Last night I attended a great networking event on personal branding, a topic of increasing importance in business. It was a wet, dreary February night in Toronto but the event drew over 80 people, eager to hear how they could amp up their own brands.
I've been hearing a lot about the need to brand oneself lately. It even surfaced in a recent article on changes in the publishing industry in which Canadian author Margaret Atwood joked: "The term 'relentless self-promoter' used to be an insult in publishing circles. Now it will be a necessity." Too true.
The three panelists were Leesa Barnes, social media expert, Paul Copcutt who has a great newsletter on personal branding, and Diane Craig, etiquette and image consultant and fellow alumni of the Protocol School of Washington.
There was a great discussion about online versus offline personas with the panelists agreeing that they should match rather than clash. Your social media presence (website, twitter posts, blogs, etc.) should reflect who you are as a person, your personal style, philosophy, values, etc. So for example, while some people are able to pull off 'snarky' really well on Twitter, if I tried, it would come off as phony to those who know me in person. Paul suggested we choose the social media forum that best fits our personal likes/dislikes. If you don't particularly enjoy writing, then blogging is probably not for you, but Twitter could be perfect.
In response to a question about business versus personal branding, Diane reminded us that we can change our image overnight but our reputation is with us forever so it is something we should continually cultivate, even if we switch jobs, careers or industries.
In addition to the insightful discussion, I was really impressed by the willingness of attendees and panelists to meet others, make introductions and share ideas, even with competitors. This group was there to mingle and mingle they did. I've been in the business long enough to remember networking events of old, where panelists didn't circulate with the guests and people working in the same field didn't necessarily share contacts. I already have meetings set up with some of my new contacts so we can share ideas and collaborate.
There are many changes hapenning in business now - some scary, some promising - but the shift from competition to collaboration is one I can embrace.
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