Last week I spoke at the Integrated Marketing Association Summit at NYUSPS. The topic was how to tell if your personal brand was digital ready. It’s a talk I’ve given before that’s based on my e-book on the subject. Whenever I speak I invite the audience to interrupt me with their questions rather than wait until the end. My experience has been that sets the stage for a more engaged and lively conversation, one in which I can address the needs of a specific audience that I might not have included otherwise, in this case a diverse group of graduate students.
When we got into the area of how what you share on social media contributes to the story you’re telling about yourself, I was asked several questions about how I approached my own social sharing to tell my story. One young woman in the first row raised her hand and told me that I wanted to make an impact on people, I wanted to make a difference. She then clarified that it really wasn’t a question, it was a statement.
I took a pause and a breath and thanked her. It was true. That is part of what my brand is about. Beyond the marketing, the social media, the content and the personal branding, my desire is always to cause people to think and to make a difference in their lives. That’s why I teach and consult. It’s why I write.
When the talk was over, I couldn’t get what she said out of my head. Her remark had triggered another time I had been told something similiar.
It was my sophomore year in college and my psychology professor found me outside his office one day in tears because I had just broken up with my boyfriend and thought my world had come to an end. He was working with a personality assessment based on the colors you chose. He asked if I wanted to take it. At that moment I was seeking insight and answers so of course I said yes.
I don’t remember the name of the test or what happened to that professor, but I do remember how much it resonated with me at the time – enough to have kept the results he wrote with a black sharpie on the back of two half pages of yellow scrap paper all these years later and to remember where I had them stashed.
It was the first line that I was looking for; “needs to feel more causative and influential.”
I had to take a breath again. This kernel of what my personal brand is now has always been there, as far back as the young age of 19. I just wasn’t always conscious of it, perhaps sometimes running from it, and so did not always bring it into focus. But now here it was and clear enough for this student to recognize.
My definition of a personal brand is not something you make up out of thin air as you might for a product or service. It’s roots lie in who you are, what your overarching desires are and the unique gifts you bring to the table. Digital tools allow us to tweak that personal brand in real time as our desires and goals and career evolve. We just need to remember that a personal brand is never a destination. It’s more of an intricately woven patchwork quilt of everything that makes up you and one that you keep adding to. And when there are specific things you want from that brand – a new job, new clients, to be seen as an expert or influencer – you showcase that part of you.
But the core and the essence of who we are, what we need and what we are here to do never changes. If you’re like me you might forget what that is. Good thing I keep notes.
Photo credit: Littlelixie via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC