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The Paradox of Personal Branding

The idea of developing a personal brand is definitely coming up more in conversation of late. A personal brand is a reference to the public perception of an individual’s identity. It includes how people perceive our personality or our associations with specific concepts/ideas.

There’s no doubt that people have a personal brand (whether one acknowledges it or not). People have branded you. This means that when people think of you, they think of specific attributes. In addition, when specific words or ideas come up in conversation, people may bring you up if they feel you embody a particular concept in discussion.

The common question I have been getting lately is “How do I develop my personal brand?”

Here’s my paradoxical answer: You can’t, but you can.

Here’s what I mean…

A personal brand is developed when there is more than one person involved. The concept of a brand implies that there is one perceiving the brand and one communicating or embodying it. This means that developing a personal brand requires more than just you.

Therefore, I recommend that you take your focus from working on your brand to working on your work. Strong brands are created and sustained because of the quality of the work that is produced. In a day and age of Yelp, user-reviews, and blogs, a brand that does not produce quality will not survive.

I think too many people work way overboard in developing their brand without focusing enough on what they’re actually hoping to create. Take away the quality of work or your quality of life/character, and you will have a weak brand. At best, you will only possess hype. I often think of this equation:

Quality of Work x Quality of Life/Character = Brand

Want a strong personal brand? Keep producing the kind of work that people will appreciate and tell others about. Resist the urge to simply mass market yourself. If you do, you’ll just come across as just that…a self-consumed mass marketer (and you know how we all love those folks).

Branding is paradoxical. Platforming yourself won’t last. Focus on your work and allow others to develop your brand. Think of someone you would consider to be someone with a strong, positive personal brand. Why do they have it?

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Charles is the CEO & Chief Idea-Maker at Ideation, a brand innovation company that specializes in helping businesses & organizations build remarkable brands via innovative business design, organizational change architecture, brand integration, design, web, and marketing services. He is also the author of Good Idea. Now What?: How to Move Ideas to Execution, a practical book designed to help people move ideas to implementation. Charles is regularly invited to speak to leading companies and organizations on topics such as creativity, innovation, idea-making, and branding. Executive leaders from brands including Wells Fargo, Toyota, The White House, Catalyst, William Morris Endeavor, mun2, Council of Urban Professionals, Chick-fil-A, and many others have benefited from having Charles present at their key events.