Home > Leadership and Management > Misgivings about personal branding - How do we correct


By G. Balasubramanian

Quite recently, I had to be present in a program where a couple of people where conferred the highest degree of philosophy. While I have absolutely no intent of questioning the credentials any of them, I was wondering what contribution those people had indeed made, as a few of them were indeed novices to the field to which their awards were being cited to. This incident is just not one out of the blue. A large number of people are being celebrated at some platforms with citations in areas or subjects in which they have absolutely any idea or contribution. Possibly the awarding agencies were either getting branded through those celebrities or those awarded are being celebrated for their associations at some level or the other. Well, over a period such degrees, awards and recognitions lose their credibility and they go unnoticed. However, the trend is a part of increasing social dynamics. The clear message is that there is increasing hunger in the society to get branded, celebrated and noticed. It is supposed to elevate their popularity index.

A couple of years ago, a gentleman had sought time to meet me at Delhi while he was there to receive an award the next day from the hands of the top-dignitary of the Government. After exchanging pleasantries’ and discussions, he gave me his visiting card while parting. I was surprised to note that the card indicated his name with the title he was about to get the next day. When I said “you appear to be too fast, he smiled and said “I can’t afford to wait to add that title to my name, you know. So I got it printed as soon as the award was announced, because it is a privilege.”

We are living in a consumerist society where the focus is increasingly shifting towards emotional consumerism. As a part of a competitive need to showcase ourselves – as ‘important’, as ‘successful’, as ‘role models’, as ‘achievers’ and as ‘leaders’, we try to engage in an exercise of ‘branding’ ourselves – to satisfy the ‘ego’; and more necessarily to use such ‘brands’ to scale higher peaks of professional credibility and visibility. We always look for ‘appreciation’, ‘authority’ and ‘access’ to enter such gateways which are not accessible to us in the normal course, and seek favours or rewards, which may or not necessarily be worthy. Further such exercises do help us to create a visibility across a community and help us to use such positions to enhance our market value and revenue models. A few of them do claim achievements which are either superlative or a little out of the trajectory just to enhance a market value. As such one could find these are replications of the same content in diverse packages. While exercises of branding are universal, normal and a part of human intents to find a meaning and identity for their existence, when one finds there is a huge mismatch between the facts and the projections, it does create a socially disprovable projection.

“Branding” says Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, “is what people say about you when you are not in the room.” “Personal Branding is not about you; it is about putting your stamp on the value you deliver to others.” So, the exercise of getting branded brings with it a sende of responsibility, a commitment to accountability and an assured credibility. It goes with the worth an individual profile oneself. It is therefore, important, for brand-seekers to understand some misgivings they have in the exercise of developing their brands.

a. It is not a one-time event of getting photographed availing a photo-shoot as a luminary on a stage or a platform.

b. It is not about one’s association with people who matter or institutions which need one for some reason.

c. It is not about how influential one is and how much one can facilitate those who invest on them.

d. It is not about one’s glory or achievements being read out in a platform.

e.It is not only about one’s access to people or be ‘smart enough’ to manipulate things in short-cuts

In a lighter vein, it is said that when one drives down in a branded car, the brand is in favour of the car and not necessarily the person who drives it, though we seek to associate with that brand as a booster to our own image.

The following factors generally influence personal branding:

  • Professional knowledge, competency, skills and ethics.
  • Inter-personal relationships with empathy and social-consciousness
  • Ability to reach out to higher purposes of life without sacrificing basic requisites for a good quality and standard of life.
  • Willingness to be an on-going learner and thus lead knowledge; with one’s hunger for creating new knowledge or new opportunities
  • Willingness to outreach and share major responsibilities for some causes for which the society is waiting for people like them.
  • Moral strength to stand tall during times of crisis and when one is put into an acid test.

It is said that ‘you develop your individual brand’, while “others give you an individual branding.”

Branding is not about a title, a logo or an association one has with an object of material value. Such brandings go to the volatile memory of others and hence evaporate at short intervals of time. Even if it is recalled when they meet the concerned person, it doesn’t become a primary focus of attention, as people start looking at you with a question ‘what have you done after that” However, when it is built on the quality and quantum of outreach one has, they look at you with a sense of purpose, need, an entrepreneur of ideas and services. Your association is held by strong bonds and they leave you looking for the next opportunity for association. “Your personal branding is a promise to your clients. a promise of quality, consistency, competency and reliability “says Jason Hartman.

It is very important that people looking for personal branding should be genuine, have high sense of integrity whose actions should match their words. Any one who celebrates ego or authority and unwilling to listen radiates a negative signal all round and loses respect and credibility too soon. I remember a case of a Senior Government Executive who was holding a National conference for a theme related to their organization, was absolutely unwilling to meet the delegates even informally. Even clients who had travelled from countries abroad found that he is unwilling to listen and was carrying on his shoulders his position and authority. Though the position had a celebrity brand, people looked at him with a sense of contempt. “Life is not about finding yourself; it is about creating yourself” says George Bernard Shaw.

“Everyone has a personal brand by design, or default” says personal branding expert Lida Citroen.”

What is your choice? How do you want to go about it?

*This article was originally written on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/misgivings-personal-branding-how-do-we-correct-balasubramanian-g/

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