Where’s Your “Personal Brand,” and Why?

There are lots of different ways to brand yourself.

Yesterday my colleague Jim Kukral wrote about why he’s decided to focus on centralizing his personal brand. He wrote:

“My biggest mistake from the past 7-years or so was not building my personal brand on my own blog hard enough, earlier enough. Some may wonder why someone like me who’s been around for a long time blogging (since 2001), only has about 600 rss subscribers. I’ll tell you why… because I never focused blogging and building my brand here on JimKukral.com until recently.”

That got me thinking about Contentious.com and my own “personal brand.” Although I have an innate dislike to the term “personal brand,” I’ll admit it’s a useful and important concept for people in media-related work and many other fields these days.

The simple reason for that, I think, is that these days it’s unwise to rely on any company, organization, or institution to stick by you. The only leverage most professionals have these days depends on their ability to find or make their own opportunities — which means they need to be known as individuals. not just as faceless functionaries.

Jim seems to gauge the success on his personal brand by traffic to his site and feed. For a lot of people and purposes, that’s perfectly valid and appropriate.

But personally, I see a lot of value in the hybrid home base/distributed presence approach to personal branding…

My own hybrid approach to personal branding means having an easily findable home base (this blog), along with being visible and active wherever the people I want to connect with are already hanging out.

I gauge the success of my personal brand by the overall quality of engagement I enjoy and the connections and opportunities that come my way because of it — not by measuring traffic to this one site or to my feeds. My brand is here, but it’s also at Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, and on Twitter, and in various client projects, and on e-mail lists and forums, at meetups, in personal communications, and at the many speaking gigs I do.

To be honest, I only check the traffic stats for Contentious a few times a month, and I don’t stress over them. I don’t really focus on traffic; this site isn’t about traffic. It’s about having a voice, demonstrating my value, making myself findable, and making useful connections. I think that if I became very concerned with driving traffic to this site, it might undermine the perceived authenticity of my efforts to connect with folks elsewhere.

Of course, I have the advantage of being an old-timer, relatively speaking. Contentious has been around since 1997, when there weren’t a lot of other options for publicly establishing a personal brand besides having your own site. Search engines tend to favor sites with staying power and sustained relevance, and I think I’ve managed to achieve that (with a few inevitable missteps, or course). For people who are really just starting to build their personal brand online, driving traffic to your site or blog or podcast is a more pressing concern, just to gain initial search and community visibility. (In other words, YMMV depending on where you are in your journey.)

…But that’s just my take, for my own purposes. I encourage you to read Jim’s post, and the conversation we had in the comments there, and think this over.

How do you gauge the success of your personal brand? Do you prefer the centralized, decentralized, or hybrid approach? Why? Please comment below.

5 thoughts on Where’s Your “Personal Brand,” and Why?

  1. My example was specific to building a business off of your blog. Yes, I do believe it’s important to build your personal brand elsewhere. I’ve done a good job at it as well and it has helped me.

    At the end of the day though, people know me more for that stuff, then they do for my domain name. So it’s tough to capitalize long term building your brand elsewhere, if that’s your goal.

    Personally, I think it would be an easier gig to make money off of your brand in one location rather than shuffling it all over the place. Darren at Problogger.com is my best case example.

  2. Thanks, Jim. Could you explain more about what you mean by “building a business off your blog?”

    In my own case I don’t currently see a need to monetize Contentious.com directly, because it mainly serves to promote my core business (consulting, writing, editing, speaking gigs, etc.). I’m not trying to sell products or ad space here.

    Are you perhaps seeking more direct revenue streams from your blog?

    – Amy Gahran

  3. Lucrative (or influential, or respected — whatever currency you are looking for) personal brands come from spreading yourself generously and with talent.

    Amy, I read you wherever you happen to pop up. Usually here at Contentious, increasingly on Twitter, but also at Poynter and in comments on other’s blogs. Yours is a byline I like to see; I am not concerned with the media outlet.

    Others: Postrel, Weinberger, Winer, Holtz, Hobson, Brogan, Dyson, Barlow, Negroponte, Rheingold — I’ll read them wherever they write, and I like that they write all over.

    What is common for you all: I don’t care about the outlet; your brand grows when I read what you write.

    Jim’s advice — making one outlet the brand — limits the writer to hammering one theme over and over (Darren, Rubel, Scoble). It keeps the writer from venturing abroad (in venue and topic). Stepping away from your theme or outlet — because the theme/outlet combined is the product — instantly dilutes the “brand.” Living hell, if you are a good writer with wide interests.

    Makeing the outlet the money spinner makes you a publisher (we must get traffic to make money), rather than a writer (we must be read and respected to make money). Being a writer is hard enough; I’d rather give myself bowel surgery with a stick than be a publisher.

    Adopting “I am my brand” as your approach frees you to publicly pursue, write about, comment on and dispute pretty much any idea you encounter.

    But saying “my website is my brand” immediately throws the cuffs on… and why put cuffs on?

  4. I lean toward “I am my brand” as well — I’m reminded of the Lord Macdonald of the Isles who arrived late to a banquet held by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He was urged to move to the head of the table.

    “Wherever Macdonald sits, that is the head of the table.”

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