Private vs. Personal – Anouk Pappers

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3 min readJul 29, 2022

People often distinguish their online accounts as “private” or “professional,” with “private” having the connotation that it can be kept secret. In most cases, this distinction is meant to convey a separation of their personal and work lives. Unfortunately, privacy does not truly exist online. Due to the nature of social media, whatever we do is eventually available for other people to see. For example, even if I say that my Instagram is private when a follower of mine sees one of my posts and decides to share it, it becomes public.

On the other side of this dichotomy, people usually use “professional” presence to refer to a scrubbed, work-approved persona. But this too is not realistic. We shouldn’t present ourselves as someone we are not, or even express inauthentic views, just to fit into a particular work culture. I think it is becoming increasingly important that we be our authentic selves online and that we position ourselves in a genuine manner. In essence, we need to establish and maintain an online presence across all of our accounts that accurately reflects who we are and how we want to be perceived.

That said, there are subjects that people are hesitant to address openly online, fearing that it will affect their relationships especially at work. Political issues like gun regulations can be sensitive topics. But if you feel strongly about something and want to express your views on social media, I think you should do so just as long as you are willing to bear any negative reactions and consequences.

This leads to an important and essential question. If you do choose to stay silent about these topics to avoid jeopardizing your career, would you really want to work for a future employer or sit on a board that has a problem with you speaking up about issues that matter to you? There is no right answer to this, but a good way is to strike a balance without losing your authenticity and ‘personal brand.’ You do not have to try to become someone else, but rather learn to comfortably be ‘you’. Ultimately, you want to be on a professional journey where you are allowed to express your views instead of compromising them to fit in.

This is why I believe that, while it is getting increasingly difficult to remain private online, it is not problematic to share your personal views. If you are able to stay authentic, it can only help to develop your personal brand image and prove beneficial to your professional success.

As a brand anthropologist Anouk Pappers has been storytelling for brands since 2002. In the course of interviewing over 900 CEOs, CMOs and business owners — and publishing 15 books with the best stories — Anouk noticed that 90% of the people profiled were white men. She then decided to focus on working with women executives and leaders from underrepresented groups to tell their stories and build their online narratives. Her company, Signitt, enables these people to create and maintain strong online presences, which positions them for the next step in their professional lives.

#brandanthropologist #personalbrand #onlinepresence

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