Personal Brand or Business Brand? Why Not Both?

There’s an ongoing debate about branding: Do you need a business brand or a personal brand? Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding and prolific tweeter at @DanSchawbel, says it’s essential to have both.

Schawbel — who calls himself a “personal branding guru,” wrote the book Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success, and runs the Personal Branding Blog — certainly knows how to promote himself. He warns small-business owners not to fly under the social-networking radar. Creating a personal brand is essential from the start, he says, because people need to know who’s behind a company before they’ll buy from it.

We talked with Schawbel about how to build and manage personal and business brands — and whether to mix them or keep them apart.

ISBB: Why does a small-business owner need a personal brand?

Schawbel: Some small-business owners don’t just start one company, they build one after another. Say your first attempt at a company fails, and you go on to build another. If all you’ve done is build a brand for that first failed company, that brand won’t carry on to the next company you build. If you have a personal brand, it comes along with you on all your ventures.

How do you build each type of brand?

I recommend a four-step process: discover, create, communicate, and maintain. Discover who you are as a business owner and how to position yourself in the market. Then create a unique value proposition and build a brand around it through a website, a blog, tweets, Google Plus, even business cards. Choose colors, fonts, and images that represent who you are. It’s all about how you present yourself. If you do it in a positive way, it will attract the audience you want. Figure out whom to market to, and those people will be attracted to your brand and look for you online. That’s how you get the attention your business needs.

Communicating means getting out there, speaking, reaching out to people. Get into discussions on Facebook and Twitter, go to networking events, and practice some philanthropy. If you attach your name to your business, your name is marketed to the public. People will learn about your company whenever you’re cited in the media, which can draw positive attention. So, being active online means learning as much as you can and using that information to build your business.

Finally, work to maintain a positive reputation throughout the life of your business. Everything online about you has to reflect your company’s growth and development. Say you do business with IBM or Time Warner. People trust those brands, so by being associated with those brands, they’ll trust yours as well. But if you don’t mention that association, no one will know about it.

Are there things you should promote using your personal brand but not the business brand, and vice-versa?

If you do good deeds as an individual, why not promote them as a business owner as well? Obviously, if you do something that goes against what you’re trying to promote in your corporate brand, then keep it under wraps. Use your best judgment.

Is there such a thing as too much self-promotion? Could branding yourself, as well as your business, just cause branding overload to people?

You don’t blog about what you sell, you develop content and sell around it, much like Intuit is doing with this blog. People read the articles, maybe after clicking a link in a tweet, and get helpful information they need about business-building from a brand they trust. Or, say you’re selling a mobile phone app that locates restaurants in the user’s vicinity. You sell around it by reviewing restaurants on your blog and tweeting about hidden gems. You promote yourself and your product by providing useful information. That’s the true value of social networking.

If you’re running a business, where do you find the time to do personal and business branding?

You just have to look at how much time you have, and devote maybe 10 or 15 percent of that time to branding efforts. Remember, promoting yourself is promoting your business, so it’s not a cost, it’s an asset. Any branding you do is going to support your company and its growth.

About Vanessa Richardson

Vanessa is a freelance writer in San Francisco who writes about small business and personal finance. She has been a staff writer for Money and Red Herring, and now writes frequently for sites like Bankrate, Entrepreneur, MSNBC and Money.
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1 comments
Ayesha Mathews-Wadhwa
Ayesha Mathews-Wadhwa

Personal brands can offer another dimension to professional brands. We’ve now come to associate Tony Hsieh with happiness just as much as Zappos. His passion is reflected in the company’s core values and the consumer’s brand experience.