Wrote a little bit about this back in July 2014 (throwback): if you actively worry about and cultivate your personal brand, doesn’t that mean you’re inherently less authentic? I would argue yes. One of the major modern examples, at least to me, is women who want makeup and lighting to be perfect for their first IG photo with a new baby. That’s definitely personal brand, but is it authentic, considering she was just screaming and pushing and the baby looked blue when it came out? Right. So there’s one side and there’s another side, and in that example, they don’t often meet up in the middle.
I think we increasingly see this with the Woke Revolution of the last 3–5 years too. There are people who go online and tweet/post/Stories about “lifting up all voices” and “listening” and “trying harder” and “standing together” and all that … and it’s good for their personal brand, in that people might notice them, respond to them, and give them influential or paid opportunities, i.e. speaking/panels (when events return) or work projects. So they’ve cultivated a personal brand around justice and general wokeness … but … are they doing the work?
Because I could argue, and probably quite successfully, that some guy/gal sitting at Proctor and Gamble working on a diversity plan and trying to get executive sponsorship … well, that person may not have the time to tweet about “standing together,” but they’re doing the work that can provide the opportunities overall being discussed.
There’s personal branding and then there’s the work.
It’s possible for people to do both, and many do.
But there are also camps on each side — some are chasing their brand and more opportunities for themselves. Others are down in the trenches, digging the proverbial ditches to improve what the personal branders are finding compelling images to post about.
It’s a dichotomy.
Now, could you argue that I should spend more time on my personal brand, since many think it sucks? Absolutely.
Could you also argue that two-faced people have existed since we crawled out of the primordial ooze? Absolutely. This isn’t a new point, necessarily.
But it’s become a bit more pronounced in recent years. Some do the work. Some post black squares. The former category is more important and relevant than the latter, but the latter category often gets more impressions, gets on stages more, and then others aspire to that category, instead of the “do the work” category.
What’s that line about the Kardashians? Famous for being famous? That’s not entirely true, as they are pretty savvy business people within their niche, but the baseline of it is true.
It broadly mirrors the discussion about “a return to the trades” too. It feels like we got away from real work — crawling under houses, busting up pipes — and now many of us push spreadsheets around, which an AI-powered CRM can already do better than us, or we “cultivate personal brands” and put “I’m Listening” signs on the yard of our $780,000 home … we do the check boxes that seem to fit the moment, but we don’t do the actual work. Maybe exit your subdivision and go talk to a black family about their experiences? Right, right.
Does this feel like a pronounced dichotomy to you?