What motivated and inspired you to focus on your own personal brand?
I started my career in TV and in 2000, I founded a digital marketing agency called Tipping Point Labs and I sold that in 2012. When I was trying to figure out what was next after running an agency for a long time, I realized that I needed to leverage my personal brand to actually pursue a career as a full time speaker. I had also written a book in 2012, called Brandscaping, and that was fairly successful so as a result, I leveraged the momentum that Brandscaping had to propel my personal brand.
To be totally honest, one of the things I started at Tipping Point Labs was leveraging my personal brand as the Chief Strategy Officer – to speak and leverage that as a business development tool. I’ve always been interested in creating a brand around the people that power the business and, as a result, it was a natural offshoot in 2012 to leverage the personal brand I built and the success of Tipping Point Labs to turn it into something special. That is what really motivated me and inspired me to focus on my personal brand.
Tell us what you believe your personal brand stands for.
I consider myself the Alton Brown of the marketing world. That means there’s a little bit of comedy, a little bit of science, it’s a little nerdy, and a little geeky. I like to look at the world in a very different way and so I think my personal brand is very much a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at the current way that people build their businesses – what they do that is different and unique. I like to challenge my audience as well as myself to really think about the tough questions and find new interesting ways to look at the world.
Why do you feel having a personal brand in today’s world is crucial?
I believe that today, with the rise of social media, all business are people powered – meaning its much different to have a relationship on a social platform with a brand like Coca-Cola. That’s kind of a meaningless brand relationship. For example, if the Coca-Cola brand retweeted something I said, that’s interesting. But, it’s more exciting if a person like the Chief Marketing Officer at Coca-Cola retweeted me – that’s exciting because its a personal relationship. And I’ve found that online interaction with people who work for brands, or people that are branded, results in real life interaction.
Online interaction leads to offline action and that’s a really important part in building a personal brand in a people-powered world. Even if you work at an organization, building your personal brand helps you leverage the next opportunity your pursuing, so it is really crucial.
Where did you begin in your own personal branding journey?
It never felt like one day I woke up and said “I’ve got to start a personal branding initiative”. It was a series of steps that I took leveraging the expertise I had running an agency to then writing a book about the theory that built our agency and the partnerships that you can build with other brands to reach your audience.
As I sold that, I figured I might as well take the next step which is branding myself. I think the start was a little bit more amorphous than I thought. And if I had to pursue one piece of it, it would be speaking. Speaking was a good business development tool for the agency but it was also something that I really enjoyed and I realized that if I’m going to be successful at speaking, I really have to build my own brand.
What early wins did you experience in your personal branding endeavors?
When I was running an agency and speaking, I realized pretty quickly that after I got off stage speaking, people would come up to me as say “Hey, that was an amazing presentation. I want to do what you challenged us to do. Can you help me with that?” They had a relationship with me immediately on the stage even though I had a whole agency of people that could help with this opportunity. I realized immediately that this was a great business development tool.
What mistakes did you learn the most from in your personal branding endeavors?
I still face this challenge, to be honest. I think there’s a real push and pressure to feel like you need to be everywhere on every social channel doing everything every day and that’s very very time consuming and unbelievably exhausting. And the truth is, I think you can only be successful if you’re focused on one platform at a time.
If you want to build your personal brand and your audience that you’re targeting is on Instagram, well then you’ve got to really kill it on Instagram. If your audience loves video and they consume a lot of YouTube videos, well maybe you need to be on YouTube more than you’re on Instagram. If you’re in business development and you really feel like LinkedIn is where people are, well then maybe you need to be on LinkedIn first and only and stop worrying about the other things.
I face this challenge constantly. I have a YouTube series called The Loyalty Loop that I do every week. I also have a LinkedIn series called Unsolicited Advice that I do every week. So you can see I’m battling with this myself but I’m looking for the right place to be the most successful in building my brand.
Best and worst advice you’d give to our readers wanting to GROW their own personal brands and followings:
The best advice would be don’t worry about the number of followers, fans, and friends you have on social platforms. Start to worry about the quality of the audiences you have. On YouTube, I only have 600 subscribers to my channel and only about 300 email subscribers and to me, it’s much more important that those are high-quality audiences and it’s clear that those people consume the content on a weekly basis. They really like it and I’m not upset when people unsubscribe. I’m interested in ensuring that the audience I gather is a high-quality audience.
So don’t worry about the quantity, worry about the quality. You can still build a really great business and personal brand by focusing on quality over quantity. And it’s a tough one to swallow, by the way, because I look at other people and say “Why do they have a million subscribers? I wish I did.” But you just have to really think about the fact that they might be targeting a different audience than you are.
Any books/podcasts/courses/authors/resources you recommend to our readers and why?
One of my favorite books ever is called The Wizard of Ads. It’s by a guy named Roy Williams. If you’re in marketing or want to get creative about the way you are building your brand, I recommend that you buy the print book. It’s a very awesome print experience, it’s not so great on electronics.
When it comes to podcasts, one of my favorite podcasts is called Unthinkable by Jay Acunzo. I listen to that everytime he does new episodes. They are priceless and really great for people who want to buck conventional wisdom, which is what it is all about. As far as resources, I think another good book is Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes. That’s a really great book for anyone trying to build a personal brand – and you’ve got to be able to write if you’re building a personal brand, even if you’re writing video scripts or emails, I think it’s crucial that you understand how to write.
Who inspires you? Anyone in particular you follow or admire with their own personal branding endeavors?
To be honest, I’m a big fan of the Food Network. As you can tell by me considering myself as the Alton Brown of the business world. People like Alton Brown or Anthony Bourdain – which is sad to talk about – but I think he’s a great personality that has inspired me. Outside of that, people like Malcolm Gladwell, who are amazing writers that inspire me. Comedians inspire me when it comes to my speaking style, so I watch a lot of comedy that helps me understand timing and even writing comedy.
How do/did you stay motivated through difficult times or moments of self-doubt?
To be honest, I have two times every year where I think “This is it. My turn is over.” Every July, I think that my business is not doing as well as expected and every December I have that happen again. What I try to do is take stock of where I’ve come from. I actually look back and say “A few years ago, I wasn’t speaking as much or I didn’t make as much revenue and look where I am today. I’m doing great.”
I try to take a lot of notes and those things help me get some perspective, which is really important. Whenever you’re down, it’s important to realize where you’ve been, where you’re going and where you’ve come from and also identify some opportunities that you should pursue to make a difference. So every July and December when I feel this way, I start going back to my list of things that I should’ve done and I say “What are the most important things I should do right now? Where should I focus my energy?”
Any final wisdom or insight you’d like to share with our readers?
I think the most important thing is to remember your personal brand is all about identifying what’s unique about you. Very often, the things that are unique about you are things that people told you that you can’t make a career or job out of. For example, when I was a kid, I was a hyperactive kid, I was the class clown, I was disruptive in class and teachers always told me that I’ve got to calm down and be quiet and that there’s a place for comedy and it’s not in the classroom, and this isn’t a career skill. It turns out that 25 years later, I’m getting paid to speak all over the world and its because of those things – my class clownishness, my ability to disrupt, and my thoughtful approach to rethinking problems, which isn’t very traditional.
So the first thing you should do is identify what people have always told you that you can’t make a career of. Maybe you’re a great artist but people tell you that you can’t be an artist because there’s no career there. Or maybe you’re passionate about cooking but you work in accounting and people are telling you that cooking is not worth pursuing. Those things make you unique so find those things and mash them up with your profession and find a way to build a brand around that.
Loved Andrew’s raw truth, honesty, and tips for your own brand? We did! Solid advice and resources are given throughout the interview. Thank you to Andrew for his incredible generosity. To learn more from this expert or to have him speak at your next event, you can do any of the following:
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