If you are in business, discussions about personal branding and business branding can be pretty hard to ignore. Maybe you were an early adopter? Signed on to the branding movement before it became everyday chatter. Or maybe you’ve only just reluctantly come around? You’ve realized that, actually, the website, the logos, and most importantly the networking, were branding efforts all along. You just hadn’t labeled them as such, and now the only way to continue these efforts effectively is to really look into this whole branding thing.
Whether you are new to brand building or a seasoned veteran, the question has (or will) inevitably come up – “Should I combine my business and my personal brands?”
One argument against adopting the same approach for both brands could be that you operate more than one business, or perhaps transition between industries. Maybe you run a small start-up, and juggle the roles of CEO, founder, secretary, and digital strategist, all at once. How can someone in this situation form a congruent brand when their working life is so multi-faceted? I would argue that for this person, authenticity and congruence of branding are even more important.
YOU are the protagonist in your life, not a support act
One very good reason to mix the personal with the professional is that if you are intentionally living a life of authenticity, then they already are linked. Now, I know authenticity is a word so overused that it is becoming little more than a hollow buzzword. So take authenticity back! As a buzzword it is useless, but as a value, it means everything.
Living an inauthentic life will harm you in the long run. Wearing different hats is a normal part of life, however, if you are one person at home and another in the office, have a good long think about why?
You are a professional in your field, and though you must steer clear of defining yourself solely through your work, what you do day-to-day, what you study, who you spend time with, in short, what you live and breathe, will form a part of your identity.
A business takes on a life of its own and necessarily influences the people who work within it. Likewise, as an integral part of that business, you will shape it. Your personal and professional brands are parts of a whole, so it makes sense to look at them together.
“If you are an entrepreneur then the chances are that you will change career tack, start businesses and sell them, move on, move up, move sideways. The point is that through all these changes, YOU are the constant. This is not a reason to keep your branding efforts separate. It is a reason to unite them.”
Now I’m not saying you can never switch off from work. I actually advocate the opposite, don’t become obsessive. It is important to have a work-life balance that suits you. But as an entrepreneur, as a professional, as an employee, YOU are the human face of your business. YOU are the one who speaks at events, appears on podcasts, and writes guest articles. The purpose might be to gain publicity for your business, but YOU are the one who carries it out.
YOU are the one who meets with the clients and business partners, attracting funds from bankers and investors. Your company can donate a cheque, but YOU are the one who has the conversation with the NGO or community project group about what they need, and how YOU can get involved. The money might come from the company, the benefit might be for the company, but the company cannot do these things for itself – it needs YOU.
And remember, people don’t really buy into the business, they invest in YOU. Why? Because YOU are the one who earns their trust. Do you see why I advocate that you don’t keep your personal and professional brands separate? It is a lie. If you are an entrepreneur then the chances are that you will change career tack, start businesses and sell them, move on, move up, move sideways. The point is that through all these changes, YOU are the constant. This is not a reason to keep your branding efforts separate. It is a reason to unite them.
Think of Arianna Huffington, and the Huffington Post – a personal and business brand built together and feeding into each other so that both could continue when Arianna moved on. Her strong personal brand has seen her new business, Thrive Global, live up to its name, whilst HuffPost remains a highly successful and respected media company.
Learn from those who have gone before. Mixing the personal with the professional is not a branding mistake. It’s smart business.
Combine the personal with the professional to build trust
People don’t trust faceless corporations. They trust people. And intersecting your personal and business brands gives an invaluable human touch.
If you are hell-bent on keeping your brands separate in a misguided attempt to protect them, then you are missing out on some incredible opportunities. This kind of thinking arose before people really understood the world-altering effects of new technology. It just doesn’t work in today’s world.
Even if we focus on a single area of business, networking via social media, we see that the cross-pollination of your personal and professional brands can bring exciting new growth.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest and most active professional networking platform, with over 13 million companies vying for the attention of more than half a billion users, and they seem to have understood that organizations and individuals are two parts of the one networking equation. As CEO Jeff Weiner put it, they’re on a mission “to connect the world’s professionals.”
“Online actions have real world consequences. These days we live online, in public, under the spotlight. Covering up your embarrassing personal life is unprofessional, unsuitable, and counterproductive.”
Through a platform like LinkedIn, you are shown as a part of your organization (or industry) but your personal profile still stands distinct and is recognizable as your own personal brand.
Twitter is another network where the personal and professional mix. It’s easy enough to find the right person to speak to at a company, and easier than ever to reach out to them online.
In recent times we’ve also seen plenty of examples of a personal brand sabotaging a professional image.
It only took 24 hours for James Gunn to lose his role as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, after a series of old tweets began to circulate online in which Gunn made lewd jokes about (among other things) pedophilia.
And after footage of a routine from 2013 was circulated on social media, in which stand up comedian, and host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah made racist and sexist jokes about Aboriginal Australians, it didn’t take long for fans to protest by vowing to boycott his Australian tour.
Online actions have real-world consequences. But the answer is never to separate the two. These days we live online, in public, under the spotlight. Covering up your embarrassing personal life is unprofessional, unsuitable, and counterproductive. People trust people who are accountable and take responsibility for their actions… especially when they screw up.
Our world is crying out for leaders with integrity and courage. Our businesses need leaders with values to guide them. If our personal lives are providing the backbone of character that our professional lives so desperately need, then there is no reason to hide our true selves.
Originally published at www.imagegroup.com.au