This week we interview branding expert, author, founder and CEO of BrandingPays, Karen Kang. Follow Karen on Twitter via @karenkang.

You are currently the founder and CEO of BrandingPays. What do you focus on and why do you love branding?

I’m a brand strategist for corporate and personal branding.  The focus of my company is on consulting, seminars and personal branding coaching. I love branding because clients find it so empowering.  When you have a visible and respected brand, the world knows when and why to engage with you. Opportunities come your way because you have added value in a unique way. It is so rewarding to help clients have those aha! moments that transform them from mere players to leaders in their niche.

You recently published and completed a book tour for The Five-Step System to Reinvent Your Personal Brand. As we have often been led to believe that the Internet can endanger our privacy, how would you coach an individual on the merits of using social media publicly as a part of reinventing their personal brand? 

If you want to have greater opportunities in business, you have to brand yourself online.  One of the best ways to do this is to find an area of thought leadership that will differentiate you, and start sharing your expertise on social media. If you haven’t yet developed an expert platform, perhaps you can begin to add value by curating information from other sources.

Does everyone need their own brand? What happens if people don’t like what they’ve become known for and they want to change industries or career? What tips do you recommend?

Everyone already has a brand—some are weak and some are strong.  If you have a weak brand that doesn’t stand for much, you need to figure out what you want to be known for and start branding around this.

I recently helped a school teacher repackage her former high tech business experience, political background and science credentials as the perfect skill set for a school principal prepared to  face the multiple challenges of school finance, parent involvement and science and technology preparedness.  With her new positioning, she recently accepted her dream job as a middle school principal.

Branding is not rocket science. However, most people don’t know how to be strategic about their own personal brands.  I wrote BrandingPays so people would have the framework, tools and examples to brand themselves for a successful career or business.

You worked for a number of years as a principal and partner at Regis McKenna before starting your own consulting firm. What advice would you give to professionals looking to strike out on their own?

If you are a professional services provider, your personal brand is critical.  Make sure that you understand the ecosystem for your business, and develop relationships with key influencers.  You will be credible from the get go if the right people endorse you or introduce you to others.  Be sure to give influencers a clear, concise definition of what you do and how it benefits your customers.  Make it easy for others to advocate for you.

You need a good website that not only tells your story in a compelling way, but interacts with your customers.  Consider adding your Twitter stream, videos or other interactive media to your home page to communicate your personality and that you value education and engagement.  Show rather than tell.

You’ve said that personal branding can make the world a better place. What do you mean by that? How has living in the Bay Area shaped your personal brand? 

Imagine a world in which every person were known and recognized for their unique talents and value.  Not only would we all have better self-esteem but the world would work more efficiently with the right partners engaging with one another to create new opportunities and new value—together!  That is what personal branding, done right, can achieve.

The Bay Area has had a tremendous influence over my personal brand.

Living in Silicon Valley where so many great companies started as a germ of an idea, I couldn’t help but feel that anything is possible. Companies here are reinventing business models, markets and themselves constantly. Therefore, taking an innovative approach to my own career and my own brand just seemed natural.

Which SF events do you look forward to each year?

I have been so busy doing speaking engagements around my book that I’ve had to pass on many great events in the San Francisco Bay Area.  However, I have enjoyed local TEDx talks, and I’m looking forward to being both a speaker and an attendee at this year’s Red Herring Conference in Monterey and the Ascend West Coast Conference in San Francisco.

_ _ _

About our contributor // Eliza Dropkin is a lover of live music, good food, and beautiful places. Connect with her on Twitter via @elizadropkin.