Personal Branding in a Service Industry

Businesswoman Giving a PresentationRecently, the PRBC crew had the pleasure of chiming in—as an entire group via Google Documents—on a series of questions regarding the blending of public relations and social media (one of my favorite subjects to discuss) on Lauren Fernandez’s LAF blog. The first set of questions dealt with what effect we all thought social media has had on the public relations industry.

You can read all of our responses here, but a comment by our good friend Jay Keith really sparked something in me. Jay was discussing his distaste for the exponential increase in so-called “experts” who are now online.

What follows is a section of my response to Jay’s comment:

Thanks, Jay, for the spot-on assessment of many within the PR/marketing/advertising space either branding themselves or being branded by their “followers” as gurus/experts/rockstars/superstars. Here’s the thing: They’re not any of those because the last time I read/heard/remember, those of us in the PR/marketing/advertising/social media work in service industries, which means we are here to help OTHERS become rockstars. Not us.

I don’t think any of us should even have that idea in our head that we want to become the next big thing because we shouldn’t be working toward that. We should be working toward building our clients and our organization into the next big thing. I would imagine if we all focused more on that, and began to get away from building our own personal brand (I honestly hate the term “personal brand”), then in the long run, people would notice our work, we would stand out naturally, and our “rockstar” status would build organically from there.

Expanding on those thoughts some more: Somehow, through the good graces of the social Web, many have forgotten a central tenet of being an employee for someone: You are there to produce fantastic, high-quality work for your company, it clients, customers, etc. Not necessarily for yourself.

There are many, many great opportunities to build your “personal brand”—if you want to call it that—by joining professional organizations, becoming a public speaker or networking at both professional and personal events.

But if you’re primary thought when building and executing campaigns for your company or its clients is how it will help turn you into a rockstar, and not how it will help your business or that of your clients, you’re frankly being selfish, and you’re also not really working as a true service professional. You’re working as a ME professional. And if that’s the case, then it’s time to get out of the service industry and strike it on your own. Nothing wrong with that. Just realize early on who you are really trying to help: Your company and its clients, or yourself.

For more insight into the many problems of building your “personal brand,” check out David Spinks’ great posts about the topic here, here and here.

So why do you think we are so easily granting this “rockstar/guru/expert” status on many within the digital space? Do you get as offended as I do when people start calling themselves “experts” even when they are working for others?

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