6249673828_2404686351_mThere has been a lot of talk over the last few years regarding the importance of building a personal brand. A few examples:

This article from Forbes talks about how building a personal brand is essential for your career

This BusinessWeek article discusses the intricacies of managing your personal brand

American Express Forum published an article back in 2011, which was written by a self-proclaimed “personal branding expert”

I could go on.

If you are an entrepreneur, you have started your own business, and you primarily are dealing with your customers and clients, the concept of a personal brand is not horrible. Heck, it certainly worked for Oprah and Martha Stewart. In that kind of situation your personality is the foundation of your company. You are actually the face of the business.

There are some cases, however, where the idea of building a personal brand can actually be harmful to your career. Marketers, in my opinion, are just such a case.

It’s not about you

Whether you are a marketer within a company or a marketer who works in an agency, the bottom line is that you are trying to convince people to buy products. Getting the attention of your key demographics is often more art than science. Like anyone else in the world, these people have specific needs, specific problems they need to solve, and specific objectives they need to hit in order to feel they are effectively doing their jobs. As a marketer, it is your responsibility to understand what motivates your customers, what they need, what problems they need to solve, and how your products (or your client’s products) can help them.

No offense, but it really doesn’t matter, in that equation, who you are, how many Twitter followers you have, or how many memes of you quoting yourself you have posted to Instagram. These things will not impact the lives of the people you are trying to target except *perhaps* peripherally if they want to learn how to do some of the things you have done. Other than that, they have far bigger fish to fry.

Keep your eye on the ball

Here is the other problem with marketers working on building their personal brands. If you are working on your own personal brand, it can be easy for you to lose sight of what you really need to be doing for your clients. When you are working on building your personal brand, you might write posts on your own personal site. You might participate in Twitter chats with other marketers (not your target audience). You might even spend time and money going to conferences that are geared more towards you and not necessarily your company or your clients. If you are not concerned with a personal brand, that time and attention could be spent on finding chats for your clients to participate in, engaging in market research, and attending trade shows where your company or your clients are exhibiting.

A marketer’s real accomplishments are based on the success of his or her company or clients

The ultimate test of a marketer is not how many Facebook fans or Twitter followers they can accrue. Rather, a marketer’s real worth is measured by how his or her company or clients perform. Counter-intuitively, the best way to build your “personal brand” if you are a marketer is to devote your time and energy to your clients. Help them succeed. Help turn a company around. Create a marketing campaign that changes the game. Building a reputation for being able to do those things is what will differentiate you from the competition. Having a personal brand may mean you are known, but being a true marketer means being known for good work. There is a difference there.

Not everyone agrees of course. Some people feel marketers should build their personal brands so that they have the freedom to move from one company to another. That way you can control your reputation rather than having the focus be on the company you helped to build. While that argument makes sense to a certain extent, the fact is that if your work is truly credible and noticeably strong, people will be interested in working with you anyway. Whether or not you have a personal brand will not be a differentiating factor.

Where do you stand on the “personal brand” issue, especially as it concerns marketers? We’d love to hear from you.

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