Why Now Is The Time To Build Your Personal Brand

Michael Brenner on Feb 28, 2012 in Marketing Strategy

Brands used to be only for businesses. And we, the employees, were expected to uphold and support the principles of the brand. Some of us in marketing were even lucky enough to help our businesses build their brands.

But as trust has eroded away from corporations and government institutions, we are seeing the ushering in of a new era: the employee-brand.

Those of us who understand how to yield the power of our networks will achieve greater levels of professional success. And those who know how to use social channels to deliver helpful messages will ride the wave of this new era in personal branding.

In this post, I will explain why now, more than ever, is your time to shine as a positive voice in the crowded media marketplace.

And I’ll offer tips on how to get there…

Foundations of The Personal Brand

I was recently asked by Bill Strawderman (@marketingbard), head of digital marketing at AT&T and Trish Nettleship (@Trishnet), the brains behind the AT&T Networking Exchange blog, to address their blogger community on my own Personal Brand journey.

While I was honored, my first thought was: what do I know about personal branding? I had never spoken in public about personal branding. I have only been blogging for less than 2 years. But then Bill reminded me that it was my personal brand that allowed me to join his Circle of Trust. It is also how I met  the other speakers, the amazing Mark Schaefer (@markwschaefer) and Cheryl Burgess (@CKBurgess).

So I decided to tell my story…

I talked about how I graduated from college into a deep recession and high unemployment that caused a lot of companies to begin to break decades old “contracts” with employees.

Layoffs. Downsizing. Rightsizing. It was the era of a CEO called “Chainsaw” and was the beginning of the end of the pension plan.

This must have been terribly unsettling for employees who had come to expect lifetime employment and safe retirements. Employees began to challenge the status quo on every front. But nothing captured the ethos of the times better than what I think is the greatest magazine article EVER: Tom Peters 1997 article in Fast Company, “The Brand Called You.”  According to Tom:

Big companies understand the importance of brands. Today, in the Age of the Individual, you have to be your own brand. Here’s what it takes to be the CEO of Me, Inc.

It’s a new brand world…

Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.

It’s that simple — and that hard. And that inescapable.”

It took me a few years to really understand what Tom was talking about. I joined LinkedIn relatively early. I tried to network in between kids and travel and new jobs. But I didn’t take it as seriously as I knew I should, thanks to Tom.

The New Era of Personal Branding

Fast forward to 2012 and the erosion of trust in businesses, government and traditional media. Edelman recently updated their Trust Barometer which shows that the media landscape continue to fragment with the growth of online and social media information.

But more importantly, it quantifies the dramatic changes in perceived credibility: trust in CEOs, Government officials and even Analysts is down. While trust in regular employees and “people like you” reported huge increases. Only academics and technical experts are seen as more credible and their trust level is flattening.

And so when the average employee, just like you, is perceived as more trustworthy than the CEO, then clearly…

The Time For “Brand You” Is Now!

This is why I challenged B2B Marketers to wake up and get social and to realize that there is no separation between our work and personal lives.

We need to simply be ourselves and write about what we know.

I believe that if we nurture relationships, then we can become a positive voice in the marketplace, on topics we are passionate about. And we can earn the power to influence a future boss, a future employee, a future customer, a future partner or a future investor in our companies.

So, as Lisa Barone (@LisaBarone), Founder of Outspoken Media, once said:

“We are officially beyond the days where you can have a distinct “personal” and “corporate” profile. You must decide who you are and bleed it!”

4 Tips to Personal Branding Success

I have covered before 5 Steps To Get Your Social Media Game On and Finding the Time to Tweet and Blog. Here are my 4 tips to personal branding success:

  • Define your audience and set objectives by answering “Why you are talking?” “Who are you talking to?” and “What’s in it for them and you?”
  • Build it in to every day: I scan, filter, read, connect, write, respond. I believe the adage that Social media success is found in just minutes per day. And for me, goals are important. I make every effort to write at least 2 blogs per week.
  • Build relationships of mutual benefit.  I try to thank everyone who ReTweets me on Twitter and I share a lot of other content from bloggers I admire. For me, personal brand is about the people you surround yourself with.
  • The new content rules: If it isn’t a keyword, no one cares. Titles matter. Bullets help. Tell stories following the traditional story arc: a Hero, has a quest, goes on a journey, encounters an obstacle and achieves resolution.

And in my presentation, I cover how “news” is still the best way to reach buyers in B2B Marketing.

I admit to having a “man-crush” on Ryan Seacrest (@RyanSeacrest)…it’s a real-life “bro-mance.”  Why? Because, along with Oprah Winfrey, he totally gets the importance of personal branding. There is no one like Ryan Seacrest. Multi-channel, multi-format, 24×7, always-on. And that’s why Fortune recently proclaimed, he is the “future of media.”

And I talk about how following these steps and effectively communicating what makes you unique to the world, will bring you personal and professional success. You will gain influence. Your company will benefit from your strong and positive voice.

And who knows, maybe you’ll get a book deal or star on a reality TV show or even get to meet Oprah or Ryan Seacrest. Tell them I said “hello!” Oh and a Retweet from them would be great…

Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.
Showing 23 comments
  • Lauren Goldstein

    Michael – Thank you for your great insights on the importance of building one’s personal brand. People trust people. And ultimately, when people make buying decisions – it’s because of their relationship and trust of the people they’re engaged with (in some businesses more than others, of course). I especially enjoyed your quick tips for personal branding (and you may see them appear – with credits to you, of course – in an upcoming blog). Cheers, LaurenOnDemand

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Lauren, and great point about trust – what we earn once people get to know us a little and maybe even like us or at least be able to relate to us a little. I look forward to seeing the upcoming blog! It’s not a personal introduction to Ryan Seacrest, but I’ll take it! 😉

  • Jill Rowley

    We have internal Personal Branding courses at Eloqua. Our culture is “Get it Done. Do it Right.” It’s not good enough to just get it done, you have to do it right. Our purpose is to help our clients deliver better results – to help our clients be better Marketers who drive more revenue for the business. I have faith that Social Media will expose individuals and companies who don’t deliver on the brand promise. Thanks for sharing this Michael. Great stuff! Jill Rowley @ Eloqua

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Jill, you know I’m a big fan of how Eloqua approaches the market: to help your clients achieve business outcomes. Transparency is a big element of all this. You may have seen some of my recent posts about business people who confuse “marketing” with “promotion.” And the good news about social media, is that it is the great equalizer. Too much promotion is called out or the SPAM that it is on social channels.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my little ole blog about personal branding. This one was a long time coming…

  • Bill Strawderman

    This seems hauntingly familiar to me… even down to the details of the man-crush… This was a great subject delivered masterfully in person last week by you as a speaker – and translated nicely into print. You are the master content atomizer!

    I’m a huge believer that today’s brand’s are the representation of many individual brands. We need to throw open the windows and let the sun shine out.

    The path into the circle of trust is shaped by the diversity of individual expression, sharpened by shared expectation, and paved by the promise of collective execution.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Bill, it was really a pleasure meeting you and the team. I appreciate the opportunity to tell my story!

  • Bruce Sallan (@BruceSallan)

    What I love about what you have written Michael is that it encourages us to celebrate ourselves! BE ME! It will connect or it won’t but I can be me and maybe it will work?

    I’m having a bundle of fun doing that. I think I’m touching people and making a difference, too.

    Time will tell…but the opportunities are there for EVERY ONE!

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Bruce, great reminder to have fun in all this!

  • Michael Feeney

    Thank you for this fascinating read, Michael! Really enjoyed the Slideshare presentation as well. What an amazing time we live in; there are so many tools to communicate more effectively than ever before. Now we just need a few more hours in the day!

    • Michael Brenner

      That’s right Michael, its a 24×7 real-time world! I’m trying my best to keep up!

  • Jim Bath

    Interesting post, and well delivered. I’m often struck by the seemingly impersonal nature of blog posts, probably done by ghostwriters alot of the time!

  • Joe Franklin

    Thanks for the truth, Michael. You provide a lot of sound advice that I plan to use as I continue to develop Joe Inc.! Cheers!

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Joe. I am so glad I am able to help and wish you best of luck!

  • Megan Leap

    Great post, Michael.

    Marketers that develop a personal brand have a huge advantage, and so do the companies that hire them.

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Megan! I couldn’t agree more. And we have all of you @MarketingProfs as role models!

  • Prem Prakash

    Thanks Michael for this interested and inspiring post. This goes to quite some length in explaining why we some senior managers having more influence on media, customers and partners – i beleive it boils down to the matter of trust and how strong the individual’s brand is. Also fully agree that the individual’s brand has to go beyond professional if one wants to have stronger influence. Look forward to reading more of your posts. cheers,

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Prem,

      I think you’re right that in the end it is all about trust! And showing the personal side is not only fun an fulfilling but helps to show that you are a real person and not an automaton.

  • Tony Hackett

    Hi Michael

    Great storytelling. Particularly agree with the point on voice – believing there is a place to use a foreground and background voice with the latter being predominantly social media and personal network.

    Regards Tony

    • Michael Brenner

      Thanks Tony. I try to be a decent storyteller. I think I can write. But storytelling and structure are something I always try to improve and work on and to deliver for the audience.

  • Mike Wenning

    Hi Michael:

    Having just recently been ‘tossed out into the cold’ after 20 years with the same company, this insight into personal branding hits close to home. It’s also supportive of advice my son shared with me regarding establishing a blog. Thanks for sharing this.


  • Garrett Gitchell (@ggitchell)

    “We need to simply be ourselves and write about what we know.” your words, really sticks with me.

    My blogging, so far, has been around change management. “Being myself” means being honest about what I see (which often feels pretty critical). I hope, for all of us building a brand, that critique balanced by knowledge and experience= valuable information for readers.

    Regardless it is nice to have an expert say it ok to be who we are. 🙂
    Garrett Gitchell