Get Over Yourself & Build Your Personal Brand


Hey there. It’s Monday. Let’s play a game!

It’s a game where you get to watch your otherwise pretty cool friends and colleagues turn totally pompous in the span of five seconds. To play, all you have to do is talk about “your personal brand”. Then go into detail about how you built it, citing the hours logged blogging and sharing on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Sphinn, whatever. Really. That’s it. Do it and suddenly your friends will treat you like a social leper, making snide comments about how you obviously have too much time on your hands if you’re spending time on Twitter and worrying about things like your “personal brand”. HA! How sad are you?!

Last week over at Bruce Clay, Inc., Jessica Lee shared five reasons she sucks at building her personal brand. In her post, Jessica name drops a handful of social media sites she knows she should be developing a presence on, but (to date) isn’t. I assume her post means that Jessica is going to try and get better at her personal brand slacking (huzzah!), but I couldn’t help but notice she mentions two big reasons for why she’s admittedly behind the brand curve:

  1. She’s busy. It’s hard to dedicate time to building a personal brand when you have a 9-to-5 job.
  2. She likes her privacy.

Okay, these excuses need to go die in a fire. For all of us.

There’s a twisted belief that investing in your personal brand means that you either have no life OR you have an ego. Okay, usually we’re led to believe that it means both. But ignoring your personal brand is like ignoring social media or the Web, in general.

It’s a death sentence. We all need to wake up.

Alan D. Mutter, who teaches media economics and entrepreneurship at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California in Berkeley, published a post this morning advocating why journalists need to build their own brands.

In it, he wrote:

Given the steady fragmentation of the media, the growing paucity of jobs and the nano-ization of freelance pay, it increasingly is up to people who want to be journalists to take affirmative action to promote their work to build audiences they can monetize so they can have satisfying and remunerative careers. This presumes, of course, that said individuals have produced quality work, a subject covered thoroughly in any proper journalism program.

Hi. You may not be a journalist, but the same applies to you.

Due to the fragmentation of business, increased competition, and more niches to contend with, you need to create the audience you want to market yourself to.

Here, I’ll say it again.

You need to create your own audience. One will not magically be created for you.

You create that audience by creating a killer personal brand that elevates you to the top of your class. One that highlights your expertness, but that also constantly finds ways to put you front and center in your audience’s viewpoint. Because just like there are no Good Content Faeries to find and reward your good content, there are no This Person’s An Expert Faeries to drop you off on your customers’ doorsteps.

You need to do that yourself. And the excuses people give for why they simply “can’t”?

They don’t work anymore.

“I’m toooooo busy!”

Hey, I’m busy too. Between Outspoken Media, my work for sites like SmallBizTrends, trying to maintain and, you know, having a life, my days are pretty packed, as well. But I’ve picked the social platforms that are important to my business and my brand and I’m active on them. I’m not doing it because I have nothing better to do. I assure you. Sure, it helps that Outspoken Media offers social media services as well as the traditional link building services and SEO consulting so things like Twitter are part of my job – but, guess what, they’re part of your job too. And that’s what you need to realize. It doesn’t matter if you sell cupcakes on Main Street or if you’re a hair dresser down on River Street, social media is part of your job. It’s part of your business.

“But….but my privacy!”

I’m not telling you that you need to get on Twitter and start telling the entire world where you are one Foursquare update at a time. Nor am I telling you that you need to blog about your deepest, darkest secrets. But get naked, lose the “professional” social media account and create a personal brand that’s actually based on something and doesn’t whimper at the sight of criticism. The great thing about social media is you get to create your own character. You are the one in the driver’s seat who determines what content you share with the rest of the world, who can see what, and what you want to be known for. So, pardon my language, but just f’ing do it.

With the lame excuses out of the way, I’d encourage you to go read the post I wrote for Bruce Clay, Inc. last year on how to build your brand working for someone else. There you’ll find a good blueprint on how to build a personal brand by:

  • Acting like an asset
  • Picking your social media character
  • Bleeding it
  • Creating opportunities
  • Being everywhere simultaneously

Once you read it, go do it. Because it’s not those of us with personal brands that are the jobless egomaniacs, it’s the people who think they don’t need one.

A personal brand isn’t a luxury, it’s a living resume. Now get over yourself and get started.

Your Comments

  • Virginia Nussey

    So true. And I can say this as a recent convert to an “F privacy and let’s get naked” social media policy. I was afraid of letting my personal and professional lives bleed together because I worried that people’s judgement of my personal life could hold me back professionally. Really, the opposite is true. Letting people get to know the real me only makes me more in all areas. I’m encouraging Jessica in the same direction. The girl is awesome. What’s to hide?

    • Jessica Lee

      Thanks, V! It takes some coaxing for this little turtle to come out of the shell sometimes. But, I’m getting there.

    • Lisa Barone

      Having seen just a glimpse of your personal life, I really think letting people get to know the real V is in your best interest. And the same applies to Jessica. You’re both super cool, smart, sassy girls. Let people see it. It’s what’s going to make you stand out even further than you already do. And it’s okay, you can tell Bruce I gave you permission. ;)

    • Sarah Says

      As I have been managing my own business and personal Twitter accounts, it seems like my personal one is favored and my business one is neglected. It may be time for me to merge…

  • Kelly Kautz

    Amen, sister. I think it’s sad that those who suck at personal branding have to ruin it for the rest of us marketing consultants, who have to convince clients that personal branding is not inherently skeezy and self-aggrandizing. It’s just a necessary part of doing business these days.

    • Lisa Barone

      Agreed. People didn’t think creating a hard copy resume was an egotistical task, did they? Why is promoting your self on the Web any different than that? If you want an audience, go create one.

  • Jerry McCarthy

    Thanks for the motivation. Building a personal brand is one of my biggest hurdles because I’m a private person but in order to set precedence, you have to lead by example. How can I in good conscience tell a member of my team (though there’s only three of us) to broaden their horizons in social media if I haven’t even done it myself? This was part of our weekly meeting this morning. I made some bold remarks (for me at least) in regards to stepping up my social media game. So there you have it. This post is perfect timing. As always, thanks for the push!!! :-)

    • Lisa Barone

      One thing that’s really helped me get over that initial fear is the idea that, in some respects, you’re creating a character. It’s you, but it’s an amplified version of yourself. It’s about strengthening the areas of your personality that make you good at what you do and then being that everywhere. I think it makes it a little less scary and also provides a bit of distance.

  • Josh

    It doesn’t matter if it’s a potential employer/customer. People do research online before making a call/going to the store. You’ve got an opportunity to make a positive impression before meeting. So why not take control and tell/show others what they can expect. It’s a chance to stand out from the noise and be different, as hard as seems no two people are alike so all you gotta do is be you.

  • Jessica Lee

    Lisa, thanks for reinforcing the message. And giving me an extra kick in the pants.

  • Randy S

    Thanks for the post. I definitely struggle with finding the time to build my own personal brand… It’s difficult because there’s always so much to do, that if I’m going to do work after hours, it’s most likely going to be for work clients. I definitely need to take some time away from that (when I’m not in the office) and invest in myself, which in the long run is going to be good for my company.

  • Lisa Barone

    I’d argue that investing in yourself = investing in your business = investing in your clients. :) But it’s always hard to find time to work on our projects instead of the projects others pay us for. We all need to get better at that, myself definitely included.

  • Galen Rodgers

    Awesome post! I was just discussing this very topic with a couple of friends of mine, recently laid off, and they just couldn’t see the reason to do it. I think they just don’t know how or don’t want to take the time to do it correctly. It drove me crazy that these friends of mine were dogging on people who were building their brand and following their dreams. It frustrated me so much, I was compelled to write a branding post of my own.

    Thanks for the great article. I’ll keep following!


  • Samuel Lavoie

    Good post, should be a kick in the nuts for some people that can’t get over the privacy thingy. It’s like real life, you take time to go have a drink with friends at 5@7, social online is no different.

  • Nathan

    Building a brand for myself is not a new concept for me, but a concept that I knew I had to develop in order to achieve the level of success that I’m striving for. Branding ones self is as important now for people looking for work as well as online entrepreneurs. If you are serious about your business then using the various social media as part of your marketing tactic is very necessary. I found this blog on twitter so, it proves that using social media works.

  • Chillizone Ltd.

    Now get over yourself and get started. And this is the best part about Lisa Barone! I do believe that personal branding is necessary no matter if you are a owner of social media company or you have the restaurant at the highway… getting out and interact with customers and fans is not extra ordinary it’s the part of your job… this is what you are doing for living… it can be done best if you doing it with fun…and learn from your mistakes…

  • Pam

    Damn Lisa, you’re good! You indeed have flair, and I love reading this stuff. Slowly, I am figuring out how to implement some of this. Will be trying to do more so as I create a separate site for the speaking classes I hope to offer in the fall. Know anyone who hates public speaking? :)
    Thanks for all you do!

  • Lannon

    I reckon I’m going to take a blogging holiday! I owe myself more time! It’s funny reading this post, ’cause I have actually been thinking about this a LOT lately, even convinced my wife and a few of my friends to join the blogging world. My wife works from home, which can get a bit lonely, so she’s loving the ‘social interaction’ of blogging. Lots of fun and excitement ahead! :) DEFINITELY NOT a waste of time!

  • TC

    Great post, I have been struggling with the decision on how to separate my private and professional life for a while. But I kept coming back to the same questions every time “Should i separate them?, How much should my personal and professional life be combined and how much of that should I share even, to a potential employer? And to resolve the issue or at least in my head, any social media that i subscribe to, i make sure that i have two, one professional and one personal…not the smartest way of dealing with it. But being in the job market and as competitive as it is and also with the added pressure of Hiring Managers requesting your username for your Facebook/Twitter or LinkedIn it does pose some challenges to creating a true personal brand.