Who Needs a Massive, Personal Brand?

In my last blog, we found validation that they really like us. “They” are business decision-makers. The royal “we” and “us” are companies and individuals who develop thought leadership content. We also briefly touched on what I believe is a requirement to define and develop your personal brand for the purpose of career advancement and growth.

When LinkedIn and Edelman surveyed over 3,200 decision makers in global businesses, almost 70 percent said thought leadership was a great way to evaluate a company’s thinking and value. Just over sixty percent are willing to pay a premium to companies that can articulate a clear vision and message. When you replace the word “company” with “me” in the last sentence, is the message coming through? There is value in developing our own brands built on thought leadership.

Everyone has a brand just like everyone belongs to a community of like-minded people. Just like the Goth kids hang out with other Goth kids, we gravitate to people who share similar interests, experiences, hopes, and dreams. Kevin Kelly wrote an essay over a decade ago called “1,000 True Fans” that inspired a wave of e-commerce entrepreneurs. The premise was simple: build a relationship with 1,000 true fans that you can monetize for $100 a year, and you have a pretty decent living. The same idea holds true for many technologists, software developers, engineers, and the like. Rather than try to mine an infinite universe of potential fans, pick a smaller community. Marketing folks call that a niche.

The goal of this article is not that brand-building will lead to world-domination, Kardashian-ism, recruitment to the Illuminati or the Masons. If you achieve those goals, bully for you. The goal is for more technologists, engineers, and others, who think this is not for them, to use stories to advance their personal brand and professional opportunities. I work with really smart technologists, and I believe these are the people who have the best shot to change our world for the better.

A side benefit of building a personal brand and telling your story is that you will probably encourage others to pursue careers in science, math, and technology, especially those who are under-represented in those industries today. Whatever your trip is, use your new powers for good.

In her book, “Platform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding,” Cynthia Johnson notes that personal branding is built on four factors: personal proof, social proof, recognition and association (page 4). We begin to develop a personal brand when we create clarity about how our actions connect with other like-minded people or communities. Those actions, connections and communities may be focused on anything — music, movies, fashion, philanthropy and social causes or even technology.

Thought leadership content is not about a product or even a company, so your thought leadership content is defined by your unique perspective or point of view. Guy Kawasaki is promoting his new podcast venture, which looks really interesting. As part of the campaign, he’s sharing his perspective on what it takes to be a great public speaker. Not surprisingly it begins with the answer to a simple question, “do you have anything to say? In the words of Willie Nelson in his song, “Shotgun Willie,”

“Well you can’t make a record if you ain’t got nothing to say

You can’t make a record if you ain’t got nothing to say

You can’t play music if you don’t know nothing to play.”

After digesting those buds of wisdom from the Red Haired Stranger, do you have a couple of ideas of what defines your brand? Start by listing your assets — strengths, unique insights, expertise, passion and true, core values. Be honest with the person in the mirror, but don’t let destructive self-criticism shut down the party before it really gets fired up. Understand you don’t have to be a mass-market brand. You will do well by connecting with a focused, niche audience that really values what you have to offer. Start with baby steps and go from there.

There is no shortage of wonderful content from smart people on the subject, but here’s one of those “A to Z Guides” from the Hubspot Blog. A list of twenty-six attributes is helpful, but maybe a bit overwhelming. Start with Authenticity, Bio and Consistency. The HubSpot list naturally associates Leadership with the letter “L” in their episode of Sesame Street. I would suggest “Listen.”

Research and/or catalog the keywords most associated with your industry, technical expertise and direction you want to go. There are a lot of research tools, but you might try Ubersuggest for a start. Set up alerts for keywords in Google and other tools. Watch your social networks and connections for opportunities to learn and engage, even with just a like. For extra credit, leave a comment.

That’s it for now. To be continued….

Writer. Musician. Marketer. Grow brands for technologists, developers, engineers and companies with thought leadership content, digital engagement & tech.