Personal Branding: How Much Is Too Much?

By: Katelyn Sweet — Contributor

If you would have said the words ‘personal branding’ to me about a year or so ago, I probably wouldn’t have rolled my eyes in irritation. In fact, I probably would have gotten really excited and rejoiced in the opportunities that personal branding provides. The creativity and selective marketing strategies to promote yourself and your own brand as a new PR professional is something that should be exciting. However, I think we have started to overdo it and look too deeply into what the term ‘personal branding’ actually accounts for.

We’re ready to graduate, get a job and live the exciting PR life we each dream of, so our resumes are edited and polished, business cards made and social media sites dazzling with personality. That isn’t always enough, I understand. Anyone can do these things and do them well, but what is it that sets us apart from the next aspiring PR professional? That is when the personal branding kicks in to exceeding levels for the high-strung-type-A-personalities in each of us PR students.

For some, it’s a crafty self-named slogan, for others a logo and maybe even a unique symbol on each document they pass out to employers. For others, it’s bedazzled portfolios with their ‘personal branding’ or promotion of blogs catered to themselves. Or what about the special outfits and tailored appearances, or the websites created to promote their own PR brand they have designed for themselves.

Over the top? Possibly not. But, to some, you bet. At the PRSSA 2013 National Conference, an alum came to dinner with my university and said a girl’s ‘personal branding’ she had designed was a cupcake. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good cupcake. If it’s red velvet, I’m instantly sold. But, what about a cupcake shows potential employees that you are the person to hire? This PR pro had cupcakes scattered all over the documents she gave to the alum for a potential job opening. He said he couldn’t get past it. Regardless of the abilities you possess, if your identity is distracting, you’re out of a chance.

What ever happened to being a good fit for a company as your selling point? One of my best friends had an internship at a large and well- known event planning and communications firm in Chicago this summer. She doesn’t really believe in the concept of personal branding and neither did the recognized firm. To some of the good ones left, it’s still about personality and who you are. If you do not blend well and provide what the employer is looking for, you aren’t going to get hired. It’s about the characteristics you have and morals you hold, that’s what makes you—YOU. (*Looks up*, amen.)

Once you’re a part of a company, you become their face. PR is a large part of reputation management and when you’re representing a brand, it’s not about you. It’s about the client. It’s about the company. Sell yourself on the qualities you possess and the things you are bringing to the table. It’s better to be subtle about your own personal interests and do them on your own time.

That being said, think twice before you decorate an entire portfolio and business card devoted to cupcakes.

Katelyn Sweet is a senior at Central Michigan University with a public relations major and journalism minor. She is the director of recruitment for CMU PRSSA and assistant director of PR for Grand Central Magazine. With a variety of passions, Katelyn loves fashion, traveling, music, sports and all things related to chocolate or wine. She’s a city girl at heart with an unconditional love for a Michigan summer on the lake, therefore hoping to take her PR career to a city on the water somewhere.

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