As someone happily ensconced in academia, first I read what others have written. My approach to a new interest in self-marketing followed this well-worn road, first leading me to Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand. William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson, the duo who founded Reach Personal Branding, penned this guide to building your brand.
The book starts with a discussion of "the future of work," specifically the shorter job tenure we can all expect with each employer. This condition means that we all should be networking and compiling contacts for employment opportunities all the time; it also means that we should have professional identities separate from our employer. In other words, we should each have our own identity or brand. The book first encourages self-awareness to determine what your brand might be. It goes on to explore communicating your personal brand and managing your identity. At the present time, the internet and social media are keystones for a personal brand, supplemented by books and speaking engagements.
Career Distinction provides sound advice for today's professionals. As someone changing employers in the near future, I appreciate the advice to have my own web site and an identity separate from the university. We academic types often have "jobs" with multiple employers simultaneously: journals, professional societies, study sections, and others. These tasks expand our skill sets and career opportunities but are rarely fully covered on a university web site. The book (and the Reach Personal Branding site) also make the case that such branding of employees benefits employers. While pursuing their own goals fully, branded employees usually bring added value.
Fame 101: Powerful Personal Branding & Publicity for Amazing Success arrived as a complimentary ebook for review. Jay and Maggie Jessup manage the careers of A-list celebrities. Their book takes the ideas of Career Distinction and feeds them anabolic steroids and growth hormone. The goal of this tome is not merely a personal brand, but full-blown, papparazzi-fodder FAME.
After assembling the components of your personal brand, you surround it with the components of fame: image, message, blog, personal and business web sites, other publicity, speaking engagements, and your book. You must have a book to achieve real fame (even Snooki has a novel), and you may as well start outlining its follow-up while you write the first one.
Fame 101 contains good advice. The spider model for self-promotion works in a weird way, and the Jessups get one thing right: fame is the most enticing and lucrative form of power in our society. Why else would Jenny McCarthy have any credibility in a scientific discussion? Why else would a doctor agree to go against actual scientific evidence and co-author her books?
Unfortunately, Fame 101 seems a bit sleazy; every day another "celebrity" hits the tabloids and television through this formula (remember Bethenny dictating her book corrections during the final fitting of her wedding gown?). I kept waiting for the chapters on leaking my sex tape for maximal effect and nailing my reality show.
In general, I like the idea of encouraging academics and professionals to develop a personal brand and communicate it. Learning to present ourselves and our ideas to the public-at-large seems like a good idea. I highly recommend Career Distinction. While Fame 101 presents a second viewpoint that extends and bulids these same themes, take its advice with a grain of salt. After all, you do not want to cross that line between fame and media whore.