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Tom Harness and I occupy a similar space in industry, but have vastly different approaches to personal, professional and client branding.

Harness is a powerful promoter who stamps his name at the top of every project he works on. The brand he has created for himself is often outlandish, sometimes overwhelming, but always centered on outcomes.

I, conversely, put my personality behind brands, not out front. I let my personality integrate with brands I manage. But just like Harness, I look for outcomes, not just activity.

After years of watching Harness develop his brand, I believe it’s time for me to change my approach to brand building.

The changes I intend to make will parallel core values of brand development that Harness has exposed me to. These are some of the same core values expressed by brand leaders such as Gary Vaynerchuck or Tony Robbins.

Your brand development should utilize these same core values as well.

“Put it out there. Own it. Be genuine and authentic,”  Harness said. “You have to be willing to listen, reflect on it, but don’t dwell.”

Harness acknowledges that everyone has their own way of building a brand, no matter what or who for, and that all ways are open.

“There’s no right or wrong way,” Harness says, “It’s your own conscious. Everybody’s going to have something to say about you. You, me, your business.”

He’s right. When you build a brand you make yourself vulnerable. This is especially true if your brand is visible online.

Folks will always have something to say about the work that you do. It’s up to you to determine the value of their criticism and its applicability to your brand development.

Like Harness said, “Listen, reflect on it, but don’t dwell.”

If you dwell on the good you’ll lose your hunger to become better.

If you dwell on the bad you may lose your hunger all together.

Harness knows. He has dealt with both the good and the bad. He has experienced folks questioning his motives, asking whether he is truly vested in his causes or whether he is more interested in himself.

Harness says that it’s about far more than just drawing attention to himself.

“I wanted to build an influencer brand that I could do something positive with … Bring awareness to organizations and funds no one knows about, but also have fun.”

It has taken years for him to build the brand that he now lives, going so far as to make his personal brand and his business brand separate, but used in similar ways.

“When I decided I was going to start separating the two, meaning Harness Digital Marketing was its brand and Tom Harness was going to be his own brand, I realized what I was doing is what people outside of our area were doing,” Harness said. “I can tell you the time when the switch flipped. It was the very first time I did the #UglyChristmasSuit fundraiser.”

In addition to authenticity and genuineness, depth is an important characteristic of your brand. There must be layers to your brand to appeal to different audiences and demographics.

“I feel like I’ve done what a lot of people can’t. I’ve created demographics on social media that are specific and I’m not typecast with one thing,” Harness said. “I choose what I’m very passionate about. I’m passionate about veterans. No one is going to squash with me on that. Plus I’ve earned that right.”

Many of his personal interests and objections have become part of his brand as well, such as craft beer and pumpkin spice flavoring.

Harness advises folks that, whichever direction you decide to go in developing your brand, you be willing to put yourself out there.

“It’s ok to make a mistake. Let people see you own it,” Harness said. “We’ve gotten past that we have to be perfect … There’s hokey people on social media. There’s leaders. There’s motivators. It’s whatever you want to be.”

That is, so long as whatever you decide to be is genuine.

The internet can spot a phony from a world away.


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