The world today is infinitely smaller than it used to be and it’s growing smaller by the day.
For recent college grads entering the professional world — especially during an economic recession — “almost good enough” simply isn’t good enough anymore: building a strong personal brand is an utter necessity, and molding that brand around who one aspires to become is all the more vital to stand out in an increasingly competitive working environment.
What does it mean to build a brand towards who one aspires to become? For me, this strategic “aspiration-branding” meant creating and publicizing a personal brand that shaped my image as a young writer and aspiring author on the fast track to publication.
Why Create a “Brand” and is it Deceitful?
Building a personal brand toward who one aspires to become immediately raises legitimate concerns and criticism. Is this form of branding deceitful? Is it misleading? Is aspiration-branding a total sham? When I started my branding campaign, the truth was that I was just an unemployed, recent college graduate who had a computer and liked to write. So, was I building a brand based on nothing but lies?
Aspiration-branding certainly can be deceitful — if you willingly choose or indifferently allow it to misrepresent who you truly are. Nevertheless, if you stay true to yourself from the onset of your branding campaign and strive to represent yourself accurately from the outset, branding as who you aspire to become can set you miles ahead of your competition and even serve to bring out the very best in you as a person.
What is “Aspiration-Branding”?
Aspiration-branding is the process of building your personal or professional brand specifically around who or what you aspire to become. As you design your brand, the first and most vital aspect of aspiration-branding is being truthful from the start. You really do need to fully invest your efforts in transparency and truth, and for two important reasons: first, you need to set your expectations at a reasonable level; and second, you need to set reasonable expectations for those who will encounter your personal brand.
As a young writer and aspiring author, branding myself in a way that was honest and transparent was extremely important because the product I put forth―my writing, here on DaveUrsillo.com―was visible to everyone who came across it. If I misleadingly branded myself as the most highly touted English-speaking writer since William Shakespeare, my writing would certainly reveal the hype around my personal brand to be a total sham; not only would I be misleading myself, I’d be misleading those who came across my personal brand. Being able to clearly see my delusions, observers and readers would blow me off from the start and my brand would unquestionably implode.
Don’t reel in your dreams and goals; make them as big as can be. But when it comes to aspiration-branding, you’d be remiss to deceive yourself into thinking you’re something that you aren’t.
The Importance of Transparency: Truth is Key
Social media and branding guru Gary Vaynerchuk (on Twitter: GaryVee) says in his hit book, Crush It!, that in this technologically advanced age of social media, the liars, frauds and con artists who attempt to misrepresent themselves (especially for the sake of profit) will eventually be found out and fall by the wayside. The reason is that successful branding demands high levels of transparency:
“…the lines between the private and the public are becoming increasingly blurred, and with people able to share their experiences and thoughts and photographs on video by spraying them all over the Internet within minutes after they happen, the days of being able to con the consumer without repercussions are pretty much over. So no matter how you shape and color your personal brand, honesty has got to be at your core.” (Vaynerchuk, 32)
Because of the level of transparency that is required to establish a strong and popular personal brand, frauds will eventually be recognized as such. The importance of truthfulness and transparency from the start cannot be overstated. You need to prioritize being truthful to yourself when aspiration-branding, for your sake and for the sake of your brand.
“Résuméing” your Personal Brand: Convey Your Strengths and Skills
Let’s return to the questions that started this piece: is aspiration-branding deceitful? Hardly. Building a brand toward who you aspire to become is a lot like how you used to spin those useless summer internships and trivial jobs from high school into sounding like something significant on your résumé. We could call this strategy “résuméing” your personal brand.
Instead of fabricating truths and misrepresenting yourself, you deliberately sought to shape your résumé to bring out and emphasize your positive attributes, skills and talents to interviewers and potential employers. Rather than on a one-page print out, branding yourself toward what you aspire to become is shaping your image across the Internet to convey your strengths, skills and talents and showing how they will help you achieve your goals and dreams.
Conclusions: Represent Your Best Self
As potent as aspiration-branding is toward what you aspire to become is the reality that misleading others and misrepresenting yourself can and will leave an indelible mark across the World Wide Web. And, the last thing you want to brand yourself as is a fraud!
From the onset, root your aspiration-branding efforts as a transparent and accurate representation of who you are. Utilize branding to accurately project your skills, talents and passions. Branding yourself as who you aspire to become isn’t deceitful… if you don’t want it to be. By aspiration-branding, you’ll soon realize how truth, transparency, and “résuméing” your personal brand have set your efforts miles ahead of your competition. It’s only a matter of time until you see your dreams to fruition.