Ann Friedman wrote an article for New Republic this month titled "Me, Inc.: The paradoxical, pressure-filled quest to build a 'personal brand.'" She ruminates on the purpose of personal branding and the complexities of creating one in social-media-saturated 2015. Friedman quotes liberally from the Fast Company article, "The Brand Called You" that Tom wrote in 1997, but she seems flummoxed by the entire concept. She laments how contrived it feels to speak about herself in a polished, professional manner. It seems she's taken the phrase "personal brand" too literally. Tom used it to contrast a person with a corporation when branding. With increased use of multiple social media channels, it's easy to see how creative professionals can blur and blend the lines between their personal and professional lives. Personal branding becomes even more important given that amount of exposure.
While it may be a challenge to determine how best to segment the personal and professional online, Tom's message is still extraordinarily relevant whether you're plugged in or not. Friedman calls the concept of a janitor's personal brand ridiculous. What she's missing is the core of Tom's message: Craft, Distinction, Networking Skills. Friedman's right that a janitor does not need a "flashy website." But a janitor's attention to craft and distinction will always be the key to her/his personal brand, and ensure employment long-term, whether with one employer or a string of them. Tom has proved his prescience once again: 1997 or 2015, be distinct or extinct.