Most of the time entrepreneurs and marketers are able to separate themselves, at least marginally, from their companies and their brands. Even in today’s landscape–where people care just as much about what the country of origin for a company’s CEO’s running shoes as they do the products created by that CEO’s company–there can be space.
But what if there isn’t? What if you are your own brand?
We’ve talked before about the importance of being genuine. For your personal brand to be successful you have to make it about who you genuinely are as a person. Trying to build a brand around the person you wish you could be or the person you are trying to be is just exhausting. Eventually that will fall apart.
Resign yourself to consumerism. As Judith Sills points out in Psychology Today, to brand yourself is to essentially turn yourself into a commodity. You become something that you put out into the world for other people to see, judge, consume. It isn’t just about the work; it is about you. This can sometimes make you feel like you are giving up a lot of your humanity and even, sometimes, integrity.
It’s also important to prepare yourself for a loss of privacy. Even if you are a niche brand, people are going to feel like they have a right to every part of you.
This is because, in today’s society, people want to know exactly what it is their money is going to do. Consider the Chick-Fil-A scandal of a year ago when it came out that one of the franchise owners of the openly Christian company was donating company food to a group that pushed an anti-gay agenda. Boycotts sprang up all over the place because people didn’t want the money they spent with the company to be used for purposes with which they did not agree (the same thing happened with Target).
This means that you need to set boundaries. So many people believe that if they want to create a brand for themselves they have to allow people to know or have whatever they want. This is not true! In fact, giving in to this could spell disaster for your brand later on.
In terms of smaller and personal brands, look at authors. Neil Gaiman has a very famous blog post in which he blasts those who insist that they have a “right” to demand certain types of work or that they have a “right” to have a say in the direction of an author’s creations take or even what a certain author works on at any given point in time. It’s even more difficult for people whose brands are built through blogs (like yours maybe) in which readers feel like they develop a personal rapport with someone based upon the posts they read. The fact that they have little to no interaction with the blogger on a personal level doesn’t seem to matter. They think they have influence or that bad behavior should be rewarded. “Unfollowed!” is somehow seen as a viable threat on Twitter when someone—whether it is a company head, brand representative or even personal blogger voices an opinion that a follower doesn’t like.
Instead, set boundaries from the beginning and build them into your brand. It is in your best interest that fans of your brand know that you do not want to be approached while eating or while you are with your family. It’s in your best interest that part of your brand be “no touching.”
The trick is to be consistent with your boundaries from the beginning. As soon as you give in and make an exception once, you risk having to deal with reputation problems later when you try to reinforce something you thought was there all along. Then your life becomes all about reputation management and repair.
Speaking of which, it is worth asking for help as you work to build and maintain your personal brand and reputation. ORM (online reputation management) companies like Brand.com exist- they specialize in helping people and companies with the new era of branding. Outsourcing work to them helps you stay objective and increases the likelihood that you’ll be able to fix problems before they start.
Building a brand for yourself is challenging, for sure. If you’re ready for it—use these tips to help you get started.
Name: Ivana S. Taylor
About: Ivana Taylor is the publisher of DIYMarketers.com – an online marketing publication that provides marketing strategies that help entrepreneurs and business owners get and keep profitable customers. She is the DIY Marketing expert and book editor for Small Business Trends and a contributing author to AMEX Open Forum. Her strategic consulting firm, Third Force specializes in helping companies find their best customers and be the one they choose – regardless of price. Ivana is the co-author of Excel for Marketing Managers. You can find her on Twitter as @DIYMarketers.