I know, I know – half of you clicking through just cringed when you read the term “personal brand” – I’m not a fan of the term either, but up until now I’ve been hard pressed to find a term that summed the concept up better. Also, I’m approaching this thought exercise not from the notion that you can directly control or shape a ‘brand’ for yourself but rather trying to understand what the underpinnings of the concept are and how someone can ensure they’re putting the right foundation out there for people to build their own impressions, and thus your “brand” on.
For the specialists of the world I’m not sure this is as big an issue, but I think a lot of generalists (like me) struggle with it. As I’ve pondered on my blog in the past here, it’s not always clear to me exactly what it is I do, and if it’s not clear to me I can only imagine how messy it gets when other people try to form opinions or thoughts about what it is I do.
Anatomy of a Personal Brand: Attempt 1
I took a first stab at creating a model in my trusty sketchbook the other day and came up with this:
Ultimately as I dug into the visual though and tried to create a more refined version I realized what I was drawing here was actually more a representation about how individuals form opinions about you and didn’t speak at all to how the greater collective opinion (a.k.a “Personal Brand”) got formed. So, instead, I moved away from this circular idea and tried approaching this from the bottom up.
Anatomy of a Personal Brand: Attempt 2
(Click to enlarge | Hosted on Flickr)
For this visual I started at the bottom, the foundation – Facts & Fictions. Everyone’s opinion is based on their perceptions of impressions of the baseline facts and/or fictions available to them. Perceptions are the intuitive feelings people get – gut feeling, sensing, etc. whereas Impressions represent the interpretive side, where someone makes deliberate judgments based on the ‘evidence’ before them. Both perceptions and impressions can influence each other and they roll up to form the individual’s opinion, which in turn gets added to a Collective Reputation based on the individual opinions of the masses.
Context is Everything
As with most things, context with everything – we don’t have one single collective reputation. Your collective reputation will change depending on the lens you’re being viewed through – i.e. Your collective reputation in the context of “Trustworthy” might be dramatically different from that of the context of “Can Fix Cars”. That said, the contexts are not exclusive, if I’m considering who I want to have fix my car I would consider both “Trustworthy” and “Can Fix Cars” in making both my decisions (and if you screw up my car or screw me on the bill both could be affected).
Individuals Weight the Collective Reputation
Also, there’s no standard “reputation” for any context – each collective reputation is formed by the individual’s networks and their opinions of the individual people who make up that network. For example, if my view of the collective reputation of person X is that he’s not very trustworthy then I’m not going to weight his opinion of Person Y as highly as I would someone else more trustworthy.
Facts, Not fiction
Facts & Fictions are the only place you have any control and even then, you only have the power to create new facts or fictions. Fictions are unsustainable though and will ultimately lead to negative Facts being created, and you can’t ‘delete’ those.
All in all, I’m happy with where this visual is headed – I think there’s a few other visuals that can do with some exploring as well including; context, weighting & how you go about evaluating and improving on the collective reputations you have today.
I also like the emergence of the term “Collective Reputation” – I’m not 100% sure it’s the perfect terminology but it sure sounds a whole lot better than personal brand.
What are you thoughts or comments? Share them below.