I suspect that the personal brand movement started in earnest more than 10 years ago when Tom Peters published his book Brand Called You and Fast Company magazine wrote an article based on it. My post on the 10-year anniversary of the book at The Blog Herald, built on the concept.
At the time, it was in intriguing thought, especially for those of us who worked on creating and developing brands for organizations.
Those were the times when advertising and marketing budgets were still substantial, as were agency fees and media empires. Brands were invented and built up through sheer push – design the logo, have a big enough media buy, and talk it up in the press.
Peters proposed that people, too were brands. The presentation was new, but it was not an entirely new idea. On the personal front, a certain class of people and professionals have benefited from the idea of “brand” before it became the phenomenon it is today.
Aristocrats, captains of industry and celebrities enjoyed instant recognition and distinction. They were known for having created a new way of doing things, or for leading a particular project. Recognition came at a cost – the marketing budgets of big ticket movies, or the empire building of industry captains.
In both cases, the exclusive image recognition was the domain of that protected class. Protected because the representation was often the product of an artificial process – building an icon or a star meant defects and true personalities were swept under the carpet or hidden from any praying eyes. If you add the political arena to this conversation, you will then understand the whys of investigative journalism, the birth of the unions, and that of the paparazzi.
We’ve always had a fascination with the behind the scenes, the unvarnished angle, the story that contributed to the façade. Fast forward to today, and you have the democratization of self-publishing and self-expression tools, which have accelerated the networked effect of this idea of personal brand.
The accelerators to this process have been many, but fundamentally we can point to a couple of shifts. The experience economy, which followed the service economy, and the break-down in what used to be the work contract. I would also add that right now we’re in the age of disruption; everything that was proven and worked in the past is brought into question.
There is no job security anymore, and career is a much broader concept than any one job. It’s also not attached to any specific discipline or industry forever, especially when it comes to marketing, communications, and public relations. One could argue that customer support functions are also changing nature.
Hence the increased emphasis on personal brands. But parallel to this movement that Dan Schawbel calls Me 2.0 in his book written for Gen Y by a member of that tribe, there is another, more profound change taking place in the way we do business.
Crowd-sourcing, co-creation and co-working are becoming viable alternatives to the industrial, castle building age of organizing resources and work. Here comes everybody is very much a reality, even when dormant.
More than Gen
Y, those of us who are living and contributing to this change in the way we
work, this new information architecture for how to organize projects to get
ideas done, are Gen “Why”.
With social media, the tension between serving the needs of the individual and paying off the networked nature of how things get done is somewhat reconciled.
The me-centered conversation may not go away any time soon – we are, after all, human. However, some of the best practices that are emerging today are around service to the community, sharing, and giving. You can create a powerful personal brand using social media, but careful on how you go about that.
We’ve been talking about the power of conversation – as in two-way – also for more than 10 years. While there are some useful guidelines floating out there on how to build a personal brand, few welcome Me 2.0 as in Ego 2.0. I’d think about it more in terms of Us 2.0. How can we use our skills and experience to elevate not just our own status and condition, but that of those who come in contact with us?
We’re learning to build a personal brand in a Web 2.0 world. Will the idea of personal brand still be “in” in the Web 3.0 or semantic Web? Is authenticity online really authentic or is it the evolution of the mechanisms that produced stars?
Are personal brands leveraging their friends and colleagues for their own benefit? Can there be a common outcome? How does community reconcile with personal brand?
These are all important questions. I've been managing my own career since the beginning - across countries and languages. I can tell you the high road is not an easy one. Balancing your needs with the needs of others and the community can make or break your credibility and reputation.
I dedicate time and resources to help young professionals emerge - entrepreneurs, leaders, people with interesting projects alike. We've met some of those young talents here. Are you using your influence?
Read the book, learn about the tactics and strategies Dan recommends, but consider these questions seriously. And remember that with greater power comes greater responsibility, so handle with care.