VENTEUR spoke with Lorrie Thomas Ross, CEO of Web Marketing Therapy Inc., about personal branding. Web Marketing Therapy Inc. is a marketing agency that diagnoses, prescribes, and guides healthy, sustainable marketing solutions. Thomas Ross has worked with thought leaders for over a decade, putting practices in place to help them brand, build and boost business, and leveraging their expertise to help them grow their authority status to reach career goals. She is also the founder and CEO of Wild Web Women, coaching and marketing support to help digital women grow gorgeously, where she leads one-on-one and group retreats for intentional women leaders. In addition to her roles as a marketing advisor and retreat leader, Thomas Ross is also an educator and author.
What is a personal brand, and how does it evolve?
I think of personal branding as "managing the brand called You." It manages how you want to be perceived, including your professional skills, personality, values, image, expertise, leadership, and talent.
We are perceived not just by the value of the work we do (the what and the how) but our values (the why we do what we do), and your brand evolves as your value and values do.
As we grow, our experiences, thought leadership, strengths, reputation, and intentions grow too.
As a result, we all have a personal brand, and in today's web and social-centric world, we have more power than ever to dictate the mark we want to make.
Proactive personal brand management can give people and the companies they work for a competitive edge.
Developing a Personal Brand
What are the main components of managing a personal brand, and why do they matter?
The three main components of managing a personal brand are Expertise, Identity, and Style.
1. Honing In on Your Expertise
While getting to the core of this sounds simple, I find it's often the area where leaders get a little squeamish.
To be clear, owning your expertise isn't a bragging exercise. It's an educational one. Ask yourself, "What do I bring to the professional world that adds unique value?" For example, when I started my business in 2005, I was entering a saturated market as yet another marketing consultant. As I honed in on my expertise and point of difference and voiced that, my career blossomed. It was my first taste of the power of personal branding and what ignited my passion for it.
Tapping into the power of your brand by leveraging your expertise builds credibility, visibility, and sellability.
It will help grow your company or career.
Thanks to the power of the web, your personal brand's identity can be created on a local, national, and even global scale.
You can optimize your reputation by working on your webutation.
Google yourself and see what comes up.
Social media accounts like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, blog posts, bios on company websites, videos, and photos can all help build and shape your identity, whether you want them to or not.
I will never forget this process when working with a gifted lawyer. In our search, we found an Instagram account he forgot about with photos that depicted a party-bachelor life that was dated (he had been married for years) and didn't portray the high-powered litigator he was. So naturally, we killed the Instagram account.
Sometimes you must go back and do a little clean-up before going forward.
I'm not saying to go out and buy a new wardrobe, though there is power in dressing for the role you want! In my former career, I was a personal stylist. I saw firsthand the personality shift a person has when they look in the mirror and like what they see. Clothes can help, but it's about who you are internally that comes out to the world externally.
Style goes beyond what we wear.
When people think about you, things like your logo, tagline, website, content, reputation, personality, recognition, photos, web visibility, personal appearance, communications, and what you share on social media all contribute to people's perception of your unique style.
Get clear on how you want to be perceived, then "dress the part.”
Make sure your clothes, content, communications, and conduct walk the talk.
What is the difference between being an expert and an authority, and how does this impact one's brand?
Do you ever wonder why professionals with the same expertise you do are more recognized, quoted, and referred to?
This is because those experts have established authority status.
Being an authority takes your brand to new heights.
As an authority, the opportunities you want are no longer a struggle to get.
Instead, they come with ease and flow.
Want to get to authority status?
In the word authority is the word "author."
One of the easiest ways to establish expertise and reach authority rank is to author content.
If you are feeling stressed as you read this, don't. You don't have to write a book. Authoring content can be sharing expertise via social media, blog posts, or online PR placements to help your peers, employers, and the general public understand your knowledge and start to view you more powerfully. Write and share to show what you know!
How does consistency come into play, and how does one evaluate the consistency of their brand?
Consistency is critical to developing, maintaining, and growing your brand. You know the saying, "walk the talk?" Well, that doesn't mean taking two steps and sitting down.
Your brand is a journey, not a destination.
To evaluate the consistency of your brand, know, first and foremost, that it's about quality, not quantity. If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked, "How many times should I post to my blog or social media?" I'd be retired by now.
It's not about how much you post, it's about consistently posting valuable content.
The same goes for consistent conduct.
You can't expect to be known as a kind, compassionate leader but have mean outburst tendencies. It would help if you consistently communicated a warm personality through your actions.
To effectively evaluate your consistency, go back to the three components - expertise, identity, and style - and take a good hard look at how well you are walking the talk in each of these areas.
For example, I coached a client taking a new leap into work with executives. When this client would introduce themselves and respond to the "what do you do?" question, their answer always came out wishy-washy. This person had gorgeous content - website, photography, email newsletter, social media posts - dressed the part, was beyond educated and credentialed to do what they were doing. Still, the lack of consistency in what came out of this person's mouth was a deal-sinker. Together we worked on elevating the clarity of their communication, and with that came the confidence that was lacking.
How important is marketability in one's personal brand, and why?
No matter your industry, your personal brand can make or break your marketability. So, whether trying to make a mark with a hiring manager, your boss, your company, your industry, employees, or your community, never underestimate your brand's power.
Is it possible to create a personal brand that's too niche?
I get asked a lot about narrowly niching and how that can impact your brand.
You can't be too niche if you proactively manage your expertise, identity, and style.
Niched or not, someone with a solid personal brand can always pivot.
For example, I worked for someone who ran a wildly successful company and was an established thought leader in a niche industry. This person experienced burnout in his CEO role and wanted to shift into more boutique coaching and teaching work. He was able to change with success due to the power of his brand. Shifts like this may not always be seamless, but they are doable when your brand (expertise, identity, and style) is strong.
Personal Brands for Entrepreneurs
How can entrepreneurs develop a meaningful personal brand while putting almost all their time and attention into their businesses?
Fact: The entrepreneurs who get it all done are the ones who aren't doing it all themselves.
Your brand is the most significant career asset you have.
Still, entrepreneurs shouldn't trade off being present in their business in favor of developing a meaningful personal brand.
Look at your strengths and weaknesses and be honest about your time. For example, you may be a great writer, but if you don't have time to write, don't take on the responsibility of creating blog posts for your company because the writing will never get done. As a result, your brand and business will suffer.
The key is to do what you do best and have others do the rest.
The best leaders delegate and ask for help. But again, great personal branding starts from within.
Clarity on your expertise, identity, and style will help you identify and acquire the support you need.
How can developing a strong personal brand help entrepreneurs succeed with their businesses?
A strong personal brand can elevate an entrepreneur's success in many ways.
Years ago, I heard that a strong brand is like a firm handshake.
Think about that for a moment.
What does a firm handshake evoke?
It's no different for a personal brand.
A strong personal brand can put companies on the map and take them to new heights.
An entrepreneur with a strong personal brand can attract and solidify relationships, inspire their company, obtain media attention, secure funding, and much more.
Personal Branding Mistakes
What are three personal branding mistakes people generally make, and how can such mistakes be avoided?
While it may take different forms - for some, neglect might look like putting off getting new photography when social media is a big piece of their brand puzzle. For others, it might be opting out of a personal website refresh, the mistake I see most often.
Three parts of the business puzzle must work in unison - operations, marketing, and administration.
The most successful companies understand that marketing does not have an on-and-off switch.
The same goes for entrepreneurs and their brands.
Someone can be great at what they do and have brilliant teams to run their business (ops and admin). Still, without marketing, there is no awareness, connection, service, or sales; the same goes for your personal brand.
As mentioned above, consistency is key, and your brand requires regular upkeep.
2. Catastrophizing Personal Branding
There is no need to panic! When you approach your brand from a stressful state, you will not put out the right vibe, which certainly will not attract the right tribe.
Be genuine, optimize your foundation, and remember that small steps over time compound to make a big difference.
The reality is that nobody is perfect.
We make mistakes.
We win, we lose, we fail, and we succeed.
Not every photo of you is going to be one that you love.
Not every quote in the media will come out precisely the way you want.
I have two issues with perfectionism when it comes to personal branding:
- It stops people from taking the first steps toward change.
- It can cause people to edit out all their personality and authenticity and end up coming across as robotic.
Life happens organically; let your brand evolve organically too.
Nourish it, tend it, and enjoy how it grows gorgeously.
What are some common misconceptions about personal branding, and how can we set the record straight?
One of the biggest personal branding misconceptions is that you must be famous for having a healthy, successful personal brand.
So, so wrong.
You can have a super strong personal brand in a tiny industry that most people may never know about that can catapult your career.
Not all doctors are going to be Dr. Mark Hyman.
Not all marketers are Seth Godin.
They have their brands, and you have yours.
Another big misconception is to have a strong personal brand, you have to be out there *all the time* and active across all social media channels.
That is not the case.
I've guided many clients over the years to scale back on visibility, as over-posting or generating too much media buzz can create the perception that you don't have enough business or aren't working! Go back and think about the experience you want your customers to have and how you want to be known.
See where you are getting the most traction and adjust your strategy accordingly.
With any form of marketing, you create, execute and monitor, then rinse and repeat.
What worked for your brand five years ago may not work for you now.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
If personal branding feels icky, stressful, expensive, or overwhelming, you are doing something wrong.
Personal branding is a part of your marketing puzzle, and marketing means maximizing relationships.
To attract ideal relationships, you must first have a healthy relationship with yourself.
Respect is reciprocal.