the personal branding myth

Personal BrandingI’m tired of the personal branding shtick.

People are people. Brands are brands.

Are there people who are also simultaneously brands? Sure.
Madonna, Seth Godin, Lady Gaga, Warren Buffett, Oprah, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and many more.

If you can drop your name in that list and it not be a game of “one of these things is not like the other“, then I’ll agree that you are a personal brand.

For everyone else, you don’t need to work on your “personal branding”. You just need to maintain something called “personal integrity”.

Going all the way back to the original personal brand treatise by Tom Peters in the late 90s, most of the things that the personal branding movement tells you to do are the same basic social and communication skills you’ve been working on since kindergarten:

  • Be nice.
  • Treat people with respect.
  • Present yourself in a manner that causes others to respect you.
  • Do good work.

Do you have to adapt these basic IRL social skills for use in the business world or online? Sometimes.
Could you take tips from corporate marketing and brand strategies to shape the way you present yourself on paper and online? Absolutely.

But you can’t just sell the sizzle. People eventually want to eat the steak.

If you spend your time actually creating good content instead of worrying so much about the wrapper you put it in, I think you’d find that your “personal brand” would grow by itself.

the cart and the horse

We’re now on the other side of the curve. If your organization doesn’t already have a toe in the social media waters, you’re late to the game.

But just as “everybody” threw up an online brochure and said they had a website a few years ago, most businesses are just on a social media land grab without a real strategy on how to make it win.

Just because you have a Facebook page and a Twitter handle, it doesn’t mean you’re doing social media marketing.

True social media marketing success will not directly come just from creating your social media channels. Success will come from your customers and fans creating / spreading messages about the customer experience you provided.

If you get the cart before the horse and establish a social media marketing campaign before you are providing a customer experience that you want people to talk about, you may be putting bullets in the gun that kills you. Don’t help create your social media disaster.

Get your customer service house in order, establish the platforms, provide the marketing talking points, and your social media marketing success will happen on its own.

A positive customer experience is the true key to spreading your message in social media. (and offline IRL too)

three commencement addresses that are worth your time

‘Tis the season for people to sit in hot black robes and listen to vague motivational pomptitude (and circumstanitude).

Out there in the cultural zeitgeist, I think there are three commencement addresses that are worth your time. These three are good; not only for recent graduates, but also for anyone who needs some business motivation.

To satisfy the Apple fanboys, I’ll list Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address first. It consists of three stories, and I like the first one best. You never know what connections from the past will come together to create new ideas. Here’s the text of the speech or you can watch it here.

Conan O’Brien’s 2000 Harvard address is mostly jokes and very funny. (naturally) But it actually contains one of the best messages that a twenty-something or anyone can learn: Failure is necessary to succeed.
The quality of the video below is poor so you’ll find the text version is better.

The odd thing about Conan’s speech is that he gave it about ten years before the Leno / Tonight Show fiasco. It’s been his only commencement speech until this year when Conan is scheduled to address the graduates of Dartmouth. It will be interesting if he expands on his theme. (UPDATE: He did.)

“Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” was originally a 1997 column in the Chicago Tribune, but Baz Luhrmann reworked the column as a spoken word / musical track on an album. The track became a worldwide radio hit in the summer of 1999. It became an ear rut for me that year in my radio days. The lyrics contain many truths.

One of the final verses of Sunscreen pretty much captures the essence of all commencement addresses…

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

recycling ideas

I led a daylong training for the Executive Directors of the American Advertising Federation back in 2008 at the AAF National Conference in Atlanta. This was their imaging for the conference:
2008 AAF National Conference

Flashforward to the present where the Wired Business Conference is happening today.
Wired Business Conference

Maybe they’ll talk about unique and fresh design.