I am not crazy about the term “personal branding.” I think it’s cliché and overused (especially by self-proclaimed social media experts.) People spend all day talking about how they “need to work on their personal brand” or write blog posts about “the five keys to branding yourself.” You can probably think of a few individuals who do this sort of thing; maybe you might be one of them. Needless to say, talking about your “personal brand” is annoying (and blogging about it is a catch 22). But I don’t think it should be discredited, just reconfigured. What’s really important isn’t so much having a recognizable, personal brand, but having thought leadership in an area of interest to you.
To give you a better idea of what I mean by thought leadership I’d like to reference a well known figure in the skateboarding industry, Steve Berra. Steve has been a professional skateboarder for the last 19 years and over the last 3 years he has built a well known skateboarding website with friend and fellow pro, Eric Koston, called The Berrics.
Through the site, Steve has become the go-to guy for information about what’s happening in the industry, who’s riding for which company, which amateurs are the next generation of professionals etc. He has become a thought leader by doing many of the things that are stressed in blog posts about personal branding; offering great content on the Berrics site, interacting with fans, and being relevant and timely.
Steve and many others like him, have built their “personal brand” not by worrying about how they are leveraging social media tools, how visible they are, or what people find when they google them. They’ve instead focused on becoming leaders in the areas they are interested in. If there’s any one key to branding yourself, it’s definitely that. Be a thought leader, be the person people come to for information about something. When the people start coming, you’ll know you’ve succeeded.