Is your Personal Brand more important than the Person you are?

I am getting back from a sabbatical & just started job hunting. But for the first time in my career of around 11 years, I have come across a unique challenge.

A world where it’s not about how much I know or can do but how well I am known. And this personal challenge also seems to reflect the world around us!

After the first two years of my career, I have never looked for a job. While at a job I got other options and finally when something was interesting enough, I decided to move ahead. I always have spent a significant part of my work life, in fact, almost daily, reading something about my field, and it helped. That’s what built my credibility. Post my first business Brandlogist, I worked on another startup, failing tremendously with my own money invested and then finally made some money with the acquisition of another startup.

None of this is relevant to you except for one thing. You wouldn’t know if I didn’t tell you.

The success of a business today only exists if there is a press release saying you it’s been funded or acquired. And we all know how accurate and reliable press releases are :-).

I remember of this classic case when a well-known startup was acquired for an ‘undisclosed amount’, which was actually around 2% of the funded value, i.e. the business managed to lose 98% of its value. But reading any newspaper or magazine would probably give you a whole different image.. a fantastic success story!

In my case, there was no press release about the acquisition.Well, because there was no press release about the time I failed.

Coming back to my story: I later consulted, continued to teach, and since I was interested in new things, studied a lot more. But last week while updating my LinkedIn I realized something significant.

Is my knowledge or expertise there because I have worked on it or because I have won an award? Am I good because you have genuinely seen some work of mine which is good or someone I have worked for who says I am good or because I make a LinkedIn video showcasing my beliefs without showing the business impact of those beliefs? Am I an expert in consumer behaviour because I speak at a conference on consumer behaviour or actually do projects or learn more to understand behaviour ?”

Frankly, those should be in sync. But I have experienced both sides — and I can assure you they are not.

One of my favourite books ‘fountainhead’ has a conversation where they are debating ( paraphrasing here): what is good work ? is it because it’s widely spoken about or it’s right in it’s essence? Does publicity for your work matter more than the work itself?

We have moved towards a society where it does.

Most marketers on my LinkedIn or even FB profile share more about their awards or speaking engagements rather than their actual work or a perspective on marketing. Similar with some startup founders — who share more about their funding than their businesses success or insights.
In the quest to make people brands, we are losing what makes them people-honesty and vulnerability, “not an image “.

And it’s not just not the professional space. Last year my newsfeed was littered with stories and comments on the ‘perfect couple’- Deepika, Ranveer, and their ‘perfect wedding’.And it’s not bad because it’s less important news, its bad because it’s incorrect.

Deepika,as a celebrity has herself shown that she is far from perfect and has actively spoken about it. But we, as a culture, insist on consuming the myth of perfection.
And it’s not the celebs who are at fault or the journalists who want to earn more page views. It’s we who are the foolish hypocrites. By putting unnatural expectations of any real relationship, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. And disappointment not in their lives ( remember Hrithik- Suzzane or Brad- Angelina) but more importantly, our own.

But perhaps far worse than we do to the standards we expect from our relationships, it’s the fact that by looking up at others we are constantly looking down at ourselves and forgetting to look at each other…as humans, not images, but flesh and blood humans.

I am not at all against branding or building a network; that’s what gets good ideas to spread. I have a problem when the focus moves from building your organization’s brand or network to your own. It’s become ridiculous to the extent where they are business owners whose life philosophies & goals are something we all know about, but we hardly have any knowledge about the businesses they run & how they plan to make it profitable.

The worst part is that not only is it forcing the more sensible business professionals to divert their focus from their business goals to personal PR but also that these self-obsessed individuals are becoming icons for the next generation of professionals.

What’s troubling and my reason for writing this post is that I realize that focussing on networking, attending conferences and applying for awards in short building a personal brand would have helped some of my projects succeed far more quickly. And not just work projects but even for not for profit projects like’ Honest Conversations’ or ‘Hum Saath’ building both would have been far simpler if we had better network or PR.

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Since I am in advertising building a brand is my skillset; just was morally opposed to the superficial nature of ‘treating humans as brands’.
The conflict here is that we are creating a world in which I as a professional and a teacher, have to focus more on the external than the essence. And that’s deeply conflicting because I know the external can be a lot of pretense.

Honestly between ‘progress’ and rejecting the culture, progress’ is a far easier one but I am genuinely not sure it’s for the better.

Saurabh is a teacher, consultant who also runs a not for project called ‘Honest Conversations’ & now that he is trying to build a personal brand you can find his updated details here Soon he shall come up with a video channel talking about building a personal brand though he may personally suck at it. But who long as he can sell the kool-aid.

Ex- Founder :Both B2C & B2B businesses | Teacher & Consultant-Business,Branding & Digital | Guest Author