A glittering star dressed to look undressed and singing someone else’s songs may become a YouTube or Vine sensation overnight. She may go viral. She may have a million views and a million followers. But is she famous?
The kind of fame that is useful in personal branding is the kind that endures. It is not about getting people to look but rather it is about engaging a very wide audience consistently. Woody Allen is famous for a lot of things, but the main reason is that he has consistently delivered quality films for nearly 50 years. He gained attention early because of his talent and (it must be said) hard work. Woody Allen’s goal was not to become famous – he wanted to make films.
Personal branding is, to a large extent, about becoming famous and staying that way. It does not matter how wide your target circle may be, if you are known for a certain trait, profession, or talent within a group of people all of whom you probably do not know, your personal brand makes you famous.
Fame, however, is generally frowned upon in society. Many people equate fame with decadence, deceit, and generally delinquent behavior. They think of rock stars and their excesses. They think of Hollywood sensations and their arrests for lewdness. They think of drug use and alcoholism. But these are not the building blocks of fame – they are merely the consequences of being unable to handle it.
Another part of the stigma comes from the belief that people who make an actual contribution to the world toil in obscurity. That the famous seek fame to make up for shortcomings. Many people shy away from personal branding because they do not wish to be equated with that world. And for good reason.
Personal branding, however, can and should be used to create the kind of fame that lasts because it is built on sound foundations. You are a scientist working to cure a disease – fame will help you draw attention to your cause. You are a writer – fame helps people want to buy your books. You are a businessperson – fame will help people to trust you more quickly.
We live in an age of self-promotion and publicity. The social media has become so pervasive as to be an integral part of nearly everyone’s lives – almost 2 billion active registered Facebook users attests to this. Information and visibility, once the domain of the few who could catch the eyes of news reporters, television producers, and movie moguls, is now in the hands anyone who has access to the Internet. The result is that we are flooded with images and texts from the would-be famous on a daily basis. People are clamoring more and more to be part of this wave. But only a few rise above it and put it to good use.
Let me be the first to say it, however: not everyone in that spotlight deserves our attention.
The real paradox is that we may have something meaningful and contributory to say but unless we have prepared the vehicle to say it, it will be drowned out by the undifferentiated noise around us.
The vehicle, as you may have surmised, is personal branding. It is not fame for the sake of fame. It is being known for something in particular and deploying it as a tool to achieve your goal.
How to Do It
A product becomes a brand when it acquires a personality and character which evokes an emotional response in the consumer. We like sneakers, but we LOVE Nikes.
The same principles can be applied in personal branding. A person becomes a brand when his or her personality and character reaches beyond their immediate circle of friends and touches the lives of strangers, evoking an emotional response.
In discussions of brand building, I often refer to the new brand as a “person”. When we meet someone for the first time, we do not immediately become friends – friendship grows when we get to know the person, find similarities with ourselves, kinships, shared values, a sense of humor, and an openness to listen.
Your personal brand, therefore, is a synthesis of your true personality. A personal brand campaign will bring out those aspects which you want to emphasize as supports to your “claim to fame.” This claim is your livelihood, your profession, or your passion. If you are a cycling enthusiast and want to draw more people to the sport, your enthusiasm itself can be the mainstay of your brand.
When the job is done, your personal branding will make you a public person even if it is only in your local community or professional network. This will lead to people wanting to known many more things about you than you have included in your brand – are you married? Do you water-ski? Do you like spaghetti? HOW do you like spaghetti?
This is a delicate point. It is now that a personal brand will distinguish itself by separating the public persona you have created from the private life that you will still want to maintain. It is here that many people falter – fame is seductive and can lead people to make a lot of poor decisions. Your personal brand must be managed as diligently and thoroughly as any product brand. It is to be kept in mind that personal branding, the fame we have now achieved, does not make you “better” than anyone else, only someone who is “known for” the thing you do.
Walking that fine line, though challenging, is not as difficult as all that. You may rely on branding professionals to manage your personal brand while you get on with managing your own life.
And once that balance is sustainably achieved, the personal brand which you have built will be your tool to help you achieve your goals.