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September 10, 2021

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8 min read

Why You Must Manage Your “Personal” Brand

At this point, it’s cliché to talk about your “personal brand.” Job seekers in a competitive market have been told to cultivate a brand. The age of social media encourages us all to brand ourselves so we stand out from the crowd. And, in the age of influencers and the gig economy, that logic seems to hold water.

We’re not wrong to feel that someone telling us to manage our personal brand is a little out of touch. Personal branding is so 2015.

But behind the fad is a fundamental truth: we all do have brands. And even if we’re not trying to reach the heights of social media stardom, we need to manage that brand.

Is Personal Branding Even Real?

At first glance, “personal branding” sounds like something made up. It encourages job seekers to put together awesome resumes.  It tells budding social media starlets how to grow their audience. In some ways, that’s not wrong—managing your personal brand can help you gain more traction on social media. Knowing your personal brand will help you with the job search and building your career.

But this is “surface level” branding. When people talk about personal brands, they think about LinkedIn headlines or keywords. It might be the profile picture you use across all your social media profiles.

Some people go a little deeper here. They connect the personal brand to the messages you craft and send out. You want to make sure you’re behaving and interacting in a particular way on social media. That way, your audience knows what they’re getting when you show up.

Of course, this is all kind of the window dressing of branding. Marketers can think of it as the leaves on their brand trees. Leaves represent campaigns and content—the visible part of what you’re doing.

But branding goes a lot deeper than that. If we run with the tree analogy, then we should also be asking what’s under the surface. The tree isn’t made up entirely of leaves, and we can’t see every part of the tree!

When it comes to branding—and personal branding in particular—we need to get past the logos and cute taglines. Those are the leaves.

Brands Have Roots

Let’s stick with the tree metaphor. We see the leaves, and they’re pretty important. Without leaves, trees can’t fuel themselves, so they die. Same with brands: without campaigns and logos, we have a hard time getting momentum for the brand.

But the most important part of a tree is actually buried underneath the surface, hidden away from us. Roots are vital to the tree’s survival. The roots keep the tree anchored in the ground so it doesn’t fall over. And they help the tree get water. Without roots, the tree won’t survive long. All those pretty leaves will shrivel up in short order.

The same logic applies to our brands: we need roots! If we only put campaigns together or design logos, our brands are not going to stick around very long! They might topple right over as soon as a competitor comes along. Worse, they’re not going to get traction with our customers. Like leaves, we’ll be scattered as soon as the winds of change start blowing.

So, like a tree, roots are the most important part of a brand. But what’s at the “root” of a brand?

It’s values and purpose. Purpose tells us our reason for being—why we’re here, why we’re doing what we do. And our purpose comes from our value structure, what we believe is important. Those values then help us steer and if we listen help guide our brand. They anchor us to the ground and provide confidence. 

Understanding Yourself as a Brand

Here’s the fun thing about this: we all have values. Your values were ingrained by the time you were 12 years old. And it is through your values that you see the world. How you were raised (parent values), what you believe in, and ultimately what brings you joy in your in life professionally and personally, links to your values and if what you are doing aligns. 

Those values guide your decisions in life. They help you define what is important or choosing close friends or activities. They help you decide whether you want to buy a house or live a nomadic life in a tent. They help you when you decide what brands you want to buy from. Do you want the best price, a company that cares about you, or an ecologically responsible product?

What matters to you? What do you value? 

These values form the roots of our personal brands and, yes, they are our subconscious guide to making decisions…rights from wrongs. And they are the framework when looking for a job.

And that begins with thinking about how you want to change the world – even a little bit. And then what would that job/brand/culture/organization look like that would feel like your ideal job. What would you be doing through that organization to deliver on your values? What kind of culture and unwritten rules exist AND does it support what the purpose of the overall company might be AND does it align with your own values? Does this company see people as their greatest asset? Does this role have benefits that are flexible enough to enable everyone to feel cared for? Looking at the culture and then what a company does really helps you understand their authenticity or maybe even clarity to their higher purpose. It shows you what they really value?

As an employee, you want to make sure your values line up with your employer’s. If you’re more concerned about customer care/satisfaction, you'll be at odds with a company that doesn’t. It’ll probably be a pretty miserable experience for you. You might get in trouble if you go the extra mile for your customers. If you don’t, though, you’ll feel bad for “letting them down.”

It would be a much better idea for you to find an employer who values the same things as you. If the company truly values their customers, they’re going to have policies/support that help you go the extra mile. You’ll feel more energized about doing the job, because you know you get to help customers.

Why You Have to Manage Your Brand

Once you’ve understood yourself as a brand, you have to learn how to present and manage that brand. Just like brands themselves can become misguided, we too can stray or misrepresent our own personal brands.

And if we’re not clear what our values are, we might end up buying from companies that are the opposite of what we believe in. We would feel terrible to find out they employ children in their factories.

When we don’t see ourselves as a brand with values and an essence of unique genius, we’re more likely to team up with companies that don’t reflect our values. We wander through careers and eventually job dissatisfaction begins to affect all other areas of our life including our health.  

This matters almost more if you’re a consultant or a contract worker or someone running your own business. Starting out you may need work, but as your grow in credibility and show years of business results, you may have the opportunity to choose who you provide value to. Those potential clients become organizations with brands and cultures that you see their purpose and it aligns with your own and you passionately help them drive positive change. 

Think of it as a linear line: your customer is ultimately buying your brand for a benefit but really are buying the values of your organization through that brand. And if you go one step or layer deeper, they are buying the culture or your own people’s values and if your employees feel valued, they work hard everyday to ensure that your customer feels that difference. It is alignment through the entire chain including the customer benefit. 

So, your employees must share your organizational values or your strategic house begins to get weak. I see this so many times as the vision of the originator is so far removed from the hiring managers and one step further removed from the employees who carry out the work that this “values alignment” chain begins to fall apart. And eventually your customers will feel it. 

How? Customer service calls gone wrong. Wrong sizes sent. Short shipments. Damaged products. A million and one reasons that are symptoms of the root of a much larger problem. 

You are your own brand. You can only control you, in how you build, market and represent your brand and the genius within. Make sure when you join an organization you understand if they understand their higher purpose – their movement. And then does it align to your values? Can you see yourself changing the world through their brands?

Is starts with your own “why”! And then understanding what their “why” is…not their what! 

And then it is all about simply “being awesome”!

--Margo

A little more about me. My goal is and always will be to inspire and create conversation!

I am a businessperson who has excelled in driving a competitive edge through marketing, strategy, innovation, building irresistible brands and unlocking the genius that exists. I am writing to inspire or create new consideration. If you have ideas or questions that you would like me to put a pen too, I would be delighted.

I would also be grateful if you shared this or any of the articles, I have written to inspire others

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