Personal branding is all about presenting the essence of what makes you stand out, but one of the challenges is that it’s not just you who is talking about you. Everyone you are associated with also has something to say about you, your work, and your reputation. It’s important to understand that all of that is, in fact, part of your personal branding.
Businesses are still figuring out what to do with the amount of consumer information on the Internet, from product reviews and blog posts, to social media posts and forum conversations. Just as the key aspect of branding in today’s digital world is the sum of everyone’s perspectives, digital and word of mouth, not just what a company says about itself, so too is your personal brand a combination of not just what you say about yourself, but what others say about you.
When branding started in the Mad Men era at the middle of the century, the main conduit was mass-media like radio, television and print. The messages were broadcast to consumers, and that was essentially the final word about the product on a large scale. When Coca-Cola advertised itself as “refreshing,” or Folgers said its coffee had “better flavor,” there was nowhere to go to see other opinions, aside from talking with your friends and family. In today’s media world, a simple Google search will help you determine if the claims in an advertisement hold up when consumers actually try the product.
The same is true for personal branding. What other people say about you is also part of your personal brand. In the age of the Internet, potential employers, clients or your competition will look up your name and reputation on the Internet, and they won’t just find what you say about yourself, they will also find what others say about you.
You may hear the mantra that businesses no longer fully “own their brand.” What that means for a business is that the conversation about their brand shapes what that brand is. Your personal branding efforts are open to the effects of what other people say, and any conversation about you on the Internet is therefore part of your personal branding efforts.
This doesn’t mean that personal branding is out of your control: you are still responsible for setting the tone, managing your reputation, and taking part in that ongoing conversation about you. What it means is that when you consider how the essence of what sets you apart is presented on the Internet, what others are saying about you is part of that responsibility.
Personal Branding Definition Revisited
Personal Branding: The art of consistently presenting, online and offline, the essence of how you stand out from the crowd.
Self-presentation. Essence. You. Personal branding is about consistently presenting the essence of you wherever you go, and in whatever you do. You’re not just packaging yourself; you’re presenting your essence. That essence is not just a collection of details; it’s the thing that determines your details. And while you are responsible for your personal brand, you’re not the only one who affects it.
But why do you need to deal with personal branding anyway?