As the U.S. slowly but surely moves toward the 1099 economy, with an estimated 40 percent of people being freelancers or contractors by 2020, personal branding is becoming increasingly relevant. Who you are and what you stand for will matter just as much — if not more — than what school you went to or whatever title you had at your last corporate gig.
Yet, creating a personal brand is not as easy as it sounds. I distinctly remember reading USA Today marketing reporter Bruce Horovitz’s goodbye article in the paper.
I gasped a little at his honesty; he was talking about the uncertainty, the what-ifs, the “Who am I really?” struggle of the personal brand. And he had more than three decades of marketing critiquing, writing and analyzing experience.
His honesty comes in an era when confidence and beauty seem common. There are countless websites of consultants that include photos of smiling, well-dressed professionals standing in power poses, confidently displaying their personal brand.
Yet here was Horovitz talking about how even the most seasoned of the marketing professionals can be like a deer in headlights when it comes to selling themselves.
And so, here are some great examples of personal branding from people I’ve come to admire. People who are selling themselves — the good, the bad, the humble, the not-so-confident — and I’m loving it.
This man is legen - wait for it - dary. He introduced the PR world to Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and changed the way that PR professionals and the ever-elusive journalist work with each other.
In short, with HARO, journalists and PR pros sign up for the email service. When a journalist needs a source (say, they need to speak to someone who has owned a pit bull and didn’t get eaten alive), they submit it to HARO. HARO consolidates all journalists’ requests, blasts an email out daily and when a relevant organization or PR person receives this email and can help out (maybe because they’re the PR guru for Pit Bull Lovers of America, for example), they respond to the journalist. Bam - everyone’s happy.
Shankman had a vision of creating a network where two groups of professionals could help each other out, every single day, and it took off.
Since then, Shankman has gone on to become an expert in social media, marketing, business and customer service, pen several books, speak on current events on news networks like CNN, give inspiring speeches, consult and build an army of followers via social media networking and in-real-life networking.
- What I like most about Shankman’s brand: It’s authentic. Like, friend-you’ve-known-for-years authentic. He’s open about his struggles with staying healthy (because who doesn’t struggle there?), his ADHD and how he’s building and improving everyday. He carefully balances brand consistency with brand evolution; he’s always direct and clear about his opinion — dare I say sassy sometimes — yet leaves the door open for continued discussions on the fast-paced world of social media and business.
Get in on the action: Follow him on Twitter.
Ash Ambirge, Creator of the Middle Finger Project
She’s unf*ckwithable and hopes to spread that characteristic to all those willing to take it. Part writer, part entrepreneur and part coach, she began building her brand while looking up from her rock bottom. Try getting through her 67 Emotions of Success: My Story without tearing up a little. Go ahead.
Her brand is built on a strong story of overcoming adversity. Most people can look back on a time when life dealt them a crappy hand; when they were treated in a way that they in no way deserved. She uses that as a core to build the rest of her assets — the blog, the workshops, the courses. Her website even has a “Snark Mode” to a “Censored Mode” option in the upper right corner, with a hidden feature that plugs directly into her personal brand.
- What I like most about Weber’s brand: Weber stays far, far away from the unspoken societal rules for women and what they should do to succeed. Women and men alike have expectations for women in business: smile, dress well, love weddings and babies, be smart, don’t make too many faces, always be able to strike up some friendly, impersonal conversation that won’t offend anyone. Weber is having none of that and instead focuses on sharing her own attitude and philosophies and how she achieved success and became unf*ckwithable, through her ups and downs.
- Get in on the action: Check out her website .
Of Four Hour Work Week fame, Ferriss constantly tests, tries, learns, improves and seeks knowledge. I’ll be honest: I’m way late to this game. The Four Hour Work Week was first published in 2007 — almost a decade ago — and I just discovered Ferriss. I listened to one of his podcasts and was hooked. He’s smart, he’s curious and he seems to truly be living his life to the absolute fullest.
So far he’s filled his days with writing three New York Times bestsellers, being an angel investor in the likes of Uber, Twitter and Evernote and being ranked on multiple must-read/must-follow/must-watch lists. He also hosts an always-interesting podcast that boasts an eclectic guest list, ranging from actor/filmmaker/activist Edward Norton to Luis Von Ahn, inventor of CAPTCHAs and co-founder of Duolingo.
- What I like most about Ferriss' brand: He bundles it so, so well. His personal brand transcends the million different projects he’s working on, from writing another book to being an angel investor to learning how to do just about anything. He always carries his well-known curiosity and open-mindedness along. Because of that, he’s also created a community of followers who listen to his podcasts, frequently engage in the comments of his blog posts and on Facebook, and even has his own reddit fan club. He created a space where people feel they can contribute, collaborate and share ideas. And for the most part, the comments reflect the power of his personal brand: they’re open-minded and looking to share knowledge in a world where so much is uncertain. Added bonus: he’s a fan of wine, which makes him good in my book.
- Get in on the action: Listen to a podcast episode or two.
Do you know anyone who's killin' it when it comes to their personal brand? I'd love to hear about!