“Crush It” by Gary Vaynerchuk is both an instruction book and a great example of the importance of personal brand in the modern working environment. Part polemic and part instruction manual it looks at the ideas of branding through the lens of an entrepreneur – either someone starting and building a business, or someone working in an existing business and working to build their own brand in order to advance their career.

The main point:

Gary’s main point is that regardless of your role, your field, your interests, you need to start building up assets and activities around your own personal brand and connecting with a community of people who are relevant to the things you care about.

Gary then goes on to work through various case studies, all from his own life of how he’s achieved this and the sort of assets he’s built – blog content, a video channel and an online store, and does a great job of enthusing the reader. He also has a section in the back which breaks the process down into more of a to-do list so that the reader can work through it and give this a go.

What’s good about it?

Gary does a great job of showing how your personal brand can co-exist alongside your work persona (when you’re in a business and working on a side project that you ultimately want to grow) as well as when you want to build a personal brand _around_ your work persona.

The examples that he gives are good and solid, well described and supported by numbers, and he managed to persuade my rather sceptical brain to his way of thinking on several of his key points.

He acknowledges and does his best to work through the inherent contradictions which are present in branding: monetization vs authentic, family time vs work time etc.

What’s bad about it?

While acknowledging contradictory pressures, I was left with the impression that I have to “do both” – for example – make sure that I spend a good amount of time with my family “quote” AND put in hours after dark month after month, year after year, before results come along. I think this kind of expectation is pretty off-putting and I was certainly left thinking that “I wouldn’t do it like that”

Gary’s examples are almost all repetitions of a few key things in his own life. I would have liked to hear more about the other folks that he mentions in passing or that he says he talks to in his various social channels. I was left thinking that this was more of a “how I did it” than a “how to do it” kind of book.

The tools and techniques that he names in the book are very dated indeed – some have ceased to exist, others that you would expect to see aren’t there at all. Linkedin, for example, is not covered, which is a massive oversight in a book covering professional brand – definitely time for an update.

Finally the style. Gary is very enthusiastic. Whilst his editor has done a good job with making his prose readable in the written edition, the audio edition of this – narrated by the author – frequently goes off script and riffs on a particular idea. Sometimes this fills in a useful omission (like Linkedin, for example) but more often it just repeats what has already been said in a less coherent way).

Should you read it?

Yes. If a very American “in your face” style is off-putting, check it out before you buy it, but if you can get over that, it’s worth it. It’s short enough to grit your teeth and push through, and there are some very good insights to be had by the reader, not least as a practical example of how to do the thing that you’re evangelising about.

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