You Are a Brand, Act Like One

Freedom

Freedom

This morning is my first full day outside of Eventful, working remotely again. Being outside the company’s fold, I’ve been thinking a lot about personal branding.

Even while I was with Eventful, I realized the importance of my identity. I was lucky enough to get to go to conferences like Community 2.0, and unconferences like Mashup Camp and iPhoneDevCamp.

While I was out doing the circuit, and especially at the Community 2.0 conference, I ended up branding myself without even knowing it. Here’s the story.

Community 2.0

At the first day’s sponsored lunch a conversation was happening around Intuit and whether or not they should move into a community-focused approach with their help forums. We’ve all been to these conferences with stuffed shirts, people trying to impress each other with where they work, what they do, how they look, etc.

Being the idiot I am, I showed up with a t-shirt and shorts on. It was Las Vegas for goodness sake. It’s hot over there.

I was intending on sitting quietly next to this wonderfully anti-stuffed-shirt British-accented Elizabeth Churchill, from Yahoo Research. But, then there was a question. I don’t even remember what it was, but I had an answer for it. I listened to the previous 30 minutes or so hearing this:

“Hi, I’m [mumble mumble] and I’m from [some company], and this is what I think…”

Not one person missed the chance to say who they were and what company they were from. Do they think people will remember them once they’ve sat down? Was the point of this the conversation or were their comments designed to introduce themselves to the crowd?

I decided to buck that system and stand up with my t-shirt and shorts and all and say,

“Hi, I’m Nate Ritter and I’m from my mom and my dad …. ”

Laugher erupts, murmurs from the crowd, now it’s quiet enough for me to speak again and I give my thought provoking commentary on what Intuit should do or not do.

What happened next floored me. First, I sat down and immediately Ms. Churchill softly applauded me. I just looked at her and laughed. She started asking questions and we started talking. It was a grand time. She said later, “I heard what you said and thought to myself, ‘Now I HAVE to talk to this guy’.” Holy crap!

But, after that it got even weirder. From that point on, I was met with “Hey, you’re the guy from your mom and your dad, aren’t you? Nate was it? What do you do? What are you here for?”. I couldn’t have bought more press for myself. In that short moment, I was different than the crowd I was in. I stood out enough to be recognized for the next 3 days.

In fact, I stood out enough to get job offers from some of the biggest web companies on the planet. I ended up speaking on 3 panels that weekend, which was not planned beforehand, and meeting a ton of great and interesting people.

What’s your point?

My point is that you are a brand whether you like it or not. Whether you work for yourself, as a contractor, or as an employee. You are NOT a cog in the wheel, no matter what your boss tells you. Your brand should be important to the company you work for because your brand represents their brand.

I was told that weekend even though I rarely mentioned Eventful.com’s name, when I did I probably created more positive PR for them within that crowd of executives and managers than ever before. People now know Eventful.com, and they now know Nate Ritter, because of that weekend.

The same goes for you. You interact with people every day. They know you, they respect you. If you say something good or bad about your company, people listen.

Screw the company, what about me?

Now, I’m not saying it’s all about the company you work for. In fact, I’m saying the opposite. It’s all about you.

You are the brand that your friends and family and acquaintances trust.

Do you want a better job? Increase your brand awareness.
Do you want more money from your current job? Increase your brand awareness.
Do you want to make money online? Increase your brand awareness.
Do you want to be known within your industry? Increase your brand awareness.
Do you want to have the best team in the world working with you? Increase your brand awareness.

How many more times do I have to say it?

photo courtesy Ivano Mak.

[tags]personal branding[/tags]

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

4 Comments on "You Are a Brand, Act Like One"

  1. Dan Schawbel says:

    Good point that you are already branded. Asking your peers for feedback is a great way to discover exactly how you are perceived. Once you’ve done this, you should seek to evolve your brand over time.

  2. nate says:

    Dan,

    Welcome to my blog. Yes, I agree with all your points. I’d love to hear if you have any other suggestions for us, considering you’re promoting your own personal branding website.

  3. Jackie O says:

    Nate, I laughed so hard at “Hi, I’m Nate Ritter and I’m from my mom and my dad …. ” That is too funny! I often attend workshops where people introduces themselves as such and such with xyz company. I normally just stay that I am a student. Now I know that I have to come up with a more memorable and creative introduction. Thanks. – Jackie O

  4. nate says:

    My pleasure Jackie. I’m here to inspire. :)

 
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