The day the current mayor, Kerry Prendergast, announced her intention to stand for a fourth term, I was asked by a few media colleagues what I thought. The wittiest reply I gave to Salient, as it was an email interview, and I seem to be cheekier in writing than I am in speaking. I won’t spoil it yet, but let’s just say one learns an awful lot from television.
This morning was a very good start to the day, giving a guest lecture at my Alma Mater, Victoria University, thanks to my friend Helen Baxter, who has begun teaching there. In fact, I taught out of the same building in 2000 when the campus was shared with Massey University, and the A on the front was not mounted backwards (typography students must have taken note by now).
One thing I hit upon, and I don’t think I have shared with readers, is the concept of personal branding taking on corporate behaviours. We know that corporations and countries have been swapping roles a bit in the 1990s (Wally Olins wrote a book on it, called Trading Identities), but I don’t think it has been properly addressed at the personal sphere (corrections welcome).
We have corporations trying to look mean and responsive, and speak with a personal voice—the One principles that Stefan Engeseth has talked about, and the idea of one-to-one from Christian Grönroos. They are trying to look like individuals, so the person in charge of the Tweetstream is the “voice” of the organization.
Meanwhile, people are becoming aware of branding themselves, of differentiating who they are, and ﬁnding the right things to align with in order to make themselves employable. Of course, such efforts must still remain authentic, as we can see through the spin, but it would not surprise me if the nascent ideas of personal branding in the 1990s become formalized in to whole courses on personal brand management.
I refer not just to styling, of course, but making sure embarrassing stuff is taken off Facebook (I believe my words were along the lines of, ‘By all means, party and show you’re human. But photos of you doing a powerchuck: maybe not’), of ﬁguring out what your vision is from a very early stage, of engaging with your audiences, and, if I may be so bold, living your brand as part of living your life.
The cynic in me recognizes that last phrase sounds dodgy because it cheapens the whole experience of life into a brand event, which is not precisely what I mean. But it is important to have some idea of a personal direction in mind and doing things that are compatible with that. This is, in some respects, no different to some of the self-help claptrap out there, explained in corporate branding language as opposed to spiritual fulﬁlment.
However, it’s not altogether a bad way to think. I’m willing to bet some of us have done exactly this, perhaps unconsciously or informally. We all have some purpose, some raison d’être, and whether we like thinking about it in branding terms or some other method is up to us. Brand, at least, provides a framework and some boxes to tick, and if they help people get a personal advantage and get the job of their dreams, then why not?
Note to self: Keeley Hawes jokes work a lot better with heaps of Brits or Anglophiles in the room.
PS.: I got one post-lecture question, to which the answer is: yes, I am the guy opposing the liquor ban.—JY