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3 Personal Branding Myths (And What They Really Mean)

personalbrand socialmedia thoughtleadership Oct 28, 2021

Personal branding is a fairly nascent field if we look at the surge of interest in it. Although written about by Tom Peters in Fast Company in 1997, it is really in the last 5 years that we have seen a massive increase in interest in this topic, as well as academic research into its many facets.

As is with any concept as seemingly intangible as branding, especially a novel one as personal branding, there is an overall lack of clarity as to what personal branding is and what it is not. We decided to share some of the most common myths and to dispel them for you.

Myth #1: Building a personal brand means posting on social media

I bet you’ve heard this one. Want to build a personal brand? Start posting on LinkedIn! Go on Clubhouse! Do selfie videos – it’s the fastest way towards building a brand!

None of this is true. Without a doubt, social media offers us a fantastic opportunity to grab some attention and to self-market at scale. But that is exactly what it is: a marketing channel (one of many). When you uncover your brand (we prefer to say “uncover” rather than “build” as a personal brand is not an artificially-created construct), you might decide that your marketing plan does not even include social media.

After all, we know of highly prominent thought leaders – best-selling authors and global speakers – who are barely on social media and yet have unquestionably strong and clear brands.

Have you been hesitating about uncovering your personal brand because social media is simply not your thing? You’re not alone -  especially if you belong to the "Gen X" group. The good news for you:  personal branding and social media are not one and the same.

Myth #2: Everyone has a brand

“You have a brand, whether you want to or not, so you might take control of your own narrative.” Have you heard this or a variation of this? We do quite frequently. And again, this is a myth.

Everyone has a reputation - but not everyone has a brand.

Think of this in terms of corporate branding: the local convenience store might have a fantastic reputation. So does the local landscaping company. But do they have a brand? They might - but it's equally quite possible (often times even likely) they do not.

The same holds for personal brands. You have a reputation - but that does not mean that you have a brand. Developing (uncovering) your brand involves work: it includes development of your clear brand positioning and the core content pillars you own, for example. A reputation, on the other hand, is built whether we like it or not. It exists without our effort, and can be nearly impossible to transform.

And by the way, a good blemish-free reputation is not a pre-requisite of a strong brand (a sub-myth for you!). Think of the infamous Kardashians, for example. Their brand started in a highly-scandalous way (you might recall) but has since grown into a set of some of the strongest personal brands globally. Whether you support their brands or not, the strength of their brands today cannot be disputed, regardless of how they built them.

Myth #3: My interest in personal branding makes me a narcissist

“Who am I to have a brand? I am not a celebrity and I have nothing overly unique to contribute. I do want clarity and I want to make a bigger impact, but talking about having a brand makes me feel uncomfortable and attention-seeking.”

Regardless of accomplishments, experience or expertise, we hear this (very vulnerable) admission from so many people. It stems from us looking at personal branding through the countless accounts of lifestyle celebrities. We might follow them but we do not necessarily relate to the “look at me” way of living life, sharing every single aspect of it and naturally appearing narcissistic as a result.

We understand your concern. It is precisely why having a strong WHY behind uncovering your brand is the solution. If you are looking to gain clarity, then your focus and energy should be directed into uncovering your WHY first.

If you are looking to position yourself for a transition, then a personal brand is an excellent tool as well. If you are looking to uncover areas in which you can make a true impact – the key motivator of most of our clients at Brand of a Leader – then branding will be the right tool as well.

A personal brand is not an exercise in narcissism. It has nothing to do with chasing “likes” on social media, and it is not something that simply magically happens on its own. Personal branding takes work. It is a “set of your unique characteristics rendered into a differentiated brand story with the intent of establishing yourself as a thought leader, expert, or influencer in the minds of the target audience.”

It takes work to uncover what your unique characteristics are and it takes work to establish thought leadership - but once we do, the pay-off is immense.

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