Personal branding, like all concepts, has multiple levels. The visible level is the language used to attempt to adequately capture the theory: “Personal” suggesting “self” and “Branding” implying “promotion” and a “distinct design”. Combined, this points to the promotion of your individuality through a distinct design. This is where criticisms arise:
- “You are not a brand… don’t package yourself”
- “It highlights the problems with capitalism: people are forced to present an image that does not, in some way, tie into a pervasive consumerist culture.”
People have issues with the idea of “pigeonholing” yourself. Clearly, criticisms of personal branding parallel statements that humans are complex and cannot be ‘branded’ as it makes us ineffective and inauthentic. I couldn’t disagree more! Humans may be complex, but so is the social, economic and political environment that we are currently situated within. Personal branding does not seek to “zip file” and archive your personality, rather, it asks what are the stable traits, your past, your values that make you unique? Then, it transforms these in a way that allows you to engage, critically leverage this, to bring greater salience across to all areas of your life.
So, I cannot deny that humans are complex individuals. Our emotions fluctuate throughout a single day and our beliefs evolve over the months, years and decades when we learn from our mistakes. But, some parts of us are transient, while others form a part of our core identity. Personal branding interrogates your core identity and reminds us, in a modern world of distraction and overwhelm, who we really are.
Don’t compromise your fundamental values – ever. People love people who know themselves.Boss Businesswoman Emily Kucukalic
When I sat down with the lovely team @Brand New You, they devised a set of strategies for discovering and building your Personal Brand. Emily K, the Managing Director at Brand New You suggested five tips and elaborates on each in turn:
- KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS. We use the VIA Character strengths survey. It is free, was developed by real psychologists (don’t start me on the expensive, poorly researched tools that are sold) Penn State and the American Psychology Network. It takes about 15 minutes and then it ranks the 24 human character strengths for you. When we work with clients, we use this as an input into developing their personal brand. You can try it here – https://www.viacharacter.org/pro/bny/account/register
- TRANSFORM MINDFUL TO MEANINGFUL. In the world of 2020, we are less tolerant of self-indulgence. Look for meaningful conversations. Seek to change others and be changed by them. Listen, learn, connect. But do not cancel.
- BE MORE AVERAGE. This is from Keith Johnstone – considered the father of improvisation. Don’t try to be clever, you will trip yourself up. Don’t try to be funny – you will make people cringe. Be more average. Be you! Others are much more likely to connect with you. When we connect with others – we are open to them.
- DRESS PROPERLY – COSTUME MATTERS. It has been easy lately to turn to home clothes. But what we wear both projects our strength and psychologically impacts our own performance (I have stat after stat to support this). Humans are very visual creatures (the largest part of our brain is the occipital lobe – what we see with) and they are informed by their eyes. Costume helps a great deal in this. One can only wonder whether Elizabeth I would have been such a powerful regent had she flopped around in sweats!
- BE AWARE OF YOUR NEGATIVITY BIAS. Humans focus on the bad feedback, the person who doesn’t like them, the one time it went wrong. We are meant to do this because we need to be focused on the lion, not the gazelle. But you need to know this. I think that this is one of the things that men are better than women at – not focusing on the one bad thing, rather seeing all the good. So DO NOT focus on your bottom strengths. Know what you are weaker at and rely on these strengths less.
Your personal brands evolve as you change with time. We learn, we change, we grow, and the evolution of a personal brand is a reminder of how far you have come. But your signature strengths and your fundamental values which form the core of your personal brand will stay the same throughout your life. So, in the words of Emily, “don’t compromise those – ever. In the workplace, in our personal life, in anything…People love people who know themselves. I have never suffered in my career when I owned a mistake and did all that I could to fix it.”