Depends on how long the post needs to be.
In the case of the July 29th masterpiece “Why Personal Branding is a Sham,” at least three.
I could spend my whole career, or even my whole life, correcting everyone perpetrating nonsense about personal branding, and public relations as a whole. Don’t have time. But when an outlet that people trust, in this case Inc., misinforms the public, then over 600 people share that misinformation, it’s worth taking a few minutes to set the record straight.
Will Yakowicz’s entire, and I mean entire, post was simply intended to be a paraphrased version of an interview that took place the same day between Harvard Business Review’s Joan Solotar and Shelly Lazarus, former Chairman & CEO of Ogilvy & Mather.
(You know how digital journalism works these days: wait for someone else to invest time and energy stringing together original thoughts, then read those thoughts, change the wording and produce as many clicks as possible for your own site.)
I’ve read through it several times and I think it’s fair to claim that there’s not a single original thought in the entire piece. If you find one, let me know. It’s all supposed to be based on what Lazarus said in the HBR interview. Unfortunately, it’s largely taken out of context and grossly misrepresents what I understood her to be saying when reading the same interview.
A straw man is a fallacy. This is how it works.
Straw man argument #1
The notion that you need to promote anything except your own authentic personality, opinions, and style is just not true, says one advertising veteran.
- The author wastes no time in manufacturing a false definition of personal branding.
- As it turns out, and as personal branding experts know, it’s all about authenticity. This is rarely, if ever, disputed by reputable experts. The way the author presents it, though, would lead you to believe that it’s the prevailing line of thought.
Straw man argument #2
(Paragraph 1, Sentence 1)
Do you subscribe to the theory that meticulously cultivating a personal brand image will make you a great leader?
- By categorically misrepresenting what personal branding is, the author has set himself up to easily strike down his distorted version of the definition.
- No one who advocates or understands personal branding claims that meticulously cultivating a personal brand image will make someone a great leader. Quite the opposite, personal branding helps great leaders reach larger audiences, allowing them to share insights, advice, and expertise, thus benefiting them individually while indirectly creating positive brand association with their businesses. Some great examples of leaders who embody or embodied personal branding are Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and David Ogilvy, who, in the HBR interview, Lazarus said comes to mind when she thinks of someone who had a strong personal brand.
(Paragraph 2, Sentence 3)
Yet she [Lazarus] believes the idea of building a personal brand is nonsensical.
- At no point in the interview does Lazarus say that she believes the idea of building a personal brand in nonsensical. In fact, as mentioned in Straw Man Argument #2, when Solotar asked Lazarus who comes to mind when she thinks about people with strong personal brands, she said “David Ogilvy.” If she thinks that building a personal brand is nonsensical, as the author claims she believes, wouldn’t she have responded to that question with “No one. I think building a personal brand is nonsensical.”?
Straw man argument #3
(Paragraph 3, Sentence 1; Paragraph 4, Sentence 1)
“Here’s the thing: I hate it when people talk about personal brand. Those words imply that people need to adopt identities that are artificial and plastic and packaged, when what actually works is authenticity,” Lazarus says in an interview with Joan Solotar in Harvard Business Review.
But if a personal brand isn’t what great leaders should be going after, how else should they attract people?
- The author takes Lazarus’ quotes out of context here to show that she is anti-personal branding, when in fact what she takes issue with is labeling the practice “branding” because of the negative connotation it can have. It seems she is perhaps a proponent of rebranding personal branding, if you will.
- He then attempts to strike down the argument that leaders should be building their personal brands based on an out-of-context quote.
Having single-handedly and successfully defeated the sham that is personal branding, the author goes on to educate “great leaders” on how to “attract people” (see, personal branding).
- Be resilient and exciting
- Don’t ever change
- Express your opinions with style
- Be clear and precise
Perhaps the author believes a personal branding expert would advise the following:
- Give up at the first sign of trouble and, by whatever means, remain unexciting
- Change as frequently as possible
- Be bland and fit in
- When answering a question during an interview, writing a blog post, appearing on TV, or even when talking to coworkers or friends, try to say things using the most amount of words as possible. People’s attention spans, especially in the digital era, are at an all-time high. Please, take your time, be verbose, don’t rush. Clarity and brevity are truly a thing of the past.