I’m almost afraid to use the term “personal branding” when I talk or write about it. After all, the meaning of the words: branding, marketing, communications, strategy, and others have largely been diluted due in part to their overuse and in part to how some people and organizations have abused their functions. In the show notes/blog post for today, I hope to explain what I mean when I use the term “personal branding.”

What is personal branding?

Most books and websites about personal branding or career development reference the following definition:

“Personal branding describes the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility, advance their careers, and build self-confidence.”

Although I think this is a good definition, I can never remember the entire thing. So, I define personal branding as simply: The process of understanding exactly who you are at your essence, what your values are, and how to put things in place to live as authentically as possible.

In my definition I intentionally use the term “process” and leave out the term “work.” I think it is important to look at branding as a process that never ends. In its truest sense, a brand is the collective sentiment held by others. Since that sentiment is always subject to change, the process of branding is never complete. This helps us avoid the pitfalls of feeling finished once we’ve printed glossy business cards, updated our resume, or attended a few networking events.  Also, I leave out the term work because I feel that one of the biggest misunderstandings about personal branding is that it is a process used exclusively to find employment or work-related opportunities. Personal branding is a tool that, when used appropriately, can help an individual find quality work experience, but also friends, volunteer opportunities, and a deeper understanding of oneself.

Personal Branding is NOT:

  1. Shameless ego-stroking and self-promoting
  2. Just a buzz word or passing fad
  3. An attractive logo, tagline, and/or elevator pitch

Why Does It Matter?

Personal branding matters for a number of reasons. Here’s a short list:

  1. When you truly understand your values you are more likely to make decisions and seek and discover opportunities that align with those values
  2. If you don’t know who you are, you can’t begin to communicate who you are to the rest of the world
  3. 5 in 6 adults in North America are considering changing jobs
  4. A strong personal brand can restore the security we once had in our careers
  5. You are more empowered to positively affect yourself and the people around you