A few years ago, on one of our walks, I turned to my husband and said, “I want to write a book.” I was feeling extremely inspired, or lightheaded, from having just climbed one of the larger hills by our house. I outlined the premise behind my avant-garde, non-fiction, ostensibly a New York Times bestseller. But in explaining the expansive amount of research involved in conducting interviews and compiling data points, I was also faced with the quandary of not receiving much response or call backs from my potential subjects. I was hitting a roadblock and feeling frustrated.
“That’s because no one knows who you are yet,” he replied. “You need to start building your personal brand.”
In my mind I thought only corporations built brands, but people? That was a foreign concept to me.
Fast-forward to today, I can attest to the fact that my husband was onto something back then. With the budding pool of entrepreneurs and an increasingly new outlook on how business is done- when nowadays individuals are trusted more often than corporations, C-suite execs have a newfound mission to build their own personal brand.
Studies have illustrated the direct correlation between success and branding. Personal branding, when done right has been demonstrated to launch a person into new career heights. Creating a strong brand identity allows one to establish themselves as a thought leader within their space, opening doors for personal and professional opportunities that would have otherwise never been realized.
I first came across Leonard Kim when I read about his company InfluenceTree in Fortune earlier this year. InfluenceTree helps establish branding through step-by-step coaching on how to become an influencer. So what does building a brand actually entail? It starts with finding a signature image, unique voice & expertise, and garnering an audience base, a formula which Leonard and his team has figured out.
After spending some time speaking with Leonard, I found that what was even more astounding was his personal story. His notoriety was brought upon by his decision to begin writing about his failures- something he was advised by peers NOT to do. In our fame-obsessed culture, we are vehemently taught to tout our success but rarely do we openly pen our failures.
And so in 2012, as Leonard began pouring out his struggles and the initial failures of his ventures onto his blog, he sat for 20 minutes agonizing over the possibilities and the backlash of his editorial piece until he got the nerve to hit the “publish” button. What happened afterwards was a phenomenon he did not expect. He received scores of praises for his courage and honesty and his inbox flooded with emails from people, including several hotshot executives, who regarded him as an inspiration. Today, Leonard has amassed hundred of thousands of followers on social media and has a steady base of loyal fans so he knows a thing or two about finding a unique angle and capitalizing on yourself.
For $99/month, the basic package, InfluenceTree provides a classroom-like setting in
which you watch a video clip of 7 minutes followed by an action plan which typically takes about 4-5 hours to complete that will incorporate immediate results into your personal brand. Each week, the assignments are carefully curated to help you achieve your goals so one week could be on creating a compelling bio that will attract clients and the other, on how to create articles that could potentially get picked up by a major publication like Forbes, Inc. Magazine or Huffington Post. The assignments are graded so you may have to re-do some things that are not up to par with the standards set by the program. In the end, what you get are tangible results.
When Leonard began his blog, it took him about 2 years to figure out his own direction which he says is the average time it takes someone to establish their own social media presence. “There’s a lot of meandering in different directions,” he says, and InfluenceTree helps to guide you in a formulaic pattern that has proven successful.
So when does one begin the dialogue of building a personal brand?
“It depends on where you are in your life,” he responds, “But let me lay it out the best way I can from my experience. Let’s say you have two candidates who are applying or bidding for the same project. One has been working in the industry for a few decades, has a decent amount of experience and is qualified, but when you Google their name, all that comes up is their personal Facebook page. The other has been working in the field for a few years, but when you Google their name, you see that they appear in a few major publications, they have their own website, a handful of testimonials on LinkedIn and a few thousand followers on their social media platforms within their target industry. Nine times out of ten, the people orchestrating these projects (bidders, hiring managers and employers) will choose the second candidate over the first because they have built up social proof.”
Surely this is more of a reason to start thinking about building your digital footprint.
Got a question or comment for Leonard? Post it here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.