Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Private vs. Public

I've been reading a lot of information about developing a personal brand and maintaining an online presence. Like this one that embraces the branding process as an expression of one's inner soul. I think there is only so much "rebranding" a word can take before it becomes double-speak in the 1984 sense. The word brand is a part of a corporate vocabulary that has been used for decades to communicate a strong public image usually developed by a company's leadership in conjunction with an advertising agency. For people to now begin to use this word to mean "an expression of your soul" is a stretch.

For one thing, the internet is not the place where one can truly bare one's soul safely. Because prospective employers and colleagues will use my blog as a reference, I can't write for example about the dreams I had the last 2 nights about my mother, although it is something deep and speaks to issues I am wrestling with. The internet can rarely substitute for the private journal. It is a public sphere and even when it seems to be expressing honest and personal passions, how much is real, and how much is for "branding purposes?" We do so much in public we begin to lose track of what is real and what we create for the brand. Like Warren Beatty asking Madonna in "Truth or Dare" - Is it worth doing if it's not on camera?

I find an inverse relationship between how much time I spend online and how much writing/real work I actually get accomplished. I understand maintaining an online presence is a professional necessity, and yes hopefully one expresses oneself honestly, well, and on meaningful subjects. But I don't think it can be confused or substituted for the process of inner exploration and the development of a world that the writer or any artist must engage in.


Justine Musk said...

Thanks for the conversation.

The Internet has changed the nature of what a brand is because to survive and thrive on the Web, you have to be transparent and (here's another way overused word) *authentic*. A brand is no longer a fixed corporate message -- that's part of my point (and that's why I begin my post by saying we need to change the idea of what a brand is -- or, now that I've read your post, perhaps find another word for it). Corporations can't control the message anymore -- the people do, thanks to the revolutionary feedback loop of social media. If a brand is dishonest -- contrived, constructed, little substance, smoke and mirrors -- it is quickly found out, people spread the word, and it dies.

And when I say "writing close to your soul", I don't mean writing journal-style entries that spill out your innermost secrets (people probably wouldn't be that interested in them anyway, unless they know you personally). I mean writing about (and exploring) the ideas and general subject matter that you are genuinely passionate about; writing for and toward a creative vision that is about much more than just selling your books (keep in mind I'm talking about *author brands* here) and that has meaning for other people as well as for yourself. The old forms of selling, like the old forms of branding, won't work on the Web -- people need to engage and connect, they need content that is relevant, or else they'll tune you out.

lulu said...

I'm not trying to be tough on you, but is it necessary to say that a writer needs relevant, honest, passionate content.

Maybe yes, we do need a different word than brand. A name is powerful and always carries meaning.

This is a column on the origin of "brand new" and "brand" - something that was burned into cattle - an external mark of ownership, the opposite of an internal expression of authenticity.

Thanks for posting. Really appreciate the chance for dialogue.