People normally pull a sick face whenever anyone mentions the two words “Personal Branding.” It is a gross phrase. Really gross. But you can’t ignore it’s power, especially it’s pull in the industry. Look at YouTubers or top fashion bloggers: everyday youngsters who have built up huge power houses and now rival magazines that have been around for hundreds of years. New digital brands, like Uber or Air B’n’B take over, while old brands like Woolworths (RIP) die a death. It’s never been easier (for some) to build a brand online that feels like it’s been around forever. It’s also easy to forget old brands easily too. Old brands need to keep relevant. Even Google had to freshen up that logo recently. We expect upgrades, as consumers we don’t like complacency, but we don’t like too much change either. I’m sure if Ikea changed their colours from yellow and blue we’d flip our lid.
I’ve always been into the idea of building your own brand. Without really realising it at the time, I have built up this blog as a brand, honing and crafting the things I like and the things that make me me. People take the piss out of people who bang on about it, though. This is such a thing as taking the whole branding thing too far. Those people you overhear in Starbucks who say stuff like “I can’t possibly stay in a Travelodge, Kate, it does not align with my #PersonalBrand.” Personal Brand Snobbery is a thing, and that’s not healthy, or to be applauded.
Having a brand does not mean acting like everything in your life must be controlled or constantly “on brand” – we have lives to live. It’s just as simple as figuring out Who You Are and What Makes You Different and selling it in to people. And I actively try and stay away from talking about personal branding in a grim “corporate jargon” type of way – trust me I’ve been to enough talks by rich white guys called Tony who tell you to “Believe in the brand of YOU!” and “Be The CEO of Company Me. Inc!” I hate those bullshit books. I hate jargon of any kind. I do not like it when people say they will “circle back to me” or “jump on the line”. I’m a person! I swear! I like emojis! I don’t want to talk about evergreen editorial ecosystems. OK, maybe a bit.
I feel strongly about the idea of building your own brand because without one I think it’s easier to get swept aside. To be ignored by accident even if what you’re offering is really really good. It’s not so much about solely “building a platform” because I don’t think having a “good” personal brand is about the number of followers – it’s simply having one that matters. A consistent, strong, authentic personal voice and collection of work that can be discovered or shared. I see how important it is when employers who get 100000 CVs that all look the same have no idea how to pick a few out from the crop. If one of them stands out because that person has their own THING going on they are instantly more interesting. Having your own side-hustle means something really valuable these days. It also allows people to find out a little more about who you are. I have a theory: if you don’t put things out there, no one will know you exist.
The thing is with personal branding is that people assume they have to construct something perfect – something that they think they should be. That they need to sit down with a big piece of paper and marker pen and dream up ideas of what their ideal brand should be. That they have to storyboard their Instagram feed. But this should never be the main focus. The main thing to remember is that you are YOU. That is pretty much it. That you visually or verbally build a space that reflects who you are and what you’re good at. That’s it.
Personal branding is a fancy way of saying “here’s how I will make you remember me when you’re looking for someone to do the job.”
The point is that no one else is you. No one else knows what you know from your perspective. No one can write your book. Or tell your story. Or do it like you. The hard part is making people listen, or look up, or remember you. You.
Build a personal brand. Not someone else’s. Yours.
Reflecting on this, I remember this lovely excerpt I listened to recently called “Being Bill Murray.” It gave me warm and fuzzy feelings. So I wanted to share it with you.
A journalist asked Bill Murray: “How does it feel to be you?”
He responds: “I want to suggest that we all answer this question right now. What does it feel like to be you? It feels good to be you, doesn’t it? It feels good because there’s one thing that you are, and you’re the only one thats you. You’re the only one. We get confused sometimes, well I do, I think everyone does, and we try and compete, and we think “dammit someone else is trying to me be”. Try and feel how much you weigh in your seat right now. The parts in your bottom the parts in your feet. Try and feel your own weight and our own seat and your own feet. This is me. Then there’s a wonderful sense of wellbeing that begins to circulate from top and bottom, right down to your spine that makes you feel good and smile and that you could embrace yourself. So what’s it like to be me? Well, the only way we’ll ever know “what it’s like to be you” is if you work your best at being you as often as you can. Keep reminding yourself – that’s where home is.”