James DeKoven
Writer & Content Strategist

Blog of marketing and branding ideas

Opinions, ideas and ramblings

Instead Of Creating A Personal Brand, Just Be Yourself

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Last week one of my CEO clients asked me, “James, what do you think my personal brand should be?”

“Easy. Just be yourself.”

Ellen’s one of the sharpest people I know. She has a PhD in Biology and reads three books a week. She’s also a former federal prosecutor and smells BS the minute it lands on the floor.

So I was surprised when Ellen thought she should market herself like a box of iced raspberry Pop-Tarts.

Can we stop talking about personal branding as if it’s a revolutionary idea? It’s an age-old concept with a modern label.

People have always promoted themselves - to earn money, to gain prestige, to land a job.

But I doubt there are scenes at kitchen tables where one spouse looks at the other and says, “Honey, I think I need to create my personal brand.”

Instead, among many goals, they want to promote a service, impress potential employers, create awareness about their company, and become known as an expert.

This is otherwise known as marketing or public relations. Many moons ago we called it creating your “image.”

I’m not here to debate semantics. I admit I’m getting older and lean toward nostalgia. Burritos shouldn’t be called “wraps.” Game-winning home runs shouldn’t be called “walk-off homers.”

But the personal branding language game unnecessarily complicates and confuses. It creates a conceptual fog that prevents people from clearly understanding a fundamental idea: How to promote themselves.

I come across too many smart people struggling with this issue for no reason. They range from CEOs like Ellen who want to be thought leaders, to small business owners looking to sell more, to veteran sales people who want more fulfilling jobs.

None of them need to create a brand. They only need to take the right steps.

Let’s say you want to transition to a career in the automotive industry. You can write about self-driving cars, review the new hybrids, comment on industry-specific posts, and interact with your followers to help them with their challenges.

Through it all, you display your personality, your quirks, maybe some of your emotions or beliefs. You do this consistently so people immediately recognize your name and what you stand for.

This advice could easily come from a “how to create your personal brand” article.

But these steps have nothing to do with branding.

Rather, you’re promoting yourself for who you are as a living, breathing, thinking, sometimes flawed human being.

That’s my suggestion. Whether you’re a florist or run an artificial intelligence start-up, be yourself. The moment you try to craft a persona, you won’t only sell a piece of your soul, people will intuitively sense you’re a fraud.

Sometimes humans are like dogs. We just know things.

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We all have the friend who shows up every time, and the other friend who never shows up at all. There’s a perception for both.

“Perception” - that’s really the idea behind personal branding.

What can you do (and avoid) to create a favorable impression of yourself?

It’s nothing I need to tell you, let alone anyone trying to sell you a personal branding package.

It’s taught in a class called Being An Adult 101. Be thoughtful about what you write and post, have a plan, smile in your pictures, say hello and thank you, and help people as much as you can.

You already have everything you need, with almost nothing to buy. Just be yourself.

ContentJames DeKoven