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I Don’t Care About Your Personal Brand

All of the personal brand noise in the echo chamber amazes me. Why? Because it’s not good marketing.

We are in a recession, and telling people they need personal brands infused in their marketing – while important – will not help companies close transactions. Yes people do business with folks they like, but that’s only a pre-cursor for success. There are lots of people that folks like who are losing jobs and contracts right now.

Thus personal brand propagators seek to bulwark a business model destined to fail. What people need to do is build substantive value for stakeholders that will deliver return on investment for time or money. If personal brands are infused in this value, all the better, but please don’t tell me its the quintessential focus of social media marketing.


Quite frankly online marketing is not about silly personalities with motorcycles (me) or rubber ducks or even pole dancing. If you want to defend your right to be stupid — all in the name of a personal brand — go for it. But while momentarily interesting, your personal brand won’t build real value for the market — unless your personal reputation revolves around delivering consistent regular value to your community.

There is a big difference between reputation and personal brands. Reputation is built upon past experiences — good or bad, a real track record. Personal branding is often an ego-based image based on communications. A personal brand can demonstrate a person is there, but it’s often shallow and can be contrived. It’s just like a sport stripe on a car, nice but no engine, no guts, no substance.

Chris Brogan is always cited as the penultimate in personal brands. I disagree, Chris Brogan has a personal brand, but more importantly he has a fantastic reputation for delivering great, helpful content every day. The combo of incredible value AND the personal brand is lethal. But one would succeed without the other, and its not the personal brand.

25 Personal Brand Manifestos

Here’s some brutal truths delivered Cluetrain Style for those propagating personal brands as the keystones to social media.

1) The online community — a.k.a. the market — doesn’t give a damn about your personal brand.

2) The only people who give a crap about personal brands are the personas trying to prop them up as a business model.

3) While personal brands are concerned with themselves, the market is also concerned about itself.

4) The market doesn’t care about the persona, only what value the persona contributes to the larger community.

5) Ultimately, if the market does not perceive value, the personal brand — while famous — will not successfully monetize him/herself.

6) Businesses do not need personal brands to succeed online. They need to come off their ivory towers and communicate with the market in real conversations.

7) Then companies need to listen so they can give back to their online communities and markets vis a vis real valuable information or products.

8) Messaging — whether delivered through a personal brand or from the corporate ivory tower — doesn’t work online!

9) Personal brands can be contrived and faked.

10) If a personal brand promises one thing and delivers another, their personal name is mud!

11) If a company over-relies on personal brands it can be let down with no social media presence post persona (Microsoft and Scoble)

12) Personal brands can let the market down… in some cases regularly (Calcanis).

13) If a personal brand becomes regularly tied to a corporate brand, then it’s not personal. It’s business.

14) Having personal interaction is a small part of the larger value proposition to the market in order for it to have a transaction with you. It is not a business model in itself.

15) The difference between a good personal reputation and personal brands is subtle. One delivers constant substance while the other relies on BS to overcome shortcomings.

16) The only value of a personal brand is blinding the uneducated on lack of social media expertise (from Micah).

17) When a personal brand fails to deliver real expertise, the market turns quickly on the persona.

18) Twenty years later national personas gone wrong get super bowl ads (MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, or in the case of K-Fed 2 years later). Micro personal brands online are simply forgotten.

19) When reality catches up with personal brand hype, bad endings occur.

20) The marketplace wants solutions, not to feel better by hanging out with coolness. Even better if you can provide both, but at least provide the prior.

21) Personal brands are like toilet paper. They are a tradable commodity on the interent. Reputation is another thing.

22) Social media consultants rely on personal brands, communicators rely on building value between organizations and their stakeholders.

23) Communicators can measure their social effort, personal brands talk about friends and “hubris.”

24) A personality oriented brand does not necessarily equate to successful results. Ask John “Maverick” McCain.

25) The marketplace doesn’t need specific personalities. There’s always another chap who can fill the role.

Refocus on Others

So what do you do if you are over-relying on personal brands? As part of the Solutions Stars Video Conference, I wrote a post about rising above the noise that offered five tips. Here’s a short summary:

  • Build value for the community with meaningful conversations.
  • Have an opinion. Great voices on the Internet have an opinion and stand by it, even if some folks don’t like it.
  • Be generous and give your spotlight to others.
  • In addition to building value and shining a light on others, write/create great content.
  • Be you. Personality, genuine, transparent, authentic… Whatever, choose your word of choice.
  • There’s a reason personality was fifth in that post. Communicators put their stakeholders before their egos.

    Thanks to Amber Naslund who brainstormed with me and inspired some of the 25 manifestos.

    About Geoff Livingston:

    69 Comments on “I Don’t Care About Your Personal Brand

    1.  by  John Johansen

      Personal branding is often equated with content creation. In that context, I would agree with your point that if you are doing it for the sake of your ego, it’s not going to last.

      But if you invest in that content creation for the intent of making something valuable for other people, you inherently build a reputation that will help you.

    2.  by  Justin Kownacki

      Personal branding is an oxymoron. You’re a person with multiple facets; a brand is an icon that represents one specific POV. When was the last time you wanted to have a meaningful conversation with someone who had a singular point of view?

      However, one thing personal branding DOES do is make your self-promotional job easier. It’s your elevator pitch, and it also helps outsiders understand (the bulk of) what it is you do. Just don’t believe that it covers all your bases — or, even worse, don’t LET it cover all your bases. (If it does, get more bases.)

    3.  by  FabulousAndTechfilled.com

      I don’t understand all of the hub-bub around “personal branding”. but then, I’m from Philly and we’ve turned “keeping it real” into an art form.

      Our personal brand is World Champion. :-)

    4.  by  @Knatchwa

      Some great points I am still in the early stages of developing a brand and now I will make sure that I remember the balance that is so necessary to really make a difference. Thanks for offering the insight.

    5.  by  Gianna Borgnine

      I couldn’t agree with you more. I run a 3D content creation studio and marketing firm focusing on digital/social media and 3D virtual worlds. The closest thing I have to a “personal brand” is actually just another brand I created which is my avatar form. I don’t market my avatar (though her name is fairly well known), I market the company, our content, and our services. Our team is made up of some of the brightest and most knowledgeable in the field. It doesn’t matter what name they use, their skills and experience will sell everytime.

    6.  by  mike ashworth

      An informative post and you are correct, “personal brand” alone can count for nothing and reputation is a much more interesting area. Just the term “personal brand” can make people think some “smoke and mirrors” are at work.

      I’m fascinated by what people reveal about themselves online, often people who are the evangelists for social media and this new world of connecting with others. Or people who claim to be expert in connecting with others etc.

      This point you raise is a very timely one (I was just about to write a blog post about the disconnected world of social media)

      19. When reality catches up with personal brand hype, bad endings occur.

      Here are a few examples I’ve observed recently.

      People twittering during a meeting to say it’s boring them senseless.
      1. They should be participating and not twittering
      2. That comment is now recorded forever. If I’m a client, potential client, potential employer, what will I think of that person?
      3. If a meeting is anything less than thrilling tell the person who facilitates it that it needs to change or offer to facilitate it and do a better job at it.
      4. Imagine if the person who facilitated the meeting, other participants or your boss then found your comments.

      People (who own a very well known company) that they use free (and poorly supported) software to deliver business critical processes. “And you want to charge me how much for that “service” you provide?”

      People who claim to be social media savvy or some “guru” yet when you write to them after seeing a post or tweet they ignore you. Imagine if that were at a party or social gathering and you walked up to a person whom you knew to be interesting and worth chatting to and they turned their back on you after you said Hello. This happens online as people think it’s all about the tool however it’s actually all about people. Tools only help facilitate conversations.

      Mike Ashworth
      Marketing Coach and Consultant
      Brighton and Hove, Sussex, UK
      Boosting Sales for Small and Medium Sized Businesses by
      helping them find, attract and keep Customers.


    7.  by  Rohit

      Geoff – I was looking forward to reading this point of view since I saw your tweet about it several days ago. For argument’s sake, I wonder how would your post would differ if in each case you mentioned “personal brand,” you replaced it with just “brand”? My point is, many have argued a similar case that branding matters less than your product or market reputation. Obviously, focusing on building a great brand is a waste of time if you don’t have a good corporate reputation, or something good to sell. On that part, I think we can agree. But I don’t think that means branding doesn’t matter, particularly personal branding. A personal brand (or a brand in general) can never be a replacement for adding value or having something good to say or sell. But every day there are great products that fail. There is great content that never gets passed along. There are people with great reputations that get passed over for jobs. Why?

      I would argue that in a recession the most important thing is to be able to distinguish yourself and your business with MORE than just having something good to sell or say. That’s the prerequisite. If you don’t have the reputation that you speak of, or your products have problems, people will pretty quickly see through that and your brand (personal or otherwise) will suffer. You can not replace substance with self-ego building and expect that to work. A good personal brand is based on having a strong point of view and building trust first – and I agree with that. My view is that a strong personal brand, and having a personality for a business is what allows you to leverage all this great content and reputation. That is the power of branding in general and what takes you from good to great. Now, you’re right that many people look at personal branding too narrowly and often it has become about ego only, and not stakeholders. That’s the wrong way to do it. But the best way to recession-proof your business (or your job) is to be great because good today won’t necessarily be good enough tomorrow. I think personal branding, if done right, is an important part of that.

    8.  by  Kris C

      There’s a lot of truth here, BUT a powerful, well-crafted visual image that is consistent and tangible can go a long way when you combine it with reputation, customer service, going the extra mile to provide value, etc. You bring up John McCain… “24) A personality oriented brand does not necessarily equate to successful results. Ask John “Maverick” McCain.” John McCain did not have a well-defined brand, and it hurt him immensely. Using the word Maverick over & over and attacking the competitor as your primary messaging does not constitute a brand. You could not download images from his site to spread the word (his competitor offered dozens of images to use and share freely at http://origin.barackobama.com/downloads.) He dressed Palin up, but that in itself was the shallow, glossy facade you describe, because when you dug deeper than the lipstick, heels and shiny suits, she did not have the knowledge or the grand executive experience they claimed she had. A strong brand REPRESENTS and REINFORCES quality & value for people who need a product, corporate or personal service. Combine beautiful imagery with a consistent purpose & all of the very important aspects of a personal brand you mention here and you have something that is tough to beat for a competitor, or ignore for a consumer or network. All things being equal, style will always be a competitive advantage.

    9.  by  Amod Munga

      “Your personal brand won’t build real value for the market – unless your personal reputation revolves around delivering consistent regular value to your community.” If people read one line in your post I hope it’s this one. It’s so difficult trying to get people and brands to realise that WII-FM (What’s In It For Me) is dead…especially here in South Africa.

    10.  by  Liz S

      Geoff – VERY provocative. I believe that value is at the core of the personal brand – i.e., value keeps your customers returning but lots of folks shop/are attracted by the personal brand first and then find value that forges the relationship (or doesn’t if it’s all smoke and mirrors). Does that make sense?

      One point you make that I don’t understand however, is that “messaging” doesn’t work online. If that’s true, then doesn’t advertising automatically fail in the interactive space?

    11.  by  DJ Waldow

      Pretty sure this says it all from my perspective:


      The big take-away for me on this one is that “personal brand” does not stand on its own. You need to churn out killer content, know your stuff, and listen/respond to your followers.

      Geoff – you’ve won me over.

      Viget Labs, huh? They are a client. Love those guys….


    12.  by  Lisa Young

      Why do we have to extricate brand from reputation? A lot of what I teach is about establishing yourself as a value provider, hence your reputation is PART and PARCEL to your brand identity.

      There are some great points in this post. I also believe strongly that throwing out the baby with the bath water, as it were, only makes the situation more problematic.

      People who make themselves indespensible are not losing their jobs – they’re making their own way. Even if companies collapse, they have other options they can pursue – thanks in part to positioning themseleves and having a great reputation for results.


      You can’t have one without the other.

    13.  by  Amber Naslund

      I have to chime in and say that yes, you *can* have brand without reputation, most especially through the web. You can build up scaffolding that has lots of flashy whizbangs, but little substance. It happens all the time, especially with individuals who are relying on their name and a few sound bites to carry them. It’s cosmetic.

      Geoff made a critical distinction between reputation and personal brand. Reputation is something you build and earn. To Rohit’s point, I think there’s a difference between personality and “personal brand”. The former is a facet of a complex personal and human presence. The latter can merely be a facade behind which those with a lack of substance try to hide.

      In some sense, its semantics. But Geoff’s point, if I understand it, is that a superficially contrived brand (complete with soundbites and stunts) is not a viable substitute for an substantive, business-minded individual that brings both value *and* trustworthy reputation to the table.

    14.  by  Frank Martin

      How in the world can one suggest that “personal brand” and “reputation” are distinct and different? Your personal brand, like your corporate brand is nothing more than a composite of your work and and your words and your persona – and you have some control over it, but not all that much, really.

      You have a personal brand, Geoff, whether you want one or not, and whether you like it or not. To me it involves motorcycles, bald heads, tattoos and a penchant for speaking your knowledgeable mind about whatever the topic is. A decision to change your image by growing hair will change only one aspect of that.

    15.  by  Tiffany

      While the whole debate here may be based mostly on semantics, I can tell you I’ve also grappled with the personal branding metaphor when it comes to social media, personas, reputation, etc. To me it boils down to this: the fundamental marketing metaphor personal branding as a term implies is transactional. I think a relationship-based metaphor that focusues on building community and creating value is more relevant to the goal that personal branding rhetoric seems to be based around.

    16.  by  Dan Schawbel

      OK, this obviously got my attention and although I think Geoff is brilliant and his article is very well written, I have to disagree on the thesis. My reasoning is simple; brands are built on results that have been achieved in the past, therefore in order to build a strong brand, you have to work harder at your job to deliver results that you can leverage for your next marketing pitch.

    17.  by  bender

      Geoff, I think you’re spot on. And Justin Kownacki in the comments captures it well with the idea that “brands” are singular in their POV and people are not (and that a singular POV is a negative.

      I think the key insight is that being a real person should be valued more highly than a brand. It’s inherently more interesting and easier for a consumer/potential customer to react with another human being than a big faceless brand. And the opportunity to do that is what’s new/interesting about the digital space/social media.

      And I totally disagree that this is a matter of semantics. It’s about what’s valued more in digital media.

      I covered something similar in a post called “People Aren’t Brands. Ever.” Some agreed, some thought I was dumb. Here’s a link. http://tinyurl.com/4rgrwr

    18.  by  Geoff Livingston

      A lot of great comments pro and con here. Not going to enter the fray, as I’ve said enough, and the ongoing dialogue is worth listening to. It is interesting to see the ones defending personal brands vehemently are the ones who propagate them as biz models a la manifesto 2.

    19.  by  Shannon Paul

      Bravo! This sooooo needed to be written. I wish I had more time to delve into this at the moment, but please know that I appreciate the sentiment and energy that went into crafting this post. P.S. Amber Naslund is also fantastic!

    20.  by  Lorraine Ball

      I completely agree, if you build your personal brand around your expertise as Chris Brogan has done, it becomes a tangible asset of your business.

    21.  by  Kellye Crane

      Excellent, thought-provoking post. I believe Geoff’s key point is not the different definitions of personal brand and reputation, but the underlying requirement for actually delivering solutions. As Rohit says, it works best when you have both brand and reputation, but as Amber points out, many personal brands exist without the underpinnings of substance. Take a look at the client lists of some of the personal brand A-listers – in many cases they are small-time or non-existent.

      While it may not be obvious today, I agree with Geoff that the day of reckoning is coming for some of the Internet famous, especially those who got that way merely because they got here early.

    22.  by  Mitch Joel - Twist Image

      So, I’m watching the conversation over here (and on my Blog about this topic) and felt it would be wise to post what I had written on my Blog here (warning… it’s long 😉

      A brand has always been about the collective emotion and attachment a group feels about a product or service. It’s the culmination of everything from the reputation and graphical representation to how the product works to how it is placed and perceived in the marketplace.

      These new online social spaces have empowered individuals to promote their personal brands (and, yes, every individual does have a personal brand). That being said, a brand is not an icon that only represents one, specific, point of view. A brand like Apple has many brand attributes (from creativity and innovation to style and lifestyle) as does Starbucks (a third space after home and office, a personal indulgence, higher quality coffee, expensive, personal touch, etc…) that collectively creates many emotions that individuals are attracted to (or not).

      The sad reality is that when most people discuss Personal Branding, what they’re really doing is using a nicer phrase for the words, “self promotion.”

      Most people talking about “personal branding” are not using these channels to expand their network and provide value to build awareness, trust and reputation. Most people use these digital channels to simply promote themselves. A real personal brand is not about self-promotion. A strong and substantive personal brand is about using these channels to communicate who you are and your knowledge to other like-minded individuals. In doing so, you are marketing yourself by adding real value to your business, demonstrating what makes you better (or different) and, ultimately, when done well should connect you to some kind of community (or even establish you as one of the leaders). In doing so, you should be able to expand your network of influence and visibility, and then (if you’re doing things ethically) have people who are interested in who you are and what you represent connect in a mutually beneficial relationship – as all great brands do.

      This will (and does) grow your business.

      Were it not for Blogs, Podcasting, Twitter, etc… you would have ever been able to tap into the knowledge and insights of so many sharp and brilliant individuals (each of them with very distinct personal brands). People like Geoff Livingston, Shel Holtz, Kate Trgovac and C.C. Chapman are using these channels in this particular way. In doing so, these individuals have built tremendously powerful personal brands. The sad part is that most other people talking about Personal Branding are simply using these channels to scream out, “hey, look at me!” and are doing it for their own self-centered benefit.

      Don’t believe it? Try connecting to some of the so-called A-listers from these social spaces. Now that they have used these channels to self-promote, score a book deal, get a speaking bureau to represent them or grow their business, they hardly have time to even respond to the exact people and channels who helped them get to this point in the first place.

      There were high hopes that these digital channels would bring forward individuals who would nurture and build powerful personal brands (and some have), but for the most part, it is still the same old “look at me!” These new channels and tools have made it easy and cheap to publish, so most are using it for the sole purpose of self-promotion. That being said, those who do provide value are making an impact on others and, in doing so, are setting a foundation of trust, reliability, value and growing their own business all along the way… like all good brands do.

    23.  by  Annie Heckenberger

      Amen. Let my work experience speak for me, not my number of followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook. I want to be known for doing the best work for my clients, not having most populated personal profile pages.

    24.  by  Stacy Lukas

      Great post. I’ve been thinking a lot about all this social branding hullabaloo lately and it seems like more people concentrating on portraying themselves as beautiful and unique snowflakes than they are actually preserving the snow they’re consisted of.

      Meaning, to agree with Amber Naslund, one can have brand without reputation, it happens more often online than not, I’ve seen.

      A brand is only as good as the product behind it. Personally, I feel if you concentrate more on the substance of the product itself, the reputation and the branding will come much easier, whether it’s yourself or an actual product-product.

      This idea might seem naive or too simplistic, but metaphorically speaking, unless you keep snow cold, it will melt, and all those beautiful and unique snowflakes end up melting together and all washed up in the end.

    25.  by  Paul Copcutt

      Fair point Geoff and great article that has stimulated a lot of comments not just here and even made a personal brand fan think a bit more. (Full Disclosure – I make a living from helping people identify what their unique skills and attributes are and to communicate them more effectively whilst being themselves = personal branding).

      It is always intersting to note that when something rises to a level of mass consciousness – which is where I believe personal branding is approaching then the opposite opinion appears as well. Great for debate and giving people more pros and cons to make an informed choice is always a good thing.

    26.  by  Yael K. Miller

      This post is obviously from the heart. As you say, “The difference between a good personal reputation and personal brands is subtle.” This post seems to me to be in some ways a post on terminology.

      What would you call a person who knows X very well, gives away free information on X, answers your tweets about X, and sells advanced information on X? If information on X is her business and she is the sole practitioner, is X her personal brand?

      If I was ever introducing that person I might say, “She is very into X.” This is how we introduce people in LA. It neatly sidesteps the issues of branding and reputation.

    27.  by  Craig

      I understand what you are saying, but can’t personal brand be tied in with reputation building as well? To a degree they go hand in hand and you could improve your reputation by establishing your personal brand. At the same time I agree that the average person doesn’t care about your brand or how it looks on a business model, they care about content, results, personal service.


    28.  by  Craig Fisher

      Geoff, fantastic post. Your points here are all valid.

      My perspective is a bit different as a headhunter. When recruiting a candidate, the better their personal brand is presesnted online, the more likely that person is to get an interview and ultimately a job.

      It’s not about numbers and popularity in most cases. Just a solid, strategic mix of personal and professional info that is visible and marketable.

      It’s the reality of recruiting these days.

    29.  by  Jennifer

      If I have a great personal brand but I waste my client’s money on bad lead gen efforts, I no longer have a great personal brand. With that client anyway. The companies that will sail in this economy are those that plan, execute and meausure and re-exectute solid mareketing efforts. Hopefully the people doing that for them are nice.

    30.  by  Jimmy

      Here are my 2 cents. Years ago I was consutling for a software company. I had a meeting at the Executive Office of the President to discuss a problem that this person’s office was having. This person had been marketed at countless lengths by different companies. His response to me when I was positioning my client’s product was that he did not give a __________ about the brand; he wanted something to solve his problems.

      Depending on the product you are marketing, personal brand is less of an issue. What should supercede personal brand is a crisp understanding of your customer’s issues and problems. People buy fixes, solutions, and things that help them.

    31.  by  Lisa Hoffmann

      Ironic that in a culture that promotes transparency and authenticity we are even discussing “creating” a “personal brand.” How can we teach others to do what we have clearly not yet mastered ourselves?

    32.  by  Trace Cohen

      Before I start, I just want to say that personal branding isnt for everyone. Personal branding is all about setting a goal, to be found on or offline for doing something better than the next person. Your reputation forms from “past experiences,” which is where personal branding comes in, because it is the process of putting yourself out there (where ever that may be) for everyone to critique (which they will).

      There are a lot of people out there who try to use personal branding to gain popularity and fame to get their moment on the big screen, but how can you build a reputation if no one knows you exist? All your past experiences mean jack if no one will acknowledge that you actually did them. The purpose of a personal brand is to create validity for everything that you have accomplished, giving yourself to the hungry people of the world to chew you up and spit you out. Maybe then someone will listen to you and actually care about what you have to say, but until you actually try, you will never know.

    33.  by  Valeria Maltoni

      Attitude and self awareness make a difference in the experience of someone/something. Period. The rest are details. Love the wheels 😉

    34.  by  Alex Hillman

      There’s no supplement for working your ass off. End of story. Your twitter followers and facebook friends are NOT going to do your work for you.

      That said, I <3 the cluetrain style dissemination of the message here.

      Lots to think about, both from the original post and in the comments. Thanks Geoff.

    35.  by  Daisy Wright

      Geoff, you have stirred quite a debate, eh? IMO, personal branding or reputation, is not the issue. What’s important is the ability to deliver what’s promised. Does Volvo deliver the perceived safety and reliability it’s known for?

    36.  by  Micah Baldwin

      Geoff you and I have spoken at length about the concept of personal branding.

      I still stand by my statement: there is no personal brand. There is only you.

    37.  by  JessieX

      Simply to add another perspective to the conversation, I believe strongly that personal brands are critical to the GenX mindset. Even if GenX folk don’t go around strategizing about “their personal brand,” or even know what the concept is, at a fundamental and deep level, most GenXers understand that their style, skills and crafting of their unique capacity to fill niche and gap problems is key to their success. They get that nimbleness and the ability to move on a dime when circumstances change equals success. Rare is the GenXer (born 1961-1981) who has faith that their job title or employer will be around long, so why trust such fabrications to hold their reputation? Better to invest in the self, trust the self, and communicate and bring the value of the value of the self to whatever situation is at hand.

      Anyhoo, I’m not trying to make anyone right or wrong in this rather intriguing conversation. Just to add a perspective that may explain some of the high-level passion on the subject.

    38.  by  Trace Cohen

      Just like Mitch and I’m sure many others, your post inspired me to write one of my own. I thank you for commenting on it and would like to share one of the responses we received based on yours.

      Hi Geoff!

      First, thanks for writing your blog post (http://www.livingstonbuzz.com/2008/11/06/i-dont-care-about-your-personal-brand/), which inspired our response.

      In your comment you imply that personal branding is self-centered, and you’re absolutely right.

      Why would I voluntarily work a job I hate? I’d be a fool not to align my working life with my sense of purpose and my passions – which is why I first got into personal branding.

      I’ve found people sometimes think that the very LAST step of personal branding, which is “self promotion,” is all personal branding is about. Actually, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Self promotion is useless – I would even say harmful – if it’s not based on a rock-solid foundation of self awareness. And self awareness is the first and BY FAR most important step in the personal branding process.

      Without self awareness, no self promotion could possibly be genuine. Perhaps you’ve encountered some folks who mistakenly proclaim they’re “building their personal brand,” when really they’re just shamelessly promoting themselves without understanding who they are. People like this violate the very first rule of personal branding: authenticity.

      Soul-searching, personal values identification, and asking yourself tough questions about your vision/purpose/direction in life can be difficult and even uncomfortable. It’s hard for many people to cope with the fact that where they’re headed is not where they actually want to go. Perhaps that’s why some people might skip past the first and most vital phase of personal branding. It can be painful.

      In the end Geoff, you’re 100% correct: personal branding is self-centered. It’s self-centered because its goal is to attract ideal opportunities (clients, job offers, etc.). But it’s also others-centered. Why is it others-centered? Because it makes it easier for those with a pressing need your services to find you and benefit from your expertise. In the end, everybody wins. Only by knowing yourself can you build a brand to attracts the people who need you most.

      Perhaps advocates of PB (like myself) have failed in our duty to make it clear that personal branding is useless without going through the genuine and difficult process of figuring out what drives you, who will benefit most from your expertise, and then making yourself known to those people as a credible solution to their problems.

      I hope that clears up any confusion, and best of luck! Feel free to reply and keep this dialog open.

      – Pete Kistler

    39.  by  Kris Rzepkowski

      Aha! I was trying to articulate what felt so weird about personal branding, and you gave me 25 great answers. Thanks for the great post, Geoff. Perhaps what is so difficult and new about personal branding is stepping away from value delivery on a daily basis and turning to communication of self. That part is so unnatural for many people that it becomes consuming. You actually spend so much time trying to communicate that you get distracted from the value you were adding in the first place.

    40.  by  Joe

      Ah, so now I know why you were so adamant on this topic over Twitter! I think one of the points that resonated with me most was the Microsoft/post Scoble example. If you put all your eggs in one basket, that can be the unfortunate result.

    41.  by  Ben

      So part of your personal brand is pretending you don’t care what other people think… that’s cool. Saying “the market — doesn’t give a damn about your personal brand.” means to me that you aren’t selling enough to see the echos in the marketplace. When you sell more, your perspective on this may change.

    42.  by  Bruce Post

      You stated, “Chris Brogan is always cited as the penultimate in personal brands.” Well, this is a personal bugaboo with me: penultimate actually means “next to last.” Many people use this word incorrectly. Therefore, I simply wanted to add a little edit to your fine comments.

    43.  by  Viqi French

      @ point #24 about John “Maverick” McCain…

      His brand persona didn’t convey that he would deliver the value American ‘consumers’ seek. Not enough of us bought into him being a good solution to our ‘business’ of trying to live better.

      McCain’s rally cry was, Country First. I think voters overwhelmingly said ‘F’ the country the way your kind defines it. Now, what’s in it for ME? You’re talking loud, McCain, but not telling me anything really new and sexy I belive will move me ahead.

      So, like you said: If you’re not doing anything great for ‘me,’ I’m taking my business elsewhere.

    44.  by  Mike Seidle

      Thanks for saying what needed to be said about personal brands. Everyone wants to be a rock star without writing and performing a hit.

    45.  by  yinka olaito

      You absolutely correct if all that is in personal branding is ego promotion, but i gues that is not all, although that has been overbloated by ambitious guy who do not know ‘how to’ of personal branding.I gues personal branding is about value accelleration and not just about value creation like kroontz etals enthused.

    46.  by  Joseph Manna, Infusionsoft

      I’ll have to disagree that personal brands are meaningless. Consumers connect with personal brands, figures and personalities. While people respect and initially attract to a professional brand, when they experience a problem, it’s a personal brand who saves the day.

      Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that personal brands are everything. Consumers still want a product or service that exceeds their expectations. However, when it comes to corporate communications, they want it to be authentic, sincere, passionate. People are tired of “Dear Valued Customer,” and they are tired of companies that sign their communications with no names. That’s where personal brands begin.

      I totally respect your views on it, but I believe personal brands have a place in every market. Especially now in a recession when consumers don’t particularly trust corporate brands.


    47.  by  Sean O'Neill


      How about thinking of branding (whether personal or corporate) in this current economic climate as it might pertain to new car salesman on the still (we hope?) new car lot. Do we really care in the end, what salesperson presents the best “brand” to the consumer?

      Shouldn’t we all be asking…do I really need to buy this car (brand) and if I do, from this company (brand)? Seems a bit of deck chairs (brand) being switched on the Titanic (brand). Should’t we be more concerned with looking out for the icebergs or at least designing hulls that can stand the elements?

      I see a lot of people focusing on building a brand to nowhwere? Isn’t that what facebook is all about and the like?

      Should we be focused on using our creativity to CREATE something that delivers real value..like income that is sustainable from a source that is intrinsically good. Should we be more active in looking over the horizon to see where our unique talents and personality have a place to land..and get busy building the LANDING?!

      Seems all this talk about branding is like a few million GM and Ford 4×4 being unloaded in a land without roads and no gas stations..!

      Thanks Geoff for your strong opinions on the insipidity of Branding!


    48.  by  Luigi Centenaro

      Great post and great conversation, but also odd: for me the Personal Branding essence is exactly in your 5 tips at the bottom!

      It is clear that the term Branding has a “Bad Reputation”

    49.  by  Chris Perry

      I agree with Luigi. I agree completely with your final 5 tips; however, I was under the impression that my personal brand was directly linked to my true and genuine value proposition (basiscally, exactly what your 5 final tips describe).

      Unfortunately, I think personal branding is perceived to be more and more of what you do online with social media and Web 2.0 tools, but I believe these just to be the channels of distribution for your personal brand. Personal branding, as it should be, are the messages you provide your potential or current employers in multiple formats through multiple channels describing, promoting and hopefully reinforcing your value proposition.

      I do care about your personal brand if it correctly and effectively represents how you meet my or my organization’s needs.

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    59.  by  Beth Harte

      I am not a personal brand, nor do I want one thrusted upon me. It’s TOO MUCH WORK and EFFORT. And I don’t have time for it because I have work to do for my employer and I am serving our clients (who, by the way don’t have a clue what my “personal brand” is & why they should care).

      We tell brands everyday that they need to “adjust” their brands to the market.

      Would you do that as a human? Because trust me there are a lot of people I’d like to let know that their “personal brands” lack substance, are idiotic, sophomoric and asinine. Do you think they’d feel the pressure to change themselves? Doubtful.

      The only people who are paying attention to “personal brands” are the ones who are vying for some of what they think others have. Think about it.

    60.  by  Davina K. Brewer

      Thanks to Beth Harte for the comment and tweet, I’ve been meaning to take a rant out of draft mode for sometime, will have to link back to this post. I’m not into the PB label vs. professional reputation, just suspect too much time is invested building up the person when the professional should speak for itself. FWIW.

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