“I am not a number; I am a free man.”
― Patrick McGoohan, The Prisoner
When I was first asked what my ‘personal brand’ was, I became so offended at the concept that I went full Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner (and if you understand that reference you are either approaching retirement age or are a massive sci-fi nerd).
I’m not a brand, I’m an individual and as such the thought of commodifying my personality sounded grotesque and a step towards devaluing my individuality. However, in hindsight, I couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Rather than commodifying your personality, it is a way of championing your skillset and advertising the value of your labour. This may sound like a very high-concept way of creating value for yourself but, in essence, it’s just how you say, “This is what I do, this is why I’m good at it.”
Semantics aside, we are all selling our labour: to our employer, to our clients and customers, even to our colleagues. Personal branding just happens to be the way we do this.
In times gone by, I would have shied away from making a conscious and intentional effort to position myself as an authority within my field and to laud myself for it. It’s not that I don’t think I’m an expert in my field, I am a damn good content writer and will prove it, but I viewed it as my job. I turn up every day and do the best I can because that’s what a payslip is for and, if I’m being brutally honest, I used to see awards and recognition as a bit of an insult. They were patronising and unnecessary. So, when did my mindset change?
Having spent years bouncing between in-house positions with start-ups that went nowhere, or dubious businesses that didn’t truly appreciate the value of content, one of my far too many moments of unemployment nearly, finally, broke me.
Now, I’m not a man to particularly brag about his accomplishments but if there is one thing I will fight you on, it’s about how good a writer I am (I know I’ve already said that, but it bears repeating).
So, whether arrogantly deluded about my own skillset or rightfully troubled by my lack of work offers in an extremely competitive, and often undervalued, field, I set about to take matters into my own hands. Suddenly, by simply sharing what I had done and was doing with my skillset, people became far more interested.
If you will allow me to take you on a tangent for a moment (I promise there is a point to it), I’d like to talk about punk rock…
For those of you who don’t have a clue about punk firstly, what have you been doing since the mid-1970s? And secondly, it is a musical genre and subculture that is largely built around a Do-It-Yourself aesthetic.
This applies to booking shows, recording music, and even creating your own hype through ‘zines and other forms of media and, as a 16-year-old, I was obsessed with it! Responding to an ad in a local music shop, I picked up a pair of drumsticks and spent the next 4 to 5 years of my life making sure my whole identity revolved around this.
Now, you’d think being a pink-haired teenager with average drumming capability would have nothing to do with a career path as a handsome, talented, and extremely witty content writer but when it comes to Personal Branding, I would urge everyone to be more punk.
By this, I mean that you should create your own hype, be your own champion and make sure people know what you are doing. Social media is an excellent tool for shouting about your successes and making sure you are seen. Personally, I like to utilise it to share my writing, both personal and professional, so that people can see exactly why I’m an award-winning short story writer that has a degree in Creative Writing and receives great feedback from clients for what he does for them. It also helps to express my personality a little bit, so people know exactly what they are getting when they hire me, off-beat humour, warts and all.
This is all well and good for the individual to get themselves out there but why would a business care about your ‘personal brand’? Surely, they only care about what the business looks like and how it is going to sell itself to potential customers. Perhaps, but let me let you in on a little secret. Personal branding is the new business development.
Let me take the fantastic Search Marketing Agency I work for as an example. Honchō has gathered an amazing collection of individuals together who are genuinely passionate about their roles and can help ambitious brands scale online through SEO, PPC and, of course, content.
I know this from working with these people, but you might not necessarily. However, every time one of us puts out into the world word of the exciting new things we’ve achieved whilst working at Honchō, people recognise what we are achieving in our fields and who we are achieving it for.
We know that people like to put faces to a name, and human psychology means that a personable, competent, and authentic person is far more likely to gain our trust and thus business than a cold, corporate façade. So, imagine if your whole team had strong personal brands. Suddenly you have a team of friendly, knowledgeable experts and a lot of people know about it.
I fully appreciate that you may remain sceptical on the subject matter, but the evidence speaks for itself.
How do I know this? Well, you’ve just reached the end of a 1,000-word blog post where I’ve taken you on a narrative journey through my teenage years and early employment prospects, where I established that I am a self-proclaimed sci-fi nerd and average punk drummer.
But, more importantly, you’ve ascertained I’m a damn good writer because you’ve reached the end of this entertaining and insightful piece, you know I work for the award-winning Search Marketing Agency Honchō, who are stacked to the gills with talented and passionate individuals, and that businesses shouldn’t see personal branding as a threat but an asset… and all because of my own personal brand.
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