In today's nascent knowledge-society, individual knowledge-workers need to create a body-of-work. This body-of-work can serve as the basis for personal branding. Web 2.0 paradigms provide an ideal platform for creating mind-share for this body-of-work, helping an individual to connect and integrate with a community.
One enters existence as a nameless bundle-of-life. Soon one gets a name, and with it, one's own personal brand. Thereafter this name serves as one's identity and brand. The rest of one's life is devoted to management of this personal brand in a half-conscious, half-sub-conscious and sometimes even in an unconscious manner. The scope of this management necessarily covers all aspects of living. However this discussion will focus on the socio-professional aspects.
Knowledge-society - imminent and inevitable
The transition to a knowledge-society is underway. Let us consider some examples:
* Google was founded on a search algorithm - it has a market-cap of 150+ Billion USD. In comparison, the market-cap of Toyota, the world's leading car-maker, is 100+ Billion USD. (all figures as of 22-Jul-2010)
* iFart - an iPhone App with self-suggesting if indelicate theme - developed with minimal effort,non-functional and trivial and yet has earned over a million USD
* Alex Tew's Million Dollar Homepage - Alex funded his college education by selling pixel ads on his website
* Microsoft is paying - yes paying - developers to port iPhone Apps/Games for Windows Phone 7
This diverse set of examples is meant to suggest how knowledge in the information age is emerging as an equivalent to capital and labour in the industrial age. It demonstrates the potential of knowledge, expressed through innovation and ideation, as a wealth-creation tool, both for an individual and a group. Therefore, in a completely-commercialized world of the 21st century, creation of a knowledge-society appears to be imminent and inevitable.
A knowledge-society is built from and by knowledge-workers. A healthy society needs each knowledge-worker to assume his rightful station. Such an optimal arrangement depends greatly on an individual's ability to effectively communicate his personal knowledge. However it is a challenge to communicate something as nebulous and intangible as human knowledge. A mere listing of facts and figures, academic qualifications, professional achievements, awards et cetera in conventional forms like CV or resume may not be sufficient. The requirement in the present context is a body-of-work to cover the entire spectrum of an individual's capabilities - present and potential.
A human being is an extremely complex creature. He cannot always be defined by what he does or thinks. But these are good starting points for creating a body-of-work. And he must make a beginning as early as possible. For it takes substantial time and effort to build a critical mass.
The first step of this creative process is expression - self-expression needs to be made a central goal of existence and not its by-product. Such an expression could be in the form of written word, images, audio, video or multi-media. The form is not important and neither is the valuation of the expression - as self-expression leads to a process of discovery - self-discovery,the necessary first-step towards personal-branding
The topic and content of expression must derive from an individual personality - an artist may express himself through paintings, poems, prose, photography; a professional may demonstrate his expertise in a domain through knowledge-sharing, answers to other's questions, queries to the community; a thinker may express his beliefs and thoughts; a social person may build or join communities sharing likes and dislikes; a political person may express opinions and visions and so on... The list will be as varied as the diversity in human race and as unique as each individual.
Organizing via the Web
The second step is organizing this self-expression into a body-of-work. One need look no further than the web and the tools it offers:
* Articles, blogs - WordPress, BlogSpot
* Community-building via wikis - Wikispaces,Wikidot
* Audio-casts, Pod-casts
* Videos or screen-casts - YouTube
* Slides - SlideShare
* Documents,Spreadsheets - Google Docs, Windows Live
* Personal websites - Google Sites
* Images - flickr, picasa
The third step is continual nurturing. A body-of-work, by definition, demands an ongoing effort. As an individual evolves, the body-of-work should be updated to reflect this.
Brand-value - Community Mind-share
The existence of brand-value pre-supposes an audience. In a socio-professional context, the target audience is assumed to be a vertical community or a Community of Practice. Personal brand-value in a knowledge-society is closely co-related with mind-share - the awareness in the community - of one's body-of-work. This is where Web 2.0 comes in.
Personal Branding using Web 2.0
The term Web 2.0 has been coined to denote a real-time, interactive, collaborative, community-driven platform the web has been transformed into. Web 2.0 paradigms provide an ideal platform for creating mind-share for one's body-of-work.
Benefits of established Personal Brand-Value
Liberation from CV/Resume
A CV or Resume in the traditional form is uni-dimensional. The body-of-work as conceived here is something that is rich and living. It can be used to create a living, breathing digital projection of one's physical self, for the community to experience and appreciate. The effectiveness of projection is limited only by one's imagination and creativity.
Liberation from Employer-lock-in
Previously, a professional had a limited audience derived from the employer's organizational-space - colleagues and clients. His personal brand-value existed in a restricted sphere and was therefore mostly immobile. Once investment, in terms of time and effort, exceeded a threshold value in the same organizational-space, it became increasingly difficult for a professional to discard the resultant brand-value and start building his personal brand from scratch with a new employer. This created an employer-lock-in which became more pronounced with the passage of time, eventually resulting in a death-grip that suffocated personal growth and aspirations.
The lock-in scenario described above is not applicable to an individual with an established personal brand-value in a vertical community.
Liberation from earthly nature of Supervisors/Leaders
Supervisors/Leaders, being human-beings, are susceptible to the failings of earthly nature. So a supervisor's/leader's perception and mindset is not always impartial or unbiased. This has a direct impact on individual careers. And there appears to be no systemic remedy for such a scenario.
It is seen that Supervisors become self-conscious whilst dealing with individuals who have established personal brands, especially when the reach of the brand extends to the Supervisor's own Supervisor and the entire community. In such cases Supervisors make a special effort to be transparent and open in their professional relationship with the individual.
Liberation from mortality
We are mortals and will perish one day. Yet we strive to leave behind a legacy, for succeeding generations, in general and one's progeny, in particular. A body-of-work, preserved for-ever in digital space, appears to be the best way to leave behind lasting footprints in the shifting sands of time.
Personal branding is no longer a choice. In a nascent knowledge-society, it is an imperative for any individual. As a first step an individual needs to create an online, living, discoverable body-of-work that covers the entire spectrum of an individual's capabilities - present and potential. Thereafter Web 2.0 serves as a potent platform for him to connect with a global audience and create mind-share. Based on resonance to his body-of-work, he can integrate and collaborate with the community and eventually create or discover his true place in it.
Yet there is a larger aspect to this. Man is a social creature and is born with a need to connect. The first effort for personal-branding may derive from the need for professional survival in a knowledge-society. Yet, it may end up fulfilling the secret need within each of us to escape the narrow bounds of separative existence and feel part of a collective whole.