Having international clients allows me the space to tap into the value of culture as part of their personal branding even if I’m not a part of that culture. Take for example my Serbian client. She is hesitant about marketing because English is her second language. My suggestion to her was to teach her clients Serbian words that are relevant to her work. At the very least, teach them how to say please and thank you. Downplaying culture in her personal brand would only give her more room to hide her brilliance.
I have a friend who works in DEI who often accuses me of being inclusive. Yes, I meant to say accuse. That's because I don't consider myself inclusive. I consider myself respectful of others. That means I do not have to like, tolerate or accept what I consider shenanigans others embrace as part of your culture. I do, however, choose to respect their choice to do whatever the fuck they choose: as long as it doesn’t infringe on others. That also means you may not see me in certain spaces as a sign of respect, not neglect.
In business that means I won’t collaborate, partner or engage with other people and brands where I may experience a culture clash. This is a sign of respect for their space and mine. Your cultural identity as part of your personal brand is a precious asset that deserves recognition, respect, and celebration by you first. I take my cues from you when I'm in your space. If I know what to expect up front then I can choose to take myself and my money somewhere else.
I wanna tell you a bit of a story before I get to deep with this. And no, this is not my story. It’s just based around my world.
Once upon a time, in Compton, there was this chick named Lily. Lily was serious about her need to write and knew the only way the world would recognize her skills was through her personal brand. Lily was intelligent, creative, and talented, but she had one flaw – she was embarrassed about her culture in all its natural forms.
Lily came from a rich and diverse cultural of hood, holy, and hip. She knew her blood line crossed a few continents, but she was embarrassed that she didn’t know much about any of them. This led her to believe her background was not "relevant" or "mainstream" enough to be showcased within her personal brand. So, she buried her roots and adopted a generic approach she thought would appeal to a wider audience.
At first, Lily's thought her personal brand game was on point. She gained some followers and even some praise for her work. But deep down, chickie felt a void. She was disconnected from her truth, constantly wearing a mask to fit in with what she believed would increase her know, like, and trust factor. The more she downplayed her culture, the more she lost touch with her authentic voice.
One day, Lily got an email from another chick named Sarah. Sarah had been low-key ride'n with Lily for a while. In the email Sarah poured her heart out, saying she accidentally found Lily's work and felt an instant connection. She shared that she too came from a culturally diverse background but often struggled with connecting the dots due to societal haters.
As Lily read Sarah's words, she realized the impact she could have by leaning into her own cultural identity as part of her personal brand. She recognized that downplaying her culture was not only harming her, but also other folx, like Sarah, of a role model who proudly owned who they are.
I’ll let you write the ending of Lily’s story while I dig a little deeper into the relevance of culture in personal branding.
Authenticity and Self-Acceptance:
Sweetheart, there is nothing more liberating than accepting who you are and celebrating self. Downplaying your culture within your personal brand is like lying about who you are. It sends a message to the world that you're not proud of your roots, which can lead to an internal struggle and a lack of authenticity. Embracing your culture allows you to fully express yourself and connect with others on a genuine level. Be proud of where you come from, and let it shine through your personal brand!
Missed Opportunities for Connection:
Imagine this, sweetie: by downplaying your culture, you're missing out on meaningful connections with individuals who share similar backgrounds. Your multi-faceted culture is a beautiful thing that can weave together relationships, partnerships, and collaborations. When you own and showcase your cultural identity, you create an inviting space for others to connect with you on a deeper level. It's a missed opportunity to build a supportive community that resonates with you.
Erasure and Cultural Appropriation:
Now, listen up, because this one is really important. When you downplay your culture, you unintentionally contribute to the erasure of diverse voices and experiences. By failing to highlight your heritage, your background, or your being, you perpetuate a cycle where certain cultures are marginalized and overshadowed. Additionally, by diluting or appropriating elements of other cultures without proper understanding or respect, you risk causing harm and perpetuating stereotypes. It's time to stop this fuckery and recognize the world doesn't begin and end inside a bubble of your own creation.
Inspiring Others and Challenging Stereotypes:
I know how much you want to make a positive impact on the world. By embracing your cultural identity within your personal brand, you become a source of inspiration for others. Your authenticity becomes a powerful part of challenging stereotypes. It lends strength to others so they can embrace their own unique heritage. Your voice can be a beacon of change, showcasing the reality of diversity and helping to reshape society's perception of culture.
I'm not sharing this with you so your personal brand has more hyphens than value. It's about being true to you as you grow and scale.
Lily's story is just a snippet of the profound impact downplaying your culture within your personal brand can have. It can leave you feeling disconnected, hinder meaningful connections, perpetuate erasure, and rob others of inspiration and representation. By embracing your roots and integrating your cultural identity into your personal brand, you become a catalyst for positive change. Now that’s some impactful shit.
Remember, authenticity attracts authenticity, and celebrating your culture is your job. So, go out there, be true to yourself, and let your personal brand radiate with truth and retaliate against misrepresentation. Your truths, traditions and trailblazing deserves the courageous part of you. That boldness will be your most attractive quality.