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July 13, 2011
How to Manage Your Personal Brand
Today there is no shortage of articles written about personal branding, but one has always stuck with me:  In 1997, I read an article in Fast Company called “The Brand Called You” by Tom Peters. He wrote:
“You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else.”
I remember thinking how much sense it made, but back then, the tools of self-promotion were primitive compared to the self-publishing possibilities of today’s social web. As always, Tom Peters was a step (or two) ahead.
I was reminded of this article today when talking to my niece, Katie, who just graduated from Emerson College in Boston. She is looking for a job in story development for either film or television. I asked her how the job hunt was going. I expected her to ask for help with her resume. The word “resume” didn’t come up.
“Well, I’m just adding the finishing touches on my blog,” she said. 
“So it’s a blog about what it’s like to be looking for a job?” I asked.
“No,” she said, “That’s too broad. I want to get my name out there, but I want to be seen by the right people, so it has to be a lot more specific.”
“OK, so it’s about film production?” I asked.
“Close,” she said, “but still not specific enough. I want the topic to reflect my career interests and to show up on searches that my targets are making.”
“So what is your blog about?” I asked.
“It’s called Novel Ideas on Film,” she said. “It’s about story development for films that have been adapted from novels.”
“I get it,” I said. “That’s pretty advanced; it should give you an advantage.”
“Not really,” Katie said, “everyone does it. My friend Jillian is into entertainment reporting. She just started a blog called CelebFoodie where she posts recipes either created or inspired by celebrities. And Tim, he’s into film, he has a blog called Why is this the best? and he is going through the American Film Institute’s top 100 films and providing his own take.”
“So the blog won’t really differentiate you that much?” I asked.
“Well, just creating a blog won’t differentiate me that much, but the content can,” she said. ”That’s what really matters. And of course I can use Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to publicize it. That will help give it some visibility.”
Now, Katie didn’t major in marketing, but listening to her explain her online strategy showed me that she had a solid understanding of several key concepts as they applied to her personal brand. Things like:
  • Brand identity
  • Differentiation
  • Target analysis
  • Inbound marketing
  • Content strategy
  • Target-centric SEO
  • Brand focus/specificity
  • Online promotion
  • Multi-asset web presence
I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that I spend a good part of each day trying to help experienced marketers put these concepts into practice with their companies’ brands. The biggest obstacle for many brands is that the marketers in charge lack a fluent understanding of these concepts and their interplay online. Concepts that, apparently, are second nature to any twenty-something theater major seeking employment. 
This is an unexpected offshoot of the personal branding bonanza:  It is unwittingly training an entire generation of people in the principles and practices of proper online brand management.  But what is it about this training that seems to make it so much more effective than the training received by many marketers?
I think it has something to do with the motivation to learn. Like many people who are unemployed today, Katie is faced with the challenge of entering a tough job market with incredible competition. She didn’t learn brand management to get a good grade or to manage someone else’s brand.  She is managing something infinitely more important: the brand of ME.  
That’s why I think it is a great idea for any marketer or prospective marketer to build their own personal brand. Yes, it will help you secure a better job, but the daily brand management, monitoring, and course corrections will also make you a better marketer. 
The good news for any marketer looking for a job today is that you can start building your brand now. I’d start by reading Peters’ article and thinking about my niece’s approach. Katie was only eight years old when Tom Peters wrote “The Brand Called You,” but after talking to her this afternoon, I realize that: a) Peters’ ideas seem to have gone mainstream among Millennial job seekers and b) his advice is more relevant today than ever. 
What’s your take on the personal branding boom? If you have started a marketing-oriented blog, please share it here in the comments and let us know how it’s going. 

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Sean Duffy is a founder of Duffy Agency, the digital marketing agency for aspiring international brands. Sean has over 25 years of experience working with strategic marketing in Boston, San Francisco, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. In addition to his involvement with Duffy Agency, Sean is a frequent speaker on strategic international marketing and online brand management. He serves also as Lecturer and Practitioner in Residence at the Lund University School of Economics & Management and as Mentor in their Masters Program in Entrepreneurship. Sean is an active member of  TAAN Worldwide where he has served two terms as the European Governor. He is also a speaker, bloggerTwittererand is on LinkedInWith offices in Malmö and Boston, Sean splits his time between Sweden and the States.

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