Protecting Your Personal Brand

I genuinely believe that everyone who is pursuing growth personally or professionally, everyone needs a personal brand. Everyone needs to know his or her core values, mission, and vision. 

And I think every person who is pursuing growth needs to be firm and understand that your brand has value outside of the work you do, whether it\’s for yourself or for somebody else. 

I want to encourage you to fight fiercely to protect your right to have your brand – and to be OK with both the good and the bad outcomes. I

I personally am having to play a bit of catch up because I allowed my personal brand not just to take a backseat but I actually kicked it OUT of the speeding vehicle that I was in.

I had some good reasons for doing so.

  • Continuing to build my personal brand would have meant that I might have been sharing diverse or even divergent points of view from the people that I work for and the people that I worked with. 

And that would have created quite a bit of internal strife and friction with my team, but it also might have been confusing to my audience.

  • Also…if I’m honest…I found some platforms to be quite overwhelming, and I welcomed the break.

For example – I had more than 20,000 followers on Twitter, and I was extremely active on that platform for years. I led two of the first viral Twitter chats — shoutout to #AgeOp and #FitChat – and then used Twitter to engage with some of the most vocal and progressive political and social activism communities.

But Twitter, and the way in which I used it, started to feel more and more like a toxic echo chamber, and I was already having an identity crisis with the platform.

During the 2020 presidential election season, after numerous discussions with members of the leadership team from the company I was working with, and after taking a hard look at what I was getting out of Twitter, I closed my account down. 20,000 followers and YEARS of tweets…gone. Forever.

That was one of many things I did – or stopped doing – over the course of three years. And they were all 180-degree changes from the strategies that helped me grow and get traction in the first place.

THAT is what I regret. Letting my personal brand building muscles atrophy.

In summary: two things can be true. I can understand why I made the choices I did and why I didn\’t speak up when I typically would have… 

…and still regret that I allowed my own point of view and my own perspective to be swallowed up by other people\’s or by the company and brand for which I worked.

Today I am back to what I am best at, and frankly what led me to so much of my professional and personal success: standing in a convicted way behind my points of view behind my values.

And being unafraid to tell people what I\’m thinking or what I\’m excited about or my opinions on everything from current events, to new software to marketing strategies to parenting.

I will always be conscious and mindful of how what I say positively or negatively impacts other people, particularly my friends and family. I am happy to be provocative and happy to be an instigator to a point. 

I find that performative action doesn\’t feel good. And I have done that before. 

I know that it feels shameful because I have posted performance or outrage content before, or supported what I now have to acknowledge was performative content from other people. 

“I can\’t believe this is happening and I shake my fist at the world” virtually and then I don\’t take the right amount of action to back it up. 

That never makes me feel good. It makes me feel ashamed. 

And so I want to be careful that if I\’m going to use my platform and whatever influence I have, and take a stand and share a point of view that it is more than just talk.

And to be frank, I would rather not say it at all, if I\’m not going to back it up. 

Conversely, I feel a much stronger pull to act and not always talk about it. There are times when there are events in the news or events in my communities where I have to stand up and say something, or when I have to weigh in or when I have to share an amplify. 

But there are also times when it is more helpful for me to contribute and make a difference through a financial contribution or donation. Through volunteerism or activism. Through underground outreach. 

When I have private conversations with people one on one or in small groups, I\’m able to move the needle more than if I\’m just broadcasting to a bunch of people that I don\’t have a real relationship with. And when I become just one more person talking about it instead of being about it.

So these are things that I\’m still navigating with my personal brand.

But in particular, I want to be sure that I am independent of my work. It\’s another thing that I\’m doing to also prevent and combat any upcoming burnout that I might experience, because I do think that losing myself and losing my voice made me more susceptible to burning out. 

And I sure did burnout.

So having a personal brand is important. And I will also say this because I\’m coming back at building my personal brand after taking a bit of a hiatus. 

I\’m now able to find new role models who have been very active over the last three years and see how effectively and how positively those personal brands have impacted their business. And not just founders. 

I can think of numerous examples of people that I know and follow, particularly on LinkedIn, where I am engaging with them on topics related to and not related to their industry. But because I have built up new interest and new respect for that person. I am also extremely interested in the company that they work for.

During my brief sabbatical between working in-house for a company and choosing to go back into self-employment. I spent a lot of time during the break, just checking out new software. It had been a while since I\’d really looked at what people were working on. 

I think software as a service, or SaaS, I think this industry is so interesting. And the marketing and sales strategies for those products in particular have changed dramatically since I was in the game. And so rather than just reading about it, I actually booked demos with probably eight different software companies. 

I\’d never wanted to waste the sales reps time or the account executives’ time. But I was really interested to see what those products were about and how they were impacting the marketplace and who is the right fit and what was the pricing and what problems are they solving. In every case, I went through the download process and went through the sales pipeline, specifically because I had interacted with one of their employees.

And it\’s now so interesting to me when I see companies blocking or disincentivizing or preventing their employees from posting on social media from posting on a personal brand for posting during work hours.

100% As a business owner I understand that your employees are a reflection of you, even if they are posting from a personal account, if they are posting something that is in diametric opposition to your business values. 

If that person says something that is outrageous or is inflammatory or is politically incorrect, there is no question that there may be backlash for the company and for the company founder. So I\’m not discounting the importance of that. 

But I am saying that largely, the opportunities and the rewards far outweigh the risks. And if you were to have a team member or an employee who acted in a way that made you ashamed or that reflected poorly on your company, the remedy is you address it either with that person or with your community or both. If applicable, you remove that person from employment and you move on.

If you have 10 employees or 10 team members who are working on their personal brand, and you\’ve got one of them who goes sideways, the other nine are critically important and powerful, and giving them an opportunity to test what\’s working in social media to have strong points of view, to find new followers and engage with people that may not have ever been attracted to your company or your brand without this person as your ambassador, allowing them to be curious and thoughtful and to share content that has nothing to do with your work.

All of that contributes to a rising tide that lifts all of our ships.

So you\’ll see this in action for me now. And I have not removed any of my posts from the three year stretch during which I was in house. They are a little bit of a time capsule for me and I have gone back and looked at a lot of the posts that I put up, especially during the last year of my employment, where I developed these strong symptoms of burnout. 

And ultimately I left that company due to mental health. And because I knew that I could not continue working in that environment and at that pace without setting boundaries. And so I left when I look back at some of those posts, it\’s really clear to me that I was not myself. 

Again, I extend a lot of grace for past Katie. I am not interested in dragging past me through the mud or indicting past me or spending a lot of time feeling bad, because so much of my experience was good and was positive. 

And while there may be some cringe-worthy things that I said or did, I think frankly, the thing that makes me more cringy are the things that I know I didn\’t say, I didn\’t know, I didn\’t do.

It\’s also clear to me that there\’s like a very Heathers quality. I think I may have dated myself. I was born in 1980. So if you\’re familiar with the Heathers movie, or even Mean Girls for a more recent reference, I do see now that I was more of a copy paste messaging tool for other people and other and the company and I did not continue to develop and take the opportunities to share myself and my perspective outside of the work that I was doing.

I think that it\’s a trap that other high performers could fall into. And I know that it is still a trap that some employers are setting for their team members, and it\’s disheartening.

But I also want to encourage you if you\’re feeling that way, too to do what you can to break out of that trap.

Even if it puts your current role at risk.

I want you to consider – is that even the right role for you?

Is it the right role and the right place to be if you don\’t have any space through which to explore your own interests, your own curiosity, develop your own engagement have a life and a personality outside of what you do. If you don\’t even have a little bit of space to do that.

Then I think you need to question whether this is the right place for you.

So if you want to watch me continue to build and leverage and learn my own personal brand, I would absolutely love to have you follow me, particularly on LinkedIn, Instagram and Tiktok. 

Those are the three platforms where I\’m really rediscovering my voice and my point of view and experimenting and consistently posting and working to build back my personal brand. It is mostly joyful. I think that\’s the biggest thing that surprised me and was clear, clear victory that I am genuinely excited to post on LinkedIn or to come up with a Reel or a TikTok.

It is fun. It is fun to explore my voice. It is fun to cast ideas out into the universe and see how they\’re received. It\’s fun to have healthy debates with people again.

And if you\’re not having fun, right now, if you have no space for creativity, then I hope that you\’ll take the opportunity to find where you can start to reengage because I want you to be as joyful. As I am when you\’re posting online.