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Personal Branding: All Sizzle And No Steak?

“Personal branding” is the “it” term of 2016. I can’t open a business magazine or podcast without being assaulted by this term. And assault is not too strong a term. Self-proclaim business, productivity and other “gurus” are now speaking constantly of the importance of building and promoting your own brand. No branding equals no business, or so we are told.

Apparently you can’t succeed or even begin to succeed or even contemplate success without having a fully formed brand of your own. OK. I get it. But let me back up for a second to ask a very basic question: What are you promoting? Promotion is just the sizzle to your steak. Without the steak there’s nothing there, just the fleeting sound of crackling fat and sight of smoke going up in the air.

What’s really important is what’s behind the brand. What exactly is the service or the product that you’re providing? I swear in many of these discussions about branding there’s no mention of what the company or entrepreneur is actually doing, much less of their excellence. It’s all about image.

Personal branding, to be fair, has been around for some time. It’s nothing new. Hans Christian Andersen wrote about it in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Donald Trump has lived it for decades. Trump has been selling his name or his brand for years, and he’s been excellent at it. Yet what’s in a name? Apparently, bankrupt casinos, sub par wine and steaks and a for-profit “university” now being investigated for fraud. It’s taken a run for the Presidency and the putative GOP nomination for us to begin to look behind the Trump brand. But I digress.

Building a successful business or establishing a solid reputation within a larger company is about much more than a slick social media presence and thousands of followers. Talk (and social media) is cheap. Creating excellence is a long term proposition, requiring your blood, your sweat and, at times, your tears.

The first stage of building a company, firm or your own reputation should be in defining just what it is that you’re providing. The second stage is to achieve excellence in what you’re doing. Only then, should you really begin thinking about your “personal brand.” Even then, it may be your satisfied customers and clients who will help you to build your business and to establish your “personal brand.”

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