Personal Branding from 9-5

clockAt last night’s #u30pro chat we asked the participants to share professional obstacles that they’ve been facing, and then turned it over to the chat to discuss how to overcome these obstacles.

The final obstacle that we discussed left me with a few questions. It was about using twitter while in the office.  This person’s superior asked them not to.

This question forced the young pros that were participating to take a hard look at themselves in the mirror.  Few who have worked in an office can honestly say they’ve never peeked at their facebook, or twitter once in a while.

Then Meghan Butler brought up the “advantage of personal branding” for the company.  That’s to say that to build your personal brand benefits the company, and so it should be alright to do it on company time.

Now I’ve spoken about the battle between your personal brand and your company’s brand before.  In that post I said that your company’s brand should take priority over your personal brand.

This is different though.  It’s about company time.  Should employees be allowed to spend time building their personal brand, while they’re on the clock?  Should they be allowed to use social networks at all?

EDIT: To add to the conversation, Dan Schawbel just tweeted about a research report claiming “24% of employees have been disciplined at work because of social networking”.

My Problem with Personal Branding

Beard Branding

Personal Branding is misleading.  It is deceiving.  It focuses on creating awareness of your self and manipulating the perception that others have of you in order to make it seem as valuable as possible, regardless of whether or not you are in fact, valuable.

A harsh exaggeration? Perhaps…but while this may not be how everyone approaches personal branding, but by the Beard of Brogan! some certainly do.

Alliterative “Anchorman” references aside, lets look at Chris Brogan.  Now lets look at his goatee.  It’s magnificent isn’t it? It radiates success.  It’s obviously where he derives his power.

Therefore, if you were to grow out a goatee similar to that of Chris Brogan’s, you would obviously be perceived to have the same amount of value that he does. Correct?

Ridiculous.  That thought is completely preposterous but scarily relevant.  People think that if they fit the look of a social media expert (there isn’t one), slap “social media expert” on their bio, start regurgitating the things they read on other professionals’ blog on their own blog, communities and message boards, that they’ll have created a powerful personal brand and will be successful.

It gets even scarier when other companies or community members actually buy into that crap.

Personal branding is important.  It’s important to be consistently recognizable on platforms across the board.  It’s valuable to be recognized for your talents.  Your reputation is a vital aspect of your career.

My problem with personal branding is what many have made it into.  A shortcut.  A manipulative success tactic.  A way to make yourself look more valuable than you actually are.

Dan Schawbel, in a LinkedIn discussion on personal branding, said that “[your personal brand] should be determined by you before you even participate in a community.”  I think describing personal brands in this manner is dangerous, because it assumes you can choose your personal brand, rather than earn it.

The key to Personal Branding isn’t what you say about yourself.  If you provide value in your words and actions, and make it very easy for others to recognize that value, across the board of tools, communities and anywhere else you are present, you will have established a strong personal brand.

It’s not the beard that makes Chris recognizable, its Chris that makes the beard recognizable.

Ultimately, your actions will determine how your personal brand is viewed by your community.  To determine your personal brand before you participate in a community is to assume you can manipulate the community’s perception of you to be something other than a representation of your actions.  If you provide value, isn’t your only goal with personal branding to make your community aware of your actions?

It’s not your personal brand that makes you valuable. It’s you that makes your personal brand valuable.

Important Disclosure: yes I have a similar facial hair situation to Chris Brogan right now…but he obviously copied me…and I’m obviously just trying to get onto Stuart Foster’s next beard post.