An interesting post at The Buzz Bin touched on some issues I've been thinking about for a while. In "I Don't Care About Your Personal Brand,' Geoff Livingston outlines why he opposes the idea of developing a personal brand. His post is aimed at people working in the online space, but his points apply to anyone. You should read the whole thing, but this is the part that caught my eye:
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.
This gets to the core of why I have never jumped on the personal branding bandwagon, despite having flirted with the idea for a while. In the end, I'm much less interested in having my clients focus on their 'brand' than on the value they can add to potential employers. Value-added is simple, direct and focused on the employer. Personal branding is something broader (to be sure value-added is a part of it, but not the only part) and seems to me much more focused on the individual.
In order to pinpoint a client's value proposition (exactly how he or she will help the company succeed) I use many of the same approaches as a personal branding consultant, but the focus is different - not the self-indulgence of me (the candidate) but the outward focus of they (the employer).
For a long time, I attributed my reluctance to jump on the personal branding train as something related to my background. As a Brit, I'm always a little uncomfortable with anything that smacks of taking oneself too seriously. But after reading Geoff's post, I see that it's not just that.
24) A personality oriented brand does not necessarily equate to successful results.
It's the fact that results (and actions) matter. Results and actions tell me what you will do for me. Results and actions tell me whether or not you will add value to my organization. Results and actions show me who you are much more effectively than any carefully crafted public image.
I know that many of my colleagues disagree, but for me, a focus on results will always be more effective than a focus on brand. After all, all products and services have brands, but how many of them deliver what they promise?
My personal favorite is my bank Chase, who tell me that 'the right relationship is everything' and then constantly leave me on hold for hours while they try to figure out why my online banking has gone awry one more time, leaving me yelling "THIS ISN'T THE RIGHT RELATIONSHIP!!!" as my blood pressure soars once again. (But they do send me the occasional Starbucks gift certificate, with a very nice message about how much they value my custom, so I guess that makes it all OK).
I can't help wondering how much better they would be if they stopped spending money on branding experts and fancy loyalty programs and instead invested that money in actually adding value to my life.
And in the end, that's my point. Instead of worrying about personal brands, I think people need to think about results and value-added. In some cases, with the right candidate and the right personal branding coach, maybe the two things converge anyway - but if you have delivered great results and made a big impact on prior employers, you really don't need to worry about packaging it in a nice brand message. It will be obvious to everyone.
And if you haven't, well a nice brand message isn't going to help you for very long.