It seems like you can’t go anywhere these days without hearing the latest buzz words, “Personal Branding”
Seriously, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t mentioned in at least one – if not more – of the freelance writing newsletters you subscribe to.
In my email this week I learned that MediaBistro has an online course titled “Brand Yourself” coming up in May, although I haven’t taken the MediaBistro course, so I can’t really comment on it.
In fact, we’ve talked about it in the past here on TWE, and in our Forum as well. However, the concept isn’t unique to travel writers though – it’s everywhere.
Case in point: Last weekend I met up with a friend for lunch, and her just-turned-13 year old daughter joined us.
As her mom and I were chatting, this slightly-over-indulged techno-tween, who had been engrossed in her new iPad, suddenly interrupts declaring “Mom! Nobody has the website that is my name! Should we get it?”
Since I know how sensitive 13-year old girls can be, I did my best to remain calmly neutral and let her mom handle it…..”What do you want that for?” mom asked…..daughter: “I don’t know – maybe someday I’ll be famous“…..mom: “what will you be famous for?“…..daughter: “I don’t know, maybe I’ll just be like Paris Hilton and be famous for nothing“……
I kid you not. It was hard not to laugh while her mom explained that, because she wasn’t born into a wealthy hotel-chain-owning family, it was unlikely that she’d ever get famous for just standing around posing for pictures or going to parties.
I guess 13 is not too young to start thinking about developing a personal brand, but the point of the story is, you really need to be known for something, if you want to be successful at branding yourself. Unless, of course, you were born into a wealthy hotel-chain-owning family.
So if you’ve been thinking this issue over lately, or even working on creating your own personal brand, here are some things to consider if you want to be sure you’re focused on the right things for optimal success:
First ask yourself these questions:
- What do you want to be known for (or as)?
- What are your goals? Really, all of your goals.
- Do you care more about the byline or the paycheck?
- Do you really want fame? For example, some people crave the spotlight, others shy away from it. You may not give a hoot if anyone ever recognizes you, as long as your site earns enough for you to live (and travel) on. Others don’t care if their site makes a dime or not, as long as they’re well-known and loved by all.
Some of the most successful, money-making geniuses on the internet you’ve likely never heard of – that’s because they sell a product, not themselves. It’s much easier to sell a product than it is to sell a person, until you’ve put in enough time and effort into it to become your own product.
So if your product is expertise at some subject, it’s easier to sell that expertise. Somewhere down the road, fame will follow by default, as your expertise becomes so well known that people associate your product (expertise) with you.
There’s more to consider
- It’s very hard to become truly famous just for being you, unless you do something that is unique or just much better than anyone else does it.
- Not everyone will click with your personality, even if they love your product.
What does that all mean?
Does that mean I’m saying don’t try to brand yourself? Absolutely not – there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be well-known, and for some folks it’s worked out really well – I’ll bet everyone reading this has heard of Rick Steves, Steenie Harvey, Arthur Frommer, and Christopher Elliott. And they accomplished what they did before the benefit of cable TV made household names of many others.
I just think you should really think about what you want to accomplish, and focus on accomplishing that by being consistent in every facet of your online presence about what you’re trying to brand.
Editor’s Note: Akila brings up a great point in her comment below, about the fear of brand dilution, and I felt it was was worth adding my thoughts in the body of the post so they won’t get overlooked:
“What can dilute a brand is an inconsistent identity when you’re promoting yourself – for example, let’s say a blogger has the (hypothetical) blog called “Travelingwithmydog.com”, tweets under the name “DogTravels”, has a Facebook page under his personal name John Doe, is on MySpace as John&Dog……well who could possibly connect all those and recognize a brand from it? So once one has settled on a brand, that should be consistently used whenever one wants to communicate or promote the brand.”
If Andy Warhol were alive, I believe he’d update his decades old but still applicable prophesy. I believe nowadays he’d simply say “In the future, everyone will be famous.”
Are you developing a personal brand? What steps are you taking?