The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Five unexpected things you can do to grow your personal brand — July 31, 2013

Five unexpected things you can do to grow your personal brand


I love Facebook’s mantra of “done is better than perfect” and it resonates with my opinion that nothing you can do can ever be perfect. Except for one thing: you can be perfect at being yourself.

We’ve all heard the constant drum beating that surrounds your personal brand (especially what that looks like online) and how you should be building/nurturing it. The experts say that – as millennials – our personal brands will be the determining factor in our professional success.

Personally I agree and I view personal branding as the modern version of the traditional resume. I also believe that my own personal branding activities over the years (which at one stage included renaming myself “Adii Rockstar”) has been one of the major drivers of my professional success, which has included founding WooThemes and now my new startup, PublicBeta.

But loads of the things written about personal branding is either generic or crap.

So I wanted to compile a list of personal branding activities or tactics that you can undertake that you might not have thought about before. Consider this the road less travelled for personal branding. (This means you won’t read about logos, your blog or social profiles below.)

1. Be the face of your brand

I hate it when people hide behind illustrated or abstract avatars on their social profiles. How am I supposed to engage with you or build a relationship when I can’t really put a face to a name?

As a human being, I prefer the most natural type of communication to build relationships: face-to-face. Unfortunately that doesn’t work well online; so the second best option is for you to use a real photo of yourself on your social profile.

The best thing I ever did was to hire a professional photographer to take press photos of myself. I’ve re-used these photos on countless occasions for press-related purposes and I also cycle through the portrait shots on my social profiles. All of us knows at least one enthusiast, semi-pro photographer in our group of friends who would be willing to do this for free or for cheap.

So get your photo taken already and really be the face of your personal brand.

2. Embrace your uniqueness

Pretty much every industry out there is congested and highly competitive, which makes standing out from the crowd so much harder. But you have a competitive advantage: you are already unique. So stop hiding that individualism.

I love Facebook’s mantra of “done is better than perfect” and it resonates with my opinion that nothing you can do can ever be perfect. Except for one thing: you can be perfect at being yourself.

In a conversation about the definition of success, my wife once remarked: “The true meaning of success is that point where you stop making excuses for yourself.”

Stop hiding behind excuses and facades. Just be yourself.

3. Be passionate

Passion is such an infectious thing (similar to smiling) and it spreads so quickly. One of the best ways to show who you truly are is to share your innermost passions.

Passion is the fuel that should power all of your personal branding activities. It should be the first and the last thing that people hear/see/feel when they interact with you. Their perception of your passion should be able to accurately define who you are and how that relates to your personal brand.

Nobody is gonna associate them with a dull, stale and pragmatic brand.

4. Email-first branding

The other day I was in a workshop about hiring and the presenter said: “Anything you do is everything you do.” She was suggesting that you can evaluate a new candidate by picking up small clues and cues in the seemingly irrelevant and insignificant things that they do.

In this regard, email is one of the most prevalent ways in which you will communicate with other people and it thus becomes a representative part of who you are.

The way you write, the words you choose and how you communicate will shape the perceptions of your brand for the recipient on the other side of that e-mail. So think twice about how you approach this seemingly insignificant task, as your personal brand can either gain a great boost or suffer a devastating blow depending on how you go about this.

5. Teach something

We live in an age where there’s always more than one answer to a question. There aren’t many things in life that has that one, definitive answer. A silver bullet.

This means that everyone becomes a teacher, especially if they are sharing their own experiences and lessons learned. Doing so adds context to what the experts are saying and in that sense alone it becomes very valuable.

People love and appreciate those individuals that take the time to share their experiences and teach something they’re passionate about. For me, it’s sharing my experiences about branding (hence this post).

Consider writing an e-book, hosting a Skillshare class, becoming an expert on Clarity or speaking at a local conference.

This is by no means a definitive list in terms of your personal branding. It should however be a reminder that branding is mostly about what you actually do.

Yes, it helps to have a nicely designed personal website. And in terms of communicating your passion, a blog is a great platform to achieve that. But to be successful with your personal branding you have to take a more holistic approach.

That approach starts with you: who you are, your ideas, your opinions and the things you are most passionate about. Double down on that and you’re off to one helluva start.

About our contributor // Adii Pienaar is the co-founder of WooThemes and author of Brandiing, a practical guide to content strategy and branding for business. Adii is now ‘paying it forward’ and launching PublicBeta, a learning platform for entrepreneurs by other (very) successful entrepreneurs. You can follow him @adii.

Interview: SF Local, Karen Kang of BrandingPays — May 31, 2013

Interview: SF Local, Karen Kang of BrandingPays

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.

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

Interview: Perth Local, Bernadette Jiwa — July 9, 2012

Interview: Perth Local, Bernadette Jiwa

Perth curator Justin Strharsky learns a bit about how to tell a brand story from Perth expert Bernadette Jiwa.

Name: Bernadette Jiwa


Twitter: @bernadettejiwa

Works at: The Story of Telling

You help entrepreneurs and newer businesses craft what you call a ‘brand story’ – what’s that?

A brand story is the sum of all the parts that make up your brand, from your product, name and copy, design and marketing, to your mission and how your customers experience your brand.
I’ve written a post that details the various elements.

I imagine that many entrepreneurs are overwhelmed by the demands of a new business. How do you explain why telling the story of their brand should win their limited resources?

It’s as simple as understanding that it doesn’t matter how good your idea is if nobody knows.

You primarily work with entrepreneurs and newer businesses – why is that?

Actually I work with startups and entrepreneurs who are further along the track with developing their business. The best time to work out what differentiates you is right at the start, that way you can take your product to market with confidence. Sometimes people come to me when what they’ve been doing hasn’t work and then we track back to work out why.

Should the stories of newer businesses be different than those of established companies? Why?

Newer businesses are often at an advantage because they get to tell te story they want to tell. More established businesses have shareholders to please.

What’s the most common mistake entrepreneurs make in telling their stories?

Not understanding what really makes them stand out from the competition. Overlooking something in the detail, because they are too close to what they are doing to see the big picture.

What makes you uniquely suited to helping others tell their stories?

There is no formula for this kind of work. I guess you could say it’s a gift. Part science and part art. I got to be good at it by doing the work, building bridges to where I wanted to be as an entrepreneur, failing, learning from failure, then getting up and doing it all again only better next time.

You’ve seen (and helped) lots of young businesses. Are there any characteristics that make some stand out compared to the others?

The ones that stand out are the businesses who do what the big guys can’t do, or didn’t think was possible. The entrepreneurs who go narrow and deep.

Have you encountered any brand stories that are best left untold?

Actually most of what I encounter are stories that should be told that aren’t. The kinds of stories that illustrate why brands are least like their competitors. The ones they often overlook.

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