Insider Experience vs. Outsider Knowledge: How to Craft a Personal Brand Strategy

irene mcconnell personal branding
If you decided to become a professional singer, you’d have an endless supply of teachers to choose from. But who do you think would be most effective in helping you – a friend who is “passionate about music” and “knows a lot about singing”? Or Seal? There’s a huge difference between outsider knowledge and insider experience. And while your friend might teach you how to sing well, Seal also knows the intricacies of the industry which you need to know about to be noticed
. – Says Irene McConnell nee Kotov of Arielle Careers

To learn more about personal branding, check out Irene’s post about why resumes are no longer enough and visit her column on LifeHacker. You can connect with her on Twitter.

Irene’s main point is to be wary of who you choose as your teacher in the personal branding game. I couldn’t agree more, especially if you are bootstrapping your marketing efforts. According to Irene, ‘there are a lot of experts online, but many of them have built their brands around helping others building their brands. I suggest you look for evidence in their life of successful brand creation which extends beyond the “How to build a personal brand” game itself.

Check our Irene’s Q&A with SearchDecoder.

How to Craft a Winning Personal Brand Strategy

chess strategyphoto credit: yeahbouyee via photopin cc

How has the personal branding game evolved? 

The fundamentals of personal branding game have remained fairly constant, and we’ll take a look at those in a moment.

What’s changed radically, however, is the accessibility of personal branding to everyday people like you and I through the tools which have become available to build brands.

[Tweet “Personal branding no longer something that Mick Jagger does by spending millions of dollars a year on publicity. – @ArielleCareers”]

An ambitious software developer, for example, can build a strong personal brand around his desire to create elegant solutions to SPAM problems on the web. He can begin building reputation and presence online by leveraging any assets he might have at his disposal. In the case of most people, it will be their professional skills and social media connections.

What are the fundamentals of building a personal brand?

At the fundamental level, personal branding follows the rules of effective marketing.

You identify a problem, connect with audience experiencing it, propose a solution, find your voice and create content which makes a difference – it’s a recipe which has been used by politicians, musicians and corporations for centuries.

medium_4627471184photo credit: zilverbat. via photopin cc

How to craft a winning strategy?

Content strategy is the most challenging part. Without it, it’s possible to burn a lot of time creating content and posting things on social media, but having little impact (which means you create little brand value).

It’s also the part which is easiest to gloss over, because of the temptation to give into advice like “just start posting on Twitter” and “just start a blog and write anything”.

Social media and blogging activity might make you feel like you’re getting stuff done, but before you do you must get clear on which results you’re aiming to achieve. And, possibly, how those results tie to your wider objectives. For example, why are you on Twitter? Are you connecting with potential clients or other industry voices? How is your Twitter content different to your blog content? How is your Twitter strategy tie into your wider content marketing strategy?

The most essential element of a winning strategy is the same as in all effective marketing – clarity about the audience you’re trying to reach with your message. Another way of putting it is – what is the problem your brand promises to solve and who are the people experiencing it?

How to master strorytelling and content marketing?

For me, the departure point for great storytelling is authenticity. It’s the ability to strip back the layers and candidly share mistakes, successes and lessons from your life. If you’re on the journey of building a personal brand, you should have plenty of those.

When I was starting out, I created a lot of content in the opposite style – prescriptive, almost preachy kind of stuff. Essentially I was telling people how to live their life.

There is a time and a place for that kind of content. However, over time I’ve noticed that my most popular pieces were ones in which I’ve allowed myself to be more human and reveal whats going on in my life, with the aim of providing a lesson or a dose of inspiration for those who might be on a similar journey.

[Tweet “The departure point of great storytelling is authenticity. – @ArielleCareers on @SearchDecoder”]

Which social media channels should you focus on?

That really depends on your crowd. Hang out where they do, keeping in mind that every platform has its own language and style.

My people are career-minded professionals with some B2B folks, so predictably I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn and Twitter. Google Plus for me is like exercise – it’s something I know is good for me and I should devote more time to, but rarely do.

Check out Irene’s Guide to LinkedIn for Job Seekers.

It’s important to understand and respect nuances of individual platforms, so that you can use those to gain a competitive advantage.

For example, visual content do well on Facebook and Pinterest while ironic, bite-sized chunks of commentary do well on Twitter. Having said that, those rules are on a constant state of flux (case in point, Twitter’s most recent update a few weeks ago made it much more graphics-focussed), so it’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of the changes.

If you liked Irene’s post, you may also like the personal branding hacks deck below that I recently put together. You can also read my blog post on the topic of personal branding online on The Next Web.

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