Branding Yourself Might Be Important for Your Career, but It’s Still Dumb


Maybe it’s that bid towards authenticity that everyone’s raging about or maybe I’m a product of my hipster generation, but I really hate the idea of “branding” yourself. Klout scores, Twitter presence, page views, being an expert. If you want to be a writer or have an authority, branding yourself into a niche (preferably one you like) is the best way to get noticed.

I bring this up because apparently, I’ve been branding myself wrong on my LinkedIn profile. I guess saying “My name is Georgette, and I’m nice!” isn’t the right thing to capture an employer’s attention.

Two things come to mind when I think of branding:


1) Cows.
That sounds negative in the hipster way, doesn’t it? Well, I refer to how cattle ranchers used branded cow hides with heated metal designed with the ranch’s insignia. Back in the day, it helped people know which cows belonged where.

In a way — as far as career goals go — branding works in that it organizes you down the path you want to head towards. I guess this is helpful for LinkedIn: Writers will go to this carrel, accounts here, and so on and so forth . . .

2) Zooey Deschanel

That sounds mean following the cow in the list, but she really does come to mind when I think of branding. I once read in an interview how she hated that people called what she did the “Zooey Deschanel” brand. This is understandable, because telling someone that they aren’t a person but a brand would be very hurtful and dehumanizing. But we do have to admit, that with the success of her show and her website, Zooey Deschanel tapped into this niche market. Consider the SNL sketch, Quirky Girl.

Zooey was in on the joke with this one because she knew that we took a few key elements of herself and basically used those to define her: she’s cute in a retro way, she has bangs, she makes crafts. Her brand makes her an authority on all of those things, I guess, and it makes people like her because they can make all of these assumptions about her.

She would totally have a great LinkedIn profile.

A random guy I met on the train told me I was branding myself all wrong on mine (don’t ask how we got to talking about that). Apparently calling myself a “writer or a blogger” in my headline isn’t going to bring all the boys to the yard (my words, not his), and that I was better off showing my Social Media skills instead.

I balked at this suggestion because I used my social media background to get me my jobs as a writer and blogger. I saw it as something I didn’t want to work with anymore, and I was pretty affronted when he so bluntly told me all of this. This is probably because I like to think of myself as a writer and blogger and also because I have a secret shame about my LinkedIn profile. It’s the same shame that comes up when I have to open my Word file called “Georgette_Resume_Part456B.doc” and I have to look over what I previously wrote for that past job. Usually I cringe.

The man — we’ll call him Geoffrey Chaucer — basically told me that I have a brand I’m not using. I hoped he meant in the people sense, rather than the cow hide one, but after talking to him about it, I had to accept that Geoffrey Chaucer was right.

The other day, I spoke to Imani and Devin about how we felt silly or annoyed when we would tell people that we wanted to be “writers,” mainly because of skeptics (as Imani pointed out) but also because it sounds so flimsy of a career path. Admitting to that hope makes us look childish, and I felt that when I spoke to Geoffrey Chaucer as I tried to defend myself as just a writer.

“You can be a great writer,” he placated. “But what else? There’s more to it now if you want to be a working one.”

That’s where he got me. “A working one” as opposed to “a starving one.” I have a fear of starving, mainly because eating is in my top eight favorite things to do.

Now, I see this working in the blogging case. Think about those Twitter authors you follow or who follow you. They’re establishing a presence to talk to people. There are Facebook contests for certain ones too, and I always see publications hosting #LitChats on tons of social media outlets. As much as we want to fight it, branding is there to reach out to readers and an audience. If anything, it brings your point of view across.

It’s become part of wanting to be a working writer. So pie connoisseur, Poor Writers representative, wannabe breakdancer could all very well fit my brand, I suppose. They’re niche markets right?


5 thoughts on “Branding Yourself Might Be Important for Your Career, but It’s Still Dumb

  1. Who know? Who cares really? I think it’s just a short cut to package you adn put you on the shelf or carrel you as you said. Peopl have often become successful without much of a brand and then the branders have give n them one and then they’re off! All nicely branded.
    As to Geoffrey Chaucer’s last comment – sure there is more to writing than just writing – if you want people to read your stuff! If you are happy to just write and you alone get to read it then just write and be happy. I see what he is saying.

    But I love the idea of ‘a blog driven by hope ad self pity’. That’s kinda a brand of sorts ain’t it?

    • Haha don’t worry about the spellcheck. It happens.

      You’re right. It really should be the writer’s prerogative. It depends what that writer wants to do with it and what kind of career they want. It’s such an awkward topic to speak about because there’s the whole “artist” character versus “business” model ideas that go against one another. I think it’s something to consider and be aware of at least, and Geoffrey Chaucer just got me thinking a little more critically about it.

      I’m glad you love the idea of the blog driven by hopes and self-pity. It started as amusing thought, and we stick by it. I think that’s the key to all of this brand talk: at least like what you stand for.

  2. I too share your ambivalence. Branding’s a double edged sword. There are those who do without and are fine, while on the other hand there are folks who have thrived from it without ever having produced a physical publication. They are their own hype men so to speak.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s