Personal Branding: Who Are You?

by Vicki Notaro

In this day and age of Twitter bios and LinkedIn profiles, it’s important to be able to describe yourself and what you do in a way that others understand clearly. In other words, it’s apparently now important to have your own personal “brand”; a concise, succinct message that will communicate what you’re all about to the people who land on your profile. 160 characters is not very much space to encompass who you are, what you love, what you’re passionate about, why you’re worth following and what you think of the world, but c’est la vie.

Until recently, my Twitter bio was quite simple. Editor, @TheInsiderMag. It conveyed what I did with little need for explanation, and seeing as what I do is very much tied to who I am, that was pretty much covered too. That, I guess, was my “brand”.These days it’s much harder to be so succinct. Bare bones, I am a journalist and writer. But that doesn’t tell you much, right?

Since I started working in the media, I have worn many hats – writer, editor, deputy, sub, columnist, contributor, creator. I’ve covered teen issues, pop culture, entertainment, health, fitness, human interest, fashion, beauty, technology, celebrity, food, travel, career, sex and relationships, and I still have a healthy interest in all. In another world, this incredibly broad experience I’ve had over the past eight years would be seen as an asset. In 2015 I’m unquantifiable, a jack of all trades. Ridiculous of course, but how it appears to be.

My brand lacks clarity. People enjoy buzzwords, labels, and want to know what exactly it is that I cover. My response – “everything!” – is not what they want to hear. They want specifics, a box in which to put me. They would actually prefer if I were wearing a name tag that said “Hello, my name is Vicki and I’m good at X, Y and Z. Full stop.”

I’m sure I’m not alone. The recession meant that Generation Y went into the workforce with an open mind and a willingness to do just about anything in their chosen field to get a foot on the ladder and make a buck. Diversification was the norm, retraining on the job natural. If you were good, and able, you could find yourself doing just about anything.

Now that the recession is fading and things are picking up on the jobs front, it’s more difficult to sell yourself if you’ve been putting it about so much. A friend who works in tech found that his incredibly broad base on the job training meant little in terms of the hyper-specific positions he’s applying for now. He’s realised that he has to go sideways and specialise a little in order to move up the ranks. Another mate who works in lifestyle PR has copped that it’s now all about zoning in – are you a digital native or not? Social media or print specialist? After years of getting as much experience as possible, it’s now de rigeur to go right back to one key skill, and develop the shit out of it. You’re nothing if you’re not an expert in your field.

Now, it seems to be okay to have a slash or two. Slashes are the done thing. Model/blogger. DJ/make-up artist. Club promoter/tattoo artist/barista. Videographer/solicitor. Perfectly acceptable, because they’re still easy labels to digest, and having lots of different strings to your bow is great for any personal brand. They don’t dilute your offering, they enhance it, or so it seems.

For now, I’m keeping it simple and sticking with journalist/writer (avoiding the temptation to add dog wrangler/mascara expert/power ballad aficionado). I guess if you want to know more, you’ll ask. And I’d actually rather my work spoke for itself. Also my tweets to a degree, but perhaps not the ones on a Sunday evening around 10pm. That’s my personal Kardashian time. We all have our crosses to bear.