Personal Brands: Be Yourself or Create Yourself?

02 Dec 2009


Marketing is about image – and in this world of social media marketing, personal branding is paramount. But how do you walk the line between being yourself and creating yourself? It’s a question that’s been plaguing marketers (check out this blog on

And you know what? No one wants to buy into another slick marketing campaign – there’s real value by just marketing you as you.

Being Yourself

Good marketing copy reflects a true representation of you. Don’t hold anything back – really think about what defines YOU. Are you brutally honest? A real nice guy (or girl)? Smart and aggressive?

By being yourself in copy, you’re more likely to attract customers that are a good match for you. Like attracts like, plain and simple.

What’s more – being yourself is often a better way to get attention. Perez Hilton, gossip blogger, has one of the most popular blogs on the Internet. There are lots of celebrity blogs out there, but Hilton’s success lies in one thing: his personality. He’s brash, he’s bold, he’s downright mean. And people love it.

The problem a lot of businesses or businesspeople have is that they try to attract EVERYONE in their copy. You just can’t do it (see my previous blog on finding an audience). You need to position yourself, and accept the fact that not everyone is going to be interested in what you have to say, and not everyone is going to buy one of your widgets. So instead, try attracting clients and customers that ARE interested. Clients that are a lot like you.

There’s a couple of ways you can do that. Some ways to express your personality and build your personal brand through copy include:

1. Always using an easy, conversational style. Skip all the words you used in college, people appreciate simplicity.

2. Finding the appropriate tone. What are you like? Are you hip and cutting edge? Honest and old fashioned? Friendly and forthcoming? Tone will help you connect to clients on a personal level.

3. Be transparent and honest. If you don’t work with small businesses, explain that to potential clients. If you don’t think you can deliver on a particular project, let them know. Finding the right client match means that both parties should be honest, open, and communicative.

4. Don’t try to people-please too much. Of course, clients should always get what they want … within reason. If you’re an expert, then be the expert – if you can tell off the bat that a potential client isn’t a good fit with your personality (are they too demanding? Not open to new ideas?), then you might be better off passing on that client. You’ll often find that clients who don’t mesh with your personality won’t make lasting relationships.

Personal branding is all about creating and maintaining relationships. The best way to create lasting relationships? Just be yourself – you’ll get along with your clients much better.

Creating Yourself

Now, there’s nothing really wrong with projecting an image. Ed Schipul, author of blog, is one proponent of creating a brand.

Creating a brand often means putting your true personality aside and trying to appeal to what you think people want. If you want to branch out and grab high-end customers, you may need to completely rewrite all of your marketing materials, get a flashy web designer, and move into an upscale office. That’s creating a brand: you may feel more comfortable in jeans and T-shirts, but the clients you want to attract are more the suit-wearing type.

Now, I would contend that “creating” an image isn’t always the best way to go – especially if you’re running a business or social media enterprise. Why? Well, you’re likely to attract the wrong kind of clients and develop the wrong kind of relationships … which can lead to a lot of frustration on your part.

Often, when you’re not being “true to yourself” in your branding, you may start to feel dishonest. You may feel like your business and your clients are running you – not the other way around. Maybe all your energy and passion gets sapped because suddenly, you’re not doing what makes you happy, and your business has taken on an entirely different direction. Before going out and “creating” a persona to brand yourself, ask yourself:

1. What’s more important – owning your business and being true to yourself, or letting your clients tell you how it is?
2. What’s more important – providing a great product or service, or providing a great brand?
3. What’s more important – developing a large client base to sustain your in the future, or making a sale now?

Developing an image isn’t a bad thing – but when it starts to overshadow good business practice, like making a good product, delivering a great service, honesty, and your own personal happiness, that image can certainly hurt you.

What do you guys think? Do you work to create an image, a story, or a brand that matches up to your target audience? Or is settling into your natural personality a smarter way to go?

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