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Will the Real Helen Please Stand Up?

 Feb 24, 2020 9:00 AM
by Helen Spence

If you read Debra’s article about branding after the age of 50, you will have some insight into the many challenges I encountered when starting up Top Sixty. Barely three months had passed before I realized that I had no desire to sell myself or my ideas on social media. In fact, I had such an aversion to it, I almost sunk my mission before I started.

Growing up, my generation was not invited to ‘brag’ about any of our achievements. Quite the contrary. We were advised to be humble; to let our actions speak for themselves. We didn’t get stars, prizes, or stickers for any mediocre performance or just because we were part of ‘the team’. Many of us were told to do better next time or just keep on trying. It’s not hard for me to understand why Boomers have a hard time wrapping their heads around putting themselves out there on social media.

Truthfully, as an educator, I can see the value of acknowledging the efforts children make, even if they are not always ‘winners’. But too much praise in the wrong place is as damaging to one’s self-esteem as too little. Having said this, I believe the self-confidence of many Boomers would have benefitted from a boost had their parents praised them a bit more often. But that wasn’t the Zeitgeist of the time.

I digress. My point has to do with the concept of branding and grasping what it means to have a personal brand. If you look at the two photos of me at the top of this blog, you will see that one is of a woman dressed in local Mayan attire. The other was a shot taken for professional purposes. Which one do you think is the one I want to show up on my website, if one is necessary at all?

(Aside: it took some considerable convincing from Debra for me to put this blog together and use these shots of me).

I think the pictures speak for themselves and illustrate well that a personal brand demonstrates in a picture how you want to be perceived by your audience. You can choose a goofy picture which tells the story of someone who doesn’t take herself too seriously and enjoys having some fun, or one that speaks to a more believable individual whose product or service you would consider seriously.

The very hardest obstacle, in my opinion, is becoming a public persona at an older age. I am learning that in order to be credible in the 2020s, you must show up on social media. It is impossible to avoid public scrutiny online despite your predilection to avoid it. And your personal brand is as important after age 50 as it was when you were younger. Until marketers began using the terminology, those of us who are Boomers never thought of our public personas as ‘personal branding'. Take it from me, I know!

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