Personal Branding

By John Mack Freeman

Everyone has a brand. Whether you’re managing it or not is an entirely different question.

I’m getting my MLIS right now, but before this, I was the marketing director of a statewide photography company and I’ve worked in PR and content development for a lot of other people. I think it’s incredibly important to have a personal brand. I know that it’s not something that we like to think about. Everybody wants to be unique and be themselves. And branding doesn’t stop you from doing this, but it does give you a set of personal guidelines. Should I post that? Am I going to be pleased to see this in a year? Five years? Fifty years? The Internet is permanent, so anything you add needs to be seen that way.

Here’s one of the really terrible facts about life: Appearance matters. It does. It matters to almost everyone, at least on a subconscious level. Numerous studies have been shown that minorities of all types (racial, gender, sexual, religious, etc.) fare less well in traditional job interviews than do their white straight Protestant male counterparts. By adopting a professional, consistent brand, you can start to offset some of this because you know how you want to present yourself in a professional situation. In short, fake it til you make it.

One of the most important aspects of personal branding in my opinion is making sure that you come up first when people search for your name. I started using my first name (“John”) in all professional contexts when I was still in undergrad because too many people had my nickname online (“Mack”). Thus, John Mack Freeman was born. And when I Google myself, pages about me fill all of the top slots. If someone goes looking for me, they can find me easily because I want to be found. And please, even if you don’t plan on using it today, go ahead and buy the domain name for your full name. One day you’re going to want it, so get it before someone else does.

Branding doesn’t have to stay static. Brands relaunch campaigns all the time. People shift their opinions around brands that aren’t moving, both personal and corporate. In the words of Coco Chanel, “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.” You have to do what is best for you, incorporating and tweaking as you go. 

Branding can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. You can draw up guidelines or you can simply ask “does this show who I am? Will this develop my goals?”