Personal Brand: Lessons From the Scottish Highland Clans

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Personal Brand: Lessons From the Scottish Highland Clans

Communicate U Blog

Whilst “personal brand” may be modern terminology, managing one’s personal brand or reputation goes back hundreds, if not thousands of years.

I recently completed a short course with the University of Glasgow – The History of the Scottish Highland Clans. I took the course because of my Scottish heritage, a general interest in history and the fact that one of the topics covered was the feud between Clan Campbell and Clan McGregor, which are both surnames that appear in the Scottish branches of my family tree.

One thing that surprised me about the clans in general, was the fact that clan chiefs strategically managed their personal brand.

Amazon Founder, Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what others say about you when you are not in the room”.

The clan chiefs ensured that positive things were being said about them by others that were not in the room … or in the castle … by getting people to write poetry and songs about them. Sometimes the poets were members of the Clan’s noble families and at other times they outsiders who were hired in. Today we’d call these poets and songwriters PR agents or spin doctors.

The moladh was a genre of poem in Scottish Gaelic society used to praise and commend the chiefs. They would boost the self-esteem of the subject, reinforce their power and prestige and keep them at the top of the social order.

These poems would include elements like the chief’s:

  • background, family lines and geographical location
  • personality traits
  • physical beauty and features
  • skill and bravery
  • power and allies
  • accomplishments – including the battles they’d won.

We all have a personal brand, whether we are conscious of it or not.  We no longer need to be a clan chief, or an influential member of society to have tales told about our achievements.

Our brand still comes down to “what others say about us” but we can influence what is said by our actions, words, attitude and online presence.

Of course, what others say about us usually has more clout than what we say about ourselves which is why recommendations, endorsements and testimonials go a long way.  If you are looking to attract clients, business associates or potential employers, ask relevant people in your network to endorse you. Ask them to highlight your skills, personality traits and accomplishments. They probably won’t write poems or songs about you, but you never know, perhaps they will.

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