A Division of Brands: Me, Myself & I

I’ve been thinking hard lately about the concept of the Self as a brand. This topic comes up a lot in our weekly calls, in social media blog posts and quite frankly, in my own head. When I attend events such as SXSW or BlogHer, it is a standard – almost tired – topic on the agendas.

Fact is, social media breeds narcissism in an already self-involved society. Popularity was a sort of intangible social currency in school when I was growing up but now such things are tangibly measured and waved around like platinum credit cards.  How many friends do you have on Facebook? How many followers on Twitter? How many page visits on your blog? On and on and on.

As PR folks, we are now encouraged to get out there and be part of the conversation, state our opinion and generally ‘out’ ourselves as living, breathing, thinking human beings. In Harold’s day, this was the standard way of doing business in our industry – having conversations. How novel! I love that technology has taken us so far ahead that we are back where we started.

This new reality, naturally, scares the crap out of most logical people in the PR industry. Especially if you are highly opinionated, enjoy dubious personal habits or swear like a sailor – all of which I am guilty of. This creates a fine line and I’ve yet to find a handy guidebook on how to handle this division of Self. The only rationale I keep coming up with is to stand by my own personal blog and keep it honest for I’ve been Me 34 years longer than I’ve been at B-M.

However, I’m also mindful that I am employed – happily, I might add – with a global communications company that works for heavy duty global brands. Google my name and it pops up on press releases as well as my latest post about being bucked off a horse.  Not a big deal, as long I don’t go into detail on my personal blog or my Facebook about say, my role as High Priestess at the Academy of Dark Arts while doing work for Disney or the Christian Coalition.  Then, we might have trouble. (Nothing that an Eye of Newt and a full moon can’t fix, of course …)

Does this mean we clean up our acts? Withhold our true selves? Parcel out public-friendly chunks while hiding others? It might be the latter strategy that works best.

The topic was touched on in yesterday’s ‘Twitter for Business’ webcast when Sarah Milstein answered a question about putting a real live face, name and human being to a company’s Twitter account. She referred to the Comcast dude and how he occasionally references his cat barfing on the carpet, which, she found charming. (Not so when it’s your carpet, I wanted to tell her.) She’s absolutely right. The phone trees and the automation of customer service has so deadened our sensibilities that when we make a human connection with a giant corporation, we tend to forgive all.

Maybe it’s just going to be a series of compromise and maybe we’ll find that once we reveal ourselves, we find the entire industry is chock FULL of real human beings. That’d be something, wouldn’t it?



One Response

  1. Heather – great, GREAT post. I think that we are going to continue to wrestle with this issue as we move forward and as the number and scope of social media/networking applications and services grows and expands. I am already considering creating a “personal” Twitter account that is viewable only to me and another that is only for my friends. Problem is, how does one manage posting to three Twitter accounts when posting to one is time consuming enough? And as for Facebook, I’ve just become a huge proponent of the extensive privacy features – blocking clients and “lurkers” from seeing certain things before I expressly grant them permission. It’s my solution for now, though we’ll see how this morphs in the coming years.

    Largely, I think I’m just choosing to ignore the looming paranoia that someone will find out what I get up to outside of work and will judge me as unprofessional or irresponsible, etc. Or, god forbid, that I have a life and a personality that differs from my 8:30-5:30 persona. A lot of this paranoia stems from my age and feeling that I really need to prove myself in this world since I’m lacking experience, relatively, to some of my peers who’ve been doing PR much longer than I have. But another thing that ISN’T me is being fake, so I’ll continue to do what I do and just be myself because – like you said – I’ve been me longer than I’ve been a Burson person.

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