Thanks to the wonderful contributions of personal branding trailblazers such as Tom Peters, Dan Schawbel, William Arruda or Peter Montoya, personal branding has been slowly but surely entering the mainstream. Today, we can fearlessly assert that personal branding is here to stay and that millions are called to benefit from building a solid brand (using both online and offline approaches) that withstands the test of time and has a major impact on their personal and professional lives and those of the communities they live and work in.
Like any other popular idea, personal branding is subject to misconceptions that distort its nature, limit its scope and generally present a picture that does not correspond to the actual reality of its process and/or outcome. Surveying personal branding posts and materials on both sides of the Atlantic, these are the three misconceptions I believe need being addressed more pressingly if we are to offer a more balanced and sound picture of the reality of personal branding.
Misconception #1: personal branding is for everybody
Although personal branding is entirely democratic and everyone is welcome to test it and try it for their personal and professional development, the claim that ‘personal branding is for everybody’ rings hollow due to several mutually-reinforcing reasons. First, not everyone likes the idea of building a personal brand or is ready to put the time and effort necessary to make it happen; secondly, some people are afraid of ‘standing out’ and ‘being successful’ and voluntarily choose to remain an unknown brand (and this is a choice we must respect); last but not least, there are yet others do not perceive the need to engage in personal branding and find themselves content at their current station in life (those with ‘permanent jobs’, if such a thing still exists, are an example).
Be it as it may, the fact remains that in practice personal branding is for discerning, committed and success-hungry individuals. And let us not mislead ourselves or others believing these constitute anything other than a sizable minority. Take a cursory glance around you to check the validity of this claim.
Misconception #2: personal branding is all about careers and career development
Careers and career development are an integral part of personal branding and I am sure that many of you turned to personal branding initially as one of the best avenues to kick-start your careers and get out of your current job predicament. Understandable and this is, the fact remains that personal branding goes well beyond careers, job-finding and the improvement of your work situation and encompasses the integral development of your career and your life.
Building that brand called you asks you to reflect on your values, your goals, your spirituality, your contribution to society and many other elements that must work synergistically and are crucial to the underlying nature of a balanced, forward-looking and durable personal brand you can truly feel proud of. Your career, to be sure, remains a crucial element in this mix but it would be short-sighted to identify it with your brand. And, as of today, we have countless examples of people who have built successful brands for purposes other than their career development (focusing on personal interests or achieving personal goals like George Clooney or Bob Geldof being the most salient).
Misconception #3: personal branding is a technique
This misconception is perhaps the most insidious of them all, since it cheapens personal branding and turns it into a reductionistic, tread-of-the-mill set of principles and guidelines that can be applied unholistically and with total disregard to the context and realities of people’s lives.
No doubt there are many recommendable offline and online techniques, approaches and best practice recommendations that together form a body of knowledge and principles included in every personal branding toolbox. Yet personal branding goes once again well beyond that. Personal branding is an adventure: the adventure of your life. No technique or theory, no matter how useful, will ever cover the entirety of our lives: for not only are they always a work-in-progress, but with each and every one of us moving ever forward and new problems and situations presenting themselves as society and technology evolves, techniques are constantly being outdated and in need of tuning and renewal.
I invite you to join me and the thousands of others who are taking part in this adventure and share the joys and the sorrows of personal branding with those of us who are looking forward to a better ‘us’ and a better world.