You are not a brand. You are not a box of Tide. You are not Coca-Cola. You are not a gadget or a widget or a program or an image. You are not a logo or a series of talking points. You are mortal. You are finite. You will age. You will die. Because you are not made of ideas or systems or data points. You are made of flesh and blood and wind and dirt and poetic words and warm embraces and stories forged before you existed.
I mention this because I watched people on #edchat talk about the need for personal branding. Put your best foot forward. Show your better side to the world. Find a niche. Present your better side to the world. I see the point they were trying to make.
And yet . . .
I think oftentimes what people mean when they say "brand" is identity or reputation. It's the notion of "how do you want people to see you?" But branding is distinctly economic. It's about marketing. It's about money. It's calculated rather than intentional. It's persuasive rather than expressive.
I never realized just how big the distinction was until I started running the social media accounts for Write About. Suddenly I had to think about how I was representing the company. I had to think about the language used. My goals were different. I was suddenly selling something. I was marketing stuff. I was paying attention to metrics.
Write About is a brand, but I'm not. I'm John Spencer -- husband, dad, teacher, writer, doodler, meandering thinker, perpetual bender of paper clips. I am person -- finite, broken, confused, chaotic. A brand cannot play catch in the backyard. A brand cannot crack a joke in second block. A brand cannot hug a crying friend who is dying of cancer.
Those things take people. Real people. Flesh and blood people. And when we craft brands instead of thinking about identity, we miss out on the chance to be real with people online.