The Fight Over Personal Branding

There is one argument as a PR professional that I am forever having with my tech-obsessed boyfriend. That is the idea of personal branding. The argument goes like this:

Me: Everything you do is branding. Even if it’s not your intent. When you post things on Twitter you are adding to your image, people’s idea of who you are. In other words, your brand.

Him: I am not a brand. I don’t care how other people see me. I’m going to do and say what I like. If people don’t like it, (expletive) them.

Me: And that’s your personal brand!

I will leave the rest of the argument to your imagination.

My point? Today the tech-obsessed boyfriend (who I love dearly) passed along a great post on personal branding by author Maureen Johnson. She has developed her own manifesto on the subject:

“The internet is made of people. People matter. This includes you. Stop trying to sell everything about yourself to everyone. Don’t just hammer away and repeat and talk at people—talk TO people. It’s organic. Make stuff for the internet that matters to you, even if it seems stupid. Do it because it’s good and feels important. Put up more cat pictures. Make more songs. Show your doodles. Give things away and take things that are free. Look at what other people are doing, not to compete, imitate, or compare . . . but because you enjoy looking at the things other people make. Don’t shove yourself into that tiny, airless box called a brand—tiny, airless boxes are for trinkets and dead people.”

If you haven’t guessed, she agrees with my boyfriend. But I have to say, I don’t really disagree with her statement. The Internet is made up of people, and when I talk to others about social media I try to make it a point to say it’s a two-way street. Yes, company XYZ, you will need to log-on several times a day and actually talk to people. After all, social media is about building relationships.

The term “personal branding” has gotten a bad rap among those who don’t work in marketing. It’s the same as the term “networking.” Ugh. Networking. Who wants to be forced to talk to a bunch of strangers and push business cards? Tweet-ups are much more attractive. At a tweet-up I get to have a few drinks, and meet new people!

It’s all a case of you say tomato, I say to-mah-to. In fact, I encourage people to post Lolcats photos, join causes and produce wacky videos. Just make sure the things you’re sharing, and the image you’re putting forth is one you’re OK with having. If that’s the image of someone who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, more power to you.


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