“Courage is the mastery of fear, not the absence of fear.” --Mark Twain

Many people are writing about branding these days – especially personal branding. Many professionals have asked me –– why all the fuss?

In fact some have even questioned the value – and proposed that personal branding is nothing more than “image.” Of course when I get these questions I usually have a stock answer as to all the great reasons:
• Laser-like focus for your career
• Improved self-confidence
• Helps with building a business
• Enables you to stand out in a crowd

Lately, however I have felt the need to dig deeper – to question the validity of all I espouse to be great tools. There was a fascinating question posed on LinkedIn about whether in our quest for success we are in fact breeding narcissism. Someone even answered with a yes and pointed to Personal Branding. So, here is where I have landed. If used with manipulative, or dishonest intent, from fear and without reflection – then yes – you might question its use and possibly even be afraid of what you are developing.
1. Is it real?
2. Does it truly reflect who you are and all you bring to the table?
3. Does it help project a solution you offer so you are more closely aligned with those who need you and those you need?

At my deepest core I believe in this. I used it when I did not fully grasp all of the concepts. My personal and professional life has been propelled forward by how I manage my brand and so have others’.

Recently I met up with a former client who was in town for a conference. I found myself slightly challenged as she continued to call me her life coach. (Note to self – continue to manage that misnomer – I am a brand leadership coach.) But the reason why she saw me that way? Somehow, unbeknownst to me – she felt I helped her to change her life. She changed careers once, and then entered into a graduate study program previously she only dreamed of – is managing a bi-coastal relationship and spending time with her children. She has crafted a career plan that works for her – All based on an understanding of her authentic self/brand.

Throughout coaching she was able to uncover all her strengths and possibilities. Simply put – she realized her personal brand and is using it to help herself and others.

Still I was a bit concerned about the concept of “life” coaching and fear crept in. So what to do? Manage it better. Present myself as an expert in brand leadership – not life solutions. Somehow my brand got a bit muddled in the process but still reflective of solutions I believe I can live up to:

Fair, empathetic, creative and targeted coaching. I revised my approach and became ultra aware of how some people might perceive me. From there I crafted a plan to ensure a better recall of brand leadership vs. strictly coaching:

• Talked more about branding as the process we used (client and coach.)
• Demonstrated on a daily basis what brand leadership is.
• Used the language more often in written communication as well as verbal.

First hint that it is working?

1. She introduced me to a colleague calling me her life coach and then corrected herself saying she worked with me on the “branding stuff.”

2. Second hint: Approached by a Leadership company in Latin America to possibly represent their American clients in many facets of career and organizational leadership.

3. Third hint: Since this last meeting – no one else, to my knowledge, has referred to me as a “life coach.”

So my fears have dramatically lessoned about any brand misconception.

What are you afraid of?
• When you ask people how they would describe you to others – are their answers in par with your expectations?
• Are you worried they don’t get you?
• Do you want to use Personal Branding because you think it is a silver bullet?
• Did some other professional say you have to do this “PB” thing or you will not survive?

I firmly believe we can only EVER present the most polished versions of ourselves – not of what someone told us what we should be.

I also hold true that your brand exists whether you manage it or not. So instead of branding out of fear (do it or you’ll fail) or being afraid of your brand (this is all wrong – I may as well give up,) consider it an enriching challenge, a thrill-seeking game – a real way to show the world who you really are – get what you want and give to others what they need.

Authentic personal branding is a great tool – not to be feared and not to use with malicious or false intent. Used properly and it produces powerful manifestations of your goals, mission and visions.

Author's Bio: 

Jessi LaCosta is one of the leading authorities who focuses on professional development through Brand Leadership. This includes approaches such as visioning, coaching, facilitation, training, strategic planning, conflict resolution, strategic communications and personal branding. She is a dynamic coach and strategist offering laser-like focusing on issues and problem solving, but always with a compassionate, positive and creative approach. LaCosta is very skilled in helping others find clarity in their situations whether they stem from extreme challenge or high potential. Before starting her own firm, she worked at one of the nation's top advertising agencies, Deutsch Inc. She also has held public relations, marketing and sales positions in other industries including media, museums, technology retrieval and medical marketing. LaCosta has reconstructed organizations’ institutional branding efforts, facilitated brainstorming and leadership sessions and coached for strategic acumen among supervisors, managers and executives.  She has also worked with solopreneurs and entrepreneurs with initial business building and as well as coached individuals in career transition.