The paradox of personal branding

Ann Friedman (41k Twitter followers!) writes on the quixotic, often-futile practice of "personal branding," whereby one tries to intentionally control something that exists only in other people's minds.

I've noticed a paradox: The more time I spend defining my personal brand, the more contrived it feels when I talk about myself. I may no longer engage in cocktail party talk, simply listing my accomplishments, but in other ways I'm more confused about why I do what I do. And I've also learned an important branding lesson: Don't confuse "authentic" with "effortless."

A personal brand, Leland cautioned me, is "something that you actively have to manage online, offline, in your organization, in your industry, and on social media." Which means there are dozens of opportunities every day to question whether you're doing it right. Is this crop top on-brand for a networking happy hour? Is this joke tweet-worthy or something I should merely text to a friend? Is this stupid assignment I accepted in order to make rent detracting from my reputation too much? Life is not always on-brand.

It is, as she says, a luxury reserved for the privileged. Telling everyday workers they must cultivate one—and that includes journalists—is a betrayal of their work.