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Brands used to be only for businesses. And we, the employees, were expected to uphold and support the principles of the brand. Some of us in marketing were even lucky enough to help our businesses build their brands.

But as trust has eroded away from corporations and government institutions, we are seeing the ushering in of a new era: the employee-brand.

Those of us who understand how to yield the power of our networks will achieve greater levels of professional success. And those who know how to use social channels to deliver helpful messages will ride the wave of this new era in personal branding.

In this post, I will explain why now, more than ever, is your time to shine as a positive voice in the crowded media marketplace.

And I’ll offer tips on how to get there…

Foundations of The Personal Brand

I was recently asked by Bill Strawderman (@marketingbard), head of digital marketing at AT&T and Trish Nettleship (@Trishnet), the brains behind the AT&T Networking Exchange blog, to address their blogger community on my own Personal Brand journey.

While I was honored, my first thought was: what do I know about personal branding? I had never spoken in public about personal branding. I have only been blogging for less than 2 years. But then Bill reminded me that it was my personal brand that allowed me to join his Circle of Trust. It is also how I met  the other speakers, the amazing Mark Schaefer (@markwschaefer) and Cheryl Burgess (@CKBurgess).

So I decided to tell my story…

I talked about how I graduated from college into a deep recession and high unemployment that caused a lot of companies to begin to break decades old “contracts” with employees.

Layoffs. Downsizing. Rightsizing. It was the era of a CEO called “Chainsaw” and was the beginning of the end of the pension plan.

This must have been terribly unsettling for employees who had come to expect lifetime employment and safe retirements. Employees began to challenge the status quo on every front. But nothing captured the ethos of the times better than what I think is the greatest magazine article EVER: Tom Peters 1997 article in Fast Company, “The Brand Called You.”  According to Tom:

Big companies understand the importance of brands. Today, in the Age of the Individual, you have to be your own brand. Here’s what it takes to be the CEO of Me, Inc.

It’s a new brand world…

Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.

It’s that simple — and that hard. And that inescapable.”

It took me a few years to really understand what Tom was talking about. I joined LinkedIn relatively early. I tried to network in between kids and travel and new jobs. But I didn’t take it as seriously as I knew I should, thanks to Tom.

The New Era of Personal Branding

Fast forward to 2012 and the erosion of trust in businesses, government and traditional media. Edelman recently updated their Trust Barometer which shows that the media landscape continue to fragment with the growth of online and social media information.

But more importantly, it quantifies the dramatic changes in perceived credibility: trust in CEOs, Government officials and even Analysts is down. While trust in regular employees and “people like you” reported huge increases. Only academics and technical experts are seen as more credible and their trust level is flattening.

And so when the average employee, just like you, is perceived as more trustworthy than the CEO, then clearly…

The Time For “Brand You” Is Now!

This is why I challenged B2B Marketers to wake up and get social and to realize that there is no separation between our work and personal lives.

We need to simply be ourselves and write about what we know.

I believe that if we nurture relationships, then we can become a positive voice in the marketplace, on topics we are passionate about. And we can earn the power to influence a future boss, a future employee, a future customer, a future partner or a future investor in our companies.

So, as Lisa Barone (@LisaBarone), Founder of Outspoken Media, once said:

“We are officially beyond the days where you can have a distinct “personal” and “corporate” profile. You must decide who you are and bleed it!”

4 Tips to Personal Branding Success

I have covered before 5 Steps To Get Your Social Media Game On and Finding the Time to Tweet and Blog. Here are my 4 tips to personal branding success:

  • Define your audience and set objectives by answering “Why you are talking?” “Who are you talking to?” and “What’s in it for them and you?”
  • Build it in to every day: I scan, filter, read, connect, write, respond. I believe the adage that Social media success is found in just minutes per day. And for me, goals are important. I make every effort to write at least 2 blogs per week.
  • Build relationships of mutual benefit.  I try to thank everyone who ReTweets me on Twitter and I share a lot of other contentfrom bloggers I admire. For me, personal brand is about the people you surround yourself with.
  • The new content rules: If it isn’t a keyword, no one cares. Titles matter. Bullets help. Tell stories following the traditional story arc: a Hero, has a quest, goes on a journey, encounters an obstacle and achieves resolution.

And in my presentation, I cover how “news” is still the best way to reach buyers in B2B Marketing.

I admit to having a “man-crush” on Ryan Seacrest (@RyanSeacrest)…it’s a real-life “bro-mance.”  Why? Because, along with Oprah Winfrey, he totally gets the importance of personal branding. There is no one like Ryan Seacrest. Multi-channel, multi-format, 24×7, always-on. And that’s why Fortune recently proclaimed, he is the “future of media.”

And I talk about how following these steps and effectively communicating what makes you unique to the world, will bring you personal and professional success. You will gain influence. Your company will benefit from your strong and positive voice.

And who knows, maybe you’ll get a book deal or star on a reality TV show or even get to meet Oprah or Ryan Seacrest. Tell them I said “hello!” Oh and a Retweet from them would be great…

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  1. Trond Stroemme
    Building a personal brand is indeed important, and I have benefited from bith LinkedIn and other channels, but I think there are limits to my own aspirations in that respect. I believe a balance should be found – some times, NOT being consistently active on twitter, facebook etc might be more rewarding – at least on a personal level.

    Maybe it’s just my European mindset shining through? Should we all aim to shout out as loudly as possibly, 24/7, in all channels available to us? Reminds me vaguely of those who always voice their opinion, regardless of what the discussion is about – or, more to the point, always try to silence everybody else with their own vocal chords.

    Anyway, if Ryan Seacrest is the future of media, and the Kardashians are the epitome of TV entertainment, then it only explains why I never turn on my television anymore… 🙂

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    1. Michael Brenner Post author
      Hi Trond,

      Thanks you for the comment. I agree with you that there should be a balance between BEING who you are (living) and connecting or communicating with others.

      But let’s not confuse branding (or marketing) with shouting. No one like that. I’ve said before that marketing is not the same thing as promotion. In fact, effective marketing is just the opposite – it is focused on the audience needs.

      Not all marketing (or branding) is bad. The good stuff out there is bi-directional, helpful and creates affinity. Or more simply, it allows other people to get to know, like and trust you on their terms.

      Now to be clear, I did NOT say the Kardashians are the epitome of entertainment. I can’t even stomach the show…

      But Seacrest (and Oprah) are the future of media because they understand their audience. They know what people want. And they deliver it in multiple formats (reality, expose, charity documentary, interview) across multiple channels (radio, TV, print, online) – when, where and how their audience wants it. They also come off as real, flawed and likable (to some) as opposed to authoritarian or arrogant or superficial.

      So it does require a balance along with a deep understanding of how to truly interact with others, be helpful and also be yourself.

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