I have vivid, vivacious memories of maneuvering the middle school hallways with my trumpet case in tow, an awkward bang trim and mismatched converse sneakers. I remember shouting “have a serendipitous day!” over the loudspeaker at 2:50 p.m. as everyone rushed to catch their bus ride home. I remember the day I acquired one of my dearest prized possessions, second only to my password diary; a pink Motorola RAZR flip phone. I remember logging onto AIM at the end of the school day, obsessively catering to the “look and feel” of my profile, carefully caressing the font and color of the text, updating my personal quote for the week and notifying everyone that I was about to have ravioli for dinner that night. I remember weaving poetry in a wrecked journal. These were trivial, but no less tortuous turning points for the rise of my teenage self. I was on a journey of radical, righteous self discovery, and I was doing so right along with a cumbersome and digitally consumed world. I was on the path of constructing my personal brand.
What’s a personal brand? It’s simple, really. We all wear labels. These labels are projected and perceived by anyone who acknowledges us, whether we fly by the wall or drive a media frenzy. We have authority over how we present ourselves to the consumers in our lives: our parents, spouses, siblings, bosses, acquaintances, friends, and enemies.
We have the responsibility to renew and refuel our digital appearance with a certain flavor of character and charisma. We are judged and cast judgment ourselves. Truthfully, we aren’t left with much else than the autonomy to build upon and reform this capricious foundation, placing the pieces together and at times, completely refiguring the puzzle.
But let it be known, we are all walking, living, breathing marketing campaigns, with the power of a personal brand within us.
Let’s break it down. A brand is the portrayal of a value. It’s the effort to endear and evoke emotion, and the attempt to connect and imprint a lasting impression. A brand is the answer, not the question. It’s the exchange between the student waving their hand in the air and the teacher validating or denying their student’s questions. A personal brand isn’t derived from who we hope to someday become, it’s who we are today. But that’s not to say we aren’t a work in progress, because we are.
Personal brands are fragile and fluid, and they need to be cared for.
Ignoring our identity can result in a variety of unruly reactions. It will grow tired, bored, vapid and dim. Personal branding isn’t, and should never be solely for the sake of others.
A personal brand isn’t found in a registered domain name or a logo of our initials. It isn’t the clothing we don, the Pinterest boards we collect or our resume template. A personal brand can’t be bought, designed or marketed. The production of a brand doesn’t begin with advertising if it’s too unsubstantiated to advertise. A clean, responsive website and alluring Instagram feed are most certainly steps in delivering quality value, but those steps can never be taken without declaring what that value is first. You can’t bow for your audience without ever addressing your soliloquy.
Before sharing your website or finessing your Twitter bio, begin by exploring who you are, why you are who you are, who you never want to be and who you’re too afraid of becoming. Take a morning, or a weekend, or a July to learn about yourself.
We have to become the biggest advocates of our endeavors before anyone will follow along, and most certainly before anyone will believe in our brand.