When Personal Branding Feels Obnoxious

Branding ‘yourself’ is not necessarily a new enterprise. The practice has been around for millennium helping to solidify the narcissistic endeavors of kings, queens and dictators across the globe. Now, with the democratization of the news agency just about ‘everyone everywhere’ can easily gain a platform to promote him or herself. So why doesn’t everyone do it? Well, no matter how good it sounds, turning yourself into a brand takes a lot of discipline and more importantly requires that you toss your ego to the curb. But isn’t that what it’s all about, you ask? Promoting me. Yes, but promoting yourself can be tougher than you think. No matter how much a person believes in themselves and their ‘right’ to stake their claim in whatever industry or category they feel they excel in, promoting oneself can feel ‘yucky.’

I had a chat the other day with a girlfriend who is a big deal in the beauty industry and I asked her if she did any on-air work on behalf of her brand, then wondered out loud if her mega company was ok with that type of potentially self-serving publicity. ‘Look,’ she explained, ‘I actually had this type of activity written into my KPIs. I now get graded on how well I serve the company as a positive voice in the marketplace.’ Smart girl. Smart company. Rather than worry about her using their brand to advance her own career the beauty behemoth was savvy enough to recognize the value of her voice proclaiming its virtues and leadership position via the media. 

Conversely, I sat through a conference recently where the supremely entertaining and wise main speaker seemed downright embarrassed to promote his books and leadership training courses. For goodness sakes, if he didn’t believe in his own work how were we supposed to believe in it? I don’t think he had low self-esteem - it’s just difficult to promote yourself.

Here’s the thing. Personal branding is hard, mainly because it’s personal. But it can be incredibly rewarding, catapulting a career forward and bringing loads of satisfaction in the process.

But if you’re going to follow this path you do need to leave your ego at the door. I know this is going to sound counterintuitive but try not to take yourself too seriously - while taking yourself incredibly seriously. This is a tension point, but you have to live in the tension. Personal branding is massively exposing, and you, all of you, is now on the firing line. You will never survive if you don’t learn to take it all in stride.