Business IQ

Do A Branson: The Pros And Cons Of Personal Branding

Katie McMurray
Smarter Writer

Katie McMurray is a content editor for Smarter Business™

Katie McMurray
Smarter Writer

Katie McMurray is a content editor for Smarter Business™

There’s a lot of talk about the concept of personal branding. We get excited about Richard Branson’s exploits - space travel, bikini girls and balloon races.

Should we all adopt this way of promoting our businesses: outlandish, cheeky and airborne? Or what about the sob story: the celebrity or politician who achieves national media coverage in a tell-all interview? 

I know a businessman who refers to his positioning and public profile work as ‘doing a Richard Branson’. He’s talking about creating a public profile that can be leveraged. But he isn’t trying to emulate Branson’s style. Branson’s public profile is larger-than-life but personal branding is not a one-size fits-all exercise.

This businessman is developing his own personal brand. There are no bikini girls or parachutes required; in fact you couldn’t find a business less suited to those antics. His business is based on the issues of corporate accountability and responsibility. And he tells a personal and professional back story as part of his business story.

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Promoting Your Ethical Position

Twenty years ago, Richard Boele was closely involved in a campaign against a major oil company; whose African operations adversely affected the Indigenous Ogoni people of Nigeria. Richard has now founded and is managing director of Banarra; advising government and big business (including those operating on Indigenous land) on accountability and social responsibility.

Is his back story relevant to the business today? Yes. Is it also personal? Yes? And is it appropriate to talk about this story? Yes.

Sharing Your Personal Challenges

Deeply personal stories might pull at peoples’ heart strings, but before you dig deep ask yourself: ‘Is this personal information relevant to the business?’ If it isn’t, don’t share it. People respond to business stories based on personal experience when the business itself is focused on helping other people benefit from the founder’s own experiences.

Forty-seven years ago, Dena Blackman had a newborn baby; two toddlers and a busy working husband. She desperately needed help at home but none of her family lived nearby. As a result, Dena founded Dial-an-Angel, providing in-home care services. In this case; Dena’s personal story is both relevant and appropriate.

If you’re tempted to simply exploit yours or others’ misfortunes to develop your public profile; you’re heading in the wrong direction.

Ask Yourself: 

1. What life experiences drew you to the business opportunity?

2. What was the niche or gap in the market?

3. How were you personally placed to see this niche and fill it?

4. What did you do before this that helped you fill the niche?

5. What do you bring to your industry?

6. How have you developed a unique offering based on that?

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