Hamlet small This morning I sat on a panel at the Ohio Growth Summit. The topic for this panel was Personal Branding, effectively and imaginatively led by Nate Riggs.

I learned a lot about personal branding from the other panelists.

Right now, here's what I think it is.

Personal Branding Is Theatre.
As usual, Shakespeare offers the insight we seek.

As his Macbeth (V.v.24-28) tells us, each of us is in life "but a walking shadow, a poor player, / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, /And then is heard no more."

Our primary challenge is to pick a role that is worthy of us. For that is how we define ourselves. Be not the bloody king who played "a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing."

So, what to do?
Do what any actor works hard to do. And try to make it look easy.

  • Recognize that you are playing a role. If you are a deep introvert, you can take comfort that the brand is not you, exposed naked. Perhaps it's you, amplified introvert. Pick the right role.
  • Know your lines. All vivid brands are centered around a concise, clearly written message strategy. This is the backstory for your script.
  • Stay in character. If you are wildly inconsistent, people won't know what your brand stands for.
  • The role needs to be authentic. If you are trying to be something you are not — and something that you can't even reasonably grow into — then you are living a lie and you will constantly be swimming against the tension. That's a hard swim and a long life.
  • It isn't a one-person show. Share your role with others. (Not just in performance. Tell people about your role from your point of view.) See how your motivation might contribute to others' motivations. Play nice. Collaborate. Be more than independent; be interdependent.
  • Be self-aware, not self-centered. Know what you look like from the audience's point of view. Practice in a mirror and on camera. Dissect. Understand.
  • Rehearse. If you don't practice your basic lines (such as your elevator pitch), then don't be surprised if it always sounds like the first time you've said it.
  • Practice improvisation. Every day teaches us that life is not scripted. Get good at listening and working with others in a highly collaborative way. (Want group training? Let me introduce you to ImprovEdge.)

That note on authenticity is key.
It's the most important of the bullets above. As you know, I'm keen on trying to become authentic.

Polonius is no fool. As he tells Hamlet (I.iii.78-81):

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

Same to you!