Walking the Cat . . .

Because life's kinda like that . . .

Personal Branding . . .(reputation by any other name is still . . .)

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A brand, everyone knows, is a name so closely associated with a particular product as to be virtually synonymous with it.  When you hear the name, Nike™, you think of sports shoes; when you hear New Balance™, you think running shoes.  If you have a cold and you need a tissue to wipe your runny nose, chances are you’ll ask for a Kleenex™. We use these products again and again, by name, because we trust them, because they delivered what they promised time and time again, without fail (okay, I know “New Coke”™, but let’s not go there).  Anyway, you know what I’m saying; branding has been a staple of corporate marketing plans since, well, the beginning.  But in the mid-late nineties things began to change with the emergence of the Internet as a business venue.  Here, there were no products you could touch or try on; there were pictures, sure, but you couldn’t “kick the tires”, so to speak, on pictures, you couldn’t test drive a picture.  Eventually, the folks at Amazon.com found a way for customers to  “sample” some of their book offerings, boosting sales but it didn’t happen overnight.  The Internet was quickly filling with information as product.  There were information sources everywhere.  But could you trust it?  It wasn’t always easy, or possible, to trust something when you didn’t know where it was coming from, if  the “content provider” was “blowin’ smoke” of if there was some secret agenda behind it (as a matter of fact, you still can’t; political action committees are very adept at concealing the “who” behind the “what”).

All that changed in 1997 when Tom Peters started talking about personal branding.  Personal branding, simply put, is your reputation in a business context.  It doesn’t matter whether you work at a “brick & mortar” company or author an Internet blog.  How you do your job, how you interact with co-workers, team members, customers, supervisors & managers; all of it contributes to your personal brand.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of the Internet entrepreneur. 

The Internet abounds with every information source imaginable; information is passed back and forth between members of online communities, chat rooms and, of course, social media sites like MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter & LiveJournal.  Many of these individuals and groups prefer anonymity, making branding de rigueur.  It also put a heavy emphasis on branding as a means of boosting “market share”; website content became more sophisticated, more visual, more entertaining, more relevant and more useful.  This led to a number of brands and their author(s) and contributors developing large followings, thereby increasing the relevance and influence of the brand.  One example of the effective use of branding was TheHuffingtonPost.com.   Launched in 2005, as a commentary outlet and alternative to other news websites, it quickly developed into an influential news outlet providing its readers with timely, entertaining and relevant content and often “scooping” other sources.  Co-founder and chief content manager (publisher), Arianna Huffington’s personal brand became so influential she was often asked to provide expert commentary to various “legitimate” news outlets, further expanding her site’s brand as well as her own.  (The Huffington Post was acquired by AOL in February, 2011 for $315 million).  It is unlikely The Huffington Post would have commanded such a price without the benefit of being an influential news brand.  With so much money to be made in such a (relatively) short space of time, it’s no wonder Internet brand builders seek to expand their bases and influence by using the burgeoning social media sector of the Internet.  With membership in social media networks in the neighborhood of 6 billion users, sites like Facebook offer verdant territory for already established brands to expand their influence (and for new enterprises to build theirs.)  I’ll have more to say about social media in future posts.  For now, I’ll say, “May your personal brand (and mine) develop as you wish and my your followers (and mine) increase tenfold.”

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Written by stevewthomas

May 24, 2011 at 6:36 am

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