Where The Personal Brand Falls Short

ScreamingThe concept of the “personal brand” is still quite controversial. Not in whether it’s possible to build a significant personal brand (it clearly is), but in whether it’s the right thing to do.

Over the past few years we’ve seen lots of people develop strong personal brands through social media, and levered those brands to develop their careers.

Recently, I’ve noticed what seems like an increasing use of auto-reply emails by many people with strong personal brands.

They usually read something like this (but far more eloquent):

“Thanks for your email. Please note that it may take me a while to get back to you, as I get a large volume of email.”

I got to thinking about a fundamental problem with big personal brands (this isn’t a shot at people with them – just exploring the issue):

*You* aren’t scaleable

The problem with building a strong personal brand through social media is that you are the brand – not your product, service or company. That means that as it grows, you get additional attention. Unfortunately, your time can’t scale to go along with the additional attention.

Something has to give. You have to either lengthen your work day even more, find efficiencies somewhere, sacrifice some other element of your day to handle the flow or start to lose the connection that likely helped to build your brand in the first place.

*You* can’t be delegated

Can you offload some of this work to someone else? You can, but you are the brand, not them. That means people want to connect with you – they want to work with you; they want your input.

Over time, in my own small way, I’ve wrestled with jamming 28 hours of activities into a 24 hour day. Meanwhile, I’ve watched as much higher-profile people have wrestled publicly with this problem. Almost uniformly, they’ve been forced to cut back on the interaction that built their brands in the first place.

Can personal brands be a liability? Is it acceptable for people who’ve built their careers around connection to disconnect slightly? Or is it an understandable side-effect of success?

What do *you* think?

(Image credit: ralaenin)

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.