Why You're (Probably) Getting The Personal Branding Thing All Wrong

Sorilbron - Millennial Milk

I will never forget my 10th grade math teacher. He was probably in his mid-forties, and seemed to have an unending supply of Hawaiian shirts and short pants. I remember seeing his socks a lot.

During our school-wide Secret Santa, in which students gave small gifts to their favorite teachers, I was the only student who got him anything. And I only did it because I realized no one else did.

If you were to ask him, he would probably tell you he was a great guy, or at least a nice guy. But that’s not how I remember him. I don’t think that’s how any of my former classmates remember him.

His personal brand is pretty much shot to hell with us, to this day.

You Are Your Brand… Or Are You?

Personal branding, for all its hype, is woefully misunderstood. For the last ten years, everybody with a platform has been harping on the importance of building your personal brand. You’re supposed to build it into your resume, build it into your social media accounts, build it into your wardrobe, built it into your social circles.

The wisdom of this Digital Age tells us that we should actively and consistently work to build our brands, to craft poignant, 15-second elevator pitches that leave no questions unanswered for the hearer. We’re to be walking billboards, always on-brand, always making the best possible impression.

Fine. Do that. Nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward. There’s just one thing: Your personal brand is not based on who or what you say you are; your personal brand is how people actually experience you. Personal brand strategist Hajj Flemings told me that once. And it is the fundamental principle of personal branding.

It’s also the one principle people try so very hard to bypass.

There’s Only One Way to Build a Good Personal Brand

Here’s the punchline no one ever told you: You can’t build your brand by getting followers, posting quote cards, and writing a clever mini bio. In order to brand yourself, you have to be in it for the long haul because brands are not built with words, they’re built with actions.

Your brand is your character, your habits, and your reputation.

It’s how you execute and how often you deliver. It’s the alignment between what you think, say, and do. It’s what Gary Vaynerchuk calls playing “the long game.”

When there is no consistency between what you say and what you do, people sense it, people see it and they stop trusting you. That’s called being inauthentic.

So, when you’re really ready to start building your brand, do it for long-term success. And prepare to put in some major work.