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A How-To On Personal Branding: It Aint Bullshit

Posted: 2017-02-06 11:20:37

"Personal Branding" will be the buzzword du jour for 2017. Will it be a non sequitur like "disruptive?" Will its original meaning be stretched to meaninglessness like "Millennial," or "Unicorn?"

To the first question, I answer, "No."

To the second, "Probably."

Some people take offense to the term. I wonder why. It's not like there's anything really new, except for the actual term.

It used to be "Your reputation," or "Your Area of Expertise." Now it's your "Personal Brand."

Big whup.

It's just a label.

Some people don't like labels. They come in handy, though.

When you visit, I won't offer you a four-legged item of furniture, with or without arms, with or without casters, fully upholstered, partially upholstered, or not upholstered at all, designed to allow you to sit, in various degrees of comfort, in a more or less upright position.

I'll just offer you a chair.

See how handy labels are?

If I offered you an "ass-plunker," you'd be confused.

The trick is in having a common understanding of what a label represents. That's where "Millennial" failed.

Maybe the dislike of the term is because it has "brand" in it.

"Brand" has two meanings. Cattle are branded to identify their owners. We don't want that kind of brand.

One, we are not cattle.

Two, it hurts like hell.

The second meaning, according to Business Dictionary.com, with bold emphasis by me, is " Unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors. Over time, this image becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality, and satisfaction in the consumer's mind (see positioning). Thus brands help harried consumers in crowded and complex marketplace, by standing for certain benefits and value. Legal name for a brand is trademark and, when it identifies or represents a firm, it is called a brand name. See also corporate identity."

Maybe we should call it "Personal Positioning?"

No, that has some kinky connotations. Let's stick with "Personal Branding."

If you don't think you're a product, let me enlighten you.

Of course, you are.

Do you cash your pay cheques?

You sell your services. Shouldn't you control what those services are? Shouldn't you paint them, and you, in the best possible light?

That type of brand is the one we want, nay, need.

You already have a Personal Brand, whether you want one or not.

  • If you aren't building it, everyone else is.
  • If you aren't nurturing it, no one is.
  • If you aren't guiding the dialogue, someone else is.
  • If you ignore it, don't be surprised when everyone ignores you.

Personal Branding is about being "The Guy."

No, that's not sexist. "The Guy" can be male or female.

A few weeks back, clients came to town. They wanted to see a hockey game. In Montreal, it's easier to find a beautiful 30-year-old nymphomaniac virgin than to find 3 good seats together at a hockey game.

But... I know A Guy. Even she had trouble, but we got the tickets.

You want to be The Guy. The Guy is the go-to person when a product or service is needed.

Lynda Spiegel is the Resume-Writing Guy.

I'm the Ghostwriting Guy and the Twitter Guy.

Phil Friedman is the Yacht Guy.

Candice Galek is the Bikini Guy, Self-Promotion Guy, and the Flip-LinkedIn-On-Its-Ass Guy.

Elon Musk is the If-I-can-Imagine-It-I-Can-Make-It-Happen Guy.

What Guy are you?

That's your personal brand.

Creating Your Personal Brand

Okay, you got me. If you're breathing, it's too late to create your brand. It already exists.

Maybe I should change the subheading to "Creating Your CONTROLLED Personal brand." That just sounds silly. More accurate, yes, but silly nonetheless.

The "easiest" way to prove your expertise is through content. Your skillset is right there for anyone to see.

I started out in Social Media back in June of 2015. I started because I'm a Ghostwriter. That means out of all the posts, articles, papers, etc that I wrote over the years, not a single one was under my name.

When I set out to expand my client base, no one knew me from a hole in the wall.

I couldn't ask existing clients for referrals. Ghosts are silent and unseen. Discretion is a must.

I started writing on LinkedIn as proof of skillset. My first post was on June 7th, 2015. I wrote in the voice I found there. It took about 10 posts just to find the right voice. It took over 50 posts before a client expressed interest. It took another 20 before a client signed up.

This isn't a fast process. Building a good reputation never is. This will be my 112th post on LinkedIn, and my 165th on beBee.

Ya gotta keep pluggin' away.

This isn't just for writers. You have expertise. You know stuff that I don't know. I want to hear about it. So do others.

Write!

If you can't write or you don't have the time to write, set your thoughts in point from and hire a Ghost.

You know A Guy.

You can also curate valuable content from others. That does not mean passing it off as your own. A personal brand can be negative too.

Curation means you share the full content with credit to its creator/owner.

Curation may backfire. You just might promote a competitor.

As you build up an inventory of proofs of your competence, things will start flowing towards you.

Of course, they need to actually see your content for it to do anything.

Getting the word out

Right now, the absolute best way to get the word out is to build an email list. That involves a ton of admin. People are not so keen on giving out their emails. There are also anti-spam laws to worry about. Most anti-spam legislations are effective in the recipient's country.

Be careful!

Many websites have pop ups asking you to sign up to their distribution list. You know what I mean. I mean those big boxes with an X in the top right corner. Take it easy with those. Google is penalizing sites that use them.

Be very careful!

Soon enough, SMS/MMS messaging will take over from email just like email took over from snail mail. That will be an even tougher subscription.

People don't like giving out their email addresses. How much less will they like giving out their cell phone numbers? Regardless, smart marketers are already planning the switch. I know of at least one company that just helps companies connect via SMS. That's "all" they do.

Most anti-spam legislation covers SMS/MMS as well.

RSS/ATOM is a softer, safer method. People subscribe to your feed and pull in anything new. They can unsubscribe at any time. There's less overhead than email lists, but less utility too. You can tell how many subscribers you have. You can't tell who they are.

RSS/ATOM is a pull method. Anti-spam legislation does not worry about it. It has other uses too. That will be the subject of our next post.

Social Blogging Platforms: Writing on platforms like beBee, LinkedIn, or Medium is the place to start. They offer some advantages over a self-hosted blog. The readership is built-in.

Not to get into the beBee vs. LinkedIn debate, but this is usually truer for beBee than LinkedIn.

One or the other will be better for you. One or the other will be better for a specific post. Personally, I use both. It's better to hedge your bets.

Sure, it's much better to have 4,000 views on a self-hosted blog than on a beBee Producer post. Good luck getting those 4,000 self-hosted views.

That's the point.

Twitter: Twitter is not a blogging platform. They call themselves a "micro-blogging platform."

That's cute, and not in a good way.

What meaningful message can you get across in 140 characters? Not much of one. That doesn't make it useless, far from it.

You can point people somewhere else where you can get your message across.

Let's look at the Math (apologies to the arithmophobes out there)

  • A tweet can only be 140 characters long.
  • A headline should be under 100 characters long. Note: Only about 55 will show up in Google search depending on the characters used. An "l" uses less space than an "m." Email subject lines in the main window will only show about 22 characters. I try to keep my headlines (post titles) under 75 characters. I'm careful with the first 55 and 22 characters.
  • A web link on Twitter is 24 characters regardless of its true length. Even a bitly link uses up 24 characters, last time I checked. That's for tweeting via the API. Links use zero characters on a manual tweet. FYI: If you use IFTTT or anything else to post tweets, you use the API.

So there we have it.

140 minus 100 (title) minus 24 (link) is 16. Sixteen is barely enough for a mention (a twitter handle is maximum 15 characters) or a hashtag. Drop your titles to 75 characters and you have room for a well-edited comment.

Use myTweetPack.com, Buffer, TweetJukeBox, Twitter's own scheduling option, or even IFTTT to tweet out several tweets promoting your posts. We won't mention our preference. ;-)

Use Twitter to drive people where you want them to go.

That's Twitter's true strength. Ignore it at your peril.

Time is not your friend

It takes time to build up your personal brand to reflect what you want it to reflect.

You may not need it right now. It's too late to start when you do.

Better to build it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Save yourself a future headache. Start now.

It's easier than you think.

Next time, I'll show you how to make it even easier.

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