Why You Can Forget About Personal Branding

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This is the age of the story. From storyboarding to “customer journeys”, from elevator pitches to personal brands to About pages, the web — and its creation — is rife with stories.

And now, says the99percent, those who work on the web need one, too. Forget that old resume: you, my friend, need a story.

That article provides tips for writing a bio — the first place, says author Michael Margolis, people look to find out about you in the “relationship economy.” Share a point of view, he says. Create backstory, incorporate external validators, and invite people into the relationship: “vulnerability is the new black.”

I don’t know about you, but this kind of personally prescriptive advice about getting ahead in the digital age is doing my head in. (And since telling stories is my job, that’s saying something.)

Isn’t “personal branding” about you? Isn’t it about being yourself? And shouldn’t being yourself be, well, easy?

If you felt a twinge of nerves on reading that question — if you secretly thought “But my clients don’t want me! They want Super-coder/The Incredible Designer/MakeMegaMoneyMan” — then maybe your bio, or folio, or latest Twitter update isn’t the issue here.

Maybe it’s time to look more closely at what’s at the heart of what you’re doing — your motivations for freelancing, for working with particular clients, for delivering great results, for setting the goals you’ve set.

Get to grips with the reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing, and you’ll have a solid understanding of your purpose. Then, whether you’re a cave-dwelling hermit or an out-and-out show pony, that “story” will automatically and necessarily come across in whatever you do.

The way you explain things, the “stories” you choose to relate, and the ways and times you choose to communicate will all inherently, naturally, and unerringly portray your “personal brand”. Your individual style and approach will cause you to seize certain ideas and discount others, and the resulting shape of your activities — which comprise your “story” — will be unique, deep, and (that word we’ve all been waiting for) “authentic”.

Forget about trying to consciously improve your “personal brand”. You don’t have to change a thing, or be anything you’re not right now. Your current clients, colleagues, and contacts already love you and your work. They’re sold! Developing those relationships, and expanding on your current successes, is the best approach to building a business — and your “story”. Don’t you think?

Image by stock.xchng user spekulator.

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  • Ryan Blunden

    SitePoint, do yourself a favour and stop with the ridiculous blog post titles. I clicked through to read this blog post because I disagreed with the premise of the title only to find out it’s a great post about “your story” and “connecting”.

    Yes, I clicked through, but you insult my intelligence by trying to grab my attention with controversial headlines.

    • Georgina Laidlaw

      Hi Ryan,
      Er … thanks for your comment. Did you read the article? Or just the opening para?

      The “stories” mentioned in the quoted article are part of the “personal brand” and my post explains why you don’t need to worry about it. Sorry, I thought the title preempted the article pretty accurately…
      Georgina

  • Luke

    This article is of merit, but it’s like saying – “WEAR NO CLOTHES! – except for the ones that suit you.” Which is fair enough, but only really enough to fill this box I’m typing in.

  • Michael

    Hi Georgina – Thanks for referencing my article on the 99percent.

    I think we’re saying the same thing. I really appreciate you reminding people to just be themselves. So true. That’s one of the reasons why I created my curriculum The New About Me about personal bio storytelling.

    Most of us don’t know how to tell our story without either bragging or hiding. We’re afraid of being judged and rejected if we go open kimono. So for many, it helps to have a structure/format to guide the process. From there, one can adapt and riff as one sees fit. After all, it’s your story to tell.

    • Georgina Laidlaw

      Hey Michael,
      Thanks for your comment :) “open kimono” — nice. I think your article speaks to those who *want* to “tell” their story. My post aims to speak to those who don’t feel that need.

      We can succeed just as well by letting our work and actions speak for themselves. While some do want to actively tell their story, and as you say, want to learn to do so without bragging or hiding, I think just as many don’t. This article aims to balance the “personal branding” argument by support that position :)

  • Don

    This is really just a new twist on old wisdom. As any great sales person will tell you, the more transparent you are, the more you win trust. In today’s economy, where everybody knows somebody with their hat in their hand, I need to have a solid reason why I should go with you over my brother/buddy/college roommate/ex-coworker/etc. By sharing yourself, I get to know you, and you will slowly work yourself into the same category as the brother/buddy/ etc.

    The problem for many of us, of course, is there is a reason why we aren’t transparent…skeletons suck…

  • Alexia

    Hi Georgina,

    Love this piece! I totally agree with what you’re saying. I just posted a Youtube vid on this yesterday! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUmJV3pYKyE

    As a personal brand coach, i always take people back to what they’re about and why they’re doing what they’re doing. And I ban elavator pitches – nothing is more soul-less and un-engaging. I help people to find their stories – not just stories to help bring their bios alive, but their bigger stories. Their life narrative. Your life narrative can often be self-fulfilling so it’s worth having one that takes you to somewhere you WANT to go. But how many people take time to STOP and THINK about what they’re about and where they want to be? That’s often the most important question that needs to be resolved before getting distracted with “personal branding” .

  • Leo Brown

    Really nice article…Thanks for sharing…!!!

  • Daquan Wright

    Absolutely, I don’t believe there is anything more powerful than injecting your own soul/personality/persona into your brand! I’ve done a lot of research here, and when I start blogging, I’ll be sure to do just that.

  • Robert Smith

    We all know someone who can’t tell a joke. This is like an entrepreneur who wants to sell something to someone. Specifics are lost, the focus is lost and everyone he encounters will be lost as well. When you carefully structure your brand and carefully structure the stories that reflect that brand listeners will focus on you and your punch line (bottom line).