Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Breaking the Branding Rules

We have gathered a few traditional personal branding rules and then suggest how breaking them may actually be to your advantage.

There’s no doubt about it, personal branding is key if you want to succeed in newspaper sales. However, it seems lately that everyone is coming up with a list of cookie cutter rules on how to brand yourself. Who says these rules are the end-all-be-all? In fact, some have argued that these rules were made to be broken. Below, we have gathered a few traditional personal branding rules and then suggest how breaking them may actually be to your advantage.

1. Present only your professional self.

You must prove to your clients that you are a professional, successful and reliable sales representative. Typical rules for personal branding will tell you that the only way to accomplish this is by completely separating your professional life from your personal life. This means any of your public representations (this means Facebook profile, Twitter account, etc.) must be 100 percent made up of your professional persona and business endeavors. Therefore, you shouldn’t include pictures of kids or pets on your Facebook, you shouldn’t Tweet about what you had for dinner and you shouldn’t talk about personal life experiences with clients. However, the fallacy in this branding rule is that clients know you’re human. In fact, they probably want to see your authentic and human qualities before they go into business with you. So, instead of limiting your clients to only knowing your professional persona, let them get to know the real you. Find a balance between sharing and over-exposure. Telling clients about your interests and hobbies isn’t going to push them away; it’s going to make them relate to you on a deeper level, and consequently build a stronger and lasting work relationship.

2. You are the expert. The customer is not.

A facet of personal branding is also proving yourself as an expert in your field. It’s the only way clients will be able to rely on you for their advertising needs. However, this rule seems to imply that the client or customer doesn’t know enough to offer input. It also assumes that clients don’t know what you know, so you should keep them at arm’s length from any projects or campaigns. The truth is, however, customers have a lot invested in their advertising, so they will want to be involved in the process, and inevitably will want to offer their feedback. Instead of trying to keep them at bay, welcome their input and use is constructively. Not only will you build a more dynamic and collaborative relationship with your clients, you may gain new perspective as a sales rep.

3. Quantity Over Quality

Personal branding experts certainly won’t say they put precedence on quantity over quality, but their actions definitely perpetuate this rule, especially when it comes to social media. As social networking becomes an increasingly integral part of communication between professionals and their clients, experts have developed practices that seem to insinuate that the number of friends, follows and mentions is more important than the actual conversations. For instance, a common practice on Twitter is the “follow-for-follow” rule, meaning when a Twitter user follows your account; you are obligated to follow them back in order to build up rapport with your audience.  Likewise, if anyone mentions you on Twitter, or comments on Facebook, you are obligated to respond. On the surface, this is all good advice – you certainly need to engage and converse with your audience and clients – but if there isn’t any worth in what you are saying, it all becomes a bit gratuitous. For example, if you post a Tweet simply because someone mentioned you, but the message doesn’t carry any information or substance, it will be lost in the mass amounts of information entering the “Twittersphere” every second. If your clients see you are making inconsequential posts and overly frequent rates, your posts will become less valuable and your clients will start to ignore your social media presence. Instead of practicing the follow-for-follow rules, make your every online contribution count. Treat these online conversations with the same thought and respect you treat an in-person conversation. Create an informative and thought-provoking dialogue as opposed to a pointless Tweet that says, “Thanks for the follow.” Throwaway content will be just that: thrown away.