Ethics of Personal Branding

Personal Branding
Personal Branding

In marketing, how you brand your product is the most important aspect you consider. Virtually everything you do affects your product’s branding. The brand is essentially, how the public views the product. The packaging, where it is sold, its price, advertising: everything affects the product’s brand.

The same is true in your personal branding. Everything you do can affect it. How you dress, how you act in public, what you post on social media, and how you perform. They are all inputs that make up your personal brand.

Truth in advertising

The point of branding a product is essentially to put it in the best light for the optimal number of people in the market in which you’re selling. If you’re branding toothpaste, you want the most people with teeth to think your toothpaste is the best.

You could do that by making it more whitening, better tasting, and more convenient to use. You could massively advertise these benefits to plant in consumers’ minds that you have the greatest toothpaste on the market.

But if those benefits don’t actually exist, you can get into trouble from the government for false advertising.

The same applies to your resume or what you tell people about yourself. If you tell them you have experience that you don’t, it can come back to bite you in a couple of ways.

First, an organization that is hiring you may very well do a background check. They may request and call your references and ask them about your claims. If these prove to be wrong, or even questionable, they may not hire you.

A second way this can hurt you is if they hire you under the assumption that you have the experience you touted as part of your brand. Just as the toothpaste didn’t whiten teeth, it won’t take them long to figure out that you can’t do that job. This can result in an embarrassing and awkward firing and a long-term scar on your brand if future employers talk to your past employer.

Think long term

Advertising toothpaste for benefits it does not have could increase a company’s profits for a temporary basis. But making false claims will result in much lower profits over the long term. It could even put a company out of business.

Lying about yourself to inflate your personal brand will do the same. Who you really are will come out. And misrepresenting yourself as something you’re not is a great way to limit your career opportunities.

Inconsistency in your personal branding

When you seek a position in consulting, certain things are implied. Consulting firms generally hire people to work for clients. They must hire people who are intelligent, capable and professional. These characteristics are often implied. The firm will interview people to verify that each person they hire has these characteristics.

You may interview with them and demonstrate your intelligence. You may have many accomplishments and act professionally. The caveat is that the consulting firm wants people who consistently demonstrate these capabilities. They can’t place people in front of a client that is professional only part of the time.

If you act like a true professional in all of your interviews, that’s wonderful. But if they check your social media accounts and see that you’ve posted inappropriate pictures and posts, it will hurt your personal brand.

We’re all a little less professional when we’re out with our friends having a few drinks. But posting inappropriate pictures and other content socially shows a lack of intelligence and professionalism.

Applying ethics to your personal branding

The essence of personal branding comes down to honesty. You want to convey the most positive image you can of yourself. You want to promote your greatest strengths and downplay your worst weaknesses. But you must be honest.

You have an ethical duty to yourself, to your profession, and to your employer. Ethics can be taught. Ethics can be regulated. But more than anything, ethics should be part of your core. It should drive everything that you do.

Decisions on your behavior should not be calculated based on whether you get caught. Setting and following a standard of ethics will ensure a long, happy and successful career.

How much does ethics play in your decision making?

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

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