Is personal branding something that happens to you or something that you control? Is it inherent to you or something that can be changed? My recent tweetchat on personal branding gave me pause to really think about these questions and discuss them with others. Here are a few insights from that conversation.
What is it your personal brand?
When we think about “branding” ourselves, we tend to think about external things – blogging, tweeting, our résumés. But really those are just tools we use to perpetuate our personal brand; think of them as symptoms, not the illness itself. Personal brand is much more… personal. It is your core being, your operation style, how you execute and present yourself. It is, as Meghan Biro says, about “find[ing] your true self and run[ning] with it” or as others in the tweetchat described, your passion, your niche, your unique value. However, the important piece here is that you must truly understand your personal brand, what you actually perpetuate, not just what you hope to – which brings me to the next point:
Does personal branding happen to you or by you?
You own your personal brand, but branding, on the other hand, is a different story. Organizational Change Management Consultant, Sophie Shuklin, wrote in the tweetchat, “Another way to look at this is how others describe you and what they think you bring to the table.” Brand is what you bring to the table, branding is what others believe you bring to the table – what they think of you long after you’ve left the table. Branding happens with or without you. Go now and Google yourself. You’ll find a brand being developed that you may have had little or no hand in. However, that’s not to say you can’t influence your branding, but the first step is to know who you are: strengths, weaknesses, good days, bad days, and all. If there is something you don’t like about your branding, you can work to improve that, perhaps with social media or more directly, by changing your approach with others. But, what if you want to change a branding that’s been perpetuated over your entire career?
Can you change your branding mid-career?
Change takes work. Don’t expect to wake up one day and say, “I’m an expert in something new” and for everyone to agree. Authenticity is bred through consistency; trust is fostered through performance. Moral is, the silent response to you will be, “Prove it.” The key to changing your branding is to leverage your experience, knowledge, and your personal brand. Remember, just because you want to do something new and have people view you differently, doesn’t mean you have to change your core being, your true brand. Instead, find ways to leverage that into something new. Take steps, not leaps. To get from point A to point C, go through point B, and sooner or later you will have developed that authenticity and trust that will drive new branding.
In the ongoing conversation about personal branding, it is important to remember the difference between brand and branding. Brand is who you are, how you portray yourself, while branding is how others perceive you. It is important to understand both, who you are and who others think you are. With that insight, you can own and reshape your branding into exactly what you want it to be.