Personal branding is oversold. Ever since Tom Peters wrote that infamous article in 1997, it unleashed an overinflated sense of self. Too many individuals tried to figure out how to be different or how to fit into a category. Individuals on the edge of Gen X claim to be Millennials, and individuals on the edge of some new technology claim to be experts. Even though too many try to stand out, they just really wanted to be a part of something. They want to belong in the group that they put a personal brand wrapper around.

Societal branding is not about you. It is not Me, Inc. It is We, Inc. By “we,” it is how you and me interact and work together.


To add fuel to our desire, social media platforms gave everyone access to spread their personal brand. Social media became a dumping ground. Think about it. How many LinkedIn groups are you a part of in which personal branders just post their own links and leave? No interaction. No conversation. It is easy to do, and that is the part of the problem.

I have done it, too. After all, as a personal brander, it seemed like the “best practice.” The goal – get your content into as many channels as possible as often as you can. If you read an article taking off in social media, add your own to the mix. What happens? We live in a canyon filled with echoes. We keep hearing the same thing and, although we may try, we all sound the same. And no one is listening. And no one is discussing real issues in a real human way.

It is time to end personal branding. We need to build a reputation. We need to have good character. From here, we need to think about our societal brand instead of a personal one.

Is societal branding just a re-brand of personal branding?

No. Some may try to just re-package, but true societal branding will expose the flaws and – to coin a personal branders favorite term – lack of authenticity. Societal branding is not about you. It is not Me, Inc. It is We, Inc. By the “we,” I mean how you and me interact and work together.

The dimensions of societal branding answers a different set of questions. In many ways, this is a differentiator. Societal branding demands we answer questions about how we fit in with others. Personal branding says figure out what your good at, find the right social platform, and then launch.

Let’s discuss several of the key societal branding questions. Most the suggested questions center on how you do certain things.

How you solve problems?

In our business and society, problem solvers are a necessity. Societal branding asks how you evaluate a situation and how you listen to others in their analysis of the situation. Based on the evaluations, how do you work with the others to pull together a common view of the problem? With a mutual understanding, how do you begin to test and develop solutions? Crafting solutions with others says a lot about you and your role with others.

Building a societal brand requires honest conversations with individuals that you work with and understand how they view you in problem-solving situations. Societal brand is not about who you want to be. It is who you are and then how you can get better.

How you add perspective?

Adding perspective is about how you express insights and concepts. Do you build on other people’s ideas? Or, do you dominate and dismiss others? Does the idea have to be yours, or can you accept another’s solution? Based on our experiences, what we read, and how we interpret both lead to developing a perspective. This may be our unique value but only in how we offer it, keep it in check at times, and develop it with others over time.

Building a societal brand requires blending perspectives. Think of perspectives as ingredients. If we only use our ingredient, we never bake anything completely. A good result is when the right ingredients are blended together to produce the end product.

How you participate in a meetings and conversations?

Do you make others feel as if they are the most important person in the room? Societal branding is about how you make others feel in meetings and conversations. Feeling good during and after meeting does not mean the tough issues are not handled. Just the opposite. Tough issues are discussed and resolved with respect, honesty, acceptance, and finding the common ground to move forward firmly.

Societal branding is how you listen, converse, and resolve. Meetings are the great equalizer in that they can show a person’s true colors in who they are. To build a societal brand, think about how you participate and how you can do so in better ways.

How you start? How you finish?

Whether we think about it this way or not, we all start things, and we all end things. The questions on building a societal brand has been about what happens in the middle. Another essential branding element is how we begin projects, meetings, conversations, and other interactions and work. Equally important is how we end each.

Crafting our societal brand starts with how we begin. How people remember us relates to how we end. In between is where our reputation and character exist. How we improve the beginning, middle, and end is our societal brand.

Stop personal branding now. Craft a societal brand.

My hope is you notice the difference. We have enough personal positioning. In all of our positioning, we have lost sight of who we really should be and, more importantly, who we are as a society. We can have an impeccable brand while society fails. It is difficult to have an impeccable societal brand and fail personally.

Here’s the key difference.

  • Personal brand asks many more “what” questions with a few “why” questions sprinkled in to make us feel good.
  • Societal brand asks many more “how” questions. How we collaborate is who we really are.

Woven into these questions is a mindset. A societal brand mindset knows betterment is a key part of the formula because we only get better as individuals when we get better as a society.

Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash
Personal branding has walled us off. Personal branding needs to end. In its place, we need to develop our societal brand. Our character depends on it.