Stuck on personal branding? You must be lost.

Light Bulb Thought Blue

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.

Thought leadership
image from: Digital Marketing Today

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.

berra koston skateboarding berrics
Steve Berra and Eric Koston of the Berrics. from brolive.org

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.

3 Comment

  1. Thanks for writing this Steve. It was interesting to see your take on personal branding. I actually just finished up an interview with Gary Vaynerchuck, someone who has done an excellent job with personal branding, and I am sure he would appreciate this post. He has gotten to where he is today from hard work and dedication. He wants to own the New York Jets. That is why he wakes up every morning. And he will, one day, own that team. I do feel that personal branding is important, every message you send on any given social site plays into that. But at the same time, you are right, too many people live off their personal brand. My brand, who I am as Ricky Potts, is created through the work I produce. Let the work show who you are, nothing else. Good post Steve, and I like how you tied in a personal brand that you can relate to yourself. Thank you.

  2. I’m not going to take quite a contrary view, but I am going to take a slightly different view on it all.

    There are a few things I do really well; if I say so myself, I might be superior to others in just these few areas. I can write as much as I can on my blog and on my website about these things. I can rank at #1 for these things on Google, two of which I do.

    The problem is that people see these things and say “who’s this guy”? They don’t say “this guy’s done some remarkable stuff, let’s hire him”, they say “he says this, but since I don’t know who he is I’m going for big name company over here that might not be as good, but I know who they are and so does everyone else.”

    When you’re an individual competing against mega-companies, you’d best concentrate on building a personal brand, otherwise you’re never going to get any work. In your example above, which is a good one by the way, it’s still a niche market that’s populated by a lot of younger people who are savvy to the internet and all it has to offer. It’s also a niche market that loves individuality; that’s what it’s all about, skateboarding.

    Other markets aren’t quite as savvy, young, or open to new technologies; not in the area I work at least. So it comes down to personal branding, at risk of putting my image on my website, to try to encourage potential clients to at least give me a call and talk to me. Without it, I get no work, and I’m back to a traditional 9-5 wondering what happened to my big dreams.

    So, just because a lot of people you kind of don’t like (social media experts; you used the same term in a comment on my blog with derision, but I understand) say something doesn’t automatically mean they’re incorrect. On my other blog I’m currently posting a series on the topic of influence, which in a way is personal branding, but so much more in my mind. Sometimes it’s the best small or individual businesses have to work with to break into a crowded or antiquated market.

  3. It’s nice to find a good article. I really enjoy lots of the blog posts on your web site.

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