What Exactly is Personal Branding, and Why Should You Really Care?

Since the turn of the millennium, the field called “personal branding” has gathered momentum and is now causing major buzz amongst both entrepreneurs and traditional employees (in other words, everyone who’s out there earning a living).  More and more people are realizing its tremendous power for enabling career success.

So what exactly is personal branding?

Personal branding how we convey our “unique promise of value”.  Like corporate branding, it’s about creating (or discovering) messages, figuring out how to articulate those messages, and then getting out there and communicating them. But unlike corporate branding, personal branding is about promoting people instead of organizations, products, or services.

We’re all familiar with corporate brands like Nike’s “Air Jordan” basketball shoes (products), the information technology firm, Accenture (services), and IBM (products and services).  The Catholic church and Al-Qaeda (organizations) are corporate brands, too!

But what about you… are you a brand?  Whether you know it or not, you already are.

William Arruda, a personal branding pioneer and the founder of Reach Communications (the world’s leading personal branding organization), calls a personal brand one’s “unique promise of value”. Tom Peters, an American business management guru, was one of the very first to describe (in a 1997 Fast Company magazine article) how in order to achieve success, we must harness our personal brand power.

Since antiquity, people the world over have branded themselves whenever they’ve needed to persuasively communicate their value:

  • Remember that time back in college when you wanted to become President of the Intramural Sports League?  Did you not (by self-reflecting and talking with others who knew you well) extract your leadership strengths, think about how you’d express them to League members, and then do so at meetings and other events?
  • Or how about when, as a member of your local school’s Parent Advisory Council,  you wanted to persuade your fellow parents to participate more in their childrens’ extracurricular school programs… did you not consider how you could be convincing, what you would say, and then step up and say it during Council meetings?
  • And surely you can recall that memorable (or forgettable!) first time you wanted to capture somebody’s romantic interest… did you not fret over your attractive qualities, plan how to express them, and then get out there and do your best?

These kinds of activities involve personally branding oneself in order to achieve a goal.

Traditional corporate branding often uses advertising which (because it can be intentionally deceptive) has made many of us skeptical about corporate branding.  Should we be similarly skeptical about personal branding?

Absolutely not!  Personal branding is built upon a bedrock of honesty and authenticity.  It’s all about integrity, communicating your deepest values, and following your heart – just as the world’s happiest, most successful people have always done.

So why should you care about personal branding?

Few things are more effective than personal branding at comprehensively equipping you for a successful career.  Whether you’re a traditional employee or a fast-footed entrepreneur, it holds the key to advancement and opportunity. Developing, executing, and maintaining a personal branding plan – under the guidance of a qualified personal branding consultant – may well be the smartest career move you’ll ever make.

Paul Raworth Bennett (Founder and Principal of NOVA Career Strategies) is a résumé expert, LinkedIn consultant, and Reach-certified Personal Branding Strategist (who was lucky enough to have Susan Chritton and Kirsten Vernon as his instructors).  If you want to star in your own career, Paul would be happy to connect with you via the NOVA Career Strategies website, his Twitter account, or through his LinkedIn page.


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