Personal Branding and the Wedding Industry

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Yesterday, Olivier Blanchard posted a well-written and timely piece on the so-called "personal branding" movement that has been so popular lately. The article is full of wisdom and candor and a highly recommended read.

This past year in the wedding industry, we've seen the workshops and classes offered go beyond the general or skill-specific educational topics to sort of a self-help realm. Adding insult to injury, these are being led by people who have no background in professional counseling.

I will be the first to admit that professional therapy changed my life. As a result, I am a big believer in it.  But unless your "personal branding" group therapy workshop is being led by an actual licensed counselor, then you are treading in very dangerous territory. Therapists are licensed for a reason: it is a complex field and a bad therapist can do much more damage than good. I have little patience for people who prey on the emotions of others, especially so they can make money since their core business isn't, and that's precisely what many of these personal branding workshop leaders do.

To be fair, I also believe that you can have experiences without a licensed counselor that can change your life for the better. Certain books have left an indelible thumbprint on my life. Certain movies have left me pondering a long-held belief and after serious critical thinking, my perspective has shifted. That's what good art does. I have attended women's retreats where I've left a better person than when we began. The difference with those and with these sham personal branding workshops is that the retreats were clearly billed as to what they were. I knew what I was getting into when I signed up. I was not attending a retreat thinking I was going to learn business and marketing advice only to find out it was something else entirely.

As Olivier's article states, "we are people not brands." I really believe this. Your identity is so much more than your business. You should never have to separate who you know yourself to be and who you project yourself to be. You should never have to project anything other than who you actually are. Yes, that means some people won't like you.

Business branding is real. Personal branding is snake oil. A "business workshop" playing dress up with group therapy is dangerous, irresponsible and reprehensible and the leaders being "such nice people" doesn't change any of that. If you need or want help on specific personal issues, please take the money you would have spent and see a professional counselor instead. For the average rate of most of the wedding industry personal branding workshops currently available, you could see a licensed therapist for an hour each week for at least a month or two. If it's actual business branding advice you're after, you could spend the money on an experienced graphic designer or business consultant. These would both be much better investments of your time and money.

You can read Olivier's full article on personal branding here.

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