Sheryl Sandberg: You Don’t Need a Personal Brand; You Need This Instead


Sheryl Sandberg, former Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, said she thinks personal branding is overblown. While speaking in an interview with renowned Wharton psychology professor and best-selling author Adam Grant, Sandberg suggested the personal branding trend that’s all the rage today is not only overblown, but also exaggerated.

“If you think you are building your personal brand, please don’t. You don’t have a brand. Crest has a brand. Perrier has a brand. When I hear anyone talk about building their personal brands, I know that’s not right,” she said.

Sandberg’s sentiments raise some eyebrows considering she has one of the most prominent personal brands out there alongside other strong ones like Tony Robins’, Michelle Obama’s and Susan Cain’s. But, it’s not difficult to see why she would feel personal branding is overblown. Everyone from the mailman to high school students are now building personal brands with the ferocity of a Kardashian, TheNextWeb author Bryan Clark observed.

“Maybe we should all just chill a little,” Clark said.


Is personal branding overblown, exaggerated?


Personal branding defines how others see you, remember you, describe you, and think about you. Your personal brand comes to represent you in the minds of others and in a simplified manner can be thought of as a set of adjective labels people attach to you, such as smart, reliable, industrious, or bold. The attributes others associate with you are cultivated over time and yet are communicated in an instant.

Advocates of personal branding argued every professional has a personal brand, and so do you. The question is whether or not you are in control of it. Proponents say it’s crucial that you find out what your brand is and work to shape it to your benefit because your personal brand determines where you are and where you end up in your career. By controling your personal brand, you can achieve distinction in your industry, find others who align with you, and also understand yourself better.

But Sandberg, who branded herself as an iron leader with a soft heart, opposed how people on the web are building their personal brands. People today are packaging themselves in the best possible light to get ahead in their businesses and careers. Sandberg said that’s the wrong way to do it.  

"Don't package yourself. Just speak and speak honestly, with some data behind you."


Forget about personal branding, instead speak honestly


According to Sandberg, if you think you are building a personal brand by packaging yourself a certain way, you will not have the career you want because you will not be authentic.

“The reason it’s not right is that products are marketed. ‘This is sparkling water; it is one of my favorites. It is put in a bottle that I really like with packaging I really like.’ But people are not that simple. We’re not packaged. And when we are packaged, we are ineffective and inauthentic. I don’t have a brand, but I do have a voice. It is a voice that I used to help build a company. It is a voice that spoke out on women. It is a voice that sometimes gets things wrong. And it’s a voice I now use to talk about grief and try to break some of the isolation I felt,” Sandberg said.

So, personal branding needs to focus more on projecting an authentic voice that tackles issues than merely packaging and marketing individuals in one particular way or another.

See Also: How to Build a Strong Reputation Online.