Review of Cynthia Johnson’s “Platform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding”
As a well-known and respected thought leader in the marketing field, Cynthia Johnson has laid out what it takes to create a personal brand in her book “Platform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding.”
Johnson defines personal branding as self-awareness and self-preservation. It is a tool accessible to anyone who is willing to be themselves out loud. However, personal branding isn’t necessarily about packaging yourself as you are and trying to sell it. It’s about “bringing focus to your actions so the right kinds of people can find you.”
“Personal branding,” Johnson also states, “is built on four main factors: personal proof, social proof, association, and recognition.” Personal proof, like education and credentials, social proof, such as social media followers and referrals, work in combination with the people you are associated with and titles of recognition, like being named employee of the month, in order to create your personal brand.
At its core, personal branding is about authenticity. Johnson explains that the reason brands try so hard to create a unique voice is because they don’t naturally have one. Johnson explains that “[People] are the most natural brand…We are what brands strive to be and to connect with.” So while brands are focused on becoming people, we should focus on being authentic because that is how we truly connect with our audience.
Through historical references and reflecting on her own career, “Platform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding” outlines what steps should be taken when creating a personal brand. From auditing your current social media channels to networking with the unexpected, Johnson shares her knowledge on the subject.
Johnson reiterates through the book that a personal brand is useless if you do not have a strategy, goals, and objectives acting as a guiding force. While telling the story of her own career, Johnson made creating a personal brand appear attainable and realistic while stressing its importance to success.
One of the best takeaways from this book is this: If you want to be heard, you need to understand why people will listen. What sets you apart from others will be the reason you gain a following. To be influential, you must add value to peoples’ lives. You need to understand your value proposition, believe in it, and let it drive your personal brand. But you have to remember that influencing isn’t about you at all — it’s about your audience and how your message affects them. You need to view your content as one of your audience members. If you wouldn’t interact with the content you post, how could you expect someone else to?
This book has plenty of useful content. Johnson listed some great resources, like websites to find information about yourself for a personal audit and where to claim your usernames for a uniform brand.
Generally, the book is pretty interesting. Maybe it’s because the subject matter is something that I find engaging, but the way it was written felt familiar. Johnson didn’t use language that would make personal branding seem intimidating. It felt very casual, almost like I was having a conversation with a mentor.
However, at times, it felt like a word count was trying to be met. By that, I mean the author kept saying the same thing in different words. While being repetitive can get the importance of personal branding stuck in your head, it felt like there were so many definitions of it that I couldn’t really define it in simple terms.
Moreover, Johnson used historical examples to support the advice she was giving. While using those examples adds to the credibility of her statements, I didn’t feel as if the length of them was necessary. I don’t need a six-page long brief history of the first resume. It was very difficult to get through those tangents, I would often forget the point Johnson was trying to make.
Lastly, I wish Johnson would have gone more in-depth into the advice she was giving. I feel that a lot of her advice was surface-level. Yes, it was clear, and yes, it would make sense, but I found myself wanting more explanations and examples.
Overall, I would give “Platform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding” by Cynthia Johnson a 3.5 out of 5 stars. It was engaging, entertaining, and educational, but for my personal expectations, it fell just below the mark.