This morning, while casually munching on the leftovers of my junior bacon cheeseburger from last night, I read an article speaking to the ills of personal branding. Its title says it all, “Stop Trying to Build Your “Personal brands”. Its author, Dale Hartley, attempted to make the case that branding was a false front and only our skills and past accomplishments should be used as metrics to gauge our usefulness to an organization.

He says:

Yes, you have to market yourself in a competitive economy. You do so by showing past accomplishments and/or your potential to help the organization achieve its goals. In short, what have you done, and what can you do? Ability and achievement Share real. Personal branding is puffery. 


I figured I would take a moment to clarify.

To be frank, I think the author is a bit confused as to what personal branding is, as he described the process while calling it puffery, simultaneously. “Showing past accomplishments” is a part of the branding process.

What is a brand?

It is important to understand that every one of us is already a brand. A brand is what someone says about you when you are not in the room. At least that’s how Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos defines it, and Amazon knows a thing or two about branding.

Personal branding asks the question, who am I? and what problems can I solve?


Authenticity Is Important

True personal branding is an authentic representation of your ability to solve a problem based on your skills and established tradition of the same. Anything inauthentic is not branding, it’s just lying. The image you create in someone’s mind should be informed by your abilities to deliver on a promise of a certain experience by engaging with your brand.

The digital age has gifted us with the ability to broadcast our problem-solving capabilities to the world through the content we produce. Everything we share, tweet, snap, post and create actively shapes our brand and says something about us, even if we aren’t conscious of the fact. Personal branding then is the process of being strategic about the image you convey with a view to creating opportunities  for yourself, from your suite of skills.

If you can’t solve a problem with your skills, you can’t be a brand. 

Kemal Brown 

In his final point, Dale Hartley, says “If the idea of developing a personal brand is appealing to you, there might be an underlying problem or weakness you are ignoring. If so, focusing time and energy on developing a personal brand is a distraction from confronting the real issue: Why aren’t you content to compete in the job market and the workplace based on merit and on who you really are? Do you lack education, experience, self-confidence, or some critical skill? Remedying actual deficiencies is important. Diverting your attention to personal brand-building while ignoring real issues is a mistake.”

What utter crap. 

Brand building is tied to tangible results that you can deliver. It is based on trust and authenticity. If no one knows that you can solve a problem, how will they ask you to? Branding is the process of capturing mindshare and associating yourself with a desirable outcome. Building a powerful brand has many benefits. 

Tell the world who you are, they will believe you. But remember, you have to have the skills to back up whatever you say. In the process of brand building, the words of Eminem provide some guidance.

“I am whatever I say I am, if I wasn’t then why would I say I am” 

In short, if you aren’t don’t say you are. What the author should have focused on is the importance of consistent and authentic personal branding, not damning the process on a whole. I think the latter is due a visit. In my next post perhaps.

So no, don’t stop trying to build your personal brand, just build it right. Case closed.

If content is king, its creators are destined to be royalty – Kemal Brown –     Tweet This