Is Personal Branding a Load of BS?

Last Updated Dec 7, 2009 9:49 AM EST

Anyone with a Twitter account or an RSS feed of a few business blogs knows exactly how popular the buzzword "personal branding" has become. Every three seconds someone is claiming it's the key to success. Now someone else is countering with an assertion that it's utter BS. I like this guy.
Carlos Miceli has a bit of a rant on the Gen Y focused OwlSparks blog, letting off a little steam and giving his personal branding worries a stylish kiss off:
You have prevented me from having fun for the last time... Your job is done, I'm moving on now. Because really, all that you've ever really taught us is stuff we already knew. Did we really need someone telling us how to be authentic or respectful?
The man has a point. What does personal branding really amount to but what used to be known as earning a solid reputation through good work and decency? As Miceli points out, if you're failing to convince people of your worth, the issue is probably more about substance than style.
Don't tell me about those drunk girls that upload their pics on Facebook for everyone to see, or about those employees that publicly say that they hate their job. In reality, the problem is those people are just being themselves. The problem isn't, "You're awesome but because of that photo of you peeing on a dog while getting high, the company decided to go another way." You were a mess to begin with.
This is not Personal Branding; this is common sense.
For the grand finale, the post offers "the two most harmful consequences of Personal Branding." What are they?
  • It makes you afraid.... Personal Branding bases most of its points on not upsetting potential contacts, your interviewer, your boss, or anyone else who will decide if you "live or die financially," depending on what they find out about you online. To hell with that: authenticity means upsetting people. Only by disagreeing and even fighting others will you do something worth talking about. This does not mean being scandalous, this means being human.
  • It has made us so calculated, that I wonder how many people are able to live up to their online personas. Meeting online contacts in the real world has been very disappointing in many cases. What's interesting is that the people who haven't played the personal branding game, have been amazingly fun, interesting and wise.
Do you agree with Miceli's plea for a return to authenticity? If we worry about the substance, will style sort itself out, and has personal branding made us all into meek fakers obsessed self-presentation?

(Image of manure warning by ktylerconk, CC 2.0)

  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.