When it Comes to Branding, You Never Can Tell Where Something Will Come From – A Guest Blog by Bob Ramsay

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Here is an interesting take on “personal branding… or not”. Bob Ramsay, in his typical fashion,  provokes an introspection about the personal impact on our surroundings, how it happens and what it means. We hope you enjoy the blog!

When it Comes to Branding, You Never Can Tell Where Something Will Come From

By: Bob Ramsay

There are now so many definitions of branding and so many ways to express a brand (Twitter is younger than your 10-year-old) that I propose we revert to calling it “reputation.”

After all, isn’t your personal brand the sum of what everyone thinks of you? At least everyone who counts in your life, or who you want to count. And when someone says “they have a flaky reputation,” we all know what that means. But when someone is said to have “a flaky brand”, well, that could mean a few different things.

So, while we’re swapping one word for another, I’d suggest we also step back and ask the deeper questions: Where does viewing ourselves as personal brands get us? Can it make us richer? More famous? More fulfilled? Happier?

Maybe. But the reality is, absolutely no one knows. There is no evidence that people who manage their “personal brands” fare any better in life than those who don’t.  In fact, those bookshelves groaning with tomes about how to boost your brand are  as effective as dieting books and motivational seminars, which have been proven to be counter-effective to their stated goals. Indeed, dieting is a gateway habit for long-term weight gain.

Back to branding. I mean, after you’ve read a branding blog or heard a branding expert, and went out and put their theory to the test by practicing it,  did all kinds of good things happen that otherwise wouldn’t? If your answer is “yes,” you’re luckier than most. Usually, you try something new (“I must tweet more… speak more… write more!”), discover you can’t do it very well, lose patience and revert to your current behavior.  The only change is you feel even more envious about people who can crowd-source millions of dollars, have zillions of followers, and testify to winning gobs of new business because they’re great self-brand managers.

Let me tell you what does work for me, and how I’ve used my reputation to make my way in life and work. And if what I’ve learned is something you can use, then we’re both the better for it.

I’m 65-years old and I’ve been an entrepreneur for 40 years. The last 30 of them I’ve been a one-person shop, hiring other freelancers and casting them off as the volume and nature of my work rises and falls. Believe me, it’s done both. I’ve had a few spectacular years and a few dreadful ones. But in the marketing-communications-journalism-events business I’ve swum in and out of over the years, my head’s still up and my breathing is steady.

I’m a consultant and a very outgoing person. This sociability has helped me because I have a lot of contacts. I love people and relish connecting them. But what I’ve learned in 40 years of waking up every morning and hunting for business are two seemingly opposite things that I now feel comfortable reconciling and that I encourage you to do as well when it comes to your own reputation.

These opposites are like the two poles created by one magnetic reality, which is that:


We all know this is true in our personal lives, especially around our life partners and our health. So why would it be any less true around our work?

Once a year I sit down with my business manager and review every single project I’ve worked on to discover “where they came from”. Every year, I’m surprised by the answer: it’s a combination of repeat business from my existing clients, plus direct referrals, plus, to a shocking degree… strange encounters, odd coincidences, bizarre connections across many degrees and many years.

What this means is that I have to focus on two equal but opposite activities in sustaining my reputation and business: going deep and going wide.

If I stopped sending tweets and constantly updating my LinkedIn site,  those “how did they end up here?” projects would likely fade away.

In the same way, if I didn’t say: “You know, my client Rafi hates hockey games but loves Israeli violinists, so why don’t I take him to hear one and meet her backstage as well?”

Where the magic happens for all of us is in doing both – the highly personal and individual and the highly impersonal and virtual – or rather, in feeling comfortable in doing both, and not worrying that writing a 750-word blog like this one is going to help my revenues, my reputation – or even my brand.

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