Does Your Personal Brand Need a Little Work? Try These Steps to Success


Does Your Personal Brand Need a Little Work? Try These Steps to Success


I sent an idea for a book proposal to a pretty big publishing house a few months ago. I didn’t expect it to go anywhere, but the friendly editor who passed it up the chain for me came back yesterday with the news that her boss thought “it would be hard to launch a book like this and get it to move because you’re not enough of an established brand.” 🙁

As it happens, I came across a few helpful bits of internet that I thought might give me some insight into how I’m mismanaging my personal brand. This piece from Forbes, “Build A Personal Brand, Not Just A Career” contained all manner of valuable advice, which I am now eager to install into my brand’s sorely-in-need-of-updating OS. Writes Forbes contributor Lisa Quast:

Companies spend a lot of money and effort to build their brands. Why is building a brand name important? As brand strategist and author Laura Ries notes, a brand is “a name that stands for something in prospects’ minds. Nordstrom stands for ‘shoes.’ Zappos stands for ‘internet shoes.’ Google stands for ‘search.’”

Luke O’Neil, as far as I can surmise, stands for “not well known enough to get a book idea published.” So maybe I should stop being such a pitiful loser incapable of getting anything he wants out of life?

Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, is one example of a successful business-person who also happens to have a strong brand, the piece points out.

How did Marissa Mayer score the position of CEO at Yahoo? According to Laura Ries, it was because she has what most people don’t – she has a brand. “As Google’s 20th employee and first woman engineer, she is a ‘brand.’ Marissa Mayer is the woman that made Google successful.”

Oh, I think I’m starting to see how this thing works. If you want to be successful in one thing, already be hugely successful in some other giant thing in the same field. My next move then is to publish a successful book, bring it to the publisher who rejected me, push it up against the window of their office and ask ‘How do you like them apples?’ Then, probably, sign a contract right there on the spot for a new book, depending on how long it takes legal to draft it up. You know how legal can be.

The advice on personal branding continues from there.

Define who you are and your unique abilities: Try to define yourself in a single word or concept. Lisa’s example: I have a friend who defined herself as the “process improvement expert” who “always completed projects on time and under budget.”

OK, so, make up bullshit neologisms about what it is you do and fulfill the bare minimum efficiency requirements for traditional employment? That seems kind of obvious, but alright, I’m not the expert here.

Understand other people’s perceptions of you: “Think about other people. Think about the impressions you are making on friends, neighbors, business associates. Think about your brand.” Lisa’s comment: Take the time to speak with many different people to understand how they perceive your strengths and then use this information as you create your personal brand.

Thinking about other people sounds like exactly the type of thing that someone with a strong personal brand would never do, being so focused on the brand and all, but I’m willing to try anything. Here, let’s take this time now to talk about it. What do you guys think my strengths are? How do you perceive my personal brand? How would you rate your experience interacting with my personal brand on a scale of 1-10? _________

Maybe I should put this on Twitter?

Another thing I’m told you want to do when honing your personal brand is to use “social media.” Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success, has some poignant takeaways in re: this matter, including:

Business cards
Resume/cover letter/reference documents
Portfolio showcasing your work
Blog or website
LinkedIn profile
Facebook profile
Twitter profile
Video résumé
Email address

All I need now is the most basic-ass collection of obvious shit that literally every single person you’ve ever met already has, and I’m good to go? Is that how this whole thing works? I’m still a little confused.

The Guardian, much like every other website in existence, has published a series of articles on this matter as well. In this one How to build your personal brand, they make the following useful analogy:

To construct your brand, imagine that you are going to construct a building. The first thing you do is dig a big hole. At the bottom of the hole are your talents.

That seems a little rude, but OK, you’ve got my attention. My own advice for most people would be to dig a deep hole, then toss yourself into it, because you’re never going to amount to anything anyway, not with a ratchet-ass brand like that, so what’s the point?

You can discover them but you cannot change them. You might have a facility with words or numbers or for connecting people or public speaking. You are likely to have developed one or more of your talents into specific skills. For example, a talent for numbers can be developed into the skills of an accountant, a maths teacher, a code-breaker or an actuary.

A talent for bullshit, for example, might be developed into the skill of writing advice articles on how to build a personal brand, like this one from Mashable, How to Create a Killer Personal Brand.

Maybe try being Coca Cola if you want a job so bad loser, they say.

Just as you instantly know a can of Coca-Cola when you see one (and know what to expect once it’s open), your audience should know exactly what you bring to the table and what they’re getting by working with you. Whether you’ve branded yourself as a no-nonsense people mover who’s apt at managing staff, or an industry expert and consultant who provides fresh insights and innovates the way a company operates, be consistent. Decide on your core messages and stick to one brand name.

Starting to realize that there’s a pretty big market for this ‘advice on how to create your personal brand’ field. Maybe I’ll try getting that job?  Here’s some ideas I’ve just gleaned from reading a dozen of these same articles in a row about how to do it more efficiently:

Be the type of person who refers to life as a “journey.”

Have the name of a few successful companies like Google or Coca-Cola handy to impress readers with your knowledge of business stuff.

Know what Twitter is and either have 150 followers, or 150k, not sure which is more pathetic.

Hate yourself with the heat of a thousand suns.

Pantsuits author photo.

Read this piece ‘I Am A Brand,’ Pathetic Man Says which will tell you everything you need to know.

That’s literally it, because everything about this made up horseshit is 100% obvious and intuitive.

Ok, fine, if you still don’t ‘get it’ after all of that, watch this video on how to be popular from the 1940s. It’s all still true today and provides a lot of actionable intelligence on how to synergize your brand vis a vis business and/or car parking handjobs, which is basically what branding is all about at its core.

A few key takeaways:

“I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about her I like.”

“Why do they invite Carolyn to enjoy their group? Is it because she seems as interested in girls as boys?”

“You sound like you need a helper, can I lend a hand?”

“Wally has implied his price range, so she will have some idea of what he can afford…”


Interact with Luke O’Neil’s brand on Twitter.