Edition 35: About my listless summer

Me vs. My Brand

It’s been a rough few months. For me. For the world. For journalism.

During my unanticipated sabbatical from writing to you, I have been thinking about reputation and leadership. 

You see, things happened where my first thought was how it could affect my reputation and brand. Journalism, like many industries, is a small one. And gossip is hard to avoid. 

I used to teach a training session loosely based off the idea of reputation management and social media. To be hirable, I’d tell the class, you have to be known. Have a brand. So you get headshots, pick the topics you want to be known for, print business cards and build a brand.  

This is how I built the persona I put on for every conference and networking event. It’s a slightly different Kim than my close friends or family know. I have been thinking about this alter-ego a lot as I look for jobs.

Is it this alter-Kim that people think about as they interview me? Is this alter-Kim the one that could get criticisms of being narcissistic or rude? Do people think I care more about my brand as opposed to the work as a result of alter-Kim?

I’ve been on both ends of the “tell me what you’ve heard about this person” discussion during hiring. It can be helpful, but I also wonder how detrimental it can be. Sisi Wei gave a great talk  about this subject at SRCCON Work last year. 

If one person calls you a liar, does that make you one? If one coworker thinks you are difficult, does that mean word on the street will tell others you’re difficult?

Perception is a funny thing. And it matters so much, unfortunately, because perception is how we form our biases and ideas of people. Many leaders just stop caring what people thought of them. They eschew public statements, gossip and the like. It’s much harder for us to do this on the rise (at least it is for me).

So is it a choice between being a brand and being yourself? Not entirely, I’ve concluded. Leadership means being vulnerable, but also skeptical. I’m trying to reframe my opinions of folks, especially where it might be based off untruths. If I heard something but I have no proof, I’m trying to set aside any prejudice. If I’m asking, I take all opinions with a grain of salt. The brand is not always the person and the person is not always the brand. 

We all live public and private lives. And that’s OK. I’m learning that it’s all right if I’m not perfect because sometimes people need to see beyond the carefully crafted brand, no matter the consequences.

P.S. I’ve also decided to talk about this squirmy topic I write about as emerging leadership as opposed to management. You can manage as a leader, but everyone can lead. 


I read am trying to read 75 books in one year. Last year I tried for 100 and barely made half, so I made this year’s goal more reasonable. 

I mostly read on Kindle, and I enjoy supporting great authors. I was buying maybe 2-3 books a month lately until I discovered Libby. It’s an iPhone app that makes it really easy to find, put a hold on and get eBooks to your Kindle. 

God bless libraries.

Great things I’ve read lately

New Manager? Here’s 10 things to put on your to-do list. (Use Journal)

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** by Mark Manson (I’m late to this, I know, but it’s been a good read as I’ve worked through the issues above)

How the Atlantic, LATimes and others are staffing up (Digiday)