Why you need a personal brand if you want to succeed – and six steps to building yours
What’s your personal brand? Find out why you need a personal brand if you want to succeed – and six steps to building yours by Amelia Sordell, the founder of personal branding agency Klowt.
Did you know that you, as a founder, have 10x the reach of your company brand online Or that brand messages shared by you are reshared 24x more frequently than brand messages shared on your company’s social media? Or that leads generated through your social media are 7x more likely to convert that leads generated any other way?
In fact, messages shared by ANY individual with ANY business get 561% MORE reach than the then exact same message being shared on brand-owned channels.
The data is clear. People buy from people – they always have.
And building a strong personal brand online as an employee OR founder will give you a competitive advantage over your competition and a unique edge in the market.
Don’t believe me? I’ve made $850,000 in inbound revenue off the back of my personal brand on LinkedIn alone. So If you’re thinking about building a personal brand or want to know whether building one is the right choice for you, you’re reading the right article.
What is personal branding?
First things first — what is a personal brand? Personal branding is often misunderstood. It has a bad reputation that it doesn’t deserve.
People see it as an ego-driven activity. One step up from coming off Love Island and selling teeth whitening kits to impressionable 15-year-olds.
Those people are wrong.
So what is a personal brand? In the simplest terms, a personal brand is your reputation at scale. It’s the strategic marketing imperative that positions you as a trusted figure in your space – the authority. THE choice, not A choice amongst many.
It’s basically working out what you want people to think about you, your knowledge and skills, your business and your value – and then building and executing a plan to achieve that goal.
Got it? Good.
Why is personal branding so valuable?
To go back to what I was saying earlier, people buy from people. Building your personal brand allows people to buy from you at scale. It’s no longer a conversation with one person; it’s a conversation with many.
Many people that can vouch for you, advocate for you… and buy from you. And that’s really hard to do if you’re building a company brand alone.
I’m not going to repeat the stats, but if you’ve ever tried to build a company social media page, you’ll know where I’m going with this. People don’t trust brands. This is why growing brand awareness for your business can be incredibly difficult, especially when you’re in a saturated market. Same for candidates — a CV is one of many. Un- noteworthy, unrelatable and untrustworthy.
They do, however, trust people — which is why influencer marketing exists. It’s why reality TV exists. It’s why companies hire famous celebrity endorsers. Heck, it’s why The Kardashians have built a billion-dollar empire by sitting around Kris Jenner’s kitchen table eating takeout salads.
Personal branding gives you a competitive edge because it appeals to real humans. And it’s real humans that make buying decisions.
How to build a personal brand in six steps
Ready to build your own personal brand? Here are six steps to spreading the word about you and what you do.
1) Get super clear on what you want to be known for
If you want to be famous, you have to be famous for something — right? You also need to know exactly who you need to be famous to. It’s no good Elon Musk is generating kudos with Climate Change deniers when he’s trying to shift electric vehicles.
Let’s look at a few examples.
You: Let’s imagine you’re the founder of a startup that’s looking to rival Slack. It’s an ambitious goal that requires a decent amount of funding, and you want to be known as the game-changer in how companies communicate.
Who: To help you reach your goals, you need your content to be seen and engaged with by venture capitalists AND potential users.
What: To win the attention of users and VCs, you’re going to have to share content about the thing that your business does — but avoid selling your business. Talk more about the state of company comms, your opinion on remote work, why you started your business and the journey you’ve had so far. Users want someone and something to stand behind, and the VCs are going to want to see business results.
You: Say you’re a Head of Marketing, specializing in FMCG brands. You’ve got loads of agency experience but want to move in-house.
Who: To achieve your goal of getting a new job and a possible pay rise, you’re going to need to start attracting headhunters, talent acquisition and VP and Senior level hiring managers as well as your peers.
What: You need to talk specifically about marketing FMCG brands. You need to talk about past work and how you achieved results — with real insights and data to back it up. You’re going to want to talk about trends. Comment on brands doing great things and break down WHY they’re doing such a good job.
Write and create posts with the view to educate your audience and showcase your expertise, such as ‘5 must-steal marketing lessons to learn from Huel.’ We did this exact post for a client, which prompted the founder of Huel, Julien Hearn, to comment on the post.
Big win if you’re trying to demonstrate expertise.
Once you’re clear on what you want to be known for (and to who), it’s time to begin planning content.
2) Pick two or three focus topics to talk about
After you’ve worked out what you want to be known for and to who, you can begin to nail down the topics you need to talk about to build your brand reputation with those people.
I always tell our clients to pick 2–3 topics to focus on. Niche enough to be famous for those things but broad enough that you’ll never run out of content ideas for each.
So if we go back to our earlier examples.
The startup founder that’s looking to rival Slack.
This person needs funding. They also need users. They need to prove they’re a viable business while proving they can win people over from competitors like Slack. So, hypothetically if you were this person and you were my client at Klowt (my personal branding agency), we’d recommend you talk about the following.
A) Company operations
You’ll need to be the person championing effective ops for both the C-suite (people who will be buying from you) and users (the masses). The person that calls out bullsh*t that every business does. Identify and poke holes in problems that all employees see and that executives are blind to. Use your knowledge as an exec yourself to talk about your challenges and how you fixed them.
B) Your business
I’ve already mentioned that VCs want to see results. But most good VCs don’t just invest in businesses with good numbers; they invest in businesses because they believe in the founder. By sharing your journey, the trials and tribulations of running the business AND giving some insight into why you did it, you’re much more likely to attract the investment you’re looking for.
C) Remote work
If you’re going to be the company that rivals Slack, you’re going to have to meet them on the front line of modern company warfare — the topic of remote work. Modern employees want flexibility and remote work. Modern employers are struggling to give it to them. Be the champion of this idea and help both parties meet in the middle with logical, pragmatic, yet emotive content.
And don’t forget these evolve as your goals change and you grow.
When I first started my personal branding agency, I identified that I wanted to be known for:
- Being an expert in personal branding.
- Being a thought leader in marketing.
- Being a startup founder.
Because I was selling personal branding services to predominately startup and scale-up founders. Now, I am still a founder, but my goals and my ideal brand have changed, so my core content pillars are:
- Being an expert in personal branding for leaders, specifically.
- Leadership (because I am hiring!).
- Scaling my business, Klowt (because I want potential employees and clients to buy into my and my businesses’ journey).
Practically, this means my content focuses on being honest with my audience about the realities of building a personal brand, running a startup, providing actionable advice and sharing my opinions — even when they’re divisive.
A good content strategy is the cornerstone of building your personal brand. If your content pillars — as I call them internally at my agency — aren’t aligned with you, your goals or who you’re trying to attract, you’ll get nowhere.
3) Keep talking about those topics forever
You wouldn’t sign up for a gym membership to achieve your goal of getting the sexiest body of your life, smash out one session and expect results, would you? No. You’d keep going until you saw a difference. And even then, you’d keep going to maintain the goal you’ve achieved.
Personal branding is the same. If you want to have a solid personal brand — like having a strong body — you need to be consistent. Turn up every day consistently and say the same thing. Over and over again. The more you repeat it, the stronger you’re reputation for saying it will become. I’ve been saying the same thing in different ways for 3 years.
It’s like paying into a high-interest account; the more you pay in, the more brand equity you can take out.
4) Repurpose your content
Not repurposing content is like buying an incredible outfit and only wearing it once.
Get as much mileage out of your content as humanly possible. This means reviewing everything you post quarterly and analysing what did well and what didn’t — pulling out your comments and replies and working out if you can create from those little anecdotes.
Here’s how to create 115 pieces of content in 120 minutes. Let’s go back to our Slack-Rival-Founder. Here is how they could to do this practically:
- Record a 45-minute podcast or record a conversation with a colleague on innovation in tech 1x per week.
- That recording gets broken down into 20 micro-videos for TikTok and Instagram.
- Those micro-videos are transcribed into 40 Tweets.
- Those 40 Tweets are screenshotted and posted to LinkedIn and Instagram with an engaging caption.
1 podcast + 20 TikTok videos + 20 Instagram Reels + 40 Tweets + 40 LinkedIn posts = 121 pieces of content from one 45 min session.
Create once, and distribute 1,000 times. Then redistribute 1,000 times more.
5) Be social on social media
When building your personal brand, don’t just talk AT people. Engage with them.
If you’re unsure how to start engaging with others’ content online, try my 9 x 3 rule:
- Set aside nine minutes every day to engage with your target audience online.
- Identify nine influencers or thought leaders that are relevant to your niche or your industry across each platform you’re active on.
- Spend nine mins a day commenting on nine different posts from those nine influencers.
The more often you comment on their posts, the more likely they are to respond. When they respond — their audience will begin to recognise you and start following you too.
Add value to their original posts by asking questions, challenging them and disagreeing with data/opinion if you think it’s relevant. It’s like having a conversation online.
It is called social* media, after all.
6) Stay consistent
The journey to building a solid personal brand won’t be smooth or easy. At first, no one will like your content, which can suck. And your friends will probably make fun of you. This also sucks.
But then you’ll get one post that bangs. And another. And another. And after a while, you stop caring whether your friends or family don’t like your content because they’re not your target audience.
And then you’ll get some negativity, and you’re back to feeling sucky again. But take it as a compliment. When you start receiving negative comments, you know you’re on to something because you’re repelling the people you want to repel in order to attract those you want to attract.
The wonderful thing about our personality is it does that for us organically. This is why being yourself when building your brand is so important. Don’t be a people pleaser. No one likes those.
So when you do inevitably get those yucky comments, stand your ground if it’s worthwhile. Have the discussion, if it’s true trolling, ignore it and move on. No one wants to live in an echo chamber, but you can disagree and still be kind.
And remember, your ego is the enemy here. Sometimes you’ll get no likes. But be patient. Not every post can be a winner. It’s about the long game. Pay into that high-interest account.
Ready to start building your personal brand?
If you’ve got this far down the article, I hope you’re convinced that building a personal brand WILL give you a competitive advantage. That or you have way too much time on your hands.
Most people will read all of this information and not do anything about it. Don’t be most people. Be that person that takes this blueprint and runs with it — the person who consciously decides to take control of their social media and use it to create opportunities for themselves, not just endlessly scroll online.
The minute I started building my personal brand was the minute my life changed. And my bank balance too.
Was this helpful? Share your thoughts with me on LinkedIn.
Amelia Sordell is the founder of the personal branding agency Klowt.
Photo by Marco Testi