your comment. I am curious as to what they do not understand about the concept. There are lots of great resourcess out there about the topic and I am happy to point you in that directions. I also speak about it as well and something for you to consider if it makes sense. Stay in touch!

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