Build your personal credibility, not your personal brand

I hate the phrase “personal branding.”

Remember school projects? There was always that one kid who didn’t do much work, but was great at presenting. The teacher thought they did all the work. Personal branding reminds me of that person, now all grown up–and still talking their way through life. Ugh.

Most of us are not good at “personal branding.” A lot of good people are too busy actually doing the work to spend energy managing the optics of that work.

Unfortunately, this means well-deserving people often get the least credit.

Let’s stop aiming for “personal branding,” and start aiming for “personal credibility.”

How are the two different?

Personal branding has a superficial undertone. It assumes you have your work, then you tack on an artificial layer of “branding” to shape perceptions. It doesn’t respect the intelligence of your audience because it assumes people will believe whatever brand you put out there.

Personal credibility is about substance first and foremost. Then showing the folks around you what you can do and how you can contribute. It’s about earning trust in order to do more of the work you want to do.

When you have a strong personal brand, you might get likes on your social media posts.

But when you have strong personal credibility, you have a deeper connection with people who believe in your work. This means you have more options, more control, and a more fulfilling career.

How do you build your personal credibility?

By doing the same things that help you believe other people (or products) are credible. Social proof, accolades, a track record of contribution, good design, strong writing, being articulate, testimonials, work samples, having a strong point of view, warm referrals.

All the things that make you think, “Hmm this person seems like they know their craft.”

There are lots of people who don’t have strong personal brands, but have strong personal credibility. When you Google them, you might not find a lot. But they have plenty of interesting opportunities in the circles and networks they belong in.

And that counts for a lot.