Nonprofit Periscope

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I take it back. Kinda.

with 6 comments

In a previous post, I made a parenthetical statement, almost an afterthought, that “personal branding is a lie.”  I had no data to support it; I just threw it out there and walked away.

But Rosetta Thurman diligently noticed and artfully rebutted it, and I now have to admit: I was wrong.  Personal branding serves purposes—very concrete ones—and a lot of people find it useful.  A lot.  It has theory and methodology, and its meaning is understood by many.

However.  While I admit on an intellectual, left-brain level that the evidence for the importance of personal branding outweighs whatever made-up non-data I had in mind when I called it a lie, my emotional right brain is putting up a fight.  I don’t want to be a brand.  I don’t even want to have a brand.  I want to BE a human and HAVE a life.  I’m not saying that brand and life are mutually exclusive.  Rosetta’s personal brand is rock solid because it’s based on her inspiring, fabulous self.  But we’re all different.  Part of my background is in marketing and communications, where a brand is not flesh and blood and soul, but something both ethereal and squirrelly to be “managed.”  I can’t shake that connotation.

So instead of working on my personal brand (“What’s my reputation?), I’ll work on my personal mark (“What are my contributions?”)  Perhaps it’s the same thing as branding after all.  But it at least feels more human.

Written by eclawson

December 15, 2009 at 10:09 PM

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6 Responses

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  1. I like your take on this. I absolutely believe in the power of personal branding… but you’re right. It’s just that: branding. It’s not to be confused with contributing– which I agree is a far more noble cause and, actually, is why I (and I imagine many similar nonprofiteers) began branding in the first place.

    Perhaps that is where the confusion lies (on my end as well as I am thinking this through)? My brand is ABOUT contributing. Branding is also about connecting and community-building, and that’s another strong tie to nonprofit values. In short, there is a lot of overlap in personal branding and ‘personal contributing,’ that may be muddying the waters here; but that also can be harnessed to strengthen both efforts.


    December 16, 2009 at 8:23 AM

  2. Yes! It’s like you read my mind.

    “What Are My Contributions” because you can’t have a reputation, let alone build a brand, without contributions.

    We’re all toying with the same idea (at least, the non-huckster Personal Branding advocates are), that in order to move forward, you have to be visible.

    But in order to be visible, you should have something to show, which is where a lot of us go… er, uh… well, why are you branding yourself when you’re not doing anything, jackasses? (To which the PB hucksters go: you can deal with that later).

    I -hate- the idea of personal branding because it encourages cogification (or what my friend Ron Marks calls the “Highschool Mentality”)… but you can’t argue with the value of promoting the cool/charitable/fun things you are doing or have done.


    Nick Armstrong

    December 16, 2009 at 4:19 PM

  3. […] Rosetta (@rosettathurman), 6 Ways to Use Twitter to Enhance Your Nonprofit Career Colleen (@cdilly),  Personal Branding Makes You Better at Your Job Me (@ajlovesya),  Misconceptions on Social Media and Personal Branding Elizabeth (@eclawson),  Being a Brand versus Being Yourself […]

  4. I’m smiling as I read this, not because you said I’m right, Elizabeth, but because I think you have a great personal brand. You have a stellar professional reputation for being a really smart communications and fundraising professional and that’s why I’m comfortable recommending you to anyone looking for contract work in the nonprofit world. You may not want to think of yourself as a “brand” which is fine. The terms really don’t matter. What matters is that everyone has a reputation yours happens to be a good one.

    Rosetta Thurman

    December 20, 2009 at 4:16 PM

  5. I can’t shake my association between personal branding and the damage Tiger Woods has recently done to his personal and public brand. Personal branding is certainly not a myth, but this hoopla concerning the indiscretion of a very high-profile brand is making me think about the fragility of building and maintaining a brand.
    Looking within and looking out, there is reason to be mindful of the fact that branding CAN be (but is not necessarily) a deliberate construction of a persona. Granted, if you have nothing scandalous that you need to build [brand] around, no worries, eh?

    Chelsea Hick

    December 23, 2009 at 6:43 PM

  6. […] debate over personal branding (catch up on the action at Rosetta’s blog and Allison’s and mine), but I’m glad I did.  And I’m glad I’m playing defense in a debate dominated by […]

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