Megan McQ’s Musings

‘Expert’ise Examined

Posted on: June 15, 2009

Last week, I attended Blog Potomac, an industry ‘unconference’ in the DC area. I had the opportunity to hear from several industry thought-leaders in different areas of corporate communication.

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One of the most thought-provoking topics of the day regarded the concept of “personal branding,” an online strategy for an individual to consistently position their ‘unique brand’ across social media platforms.

There have been several emerging “personal brand experts” on the Internet that help individuals understand how to market themselves online. Traditionally, these ‘experts’ encourage others to brand themselves as experts in specific industries–specifically ones that companies are desperate for more knowledge in.

But I find a lot of issue in this matter. While these “personal branding experts” eschew the ideology that an individual needs to “pursue their passion” to become an “expert”, I think a lot of individuals are pressured into following the mainstream or forcing a passion that will help advance their career.

But I wholeheartedly agree with one of the speakers, Liz Strauss, who lightly addressed the issue of personal branding during her portion of the conference. While this is not an exact quotation, she said in response to personal branding that:

“Do not lay an ‘idea’ of who you are on top of your image. Live who you are.”

I believe that this ideology parallels one of the quotations I strive to adhere to. The quotation is from Frederick Douglass, one of the leaders of the abolitionist movement in the US:

“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.”

I believe that companies may need to be wary of “experts.” Especially those who claim to be ‘experts’ in social media.

For example, While I subscribe to well over 50 blogs which I try to read every day (amassing to 1,000+ blog posts weekly), I would never refer to myself as an ‘expert.’ This decision is primarily due to the nature of our business. By the time I finish reading my blog posts in the morning, the information is already obsolete.

The exponential rate at which my industry moves is one of the reasons I’m so drawn to it. While we understand our theories of transparency and authenticity (disclaimer: oversimplification), our industry trends and tactics evolve so quickly that the title ‘expert’ is in and of itself an indicator that one would be obsolete. For example, by the time one takes the time necessary to brand oneself as an ‘expert’ in a particular aspect of social media, they have already fallen behind the curve.

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