"You, my friend, are a brand."
Barry Feldman has been saying this for three years now and his efforts to explain the concept and deliver actionable advice to develop a successful personal brand has culminated in an impressive new book, The Road to Recognition.
The book, co-authored by Seth Price, is available now on Amazon and ships April 25. Barry shared a preview copy with me (BTW, this book is pretty) and interviewed me for a series of videos that will be offered as a free bonus. I thought I'd turn it around and interview him. Here's how that played out...
What are the benefits of personal branding?
Barry: Personal branding is, well, personal. So the benefits are bound to be differ depending on what you're aiming to accomplish. If there's a universal answer to the question it's the development of your personal brand will accelerate your professional success.
Look at it from the point of view of an entrepreneur or business leader and the benefits might include attracting more clients. The job seeker might gain a competitive advantage over the rest of the field. An executive could be offered a better position and the rewards that come with it.
I listed eight benefits of creating a powerful brand in an infographic I did a few years back and that read:
- A steady stream of clients
- Rewarding partnerships
- Leadership opportunities
- Greater mindshare
- Association with a market niche
- Greater credibility
- Recognition and prestige
- Higher perceived value
Rewarding stuff, right? I don't think you have to perceive these things to be only about money, but I suspect most people will hear "cha-ching" when they read the list (and book) and there's nothing wrong with that.
Who should care?
I can't think of anyone who shouldn't care, but I may be biased. There's bound to be a faction of people that are content to maintain a steady job and have no problem with an inevitable degree of anonymity.
But most are waking up to the importance of personal branding in a big way, or in some ways. For instance, nearly every businessperson realizes they need a LinkedIn presence. Those aiming to associate their name with a niche realize they need a platform, such as a blog, to deliver value.
We wrote the book for entrepreneurs, business leaders, aspiring professionals, marketers, consultants, freelancers, and "second careerists." If you fall into one of those categories, you should care.
Do you think the idea of personal branding is commonly misunderstood?
It is. For many, the phrase is probably new and they've never even tried to understand it. Tom Peters gave it name in the late 90s and it's a great name because it's fairly easy to understand, so the concept unravels fairly fast.
Tom explained you are brand, and the chief marketing officer of it. Obviously, those that are keen on marketing can embrace the idea more easily. Many stumble on the idea of being self-promotional. Bragging doesn't sit well with them.
However, no personal branding expert is going to tell you to boast about yourself, they're going to tell you to position yourself as an expert and then proceed to talk about the many ways you can do that.
Why did you choose to write a book on the topic?
Three reasons... One, I love the topic. It's fascinated me for 10 years or more and I think, looking back, developing a recognized personal brand is one of my most important accomplishments. So I think I have a heap of knowledge to share.
Two, Seth (the book's co-author) and I created an infographic on the topic over two years ago: The Complete A-to-Z Guide to Personal Branding. It quickly became the most viral piece of content either one of us ever created. The shares and republications were crazy. Requests for interviews and such came pouring in... etcetera, etcetera.
I guess what I'm saying is the response to the lesson the graphic (and it's many sequels) delivered validated that there's a huge appetite for personal branding advice. Call me an opportunist, but I wanted to create something bigger than an infographic and have it serve my career.
Finally, I read quite a few books about personal branding. I got something from all of them, but never thought anyone had really spelled out the path. Given that the infographic is organized alphabetically, I thought it was time someone spelled it out with very specific action plans
What books or resources on personal branding would you recommend?
I recommend The Road to Recognition by Barry Feldman and Seth Price, but you might have guessed I was going to say that.
I've become a fan of Dan Schawbel and William Arruda, both of whom seized a early mover advantage on the topic by creating interesting books, helpful blogs, and speaking on the topic.
As for books, I got a lot out of Michael Hyatt's Platform, which does a great job of making the most important point in personal branding - you need a platform. Karen Kang's Branding Pays is the closest thing I had seen as "manual" on the topic and thought it was very well done. I really loved the free book, The Visible Expert, by Lee Frederiksen and his team at Hinge Marketing, which was largely a research report about accelerating your visibility.
I'm currently reading a new personal branding book by my friend Mark Schaefer and really appreciate how it stresses the idea that nearly everyone can succeed with personal branding given a strong plan. Mark includes stories of individuals many might consider to be "long shots."
The topic is red hot. There's an impressive amount of books and blogs available to dig into.
What would you tell people to focus on as a starting point?
I get that question a lot and it's difficult to answer because I don't know what point they're at now. There's a chapter in the book, "Y is for the You Do List," that functions like a checklist, so I hope it helps answer the question.
That said, I'm going to try to answer the question in a fundamental way...
- You need a website. If you'd don't have one, get busy.
- You need to develop a unique selling proposition, keywords, tagline, elevator speech, etc. You want people to understand your value quickly.
- You need a blog or some platform you feel comfortable with that will become how and where you express your ideas.
- You need to get busy on social media and though I don't know which channels will serve your interests specifically, LinkedIn is a must. Master it.
- You need to network. Befriend and collaborate with influencers. You can't build a personal brand without help.
- In most cases, you should work to build an email list and social media following.
What people come to mind as examples of stellar personal branders?
Well, in the world of business, I think of people like Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos who are so quickly associated with the brands they created.
In mass media I think of people like Oprah, Ellen, and Adele. Their first names are so quickly associated with what they do so well.
As a marketer, I pay attention mostly to marketers, so names like Jay Baer - who wrote the book's foreword - Brian Clark, Ann Handley, and Joe Pulizzi, and many more jump to mind immediately. The book features contributions from nearly 40 "brandividuals" like that (I stole that phrase from Lee Odden), so the people in the book is my ultimate answer.
Every chapter of The Road to Recognition features insights from experts. (Reproduced with the consent of the authors)
What do you focus on for the development of your own personal brand?
Writing. Sharing what I know. These are the things I do best.
Though I've had a website since 1995, I only started blogging in 2011. Hello dummy. You should have a platform. Like most bloggers, I quickly realized the process of expanding my reach would be a slow one, so I accelerated it massively by guest blogging.
I've written for 30 or more top digital marketing sites, and it's really how people come to know me, and then, subscribe to my blog or email. I'm happy to say, I find myself on a lot of lists of influencers and get asked for interviews and content contributions almost daily. Blogging often - and everywhere - made that happen for me.
Can you offer an example of a universal lesson anyone can apply?
I can try. Identify your niche and find the medium you can get comfortable with the fastest - be it blogging, podcasting, speaking, or maybe vlogging. Then get busy and try to be patient.
Musicians write a lot of songs and practice their craft persistently for years. Ellen told a zillion jokes. LeBron shot a gazillion baskets.
I haven't discovered the magic shortcut. Personal branding is a long and winding road.
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