Your brand is everything about how you are seen on the internet, and it is increasingly accessible in sophisticated aggregated forms, and there are companies lining up on all sides of the brand management market, for better or worse.
The Gatherers, the Guardians and the Generators are all watching your brand.
If you have any form of interaction on the internet you have an online brand. If you have a website, a blog, a Facebook page, a Google+ profile, a Twitter account or all of the above, you have a brand. If you post on forums (in any way that is identifiably you), you have a brand.
There are Gatherers, for finding out information, uncovering the core of your personal brand on behalf of your prospective partners, customers and employers. The 21st Century private investigator, carrying out due diligence and lifting up rocks to see what scuttles away.
There are Guardians, for monitoring and reporting on your personal brand, on your behalf. The modern day clipping-service, writ large. Running a fine-tooth comb through your public electronic past, to warn you of any skeletons that may be lurking in your cupboard, any bodies that weren’t buried quite as deeply as you thought, and alerting you to anything that Brand Gatherers might find out.
Then there are Generators, able to run grass-roots whispering campaigns to put out the good word, and drown out the bad news about your brand. In a pure, playing-by-the-rules world, the Generators will draw attention to your good deeds and your positives, to draw attention away from those few cranks who maliciously play up your rare mistakes and foolish indiscretions, or misconstrue innocent acts.
In a darker world, the Generators drown out your critics, and mask your evil acts with torrents of minor good deeds, until the evil is forgotten and the good deeds are all that live on in popular memory. (“Forgotten”, incidentally, means “buried on page 3 or 4 of Google results” and “popular memory” means “page 1 of Google results, ideally the top half”).
Where does this leave you and your brand? Well, you can either do it yourself, or you can employ a professional. Whether the DIY approach or the out-sourcing model work best for you will depend on your brand, your position, and your future trajectory.
More and more these days the services of Gatherers, Guardians and Generators are increasingly accessible to you – and to your competition.