I’ve always disliked the term “personal branding”; it sounds, well, very impersonal, really. Makes me think of the Prisoner: “I am not a number, I am a free man” and all that kind of nonsense. Heavens, people have charisma, personality, charm…, not branding! No, I’d decided, nothing to do with me, thanks.
But then I read somewhere, and I really can’t remember where (isn’t that terribly rude, not to link to your sources? Oh well) that it’s useful to think of your brand not in terms of what cut of suit you like to wear, or scent you care to sport, but rather as what comes up when someone puts your name into Google (I should point out here that “other search engines are available”). Now I’m sorry to say that if you put my name into Google I don’t even make it onto the front page of results. Oh dear. I do though have a couple of entries in results 11 to 20. My Linked in profile comes up, which I’m quite chuffed about as I only put it in recently, as does my Bazian (my company) bio. If you put in me + health or me + bazian then you get more hits about me (as opposed to Alan Lovell the actor, or the CEO of Jarvis etc), and I have to admit that I’m relieved that my Twitter page rarely pops up, as that’s pretty pathetic really (I should either start tweeting properly, lock it, or delete it).
But it has made me think. If at work or indeed in my personal life I come across a new person that I might have some interest in, the first thing I do is Google them. And I think nowadays we all do this – it’s second nature. While it may be argued by some that we don’t really have much control over what comes up about us in Google (or Ask, Bing, Yahoo etc) I think that on the contrary we do – we can do search engine optimization of our own pages, e.g. on Linked In or perhaps on our institution’s site, or we can start our own blog or a static webpage with a personal/professional statement as necessary. We might not like it, but for many people in our professional life their first contact with us will be through a computer screen, and not in real life; and as we all know, first impressions count.
So I still might not like the term “personal brand”, but I do think we have to acknowledge that our “online” self is important, both personally and, particularly, professionally. My online self is not the same as me, therefore terms such as “charisma” or “personality” won’t cut the mustard. For example, next time I go for a job, the interviewers are bound to Google me. I need to take control of the information they’ll find about me. You’ll need to do the same.