Has anyone else noticed this pervasive trend for self-branding? It makes me sick! People think that they can package up who they are and often try to make this meaningless mash of skills into their career, with the end of marketing themselves as brand. Now, I have no problem with this if you actually have a legitimate career – we all know that, for example; painters and decorators, builders, plumbers and so on often like to use their name as their brand. To me, this makes perfect sense. I do it myself because I am a sole trader and have a state registered profession that is my career. People in these kinds of jobs will also have many years of training behind them, at recognised institutions like colleges and universities.
What irks me is people who have a blog and think that blogging is a legitimate self-promotion path which qualifies them to market themselves as a writer, editor, copy-writer, personal and/or life coach, some kind of entrepreneur and God knows what else! The reality is that they have qualifications for none of these things and often, no paid experience to back it up. Erich Fromm suggested that narcissists objectify partial aspects of their personality they identify themselves with, such as intelligence, reputation and wealth etc (Erich Fromm Online 2017).
It just makes me want to vomit. You are not a brand, you are a person – yes, you are unique – yes and you certainly may have some skills. But please don’t use your blog and your social media accounts to promote yourself as something you are not. Actually, the people most likely to be using social media etc are those with narcissistic tendencies. Their pages are all about strategic self-promotion and and self-presentation. Social media presents a large opportunity to show off and users identify themselves with their displayable qualifications.
This kind of self-promotion is at best mis-leading and I bet these people don’t realise that, at worst – it could lead to legal action against them if something goes wrong. Do you know that you need to hold public liability insurance if you are going to act as a life coach? You need professional indemnity cover and you need legal cover, to protect you from libel and slander? Usually a condition of all these types of insurance is that you are working within the scope of your skills, in your field of practice. It would not hold up in a court of law to say that felt you had skills in life coaching because you’d written about how you changed your own life, on your blog.
Ultimately, I want to get across the message to be careful – both if you are looking for something on the web and if you are thinking of promoting yourself as providing some kind of service. If you are contemplating life-coaching, for example; make certain that whoever you are considering has some professional training and qualifications. For goodness sake, don’t just find someone and go with them because they make themselves sound good on their blog. Just because they managed to change their own life and influence some people digitally, it does not mean that they have a single ounce of skill that would allow them to coach someone else to do this! They probably count the number of comments on their blog as valid indicators of change/success.
Check out their qualifications, make sure they’ve not been purchased from some phoney online University or cheap correspondence course. Make sure they actually have some qualifications! The same applies if you are thinking of hiring someone to write some content for you, or an on-line article perhaps. For goodness sake, find someone with real experience at an actual newspaper or similar. Make sure they have a degree in journalism or the English language. If you want someone to speak at an event, make sure they have plenty of relevant experience doing so before. A lot of people ‘could’ get up in-front of an audience, but it doesn’t mean that they would be engaging, funny or worthwhile listening to.
Erich Fromm Online (2019). Narcissim. Available at: https://fromm-online.org/en/narzissmus/ [Accessed 2017].