Thursday, December 1 2022

By Shivaji Dasgupta

All the World’s a Stage masterfully balances theory and practice in the relatively nascent arena of personal branding. Likewise, it crosses the continuum between ethics and expediency quite elegantly, the former being a hot agenda in the context of the black debate.

What helps enormously is the fluid conversational style as if it were a socio-professional narrative standing, or rather on the go. Everyone who reads will be able to identify with the author or one of his batch mates, as they appropriately represent the cross section of corporate profiling.

It begins by addressing a fundamental issue, that of balancing corporate reputation, family life, and aspirational personal brand.

A nice reference to the solution is the very familiar identity of Tata, who remarkably straddled multiple roles with admirable alacrity. The author also rightly refers to people like Thomas Friedman, who enriched the New York Times with his personal reputation, and the examples are indeed numerous.

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The discussion rightly turns to the overdose of positivity that employees with a positive aura can bring to the party, especially in this digital age.

Companies that propagate such fellows potentially attract better talent and also manage to stabilize the relational ecosystem. I’ve seen this live in my advertising career, as the license to those already inside becomes an inspiration to those looking for long-lasting anchors.

Now let’s come to the core construct of the implementation model, which is the troika of impression management, identity management, and self-reflection. Unquestionably, these are the three exhaustive boards of the trip, but a few may differ with the sequence and some of the fine pointers.

For example, in impression management, it talks about clothes, growth of facial hair, and pleasantness of visible disposition. In new age businesses, especially in the online gig economy, these metrics are becoming less important, especially in the tech and creative industries.

Whether in possession of beards or otherwise, or in conforming or refraining from wearing colonial club attire, proven merit is the only decisive variable, so long as it is not clinically gross.

In Identity Management, the second plank, the author beautifully segments the issue into skill capital and relational capital – the former is about knowledge and skills while the latter is tied to social connectedness. Many will find this part extremely valuable to sincerely replicate in the quest to build personal brands.

Equally insightful is the third aspect of thought management, which captures the need to continuously measure and track the health of your brand, as if it were ongoing syndicated research. Where I disagree is the sequencing of the three, in a world ruled by delivery and not by promise, because the development of identity, who you want to be, may well be the first stage followed by the culture of reflection. Questions of perception thus become the final stage, a compelling facade for ingredients of real substance, thus avoiding the pitfalls of superficiality and dubious integrity.

As the narrative progresses, a few other valuable aspects come to life, definitely inspired by the author’s tremendous wisdom and experience. The concept of mixing ordered and higher goals, the first personal and the second organizational. Just as physical marks are revived, so can personal marks, as he shares his thoughts on how to fix targets at cruising altitude. I particularly liked the concept of the executive voice, and you have to read the book to get the truest flavor out of it while the cultural code shift (American versus Japanese boardrooms) is appropriately tied to the education characters.

Predictably, for a book circa 2022, digital amplification is extensively explored with the good foundation that social media should appear after personal branding is established. Although in truth many modern practitioners practice this on parallel tracks, using the 22 yards as net practice wickets has its own risks and benefits. In either scenario, the digital fingerprint can be a double-edged sword, inviting peril as quickly as accelerating reputation.

The larger, more timeless concept of networking is closely related to the above, and the reference to Professor Balachandran’s view, linking networking to net worth, is chillingly accurate. The ring of reciprocity, quid pro quo, is even more true today than ever, with the time to market for easily 5G answers and not national highway speeds.

The author ends the story with a respectful and passionate reference to Mahatma Gandhi, as a personal mark above all others. Readers may be tempted to read this chapter from the start, as it sets remarkable context, expressed in the most lucid and thoughtful way. The halo effect of the Father of the Nation is richly highlighted and not trivialized by likening it to a brand, such is the quality of the tailoring and the logic.

Everyone’s a Stage is clearly the most user-friendly book on personal branding I’ve come across and has the potential to inspire sitters and nay-sayers to adopt its principles. The dramatic portrayal of living characters adds valuable empathy while gliding smoothly into valuable conceptual frameworks. As the author mentions halfway through, this is a truly top-down program and everyone needs to be motivated to play their part.

Shivaji Dasgupta is a freelance brand consultant and writer

Everyone’s a Stage: A Personal Brand Story
Ambi Parames Varan
Westland Books
Pp 184, Rs 499

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