What's So Wrong With Being Personal, Anyway?

His excuse was, "It wasn't personal."
Which made her react by demanding, "What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn't personal to you. But it was personal to me. It's "PERSONAL" to a lot of people. And what's so wrong with being personal, anyway?"
"Uh...nothing," he timidly backs down.

In triumph and in spite, she concludes, "Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal!"

The dialogue may be from the 1998 hit movie, "You've Got Mail," but it applies most anywhere where business and personal issues struggle to co-exist. Of course, with the dawning of the digital age and the onslaught of virtual technologies that virtually and literally keep millions of addicted users in their bathrobes while blending both their personal lives with their business pursuits every day, there is hardly a difference anymore.

Just what is personal and not business? And what is business-only and not at all personal?

A few months ago, ESPN faced this issue after Ric Bucher, an ESPN NBA analyst, tweeted about how his company was treating Twitter (and all other social media interactions for all ESPN employees). The company's policy was overwhelmingly restrictive, he claimed, especially since he had difficult separating his personal brand from that of the company. And who can blame him for that? Was he a sports expert before they hired him to be a sports expert or did the company make him into the sports expert he claimed to be? At the end of the day, who really cares? The company may have hired a sports expert, but what they got was a person. A whole person.

Aside from the act of giving birth or gently succumbing to a natural death, I can think of nothing that doesn't at least hint at one while appearing altogether entirely the other. And vice versa.
Which is both a dream and a nightmare for folks concerned with branding. Personal or otherwise, nothing is more engaging that an attractive brand. In the world of public relations, it's easy to find examples of this. Unfortunately, in the rest of the world, it's disturbingly easy to find good examples of bad branding just by reading the headline news.

And in these times of overlapping personal brand with business ideals, it's important to start looking at the bundle. Because if you are a potential partner or a potential customer, you will likely want a sneak peek at the entire package before committing to anything worth keeping.

The good news is that there is a simple solution to overcome the obstacle of getting too personal. In business, in uneasy social settings, in life; the key is to remain authentic.

William Shakespeare said it best when he penned, "This above all: to thine own self be true."

That said, here are a few rules for branding yourself in a world that doesn't have a backspace.

1. Don't lie.
2. Don't be mean.
3. Don't wear or say anything uncomfortable because you'll regret it halfway through the evening and the discomfort will outweigh the benefit of putting on such a front.
4. Realize that you are human. Act human. Act humane. Make business personal.
5. When - not if - you screw up, admit it and move on. With a smile. Because even a half-assed smile is better than no smile at all.

Just ask Tiger Woods.

I originally wrote this article for Green Buzz Agency; a social media strategy consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. Learn more about them here.

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