I was walking down a corridor when a woman stepped in front of me and shared her amazement for the depth of my soul. I took her comment as a compliment until she added, “So why don’t you live more like the stories in your book?”
The book she referenced was a series of true life events that I had experienced, which meant I did live like the stories in realtime when I actually lived out those moments. But for some reason our casual meetings had never allowed her to see any of those attributes of mine.
She was convinced that I was a shallow man. At first, I thought it was her fault for never taking time to get to know me. But after pondering the idea, I realized that I was in control of what I presented and withheld.
In that moment, I realized I was the only one in control of my personal brand. It was my responsibility, and the neglecting of it was a choice that could promote the opposite of who I am.
“A personal brand is really a story that highlights your attributes,” says Frank Cutitta, founder of the Center for Global Branding. “This story will help others understand who you are and where you fit into your industry’s or company’s marketplace.”
While many people have created personal brands for themselves via their choices of what is published on Facebook, they really aren’t aware of how the style or imagery represents them. Few people know how to assess their posts, which becomes the foundation of their personal brand or story.
What You Play Up Stays Up
Raynard Jackson, President & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C. public relations/government affairs firm, who is regularly on CNN, MSNBC, BET, FOX News, and C-SPAN, giving his analysis on subjects from politics, culture, foreign policy, and economics, recently addressed the black community about their personal brand.
“What have Black folks done that causes police to totally undervalue our lives and causes others to feel threatened by our mere presence and immediately feel the need to call the police?”
In a controversial statement, Jackson put the onus of brand on the individuals. He also suggested things that fuel misperceptions can create an artificial reality, including the television shows like Empire, Insecure, and The Quad that showcase and popularize Blacks in very negative roles.
“We glorify the thug life in our music; scantily-clad Black women have become the standard in music videos,” he says. “Put yourself in the shoes of a White person riding public transportation that sees a train full of Black teenagers with their pants hanging halfway down their butts, calling each other n–gers, and constantly grabbing their crotches.”
“Or the police pulling up to a crowded park and hearing loud rap music being played talking about ‘f-ck the police’ or ‘b–ch this’ or ‘b–ch that.’”
“We have almost thirty years of negative images about Blacks throughout every media platform available and now you want to act surprised that people have these negative perceptions about us? Come on, man. Let’s be real.”
“Don’t tell me you are a hoe and then act surprised when I treat you like one. Don’t introduce me to your best friend by saying, ‘this is my b—ch, Jennifer’ and then get mad when I call her a ‘b–ch.’”
“Maybe Whites believe in the old adage that says, ‘when a person shows you who they are, you better believe them.’”
“So, what I am saying to Black folk is pull up your damn pants, stop calling each other n–gers in public and private, stop calling each other b–hes and hoes and thinking these are terms of endearment because they are not.”
The film, television, and music industry is known for focusing in on stereotypical angles of life for any given community to save development time. Breaking away from these misperceptions can be done with a personal brand.
Develop Your Personal Brand Before Society Does
A personal brand matters and happens every time we communicate in business and socially.
Your personal brand will develop your online (and offline) reputation, increase trust in your authority and ability, make you more memorable, and open networking opportunities for your future. Therefore it is worth our time to take responsibility for our personal brand and not leave it to stereotypes or the media.
The following steps will help you take control of your personal brand.
- Define who you are professionally.
- Define who you are socially.
- Craft responses on key topics that reveal who you are.
- Adjust your online presence to match up with 1-3.
The goal is integrity, to make sure you seem like the same person across all of your social media sites. If you want certain things to remain personal, then adjust your online settings to keep it private. The key is taking responsibility for your image or personal brand, and not leave it as prey to be gobbled up by stereotypes or the sum of misperceptions.