Fence Sitting for Brand's Sake?

How do you maintain your personal brand and have an opinion?


How do you maintain your personal brand and have an opinion?

Is your personal brand maintenance getting in the way of saying what you really think? We all know the expectation and, dare we say, the need for a strong online personal brand to be attractive to employers. We know they are an effective positioning tool portraying a modern and connected individual, endorsed by pertinent people and linked to relevant organisations. But, for some, this encroaches on the ability to truly be ourselves in our digital environment.

A certain sort of censorship seems to be creeping in as we type our views on the elections, the latest brand ad from a bank or the use of funds by a government department – just as often we decide to keep our opinions to ourselves and not ‘post’. But for the sake of a neutral, inoffensive, unbiased personal brand are we giving up the opportunity to have an opinion?

One of the espoused key principles of a personal brand is authenticity, but this moderated behaviour really flies in the face of that. Everyone has an opinion and a person without views, insights or comments seems dull, disconnected and isolated. Your prospective employer is likely to be impressed by your sharing of opinion and its demonstration of care and engagement. But equally unimpressed with contentious views, bold statements on politics, religion, race or current affairs or strong opinions about the industry you work in. We recommend adopting this rule of thumb to temper your comments; “if you wouldn’t say it to their face, then don’t say it at all”.

Some people feel the best way to manage this balance of passionate opinion and preened professionalism is by separating out their personal and work social media profiles. While this does go some way to address the situation, it is likely that your prospective employer or client could find your alias or personal accounts with some searching. It also requires a certain amount of discipline and concentration to remember which is which.

Another way to adopt this philosophy is to divvy up the different social platforms into personal and professional camps. LinkedIn leans toward the professional, Instagram the personal, Snapchat personal but what about Twitter and Facebook? It’s certainly not straight forward. You may also find that by stripping out personality from your professional accounts you become wooden and unnatural.

What is straightforward is maintaining awareness of the casual nature with which we approach social media and the real understanding that once that comment is posted it can never really be deleted. If you are sharing an opinion ensure that you express that this is your own and not your employers. And just like at dinner parties, there are some topics that are best avoided.

In this digitally driven world, the worst thing you can say is nothing at all (Ronan Keating is wrong). A profile alone is not enough; recruiters and prospective employers are not just interested in what you say about yourself but what you say about the industry and how you engage with others. Your online activity and opinions are a show of passion, personality and connections. They create interest, deliver networking opportunities and exposure. In this world where fit is equally if not more important than skills, let your personality shine and your fingers do the talking.