Depending on who you ask, branding is either alive and well, thank you very much, or so very ten years ago.

I would argue that such discussions miss the point altogether — especially when it comes to the world of professional services. To my eye, they seem to be flailing around in the shallow end of the pool: While name awareness and recognition are important, the creation of a deep and lasting personal and firm brand is dependent upon how well you deliver what you say you can deliver. If your values, your words and your actions are aligned, and that alignment is demonstrated over time, your brand will flourish organically.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit recently, as I’ve tried to emphasize this point to my clients in the building of their web content. Somewhere between the Mary Kay Cosmetics mantra of “fake it ’til you make it” and the Field of Dreams cliche “build it and they will come” is a better, middle way: Think aspirationally (“What is it I want to do/become, for myself and my clients?”) while speaking and acting accurately (“This is what I’m great at–and here’s the proof!”).

Of course, while pondering this, I found that someone else was thinking through the very same questions. I came across this interesting post from Jonathan Fields: “Are Personal Brands for Moguls, Morons or Megalomaniacs?” It’s a good read; what’s more, he offers a series of hard questions that apply to any individual attorney, practice or firm that is engaged in the attempt to position him-, her- or itself aspirationally and accurately.

Using Fields’ questions as a starting point, it won’t take much time to achieve a deeper understanding of yourself and your practice. With this understanding, you can then tell your story in a way that truthfully reflects both the underlying reality (where you are) and the equally realistic possibilities (where you want to be).

So come on into the deep end of the pool: the water’s fine.