Personal Brand, Professional Brand – What’s the Difference?

What do you think is the difference between your professional brand and your personal brand? Well, think about who you are at home and when you’re away from the office. How do you spend your free time? And how do you like to interact with your family and friends? That is your personal brand.

Some people really do not want their professional and personal brands to intersect ever and that is a choice. Now, most of the people who work with you – either with you or for you, they want to know a little bit about you. It reassures them to know something about your off-duty side. In fact, a colorful off-duty story about you in the right way can help build your word-of-mouth marketing and make you memorable.

For example, have you ever known somebody who Monday through Friday was an executive in a pinstripe suit and a perfect red power tie or whatever the power tie color of the year is? And then on the weekend is the ultimate Harley rider? There’s nothing wrong with that. So, if this person wants to be Mr. Executive on the week and a Hog rider on the weekends, that’s great. That’s a clear professional brand and a clear personal brand.

We just want this person to be careful, neither his family nor his company wish to see him on the news in a barroom brawl. And we certainly hope that he doesn’t join the Hell’s Angels. But if he did a ride for charity or went to his kid’s career day in his business suit and riding on his motorcycle. Come on, how cool would that be?

On the flip side, here’s a story of an IT project manager who had an unfortunate collision between their professional and their personal brand. And it goes something like this. This project manager worked for a company who issued laptops to their employees. And they were fairly lenient with the use of the laptops. They allowed resources who were not on call to take the laptops home even if they weren’t traveling. And the company even allowed resources to use the laptops to access their personal emails and to visit some web sites.

Of course, the assumption was that people would do this outside of working hours. Then one day as a meeting was about to begin and most of the attendees were in the room, this project manager who was to facilitate the meeting blurted out an unfortunate confession. “I just came from human resources,” he told the entire room. “I’ve almost lost my job. The desktop support team was working on my laptop and they found porn. I knew I should not have let my son borrow that laptop.”

Whoa, too much information, clearly not managing his brand. And what do you think people walked away thinking about him? Because half of the people probably thought it was his son and just that well, you know, he should have better controls on his kid, but I’ll bet you that some of those people walked away thinking, “Yes, sure buddy, you got caught, didn’t you?”

See, what’s a great way for a politician to lose their job? To get caught doing something in private that they have sworn to be against when they’re in public. People are going to Google you. They’re going to find your web site. They’re going to find your blog. They’re going to find your MySpace page. It’s great to know about your hiking club. It’s not so great to see drunken pictures of you dirty dancing or up-close photos of your private tattoos. So, the general rule is if you don’t want people to know about it, don’t put it online or even better don’t do it at all.

Author: Margaret Meloni
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