Personal branding, self-promotion, self-marketing: call it what you want, but sooner or later it turns into a doubt, something to think about, a step to face in one’s working life, especially if you are a freelance professional.
Here’s my “Lesson Zero”.
Is it an inborn talent or can you learn it? How is it done? Perhaps you already do it without even realizing it?
Let me share my viewpoint with you, that little know-how of mine and… even some doubts.
Sooner or later, for a blogger and, in general, for anyone whose work depends on personal thoughts and/or one’s face and/or a product you totally identify yourself with (like a book or a work of art), it is important to take personal branding into consideration.
Am I doing it? Am I doing it well? Do I know how to do it? Do I want to do it?
My doubt about what I do and how for this “personal branding” thing, just came to me for the first time when a friend I respect a lot, and definitely the best in her field (she’s a nutritionist), told me that she really appreciated my ability of self-promotion.
And it comes to my mind, lingering in my brain every time someone repeats the concept.
I recently spent some time with another friend I have a high regard for (she created the graphics for In My Suitcase’s logo); we were joking and having some white wine with taralli, and she even told me that making some short videos on this topic wouldn’t be a bad idea.
So, the question came back: how come it seems I am good at personal branding? How do I do it? Am I aware of it or is it just obvious to me, just like reading and replying to work e-mails in the morning?
Do you have to become a product?
You’ve been working for years on the difference between people and characters, on the real essence of people in a world ruled by marketing…and suddenly you end up questioning yourself whether you’ve turned into a product.
Wait a minute, is this for real?
I think the fear to become a product, something vaguely fake, is one of the main aspects that pushes people to curb their “self-promotion” attitude, that is talking about one’s activity and advertising it.
Then, an important role is played by stereotypes accumulated over the years, with sentences like “let others tell you if you’re good/handsome/intelligent [add an adjective]”.
Not to mention the old, yet constantly up-to-date, lottery of human virtues, among which modesty seems to have always a place of honor.
I don’t mean the last two points should be ignored, I’m not saying the judgement of others doesn’t matter (because it actually does) and I don’t mean to say modesty is not a virtue (even if I think so).
I’m just considering that when it comes to personal branding, in my opinion, you are not the product, so you might as well “promote” it:
The product is what you do
The difference is quite remarkable.
You are a person, not a product. You are made of a complex mixture of things, experiences, feelings and hidden aspects you will never tell.
You are both good and evil. You will hardly be able to talk about all this and promote it and if you’ll try, trust me, you’ll fail.
In personal branding and self-marketing, what you promote is not Yourself but what you do (and, maybe, how).
The way I see it, if you don’t promote it, you are actually wronging your work and efforts along with the efforts of your collaborators, more than paying a tribute to the virtue of modesty.
Based on a weird anthropological nonsense, it comes even easier to talk about and promote the company we work for than our individual work, what we write, our art or intellectual works.
I know people very close to me who can talk you into buying a particular phone, computer, lipstick or pair of shoes in 15 mins, yet who are absolutely unable to promote their extremely high (and I mean REALLY HIGH) professional skills. I believe that the deconstruction of old stereotypes is key even in this case.
Personal branding: lesson Zero, homework:
Would you like to learn how to promote yourself?
Before registering to a course and attending lesson 1, do your lesson zero homework: repeat in front of the mirror (real or fictitious) that promoting your work doesn’t mean acting with vanity and conceit. Otherwise write it on a blackboard just like Bart Simpson.
Talking a lot and well about an activity you deeply believe in, even if closely connected to you, is just the first step towards getting others to believe in it too.