The Authenticity of Personal Branding in a World of Competition

Kathryn De Vries

March 22, 2020

Competition. Even the word itself presents a threat. In today’s day and age, competition surrounds almost every individual as they fight against thousands of others to establish a career in their respective industry field. Students pursuing careers in creative fields such as advertising and marketing understand this competitive nature within their industry. There is an increasing amount of pressure on these students to stand out from the rest and be unique by creating their own “personal brand.” Although developing a personal brand for yourself may be essential for success in creative industries, are these individual’s true identities beginning to disappear behind the professional personas they’ve created for themselves?

According to—the leading authority on the topic of personal branding— a “personal brand” is defined as a widely-recognized and largely-uniform perception or impression of an individual based on their experience, expertise, competencies, actions and/or achievements within a community, industry, or the marketplace at large.

This rather lengthy definition seemingly includes everything that makes up the essence of an individual. Everything from a person’s past experiences to all of their knowledge and abilities must be encapsulated within their personal brand. As students are continuously encouraged to define their own personal brands in today’s rapidly changing digital age, the essence of their true character falls to question as they craft their personas through online platforms.

Social media influencers are one example to look at in analyzing the authenticity of an individual’s personal brand. These self-proclaimed “influencers” are people whose jobs rely solely on creating a personal brand for themselves based on their knowledge or expertise about a certain topic. In many creative industries, influencers are widely successful because brands seek them out to promote their products to their large social media followings.

Influencers may use a variety of different platforms to generate their followings, but one thing remains constant between the most successful: the interest level in their content. To achieve and maintain the highest level of interest from their followers, influencers continue to demonstrate their creative sides in any and every way they can for their content, even if that means sacrificing their personal morals for better ratings and more likes. So the question still remains for these influencer’s personal brands: are the online personas they’ve created for themselves actually representative of their true identities?

The idea of creating a personal brand that communicates everything that an individual is, does and believes is a daunting task. And trying to reinvent your individuality in a new and intriguing way to others makes it an almost impossible one. It is overwhelming to constantly think of new ways to make other people pay attention to you when there are thousands of others trying to do the same thing. The digital age in which we live today provides many opportunities that both  can help, or hurt, a person trying to establish their personal brand. It also presents opportunities for those trying to do so to want to copy brands of those more successful. This is another reason why it is very easy to lose one’s true identity while trying to achieve their goals.

An article from Forbes regarding the golden rules of personal branding offers ways in which those attempting to create their own personal brand can do so in an engaging and authentic way.

Following these tips has helped me craft my own personal brand in a way that I feel is a true representation of myself, but at the same time is still unique and intriguing to others. As an individual pursuing a career in a creative field myself, I feel that one of the most important things you can do on your journey to success is stay true to who you are as an individual and not make up a persona for yourself to please others. Online personas like those of influencers can often be very successful but also can cover up who the individual really is by hiding their personality with attention grabbing gimmicks. In today’s world, the only information that is still yours is your personality and I believe you should display that as authentically as you can in order to achieve success, not through marketing yourself as something that you’re not.

  1. Have a focus: Keeping your message focused for your target demographic will make it that much easier to both create content around your personal brand and have others define you.
  2. Be genuine: Your personal brand should be an easy daily filter that you create content and reach out to your audience with.
  3. Tell a story: No one wants to hear you shout about your brand into the social media void, so create a story around your brand that your audience can engage with.
  4. Be consistent: Being consistent is very similar to having a narrow focus—it’s much easier to get recognized for one topic if you consistently create content and brand voice around it.
  5. Be ready to fail: The very best brands always come from repeated trial and error, mistakes and failures and not from instant perfection.
  6. Create a positive impact: Keeping a positive attitude and helping others will only help healthily grow your brand in the long run.
  7. Follow a successful example: “People interested in personal branding need to start marketing themselves like the celebrities and influential people that they look up to every day,“ explains Jason Wong, CEO of Wonghaus Ventures.
  8. Live your brand: “Your personal brand should follow you everywhere you go. It needs to be an authentic manifestation of who you are and amplify what you believe,” says Tim Salau, community builder and founder of Mentors & Mentees.
  9. Let other people tell your story: The best PR is by word of mouth. Creating a personal brand in the public sphere is no exception to this rule.
  10. Leave a legacy: A personal brand is a lifelong project that constantly evolves and changes. Make sure you consider the impact yours will have.

Kathryn De Vries (@kathryndevries) is an Advertising Creative junior focusing on a concentration in copywriting. Her passion for storytelling is evident amongst her various projects as a writer, editor, brand strategist and designer. When she’s not busy working, you can find her exploring her love for craft beer at any of the local breweries around the Lansing area.