Are you Bar S or a Flying D? This is an important questions to ask yourself as you go about the apparently essential life venture of self-branding. It’s not enough that you are intelligent, kind to all living creatures and working toward world peace, unless you package these qualities into a one-word slogan and market ‘Me, the product’ via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
A friend who recently joined match.com said that filling out the biographical information was an exercise in self-branding. “You create a picture of how you want others to view you.” She added that this picture might not be recognizable by anyone you know, but that’s not the point. The definition of personal branding on Wikipedia supports her claim: “While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging.”
Help is everywhere for people who aren’t sure how to create their brand. The internet is full of questions to get you started, steps to follow to manage your brand once you’ve settled on one, and graphic ideas to portray your concept to others. Lots of work. And what if when you’re finished it doesn’t bring you to others’ attention?
I’ve brought up the topic of personal branding with different people lately, because every writers’ conference has at least one session on developing your platform or your brand. These days, even if you’re lucky enough to find a publisher, you still have to take on the job of marketing your book. I struggle with the rush to self-brand as something people with higher career aspirations or aspiring authors must do. What if a personal brand is really just, ‘Hey-mom-look-at-me’ in disguise?
If you do need a brand to reach your goals, I suggest asking friends what they think your brand is. That should avoid the pitfall of packaging a you that no one recognizes. We don’t really know how others perceive us, and while asking for feedback may not get us the truth, our friends can offer a perspective we don’t have. Last week, when I asked an old friend what she thought my brand was, she said, “omnivore,” not a descriptor that would ever have come to me. She wasn’t talking about eating habits, but about my passion for jumping into a variety of jobs and projects over my lifetime and engaging in them with great enthusiasm. I like this brand because it’s a summation of a working life, not something I dreamed up to help sell myself before I’d ever done anything. I don’t imagine the brand “omnivore” would help me sell a novel or pursue any new career, except possibly food critic or taster, but I enjoyed hearing someone else recap my life in one word.
When asked about her brand, one witty friend said she thought of herself as “generic.” She’s anything but. The woman who wrote her bio for the on-line dating service had other ideas about branding to consider if the contemporary one doesn’t work for you. “I grew up in the era of TV westerns,” she said. “Whenever I hear the word ‘brand,’ I think of hot metal singeing fur.” Life seems simpler when only our livestock needed a brand.