by Kristin Battista-Frazee, MSW
One of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes is, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you!”
This captures in catchy wordplay that you can’t escape who you are. This is also the essence of authenticity, which is the bedrock of your personal brand and will help you better connect and build relationships with people. Just being you makes the personal branding process easier, too. You don’t have to act like the Grinch when you feel like the Cat in the Hat. Remember, it’s tough to perform and sustain a persona that’s not inherently within your nature.
In the early stages of developing or repositioning your brand, you’re identifying strengths, challenges, values, and passions. All of this culminates in the promise of what you provide to your audience, whether it is great content, strong work ethic, or specific expertise. In summary, you are getting in touch with your authentic self and figuring out how to position your skills in the marketplace. Your authenticity also needs to be balanced with a good sense of how much to share, what to share, and when to share it.
Social workers’ education has trained us to effectively use authenticity to engage clients and systems to perform our best work. By offering a more genuine self, we elicit better engagement and sharing from clients, colleagues, and advocates. We are guided by a code of ethics to do this in a principled way. We’re taught not to share too much, to create good boundaries, and to disclose just enough to better relate to people to solve big problems. Our orientation gives us an advantage in framing authenticity, and this can be applied to shaping your brand, as well.
Although it’s important to be authentic, this doesn’t give you license to say whatever is on your mind. It can be tricky to carve out that sweet spot, but it is so valuable. For example, discussing politics has the potential for controversy. If you want to create a dialogue or share information about politics, either liberal or conservative, think carefully about creating a respectful tone and honoring the vocalization of other viewpoints. The takeaway message here is to temper your approach and exercise excellent judgment when sharing information and opinions with your audience.
On one end of the spectrum, some corporations and organizations have strict social media policies with employees bound to uphold a certain decorum on social media. You’ll see in Twitter bios, too, “My views are my own,” to further clarify this point. Ultimately, you’re a representative of your employer or practice, and the way you share opinions reflects on their brand, too. If you’re in business for yourself, such as in a private practice, it is all the more important, since your business and personal brand are intertwined.
Under less defined parameters, it becomes about strategically thinking about how you want to present your authentic self, remaining true to your values, and to shape others' perception of you. Just as when you start a new job or meet someone you don’t know, first impressions are everything. You survey your environment, realize what’s acceptable about what you can and cannot do or say, and then you figure out how to best meet expectations. So before you post publicly about breaking up with your significant other or share views that might offend half your online audience, decide if this reflects how you want to portray yourself.
In my own experience developing my authentic brand, I had to think about how promoting my book, The Pornographer’s Daughter, would affect my overall career. The title is not conventional and raises eyebrows, and I have had to artfully tell my story in the context of the rest of my skills and talents in social work, as a marketing professional, and as a writer. I knew a long time ago that sharing my story would forever change what people think of me. Telling my story has brought me more success than heartache, and I’m forever grateful for the opportunities it has afforded me. This process is still constantly evolving for me, too.
In the end, the authentic self you share in your brand will attract the right people and prospects for you.
- Direct Social Work Practice: Theory and Skills, 9th Edition (Brooks/Cole Empowerment Series), by Dean H. Hepworth, Ronald H. Rooney, Glenda Dewberry Rooney, Kim Strom-Gottfried
- Samples on Google Books
- 7 Ways To Make Your Brand More Authentic On Social Media, Social Media Week (#SMW15), July 29, 2015
- Authenticity, Brené Brown, LCSW, PhD
- Brené Brown, LCSW, PhD, TED Talks
- How to Build an Authentic Personal Brand: Lessons From Fashion Mogul Marc Eckō, Association of Talent Development, Halelly Azulay, December 3, 2013
- The Authenticity Paradox, Harvard Business Review, January/February 2015 Issue
- The Authentic Person’s Guide To Self-Branding, Fast Company, Elizabeth Segran, December 8, 2014
- GA Creative, September 19, 2014, What Dr. Seuss Taught Us About Catchy Word Play – And Building A Brand All Your Own