Our topic today: creating your personal brand. Everyone needs one and whether you know it or not, you definitely have one!

In this episode, we give our must-do’s for creating the right brand, tips on how to make sure it aligns with what your audience wants, and how to make sure it’s what your company needs. Plus, you’ll hear examples from our own clients and we share some stories about what we do ourselves.

Podcast Transcript:

[AF] = Audrea Fink
[JH] = Julie Holton
[KJ]= Kathryn Janicek

[JH] Thanks for joining us, I’m Julie Holton, here with Kathryn Janicek and Audrea Fink. Together, we are your Think Tank of Three… Three marketing gurus each with our own very different backgrounds.

Audrea is a business development coach for attorneys at the second largest law firm in the Pacific Northwest.

Kathryn and is a sought-after media trainer and public speaking coach. She trains entrepreneurs, corporate execs, and former pro athletes.

And I’m Julie Holton, owner and principal strategist at mConnexions, a full service marketing agency that focuses on digital solutions for clients.

Today, we are talking about building your personal brand. Hello Kathryn, Audrea!

[KJ] Hi.
[AF] Hey there!

[JH] Our topic today ‘creating your personal brand’. Everyone needs one and whether you know it or not, you definitely have one.

Kathryn, I’m going to start with you. You consult with clients everyday on how to build a better brand. So here’s a question to start things off, why bury the lead, what is your biggest must-do when it comes to branding?

[KJ] Great question. Because people want to attack everything, right? And we have to start with what I think is the first thing and the biggest must-do, as you said, and that is specifically drilling down to who your audience is, right?

So if you might be a pizza restaurant, or you’re a major athlete, or you’re a doctor — you need to know who you’re trying to talk to, who your audience specifically is, and why is because you don’t spend a lot of money and time killing yourself posting everywhere talking to all these different audiences and all of these on all these different social media platforms. When your audience may not actually be on Facebook or your audience may not be on Snapchat or Pinterest and people come to me sometimes like ‘I got to be everywhere.’ It’s like, well who’s your audience first? Is it a male? Is it a female? What do they do for a living? What are they looking for? What do they do at 10:00 at night? What do they do at noon? What do they do at 8am? Let’s really drill down: Who is this audience? You know, we hear a lot about your audience avatar, picture them, name them. So you do it the right way, so you’re actually hosting places and you’re talking the way your audience wants to be talked to.

[JH] Such a great point, that persona is such the place to start and making sure you’re targeting your target, right?

[KJ] Yeah.

[JH] How does a personal brand like this fit into a bigger picture of the company’s brand? For instance at your law firm you work with attorneys and they’ve got the personal brand plus the firm brand. Tell us where you start.

[AF] Yeah well I think it does go back to what Kathryn was saying like where your audience is who you’re trying to connect to is number one, step one.

Step two is being really authentic and clear in who you are and not trying to be the jack all trades for everyone, right. I get this with attorneys a lot where they say things like ‘well I can do employment work but I also like I’ve done some IP work and you know I’ve done litigation and I could do all of these things and I don’t want to turn away work it comes to me so I don’t want to tell anyone who I am and I don’t want to target any one specific space because I want all of the work’. That shotgun approach is just not effective when building a personal brand. You have to say this is my audience, build that persona, like Kathryn was saying about who they are and understand who they are and then be authentic about what your skill set is when you’re talking to them.

And then I think you know one of the things that gets tricky is that idea of personal brand versus corporate brand, a company brand. And it’s really important in that sense to build your own brand. You know, I work with the attorneys all day and my job is to build up my law firm which is great. But at the end of the day, people hire people, they don’t hire firms. The fact that my firm has a great reputation is awesome, but it has a great reputation because the attorneys that work there are amazing. And so, in building your personal brand, start with yourself and your audience and be really specific.

And then again, don’t try to do it all, right. Attorneys are also like well, I got to have a LinkedIn and I have to have blog and I have to have social media — or they run and hide from social media entirely. But you know, 72 percent of in-house counsel checks on their attorneys’ LinkedIn before they purchase legal services. So it’s not just about having your firm bio upon the website. It’s about really having your personality out there and so your LinkedIn should be personal your website buyers should be personal. You really have to target who you’re talking to and then build a personality that they can connect to and that’s what a personal brand’s about.

[JH] Audrea that is so true. Kathryn jump in.

[KJ] You’re absolutely right, especially with law firms. I’ll get a lot of professional people who say, well most my business comes from referrals and so I don’t need blogging and I don’t need a fancy website and I don’t need social media… But, that’s actually super incorrect because even if you were referred; so if I get a referral from someone who says, ‘oh my gosh, so and so’s the best dermatologist, or so and so’s the best fertility doctor, cancer doctor,’ you name it. You know, patent lawyer whatever it is. The first thing to do before I call that man or woman–

[AF] You’re gonna check Google!

[KJ] I’m going to Google him! Absolutely. And I’m going to see, you know, is this, okay, so even if I buy an insurance thing, I’m buying insurance from someone or I’m looking for real estate broker. I need to know; sometimes I like to see like what kind of person are they, you know?

[JH] And what happens if you don’t find them, Kathryn?

[KJ] What happens if you don’t find them?

[JH] Yeah!

[KJ] They’re not legit. You know, who she just send me to, even if it’s a tax attorney it’s like, I want to see that person on social media. I want to see them with their family. I want to see them online. They’re professional. You know I want to see their about. I want to see their experience. I might not even look for their website but I’m late start with LinkedIn. If they’re not on LinkedIn, like I literally do not think that they’re a professional person.

[AF] I agree! I agree! So many of my attorneys are like, well I don’t want to be on social media. There’s too many risks to social media and I just want to tell them like you’re not credible if you’re not on LinkedIn. Like you’re just not credible, you’re not credible if you’re not online. And it’s not because you’re not a professional that you’re not credible but because I can’t find you, I can’t connect to you, I don’t have anything that says you’re real besides someone’s advice. Now that advice gets me.. definitely a long ways down the path of purchasing services or, you know, building that relationship, but you’ve gotta be findable. You’ve got to be personable, right? I don’t a hire a robot. I want to hire someone who I feel like I can connect to.

[KJ] It’s about relationships. I want to see where they went to college. I want to see that they do charity work. Like, that’s not a deal breaker, but it definitely, if I’m comparing three people to maybe be as my, you know real estate broker or my tax accountant, it kind of turns me on if I’m like oh my gosh you know she does all this amazing charity work for Boys and Girls Club, or you know she blah blah blah she donates a lot, because I know my business is going to help her with her philanthropic duties or her desires.

[JH] OK so we’ve already established we absolutely need to have, we need to create this brand online, this digital brand. We need to start by defining our own goals. Who are we? What are we looking for? We want to cast this wide net to bring people in, but we don’t just want new customers walking through the door to bring on new just any new client — we want the right kind of clients for the right kind of work, to Audrea’s point, and then defining you know defining that audience.

So, how do I clean up my brand? Kathryn let’s jump over to you. What if– okay I get it. I know that I need to have the strong digital brand and it’s not where it needs to be. What are the first steps in cleaning this up?

[KJ] I would go really deep. I would go in and see how many years you’ve been on social media and go and clean up the stuff that you think that is not findable. Because it’s totally findable. If you’re five years out of college, if you’re seven years out of college and you have things from college and you’re drinking in pictures on Instagram or Facebook.

I had a client just a month and a half ago, they were a media client. They are looking for media placements. They weren’t looking for help with their digital media or with their social media, but my goal was to get them on TV, so I knew that these television producers were going to look at them. They’re going to Google them when I sent an email to them telling them, you know, these television producers about them — what’s the first thing they’re going to do? As we all said earlier, they’re going to Google them and they’re going to see them on Instagram to see that they are legitimate, you know professionals. Well, their Instagram was full of a lot of college stuff because there were only three years out of college, two years out of college. It was a lot of drinking and joking about things — they weren’t bad, they’re not bad adults, bad professionals, but the things just didn’t need to be up there and they cause more questions then answer the questions that people have about their professionalism. So I just advised them to go and clean it up. They had to go deep in their Instagram, they had to go deep in their Facebook and clear it up.

There’s also things, let’s talk about older people. There are things on your LinkedIn that you may not need from the nineties or eighties on there. Maybe you don’t really need the gear that you graduated from college. Maybe you don’t need those first 5 jobs out of college because it really doesn’t describe who you are now in your 50s, 40s or in your early 60s. So there are things that we need to clean up because maybe we’re not proud of them from our college days or early 20s. But there’s also things that your might be proud of but they really just date you and why do you need them there anyway.

You really want to just cut to the chase and have the most important things on LinkedIn. So the things the jobs you had in the 80s really do not portray what you do professionally now, what you’re looking for. You really don’t need those out there. And what I mean by 80s like in the 1980s for the younger people watching.

[AF] So I have a question for the two of you, about that sort of personal versus professional. And I hear this all the time from my attorneys if they’re on social media, they will lock their profiles down. By locking it down, it makes them feel safe. But, it also creates a barrier for someone going to find them and they can’t find them. So I am one of those people who believes you just leave it online, right. You leave it alone. And you’re careful about what you put on.

But how do we balance? How we find that balance between I want something professional when people find me, but I also want something that’s personal and mine and maybe that has photos of me and my dogs or my nephews and nieces or me drinking a beer or a glass of wine. How do you find that balance?

[JH] I think that it is okay to have platforms that you use personally that you don’t open your professional life to. I think, and this might be something where we all have our own different personal opinions on this. I used to tell my attorneys: LinkedIn has to be wide open. You have to, I mean it is as if you were having a conversation in a room, you know you’re giving a presentation and you’re giving your bio, that is LinkedIn. Have everything on there. It should be accurate and updated and professional and forward facing, right.

But Facebook is kind of a gray area if you work in a professional services industry. And I really think that you know, I’ll speak for myself, for a very long time my Facebook was personal. It was locked down. It was friends and family only, it was maybe a sprinkling of people that I did charity work with, and I really just kept it tight. I have pictures of my nieces and nephews on there and so it was it was very personal to me. And as my career evolved, I have opened it up more and more to the point that I did as Kathryn suggested, I went in and I took out some of the more personal photos that that were kind of that personal conversation that starts almost with my friends and family, and took those offline and now had that more open to the professional world.

Instagram for me is still more locked down because those again, are the photos I’m sharing of my everyday life with my nieces and nephew. So Kathryn, I’d love to hear from you on this. What is your take? What do you tell clients about that balance between personal versus professional?

[KJ] I tell clients to not lock down their Instagram as far as where they have to accept the followers, where it says private. I tell them to do that. I tell them to keep it open because when it’s when it’s locked down, when it says it is private, it does raise the question of what so private that you need to have it locked down? What are you doing in your private life that mean that I can’t see? So I do advise them if they want to have something that’s super private to completely change the name so they’re not searchable and then lock it down. But if it is still their name or anything close to their name so that people go search it and to find it. Make sure that that’s the one that is open if they want a really really private one like maybe it’s their middle name and a different last name or something and then they lock that one down and that’s their more.. You know, like if you’re in a TV you’re going to have a Facebook page that is going to be just your friends and family. It’s a completely different name, but then you have to have your one that is your actual you know stage name, your name on TV.

If you’re a professional, say you start a new app and you’re a tech guy and you have a Instagram that’s your name. It’s searchable and it’s locked out. I’m wondering what’s on there. You know, are you doing illegal drugs? Do you have pictures of guns? And I bring that up because I have coached companies who had employees who had locked down Instagrams, but they opened them for some of their clients or customers saw them — and they had to let them know, you’ve got a hairdresser here who’s got all kinds of pictures of drugs and guns! She was laying in bed with a gun next to her and stuff, and because she opened it to some people, other people saw it. She thought it was private but it’s not private once you start sharing it with some or some of your customers. And if that’s your employee, do you know about that makes your entire company look? So if you’re going to have something that’s very personal and you’re doing things on there that you don’t want other people to see, I would say name it something completely different that no one’s going to find.

[AF] So this just triggered a question for me. What do you do if your personal brand, which might be okay with drugs and guns, doesn’t align with your company’s brand? How do you manage your personal brand when it doesn’t match your professional space?

[JH] It gets into such a gray area, especially for the business owners who are listening in because laws now, Audrea you know working in a law firm, protect the individual and so in many cases, the company doesn’t have a say over what the individual can be posting or not posting. And it depends, it varies by states and by state law. But it’s something as an individual that we need to think about. We are brand ambassadors for our companies — whether we want to be or not. And I think this ties in Kathryn to a lot of the media training that you do with your clients. Crisis communications, but also just general communications, company communications, that every single employee within your company is a brand ambassador. Every single person is a marketer. Every single person is sharing with their friends and family whether they even realize they are or not. It comes out in the stories they tell about their workplace environment. It comes out — of all of these things that we have these conversations about on a daily basis. And a lot of those conversations are now happening online.

We talk about social media as being word of mouth online because that is where we’re commenting on the good meal we had or the bad service we got. And when we’re doing that, we’re giving or taking away a referral to these places. And the same thing when we get on Facebook and we complain about our boss or we have a rough day and we talk about the person in the office next to us who played their music too loud or whatever it might be, whether it’s negative or positive, you know those positive affirmations, that feedback we give online is again an extension of our company’s brand. And so, I think we have a personal responsibility. Companies may be limited in what they can tell us that we can and can’t do, but think about it from our personal standpoint. We’ve chosen to work in this environment, whether it’s good or bad. And so we should then think about how we are portraying that environment and the brand of our company.

[KJ] Yes, whether it’s legal or not legal to to to tell an employee what they can post on social media. I would advise an employee to watch what they post. That– you know, maybe your company could come up with some other reason to fire you. Once they see something, if you’re blatantly talking about, if you’re blindly talking badly about your company or you’re doing something that’s against your company’s ethics code, ethical code or against their employee handbook. You don’t want to do it. And why are you working somewhere where you’re not aligned with them culturally anyway?

[AF] Great point. Kathryn. As I’m listening to you two, I’m thinking to myself, are you in a good spot? Are you in the right spot? Is your professional career going to accelerate if you are somewhere where your personal brand mismatches with a professional brand so much? And you know, everyone’s got their own stuff. Everyone’s got like a piece of their personality or maybe a piece of their personal life that they don’t take to work. I know I do, right. Like there are things I do at home that I don’t do at work. And that’s not what we’re talking about here right.

We’re talking about when you walk out the door or what you put out on social media and you have this sort of persona that you want the world to see, and it doesn’t align with what your work is, that’s something that people see — it creates an inauthentic message. And you know, we go back to like what is the number one thing to do or what are the first couple of things to do for building your brand the first is what’s your audience. Make sure you’re connecting them and then to being authentic with who you are and what you have to offer. If you and your company’s brand aren’t aligned, then you’re probably not talking to the right audience or you’re not being honest about what you bring to the table.

[KJ] If you own a company and you’re listening to this I think it’s really important for these conversations to be at the beginning in the hiring process and in the training process. You have to address them at the beginning and that’s what I talk to companies when it comes to crisis communications. You can’t just react when you see something out there, you have to train the people as they come in that this is something that we believe in this is you know this is our brand. This is what our culture is and if it’s legal you know you guys are the two who work and worked with law firms. But if it’s legal in that state or in that industry whatever and you can tell people you can define what they can and can’t do, and what is fireable, it’s really important to make that clear from day one. So they’re not like well you didn’t tell me and then you got a lawsuit on your hands. So making sure that you define that so that when you do write someone up or you do have to release someone into the workforce because of something they did on social media, make sure you absolutely define that from Go.

[JH] Such great conversation. I have no doubt that this is going to evolve into future podcasts topics, future blog topics. Those of you listening, if you have ideas that you want to add to this conversation shoot us an email. Connect with us online and we’ll definitely have more conversations on branding.

One last question that I have for each of you before we wrap up here: How do I know if my audience sees my brand as I do? How do I take that step back and make sure that that perception of my brand matches what I’m trying to convey? Audrea let’s start with you.

[AF] I think you can ask. I think that’s a really important thing to be ready and willing to do. I think you should be asking your clients, you should be asking your referral sources, you should be asking your friends and your colleagues. Hey, this is the vision of me I want out. This is the brand that I want to be portraying. Have I got it? Did I nail it? Am I off? Are there any items in which it doesn’t align? And I think asking, and asking for straight and honest feedback is always valuable.

[KJ] You’re absolutely right. Asking your former clients and current clients and asking, then, your audience. Some people sent out surveys a couple of times a year and they just ask very specific questions and you’d be amazed at how much information your audience will give you and how helpful is yet.

[AF] So one of the things we do at my firm is we have what’s called client service interviews. And this isn’t necessarily the brand, but we ask questions about our brand. We sit down with the client we ask them how they’re doing. And in this interview there’s no sales whatsoever. We don’t talk about what we’re trying to do or you know the law that we do, we we ask them: how’s your service? How do you perceive us? How does our community perceive us? And I think you would be amazed how much your clients love giving you their feedback. Your colleagues are going to love giving you their feedback. People love feeling heard. So as you are figuring out whether your audience is your brand, you should be asking them.

[JH] We are a Think Tank of Three. Today we’ve been talking about building your personal brand. Some really great points from Audrea and Kathryn.

Know who you are, first and foremost, as you’re building your personal brand.

Know who your audiences is, as you build that persona. What are they looking for online? As you start to figure out and navigate which social platforms to be on. Clearly define your messaging.

Another great point brought up today: training. Think about training, if you own a business, for crisis communications and for marketing in general. Make sure that everyone in your company is on the same page.

And finally, talking about client and customer feedback. The best way to know if you are reaching your audience and if they are perceiving you as you want to be perceived, is to ask them.

So join us as we continue this conversation online: thinktankofthree.com. We blog weekly. Subscribe to think tankofthree.com and you’ll get a first alert email when the new blog goes out. And be sure to find us on social media. We are on Facebook. We have a page and a closed group to foster conversation there. We’re also on Instagram and Twitter and you can find each of us on LinkedIn. If you have questions or topics to discuss, send us a message thinktankofthree@gmail.com. Until next time, I’m Julie Holton with Audrea Fink and Kathryn Janicek. We’ll see you online.