How to Control Your Personal Brand


Here’s a question I was recently asked.

“Matt, what’s your personal brand?”

Let me think about that. What does my box say when you pick it off the shelf at the grocery store?

Most of us don’t go through the day thinking about our personal brand. But the books tell me everyone has one. And books wouldn’t lie. So what’s my personal brand?

A personal brand is really a measurement of how people perceive you. And that can get a little speculative. Unfortunately, trying to figure out what people think of you is usually a futile exercise in mental telepathy.

So how do you develop your personal brand, if you don’t know what it is? That’s simple, just be what you want people to think about you. Your personal brand is all about perception. And fortunately, or unfortunately, perception and reality are often two different things.

Let me give you a story about expert personal branding. When I was 17, I worked as a Boy Scout camp counselor. Believe it or not, I taught wilderness survival, including how to make fire by rubbing two sticks together. There was one camper who stood out among the camp counselors and other campers. He was a kindly British boy who was filled with sharp British wit and displayed nothing but the most proper British manners. This was quite a departure from your typical Mountain Dew slugging, booger eating, knee scraping camper. And I guess that’s why everyone was so fond of him. Or maybe it was that everyone was enamored because he was from what seemed to us as a far off world.

One day I was helping one of the other scouts. And this scout told me something that surprised me. The British kid was not British at all. He was from Maryland. And he just spoke with a British accent so people would like him. And this little charade was working perfectly on everyone he met, including me. This kid knew that when it comes to your personal brand, you can go a long way towards molding other people’s perceptions of you.

But that doesn’t answer the question of what MY personal brand is. My personal brand really depends on how you know me. My sense is people know me most through my writing, either reading it or working with me to create it, or even using it in something they produce. If you work with me, or talk to me, or read me, you probably get the sense that I’m a little weird. But as someone said on behalf of me when I was interviewing for my current job, “Matt is weird, but weird in a good way.”

I like to think that’s my personal brand. What’s yours?

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