Platform by Cynthia Johnson

I’m not sure how I heard about this book, but apparently, I wanted to read it enough that I placed a hold for it at the library for when it publishes. On a separate note, how cool is it that Overdrive will let you place holds on books before they come out?

Platform is supposed to be about the art and science of personal branding. Since I do the blogging for my company, I do want to know more about the type of topics that I can write about and how that can help the company brand, which is especially important since we’re a marketplace and need to balance between our own brand and the brands we carry. The book looks at what personal branding is, the elements of a personal brand, and how things like rumours can affect your brand.

I thought her explanation on branding was pretty good. Johnson thinks of branding as something that everyone needs, since the digital age means that we evaluate people based on their digital footprint. As the book puts it, “Personal branding is not about packaging yourself to sell yourself. It is about bringing focus to your actions so that the right kinds of people can find you and subscribe to your message, and vice versa.” 

Another thing I thought was interesting was her elements of personal brand – personal proof, social proof, association, and recognition. The case studies between Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick were pretty interesting as well.

That said, a lot of the book felt more like advice on how to get people to talk to you and give you jobs or be your mentor than branding. Perhaps it’s because they’re very interlinked (a strong brand being linked to connecting with the right people for Johnson), but during the later half of the book, I felt I was reading more on how to connect with people. Plus, there was at least one story about her where her success depends more on luck that how she messaged people (which she said as well).

Speaking of her personal stories, the book is filled with them. She tells you that she managed to get free holidays, a job, etc all through her personal brand. There are a few interesting ones, like how she did the twitter chat, but a lot of her stories felt like a “right time, right person” type of situation and there weren’t as many concrete tips that I would like (for example, how did she manage to get a free round-trip flight on a private jet in exchange for a tweet and a snap? What was that tweet and snap? Or how did she get an “all-expenses paid, six-week tour through New Zealand in exchange for a few tweets – I had a thousand followers at that time” – was it because those were the early days of influencer marketing? Was it something else? It’s not explained. Some stories were useful and illustrated what she was saying, but others felt like the kind of stories you share because you think that they make you seem cool (or maybe the point wasn’t clear, I’m not sure).

Overall, I think the book started strong and then sort of fizzled out. I really liked how she introduced the concept of branding (which is something I can bring up with our marketing side and see how we can craft our content going forward), but after that, it felt like she just really liked talking about how she got a lot of stuff/jobs/success by asking the right person. It was great that she succeeded, but I didn’t really learn anything useful from that. I actually felt like Influence by Brittany Henessey had more tips on how to build your personal brand (although that was definitely a personal brand thing, not something that could be applied to companies). Also, I just realised my first review of Influence was very short and now I want to re-read it and see if my memory of it is accurate.

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