Brands have meaning. Just think about names like Nike, Starbucks, Whole Foods. Without saying anything else, the names alone evoke certain feelings in each of us. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, we have an instant emotional response to many brands. The same is true of personal brands. Whether you know it or not, we all have one. Now, I’ve never met Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Eli Manning, Clint Eastwood, Kim Kardashian or Madonna, but I know enough to have an opinion of each of them. And when their names are mentioned, I react similarly to how I do with more traditional brands; I have an almost instantaneous emotional response and I’d bet you do, too.
That’s because people in the public eye work hard (often with the help of teams of PR professionals) to curate their personal brands. They share information that helps build a persona that people will react positively to and don’t share things that won’t help them grow their brands. Sounds obvious, but it’s not easy.
What’s interesting is how two different people in the same situation get treated differently based, in my opinion, on their personal brands. Case in point, I was listening to the radio the other day and heard two songs back to back: Cee Lo Green’s “F U” and Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass.” Both feature the “F Word” but in the radio versions, they’ve simply changed it to “F” and actually self-censor themselves by saying/singing the word “F.” What’s interesting is that the radio censors allowed “F U” to be sung by Cee Lo repeatedly but bleeped out Nicki singing “Somebody please tell them who the F I am.” Again, she didn’t swear; she said “F” but the letter got bleeped. I believe that’s because of the persona she’s created and how it differs greatly from that of Cee Lo, where he’s essentially being allowed to get away with more…because of his brand.
Understanding this in terms of celebrities, politicians and CEOs is easy, but what does that have to do with you and me? Well, I propose that curating our own individual brands is as important – if not more so – than those of the big shots.
What’s unfortunate, though, is that so few people do it, especially those in job-seeking mode. Yes, you want to show future employers a bit about your personality, but they don’t need to see keg stand pictures and posts of “Let’s rage, BITCHESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!” on your timeline. Having a email address like firstname.lastname@example.org might have been funny for your college boyfriend, but it’s not the best one to send your resume from. Whether on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or dozens of other platforms, there are countless examples of people not paying attention to their personal brands and it’s working to their detriment.
I’m all for having fun, but if you want people to have that instant, positive, emotional reaction when they hear your name, then make sure you spend the time to curate your online world.
And if you have any experiences to share – or if you disagree – please let me know.