Building a 'brand' around yourself – not your company – is a topic I speak about quite often. I will be chatting it up again tomorrow at the MSPC's Executive Women's Networking Group in North New Jersey with some of the area's most successful women professionals. So, while I'm freshening up my thoughts on the topic, I wanted to have the same conversation with YOU.
The first point of contention is that a 'brand' is something that in today's aggressive business environment seems to be a volatile commodity. Brands can quickly become hot or cold in the eyes of consumers both because of actions from the 'brand' or external factors unrelated – or uncontrolled – by the brand. For example, Apple is a global company that sells electronics and operates a digital merchandise store. Above and beyond the company structure and product line, Apple is undeniably a brand who's name alone conjures strong thoughts and opinions with consumers. Some consumers love the brand unquestionably, some consumers are vehemently against 'all the brand stands for' and some consumers flip flop back and forth depending on their personal experience with the products or any big 'news' that goes public (such as the stories on the sweatshop factory environment in China).
A 'brand' really isn't dictated by the company itself, but only acts as a guide to shape the public's perception of it. A brand is birthed and lives in the mind of each customer or potential customer. Is that something a person can risk?
Next, since a company can be sold, doesn't that mean a brand can be sold as well? Years ago +Chris Brogan had mentioned that he can't ever sell his blog because, well, it's his name (and therefore the brand he's build around his name). That one idea has stuck with me all this time and to be honest, scared me a bit. Yes the content of the blog – or a company – can be sold, but it is extremely difficult to transfer the perception of a personal brand. What happens when that personal brand you've no longer reflects where your future is heading? Chris is bigger than the ideas and experience that build his brand ten years ago, but the public might not evolve in their perception on the same timetable. This above all else is what I think about as a solopreneur – the fact that how others perceive me (my 'brand') does not always or accurately reflect my quickly changing professional goals. Is a personal brand transferrable?
Lastly, if building a personal / professional brand around a person is strongly successful, what happens to the work or the company that the person is employed at or represents? Most people know me as +Lynette Young (or my Twitter and social identity of "Lynette Radio") – not my company of +Purple Stripe Productions or my partnership with +Faucet Group.
+Scott Monty comes to mind with dilemma specifically. I had known of Scott before he started working at +Ford Motor Company (technically he and I worked at the same boutique marketing startup but at different times) but right now in a lot of people's minds, Scott = Ford. I happen to know he's a huge Sherlock fan and runs a great blog on the topic, but most people don't bother 'digging' that far. Now, while I'm pretty sure he's not leaving Ford anytime this century, what happens if he did leave and work for another 'brand'? The person has a much easier time recovering from the switch (Ford would be just fine…Scott's build an amazing team there) than the company does in my opinion. Sadly, I don't feel the new company will benefit as much as they might think they will by snagging themselves a strongly personally-branded 'superstar'.
When a company sees a superstar 'brand' rising in their ranks I've seen it swashed – or even fired. What happens when the 'me' is more influential than the 'we'? Are jobs at risk?
These are all discussion points and not necessarily answers – every person and every business situation is different. Even the definition of a brand is up for debate. So, how do you feel about building a brand around YOU?
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You know, I own my domain names (i.e., christinecavalier.com, etc), and often wonder if I should write under that domain. But now I see that sticking with PurpleCar is a better idea, at least for now. So that's one insight you've delivered to me on a Monday morning.
The other thought I have: I suppose, if you have a good social media-slash-community manager at your company, a bit of personal branding + association is going to happen. The fact that Scott=Ford is a testament to how well he does his job. No-one forgets for whom he works. That's freaking amazing. He's no amateur.
So, perhaps companies shouldn't fear so much when this strong association does happen, and instead look at it as a hiring decision gone completely and totally and wonderfully right.
+Lynette Young – any tips or ideas when a troll intentionally tags you and tries to impact your brand or reputation?
Reading this brought Virgin's own Richard Branson to my mind. I cannot think of Virgin without thinking of him, especially the airline. To me, he is the company. He is the brand for Virgin. He does an amazing job at branding himself and the company. I often wonder if Virgin could stand alone without him as basically their ambassador. They are taking a huge risk by having one man determine how we see Virgin.
I think its equally important to brand yourself as well as the companies you are working with, for or creating. While you may not be able to sell YOU as the brand, you actually do "sell YOU" simply because who you are, even with the changes and growth, reflects your history. It is your resume but in the digital world, your resume is a living document, meant to change and hopefully grow.
That's similar yet different than the companies you may represent. Both are expressed publicly but one reflects you and one reflects the company. If you're fortunate enough where the lines are blurred between your brand and the company brand, that's usually a good thing. And…as things change, your personal presence will change more rapidly, typically, than the identity of a company which should hopefully be following a long term vision and strategy.
I think there is significantly more downside in NOT building a brand around YOU rather than having one.
Positively thought provoking. I've personally always felt that while building your name is important, it should never replace building your brand, or brands. Then from the technical aspect there's building your site, its PageRank, authority, content, etc. I don't believe it is wise to ignore any one of these factors. Thanks for your insights on this.
When I went out on my own, the question you asked Lynette was a critical question I asked myself. I saw the limits of personal name-brand businesses and the fact that they are not readily transferrable. In management consulting, my domain, it is not uncommon for people to brand with their names. It has been that way for years. But that makes those same businesses very difficult to sell or transition to a new generation. Many struggle to do this and die off, or disappear altogether.
That said, I also know that a large part of my present success is the quality of the work I do, the help and support I provide, and the network of relationships that I build. So, whether I want to or not, I do need to steward my personal brand, too. And that is how I chose to approach it. My personal brand is me and I work to make sure that I tend to that and make smart choices about where and how and with whom I affiliate myself. My business brand needs to be big enough to invite participation by others and eventually be able to represent a broader range of people's hopes and desires (certainly if I want to grow and have employees—which is the direction I seem to be heading). At the moment by business brand and personal brand are symbiotically linked, but over time I will be one of many in service to the business brand, as I maintain the integrity of my own personal brand.
What a great question you shared. Thanks so much!
+Jody Raines – ah, the ol' reputation management. That's a touchy one actually. For example I get many offers to 'work' with people only because they want a coat-tail ride on what I've build up around myself as a brand and professional. Then you need to weigh the benefits to both you and them…
When you are dragged into a situation unwillingly or deceptively (like a reporter that takes your quotes and frames them in a very unflattering way…) I feel you need to get vocal and fast. Go to the place you're tagged or written about and post your own version and make it extremely clear you do not stand with the situation.
For example, I tagged a few people in this post and they may be completely ticked off I brought them up in this context. I'm not doing it to slander them or infer participation, but if they contacted me I would redact their names. If I was a jerk about it, these people should totally call me out on the carpet for it! <grin>
+Paul Hepperla great points. What I think of in situations like that is my mom. Yep, my mom. She's an inside sales / customer support person about three years from retiring (I think). She doesn't need a public 'brand' but only to make sure those within the company she works for (and the customers she deals with) know her as a strong employee. Brands don't have to be public or digital, which I think a lot of people assume because we live in such an online environment.
What is the individual is a malicious troll, +Lynette Young ? Posting videos as vile as to suggest they are eating your dog. I don't want to give any credibility by using my name and linking it. Can I petition Twitter, Facebook, Google+ to remove links or ban the person?
+Jody Raines yeah, that's more trolling than trying to associate with your professional brand…. I'd take it up with the powers that be and report it. Read the platform's TOS and see what exactly you can zing them with. I would also (obviously) ban them yourselves and petition friends to do the same. I should note that has nothing to do with a professional brand but a person – BIG difference. Good luck!
Looks Interesting 🙂
It sounds like it is important to have both a personal brand and a name brand. This puts even more pressure on parents to give their children unique names! I guess I hit the marital jack-pot with my last name. Unique and an unbeatable scrabble play.
cool sirname +Jeannette Bezinque 🙂
Good point +Paul Hepperla "I think its equally important to brand yourself as well as the companies you are working with, for or creating"
I have approached marketing over the past 50 years the same way..We became our Companies and vice versa.
It is a bit different in the cyber world….
Never really focused energy on "rankings" etc. Online side of Business seems to naturally flow organically, mostly through referrals
Yep. That's my biggest regret: developing chrisbrogan.com , which can't be sold. 🙁
Well, it could, +Chris Brogan – you just need to make your name a household word… kinda like "Kleenex" or "Frigidaire" or "Bandaid". LOL!
How about buying a new website and switching it all on to there and make some changes… just an idea not sure if you will appreciate it or not … +Chris Brogan good luck sir
Hi +Jody Raines added you if ok 🙂
+Jed Lloyd – I own other domains. I don't own years and years of google juice. : )
me too im kinda newbie I guess too … I can make websites, html , css and I make designs and things too. But not yet making any money online…. gets frustrating…. nice too meet you anyhow +Chris Brogan I like the site looks good
Interesting discussion. Made me think of my very successful cousin who is a real estate broker. Years ago, she bought a successful real estate company from another broker. It bears the name of the former broker. I asked why she didn't change the name to her name and she said because the brand and reputation was already established and she didn't want to rebuild it. She bought the name and the business. So it seems you can sell your name/brand if you wish and there's a buyer who finds value in it. 15+ years later, the real estate company is still going strong despite it's namesake not being in the business any longer – and the more recent poor real estate market.
Broganville FTW 😉
I'm so sad I missed your presentation! Many of NJDM Bloggers commented on it! Looking forward to attending it in the future!
+Claudia Krusch thanks! I am alllll over in the next few months either speaking or training on the topic. Hope to catch up soon!