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Building an Authentic Personal Brand: How Transparent Should You Be?

I am one of those people that is often accused of TMI. It’s like I can’t help it. Blame a big ego, maybe, but I just assume that people interested in talking to me or reading my words are obviously also curious about the details and minutiae of my life. When I lost my virginity. What I ate for lunch. How many times I have to pee every night now in my third trimester of pregnancy.

I’m not totally ignorant to the truth. There are some that might find this information irrelevant or even offensive. But my lack of opaqueness and secrecy about myself is part of my identity. It is truly who I am: obnoxiously candid and proud of it.

In the business of storytelling and personal marketing, however, being selective about the information we divulge in any given context is incredibly important. When telling a story, you don’t want to bore your audience with irrelevant details or distract them with too many digressions. This holds true for writing a short story, developing content for a corporate website or writing your personal resume. All kinds of information may be true, but including all the information you can think of does not necessarily represent the truth.

So when we write a cover letter or a product summary we have to consider a number of things before choosing our words. Who is our audience? What are their expectations? What is going to grab their attention and what is going to turn them right off? And what, at the end of the day, truly represents the concept you are going for?

What matters is that you are authentic in your representation. The level of transparency, or the amount of information exposed at any given time, can and should be contextual. In other words, sometimes talking about the frequency of your bathroom visits might, in fact, be appropriate (like in your blog posts, for example).

There are plenty of posts that will suggest you alter your social media accounts to accommodate for the possibility of future employers discovering your exploits to the detriment of your job applications. Keep things professional, just in case. And I wouldn’t entirely disagree. It is important to be aware in this world of virtual exposure what we are allowing others to see. However, too much paranoia about how we are perceived is also problematic, mainly because it can be exhausting. Unless you choose to avoid social media platforms entirely, exposing things about yourself that some of your audience might not approve of is part and parcel of “marketing” yourself at all. Telling your story in a public forum, if it is, in fact, your story, means running the risk of being more transparent then you might want.

My advice? Always lean toward authenticity. If there are truths you are looking to hide, they will likely be uncovered eventually, one way or another. And if they aren’t, attempting to hide them and create a more refined and, ultimately, counterfeit image might not be worth the effort. Sure it might get you that job, but if you have to be someone you’re not, do you really want that position after all?


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