Sunday, 27 November 2016

My New Year's Revolution

Elizabeth 1st’s Personal Branding, the 360 Degree CV - and surviving without Social Media

Recently, my freelancing business had its tenth birthday (yay, me!). I took advantage of this anniversary to update my website and have a think about my own ‘personal brand’. It led to an unexpected amount of head-scratching and heart-searching, and a quietly momentous decision.

Considered by some to be a never-ending act of navel-gazing vanity, in this digital age of 24/7 communication, one’s online image, content and interactions are open to scrutiny. They seem to have become a constant and essential part of day to day business. 

Personal branding is the steadier part of it; on the surface it’s crafting a glossy image with matching business cards and website. While those things are very useful and look professional, for personal branding to ring true it will reflect exactly who you are and what you represent, and it will offer your audience a shorthand guide to your business offer, personality, values and skills. Personal branding is not a new idea; the portraits of Tudor Queen Elizabeth 1st are a powerfully successful example, and one which has lasted centuries. 

The 360 degree CV, on the other hand, is not a still-life or portrait, but a living mirror. It comprises not only your traditional CV, but also Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Instagram, blogs… in fact all those social media platforms where you give evidence to prove the promises you made in your personal branding about Who You Are and What People Can Expect From You.  

To extend the Tudor metaphor, if the Queen’s portrait is her version of personal branding, then her annual Royal Progress- a trip to the provinces to maintain her power by showing the living, breathing, demanding woman in splendid action; and giving her audience an opportunity to interact with her- must be today’s 360 degree CV. 

If your personal branding has represented you at your best - and lets face it, it really ought to - then people’s expectations will be high. That means you’ll have to live up to your own hype. 

The 360 degree CV is available 24/7 and people can look at it from anywhere in the world. They expect to be amused, impressed, and have the chance to interact with recent updates. Just like Queen Elizabeth 1st did on Royal Progress in 1565 (film of re-enactment here ), you need to show today's prospective audiences, employers and competitors that you’re still live and kicking!  

Yet back then, Queen Elizabeth had courtiers and attendants operating between her and 'her public'. Nowadays, we mere mortals have to do it all ourselves, and I don't know about you but I find that thinking up endless different things to say that are amusing, insightful, intelligent and gently self-promoting on a 24/7 basis on multiple social media platforms is tough. Ok, not Junior Doctor tough or Firefighter tough, but tough enough, on top of the multiple demands of 3 jobs, my friends, home and family. And I worry, incessantly, that when I promote my work I'm annoying people. And it's exhausting.

In essence, finding the time and energy to be online and ‘on message’ in 140 characters several times a week is something I’m starting to feel that life might actually be too short to bother with.   

Some big questions bubble up: Who looks at it anyway? Does it actually lead to any more work? Does anyone even care? Am I just doing it because everyone else is? Because it’s expected of me?

It just plays straight into the hands of my inner approval-junkie. So as it's nearly Christmas I have decided this: After the cold turkey, I'm going cold turkey.

Next year, expect the unexpected. I’m just going to do my work and let the social media circus travel on without me. Radical, eh? 

My website is in place and my traditional CV is on LinkedIn. If anyone needs info on what I do, what I’ve done, or would like to employ me, everything they need to know is readily, glossily and co-ordinately available, thanks to the fruits of my own recent personal branding escapade. 

Other than that, from January 2017 I’m off social media for at least six months. If I was Queen Elizabeth 1st (which funnily enough I am, occasionally- check out my website!) I’d be issuing a decree cancelling next year’s Royal Progress. 

I know the world’s changed in the last decade, but the 360 Degree CV treadmill makes me run very fast to stay still. I’m switching it off for a while.