Your Digital Reflection Staring Back At You.

Published: 10 February 2011

In an ever more interconnected and online world your every personal and professional footprint can be indelibly recorded for posterity, reference and more. Matt Cockbill, the Berwick Partners’ Head of Technology Practice shares some thoughts on the importance of careful personal brand management in the digital age.

I recently read an article that opened with the following quotation from Aristotle; “To succeed in business it is necessary to make others see things as you see them”. Good point.
The article went on to debate the importance of personal online branding and how blogging, tweeting, community specific discussion forums and social media at large should be impacting on your professional life. Paraphrasing another ancient Greek, the web offers both lever and fulcrum with which to move the earth.

In my view too much can be made of branding. Don't get me wrong, it is unquestionably important, but I believe that a strong personal online brand is fast becoming a commodity; a given part of your professional toolkit and 'everyone' has one.

As little as ten years ago think of the suspicion that would creep into your mind if a senior business person did not have a mobile phone. Your mind says 'how committed are they', 'how available are they',' how can they possibly operate without one'. So the real measurable now becomes the cost of not having something rather than the importance of having it. It's almost impossible to measure the cost of what you miss, but instinctively you know you don't want to miss out.

I don't think we are quite at a point where it can be totally sidelined as a simple commodity; plenty of people still get it wrong! In yesteryear today’s newspapers were the fish and chip wrappers of tomorrow – successes and indiscretions alike recycled and left to linger in dusty archives and failing memories. Now, the web is infinitely searchable and it doesn't forget or forgive.

Looking at the UK IT leadership market, in which we recruit, there are a number of key individuals who have an exemplary personal online presence. They engage with a carefully chosen selection of online communities, they blog, they communicate and share open dialogue. They have successfully built strong personal brands beyond the confines of their employer’s brand. Let's not forget that they have to consistently deliver value in their day job, but these two factors combine to consistently place them in a variety of the industry 'who's who' lists.

In some cases, it is the impact of their strong personal online brand that has brought the spotlight to their achievements. Historically, others carrying a bigger corporate brand will have over shadowed them and simply dominated the stage. This is clearly a good thing. Push it too far the other way and an over effusive personal online presence does risk undercutting someone’s credibility in the 'real' world.

Personal online branding has clear value and the internet gives a free and open platform for all. In my view your online brand must remain inextricably linked to tangible successes, rather than simply presenting flimsy puff pieces. Talking the talk is only the beginning, walking the walk is crucial. Consumers of online brands are savvy and cynical- forget this at your peril!

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