If you’ve never seen Eddie Murphy’s cult classic, Coming to America, you have done yourself a disservice that needs to be corrected immediately. If you have seen it, though, you know that it’s one of the funniest movies OF ALL TIME. It’s about an African prince who slums it up in New York as he searches for his true love, and it’s full of quotables (two words for ya: Sexual. Chocolate.). One of the most popular one-liners is delivered when Eddie’s character, Prince Akeem, is trying (too hard) to impress a coworker he has a crush on. After extolling his janitorial skills to her, he says, “When you think of garbage, think of Akeem!
And that, ladies and gentleman, is personal branding in a nutshell: When you think of ______, think of [Your Name Here].
When my friends think of anything related to communications, from writing and media to literature and storytelling, they think of me. As manager of my personal brand, it’s my job to make sure that colleagues, employers and potential collaborators are thinking the same thing.
Most folks agree that the idea of personal branding was introduced in Tom Peters’ 1997 Fast Company article “The Brand Called You.” According to Peters:
Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.
It’s that simple — and that hard. And that inescapable.
Fast forward to today, where Dan Schawbel has taken the concept of personal branding and applied it to the Information age. His book Me 2.0 (which I’m currently reading) teaches you how to discover and market your personal brand. If you can’t drill it down to just one thing, I highly recommend checking out this post on Puttylike, a website for “multipotentialites”, i.e. Renaissance men and women.
Once you’ve decided on what your brand is, you should definitely start using the Internet to grow it, because that’s where people will be looking for you (and don’t act like you’ve never Googled somebody to find out what they’re all about. Please believe your employers do it too.). Who you talk with, what you talk about, even the way you talk–it all paints a picture of who you are.
So what does this mean? Well–it means that when people Google you, whatever comes up should be exactly what you want them to find. At the very least, you need to have a fully completed, up-to-date LinkedIn account; if you want to be really good, you need to have an active blog or an updated website.
But to get started, take a lesson from Prince Akeem and decide what you want to represent. Then Google yourself and see if it lines up.