Scandalous personal brand? No thanks, reality TV!

18 02 2009

Since starting at Centennial in September, something that I’ve heard over and over again is that I need to have a personal brand in the PR world. Everyone keeps saying that I’m supposed to brand myself to show potential employers that I have the skills and characteristics that make me the best person for the job. Ok, that makes a lot of sense, even if it does feel a little strange to think of myself as a packaged brand. Although, I guess it’s easier to picture myself as brand if I think of it as an obsessively neatly packaged, TV-addicted brand…

Gossip GirlAnyway, the whole idea of branding got me thinking about something that I read on a TV.com blog last week about Bravo working on a realty version of Gossip Girl. Basically, the show will follow the rich and privileged students of Manhattan’s most elite private schools, and broadcast their all their personality quirks to the world. Their potential audience includes individuals who may be influential in terms of their acceptance to college, or acquiring their dream job in the future. For some teens, this could be a good thing – being on their best behaviour during the show’s filming could allow them to demonstrate their positive attributes and sell their personal brand. However, the premise for this show is a real life Gossip Girl, a TV show in which no one is ever on their best behaviour.

Showing privileged teens indulging in the finer things in life, throwing lavish parties and getting caught up in high school drama may make for good TV, but it does not build a very good personal brand. The intention of the show is to find a group of teens who are the real life Serena van der Woodsen, Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf, which means that some serious drama and scandal are certainly in store for viewers. Unfortunately for the show’s cast, I really can’t imagine that drama and scandal are things that college admissions departments or employers would like to see in an applicant’s past. Opening up your life to the world may seem fun and exciting to a teenager who dreams of fame, but a show with a goal of capturing the drama and elitist behaviours of Manhattan’s wealthy teens does not seem like a good way to present your personal brand.

So, I think in building my own personal brand, it may be best to stay away from starring in scandalous reality TV shows – it probably won’t lead to a successful career in PR. It may be hard to give up on my dreams of having every single moment of my life exposed to the world, but I think it may be best if I just stick with building my brand through my online presence with social media. I’d say it’s a little easier to delete an embarrassing picture from Facebook, than it would be to eliminate all records of an embarrassing reality TV show.

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Won’t you network with me, Ugly Betty??

30 01 2009

So, it seems that I can connect anything – yes, ANYTHING – to TV. The jury’s still out on whether or not this is a neat quirk of mine, or just plain sad…

uglybettyAnyway, to explain why I say this: earlier this week, as the conversation in my career management class turned to the subject of networking, my mind immediately jumped to an episode of Ugly Betty from a few weeks ago. As my teacher, Barry Waite, talked to the class about the networking assignment we’ll be completing this semester, I could not help but be reminded of “Dress for Success,” an episode in which the really-not-so-ugly Betty is required to do some networking for a course she is enrolled in. Similar to what I’ve been hearing since day one of my PR education, Betty is told that if she wants to get anywhere in her career, she MUST network. She is instructed to obtain 40 new business contacts within a week by networking. Faced with this task, Betty is nervous and intimidated by the whole situation, and frankly, so am I.

Throughout the episode, Betty’s colleagues offer their views on networking, which are not at all unlike what I’ve been hearing for the last five months:

“Networking is one of those annoying things, but if you’re serious about your career, it’s something you have to do.”

“The point of networking is to gather information to advance your career.”

Now, I do understand that networking is important and can help my future career, but like Betty, I have some reservations. The idea of talking to people just so that I could potentially use them to get ahead irks me. It feels fake and forced, and I just don’t like it. I know that in this industry, I need to sell myself and my skills if I want to succeed, but there is a fine line between selling myself and selling a fake networking version of myself.

To help Betty overcome her worries about networking, her co-worker Marc, takes her out and offers some advice:

“Step 1: forge a bond – your name, where you work, and one memorable fact. Step 2: fathering information – in order to get info, you’re going to have to give info. The trick is to make it sound juicy, but really mean nothing. And most importantly, step 3: the exit strategy – get in, get info, get out.”

To this, Betty responds as though she’s in my head: “I don’t like to be rude. How do you just stop someone in the middle of a conversation?” This is MY problem – I can’t be rude! I can’t fake interest and then rudely walk away – I’m just not wired like that. To me, building contacts and forming a professional network is more about quality than quantity. I would much prefer to have a few good, solid contacts in the PR world than a ton of business cards from people I don’t really know. Who’s going to remember you – or LIKE you – when you only spend a minute talking with them, clearly using them? I don’t want to get in, get info, and get out. I don’t want to have a two minute conversation with someone, give them my card, and move on – I want to have actual conversations with people in this industry I’m getting into. I want to be remembered as myself, not a fake person who has a nice business card. Although, I don’t actually have business cards yet… Oh Betty, I still have so much to learn from you!