I’ve Got a Secret about Authenticity & Your Personal Brand

Everywhere I turn there is someone writing about the value of being “authentic” with your personal branding.  To be completely honest, the idea of being truly authentic in the context of personal branding is ridiculous. It is pie in the sky and something that not even for a minute can any of us truly execute on, nor would we want to. We all have aspects of ourselves, opinions, thoughts, etc. that are truly better left unspoken.

I started off my series on personal branding with my last post, and encouraged self reflection to really understand and answer the question of “who am I?” There is a ton of value in understanding this about yourself, knowing who you are, your authentic self. But, from here, it is about putting who you are in a context that is positive and real and ultimately valuable for you for advancement professionally and personally. Let’s face it, that means you are not going to put out everything about yourself. You are going to work on curating the personal brand that will communicate to the world the best impression of you. Yes, this should include differentiating aspects of you, but it shouldn’t include the things that don’t put you and who you are in a positive light.

To a large degree what I’m saying is controversial and I’m sure there are personal branding experts out there that will argue against my viewpoint. But it would be much better for individuals who are focusing on their personal brand to focus on being sincere, rather then being authentic.

If not our authentic selves, what should we be striving to reach? Decades ago, the literary critic Lionel Trilling gave us an answer that sounds very old-fashioned to our authentic ears: sincerity. Instead of searching for our inner selves and then making a concerted effort to express them, Trilling urged us to start with our outer selves. Pay attention to how we present ourselves to others, and then strive to be the people we claim to be. – Adam Grant

So where should we go from here in terms of steps in your personal branding journey? If you’ve answered for yourself fully the question of “who am I?” and hopefully jotted down some notes for your later reference, now I’d like you to step back and think about what  value you bring to relationships you have with others. These relationships should include both personal and professional.

Your personal brand is an asset that must be managed with the intention of helping others benefit from having a relationship with you and / or by being associated with your work and the industry you serve. – Glenn Llopis

It’s really important to start thinking in terms of what you offer others. Your personal brand isn’t all about you as some might think. It is actually all about how who you are benefits others and how you can communicate your unique value proposition. It is about building meaningful relationships in which you put your best self forward both online and in person.

So take some time and reflect and jot down your thoughts. Next we will start to define the elements that make up your brand. More on that as we continue our personal branding journey together.

I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on being authentic with your personal brand? Do you think it is possible to be truly authentic? If so, is this really what is best for you personally and professionally?




Who Am I? – The First Step to Developing a Personal Brand

Walking through the aisles of my supermarket with my son (he is just a little over 3 right now), he noticed a snack on the shelf that he wanted. In this case, it was something that I didn’t particularly want him to eat at the moment, fruit snacks loaded with artificial colors and sweeteners, and so I gently told him not right now. To this he looked at me and said emphatically, “I’m the boss. So I can have them now.” Internally I found myself chuckling and realized very quickly, he truly believes this.

Now in this case, I am the parent and obviously I know that he is not the boss. But, regardless, it startled me enough to realize how much how he sees himself impacts how people interact with him. He projects being the boss in subtle and overt ways ranging from non-verbals to specific statements. He has a persona, an actual brand that he communicates to the world based on how he sees himself.

My son in this one brief instance illustrates the critical first step for developing a Personal Brand. You must answer the question, who am I? Now, I don’t for a moment want to lead you to believe that answering this question is simple. Nor do I want to suggest that you can do this overnight. Actually, what I am suggesting is to start today thinking about the answer to this question. It doesn’t have to be formal or scripted, just sit back and reflect on it and perhaps jot a few informal notes down as they come to you. Try to answer the question from a variety of vantage points including your professional, personal, spiritual and physical self. Additionally, bring some trusted friends and colleagues into this exploration process. Often times, it is hard for us to see ourselves fully. People that are closest to us can be very valuable in seeing our attributes and helping us to uncover our authentic selves.

As you look to answer the question of “who am I?” strive to be true to you. At the end of the day, being authentic is key. If you put out an image of yourself that isn’t true to you, people will see through it. It is time to truly believe in you and who you are. This means even the quirky aspects. The truth is not everyone will like you, but that is ok. You aren’t trying to win a popularity contest. As we dive in deeper to this process, I will help you look at how you can be true to you in your personal branding but still put your best foot forward.

I’m planning to continue these posts as a series into developing your personal brand. If you are a startup founder, without a doubt it is worth developing and thoroughly thinking through your personal brand. However, I believe strongly in the value of personal branding for a variety of different and distinct needs whether it be someone looking to advance his or her career, a student looking to get into college, a sales professional wanting to connect with prospects, and the list continues. The reality is, if you don’t consciously develop your personal brand you do still have one and that means unfortunately that it is being defined by someone else. So, take control and define the real you and share your awesomeness with the world around you.

If you are up for taking this journey with me, please stop by soon again. I’ll keep the process unfolding. Please note that giving this process the time and space in your mind has value in and of itself, so don’t rush it. I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions about getting started on your personal branding. Feel free to post any questions to me in the comments section, I’ll be sure to respond quickly.