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Gini Dietrich

Two Reasons a Personal Brand is Imperative to Business Growth

By: Gini Dietrich | January 28, 2013 | 
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A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to a group of business leaders about the use of the web to grow their organizations.

During the conversation, the issue of personal branding came up.

I know, I know. There is a conversation about whether or not personal branding even exists.

For sake of this blog post, let’s lean on the side of personal branding as a way to build trust and loyalty for an organization.

Like Oprah or Richard Branson or Martha Stewart or Tony Hsieh. They all have businesses built around them.

On a much, much smaller scale, I also have a business built around me. It’s fantastic for business growth and it sucks for business growth.

Personal Brand = Business Growth?

On one hand, we’ve been able to reach larger companies, demand bigger budgets, and do more sophisticated work.

On the other hand, prospects expect they’re going to work with me day in and day out.

You can’t scale that. It’s impossible for me to work with every, single client every day and continue to grow a business. That’s why I’m extremely choosy about who joins my team, both from employee and client perspectives.

But if the CEO of the client’s business is involved in what we do (and most of our clients are), they expect to have a relationship with the CEO of the partner firm. End of story.

It’s a good problem to have, but it’s a problem.

So when this entrepreneur asked me if I recommend he build a brand around him for his law firm, I hesitated.

As a group, we debated the pros and cons, but never come to the “right” way of doing things.

Two Reasons to Have a Personal Brand

Which is why, when I saw “Move Beyond Me to We in Your Leadership Brand,” I clicked to learn more.

The article’s author, Karen Kang, provides two reasons your personal brand is imperative to business growth.

  1. Culture and personal branding. She says to be an effective leader, you must have a brand that is valued and recognized. Without it, your talent recruitment, bank relationships, prospective clients, partners, and even the company image are weak. Sure, there are organizations that can succeed without the personality of the leader – IBM is one I can think off the top of my head – but most are synonymous with their leaders. Think Apple, Microsoft, and GE.
  2. Vision or big idea. Of course, you can’t go out there and talk about sports or cycling or whatever else it is that gets you pumped up personally. Your personal brand should revolve around something where you can add value. For me, it’s changing the perception of the PR industry. For Tony Hsieh, it’s about delivering happiness throughout the world. What is yours?

This, of course, doesn’t lay down the law on whether or not personal branding is the way to go, but it certainly helps me think differently about how we can evolve into a “we” brand.

What do you think?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

90 comments
dbvickery
dbvickery

But...what if I LIKE to talk about sports? C'mon, I'm the social media sports analogy guy...which, by the way...I need someone to guest post a sports analogy comparing cycling to a social media or leadership lesson. Know anybody??

rdopping
rdopping

Isn't it human nature to want to work with the persona you get to know? Relationships and all?

 

I am a big believer in the "we" when it comes to a team and delivery. You team is an extension of you and if you have a solid "brand" or are a solid person (read: nice, intelligent, fun, real) then your team will reflect that. My deal is that people make the culture of a firm from the top down and everyone has a personal brand. The collection of those personalities make a company brand.

 

As a leadership professional you are part of every project, sale, whatever and the job, in a way, is to sell your team's ability to deliver. It seems kinda clear to me.

SandraLarkin
SandraLarkin

People relate to people, not companies.  If you build a personal brand around not only your personality, but your values, and make those values an essential part of the company culture, your employees will create the "we" brand from what you've given them.

 

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

Hi Gini,

 

It's not what you know; it's who you know that counts.

 

Business across the board, for the most part, is built on relationships… certainly before social media and it will continue to be that way forever.

 

Relationships are a human activity. It's natural part of our nature. We will always do business with people we know, or people who were introduced to us by people we trust.

 

Businesses are born, maintained and grown on the strength of relationships. We run in 'circles' of people. We are either part of a circle, or trying to gain access to a certain circle of people who are instrumental to our future.

 

The only way to do this effectively is to get to know people personally.

 

The most successful companies in the future, both large and small, will be created and managed by those who have a significant digital footprint (personal brand) on the social web.

 

Business in today's world has and will continue to go social.

 

--

 

Scaling this in a larger organization may be more of a challenge, as you've pointed out above, however, customers need to understand that taking up your time with personal attention will cause the results you can get them to take longer and cost more money.

 

That should appease them : )

Nic_Cartwright
Nic_Cartwright

Ola - I reckon there are probably two ways of looking at it.....

If you set out to build your business in a positive / dynamic / successful manner and your personality is to the fore / a key part of that process - then your personal brand will help your business grow...  Your bubbly, charismatic self will inspire those around you and undoubted riches await....  

 

If you set out to build a personal brand - and expect a business to thrive around it - then (as they say in Bizzarre Inc Mansion) - you'll be playing with knives...

 

PS -  There have been some pretty successful recluses over the years as well- so it takes all sorts for sure.

 

PPS - Training update - for some reason 2013 seems to the Arab Year of Ice Cream - motivation needs a boot up the ***

bdorman264
bdorman264

Was the hesitation noticeable? 

 

In my world (like I wasn't going to talk about myself) I'm the door opener (in addition to the Dorman) and it's my responsibility to put the 'right' team together to make the deal happen and service the account. The majority of the work will be something that is delegated within the team. I will oversee that but rarely get too far down in the weeds. I will maintain the relationship side of it and meet with my team weekly to stay abreast of how it's going, but I need the time to go make more new relationships. 

 

Therefore, I have to brand myself and most know that includes Lanier Upshaw, that gets me in the door. But I will say most of my accounts are Bill Dorman accounts first, LUI second. 

 

And that's my story...at least for today. 

AlaskaChickBlog
AlaskaChickBlog

Gini, I know I come from waay over in left field....or more accurately, the North field... but this is something that we face as well. Especially since I created and began blogging for the company. The difference is that now, our prospective guests and clients not only expect my Dad in the field with them (and excuse me....but if he's in camp, who's gonna fly out goodies to us?? Hmm?) but now, he is juggling Alaska Chick's field schedule....

 

I know I do not offer much to this conversation, but I thought that I should share that this is one point (and an important one) - of personal branding -vs- business branding is an important issue with all business, no matter how far out of the competing fields one may be.

Tinu
Tinu

It can be so easy and useful in the short term, to leverage your name and persona, especially when it's only you or you and one other person. But long term, like you said, people who buy into you want to work with you. Which I'm still fine with, the issue there is managing expectations - I present options with costs, and savings of not having me present at non-essential meetings is seen as just logical. I think you're right though, that evolution is key. I've found it helps to add another person with a strong brand, but it's a difficult issue. Because the converse is Not taking advantage of an asset that can open doors, get you free press, bring opportunities - do you just Not trade on your name? What if that's the best currency you have?

Kara
Kara

Our CEO co-founded the company over 20 years ago.  She was "Taylor Studios" and while she is still highly involved, she is not involved in the day-to-day activities of each project like she once was.  While she does have a personal brand, it is not as closely tied to the company hopefully increasing the odds of a successful company without her  - years into the future of course!  She wants to ensure the company's success in the long-term.  She still meets with clients and is very involved in business development, but our clients realize they will not interact with her regularly. 

Latest blog post: About

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

People want to work with people they know and trust. Personal branding exists and is useful but it can provide challenges because the person/brand can't work with every client that comes on board and that can lead to some rough feelings if you aren't careful.

stevenmcoyle
stevenmcoyle

I think it's important to have the company brand be an extension of the personal brand. Gini, I think you do an awesome job at that. As a Spin Sucks reader, I'm as confident in your ability as I am your team because it's clear they are a reflection of your work ethic.

 

The concept of building around a personal brand may work better on products and not services. Like the examples you outlines, consumers trust the person and therefore they trust the product. When there is a service involved there should be a focus on the team that surrounds the "star" and not just the star. 

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

Personal Brands DO exist and are meaningful, end of story. Ok, I lied, that's not all. I'm a flying example of what a personal brand can do. Had I not morphed into the Instagram Superhero or had a famous name, I wouldn't have built such a large following so quickly. In fact, I could argue that my personal brand is transforming into a brand! You even have a personal brand. When people talk about the Ginibot3000, they know they're getting someone who takes care of business and delivers results.

Latest blog post: Let the Instagram Games Begin!

laurabellgreeno
laurabellgreeno

Great topic Gini. I fall on both sides of the fence too. One of my clients, a medium-sized mortgage company, has a couple of social media "stars" - I originally wanted to take advantage of their stardom, bring it in-line with the brand, and help them to help the whole. Yet as I continued to consider the possibilities, I was concerned "bringing them in line with the brand" might dilute or frustrate their fire and motivation that helped them to become stars in the first place. Was it really "fair" for all their work to help the whole? I wasn't sure. Then, there's the issue of longevity...these stars are not owners or partners in the mortgage company...they need to build their own careers and may not even plan to stay with the mortgage company long-term anyway? It was a dilemma. I ended up recommending a "split" solution (a compromise) that would help both achieve their goals without sacrificing the stars' personal branding efforts or the online presence of the company. I believe it was a good solution...but I thought long and hard about it...and as always...tried to find the best long-term solution for my client. What I've found is - what’s best for the company long-term usually ends up being what’s best for the employees. Happy and motivated employees is always going to be good for the brand.

 

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight

I agree with JennyQ411 - It comes down to people wanting to do business with people they know and trust.  By creating a strong personal brand you get people who trust you and want to do business with you and the only way to make it work without a clone is to train staff to be an extension of your personal brand...and there lies the challenge but I think it can be done and successfully too!  It's the closest I'm going to get to a clone of @ginidetrich! 

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

I'll expand on this more later, but I think there should be a major point of distinction between "brand" and "reputation". 

 

I'm somewhat ambivalent on the notion of personal brand, mostly because it suggests contrivance or calculation at some basic level. 

 

Like I said, more on this later (cough, cough, tomorrow's blog post). 

Latest blog post: Poetry Friday: Pablo Neruda

JennyQ411
JennyQ411

Personal branding is the only way to compete in a Social Media directed world.  People do business with people they know, like and trust.  How does one get to know a business? They don't.  They get to know people, individuals. 

jennimacdonald
jennimacdonald

I'm usually shouting B.Y.O.B (Be Your Own Brand) from the rooftops but I never thought of it from your perspective as a business owner. That must definitely be a struggle.

 

For someone like myself though it is a MUST. I meet many people who are social media professionals and they tell me that they do not have their own Twitter handle or blog, they only use their employer's accounts. Well that's great while you're there but what do you have when you leave?

 

You'll take none of those Twitter followers with you, none of those blog posts you wrote and soon they'll be old and not easily searchable.

 

In today's digital world your brand is your portfolio, and without a portfolio I don't know how you can create a career. Or am I exaggerating a little?

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

 @barrettrossie  Funny, I usually stay on perimeter with @ginidietrich posts and  lurk... There's some deep thinkers in this community and it's work to participate in the conversation here... I'm usually just soaking it in and learning : )

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

 @barrettrossie  Well this right there shows your extraordinary insight and intelligence! It has long been my belief that if more people just sat back and listened to what I had to say, the world would be a better place. Strong work sir! 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @Tinu It's hard...for all the questions you raise. It's been SUPER beneficial for us, particularly in the past 15 months, but it's also very hard to scale, especially when one of my goals is to work 12 or less hours a day. I'm not doing so hot on that right now.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes It does lead to rough feelings, but as I've been very introspective, I think that has more to do with the structure and foundation the person has created behind them. If it doesn't match the same level of expertise or care as the person whose brand you're buying, that's when things go amuck. 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @stevenmcoyle I think you're right that it's different for products vs. services. It's easier when it's a product because you're buying something not someone. When it's a service, the expectation is every touch point is exactly the same, which is hard to do when it's people-created instead of machine-created. 

JennyQ411
JennyQ411

 @jasonkonopinski

 Great! Looking forward to it! When it's posted - tweet it at me. Can't wait to read it!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @JennyQ411 You're exactly right and, in today's social world, it's impossible to get to know a company without getting to know the people. That's why we talked about early on having a face as the avatar instead of the company's logo.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @jennimacdonald I don't think you're exaggerating. We won't even look at your resume if you haven't already built a relationship with us online. It might be because we're a marketing fim, but I think I'd feel the same way if I led any kind of organization.

patmrhoads
patmrhoads

 @jennimacdonald I don't think you're exaggerating at all. I feel like if I didn't have my own distinct social media 'presence', I would be starting from scratch if I ever parted ways with my current employer.

 

The balance lies in my personal brand not interfering with my employer's brand, and me not letting my employer''s voice/message cross into my own. But for @ginidietrich and her topic here where the person and the business are essentially one and the same, that balance seems moot. 

stevenmcoyle
stevenmcoyle

 @jennimacdonald I think that's a tricky concept. In my opinion, someone's personal twitter and blog is not a reflection of the work they are capable of when marketing a brand. I would much rather had a portfolio of examples of work from clients then that of personal stats.

 

When I was job hunting, I did not apply for jobs that requested you have a certain amount of followers or Klout score because it was clear the employer did not have a clear concept of what social media goals should be. They way I run a client B2B twitter handle and blog wouldn't necessarily be the way I run my own personal sites. It's like apples and oranges. 

Nic_Cartwright
Nic_Cartwright

 @ginidietrich Little known fact #4892 - the Haagen Calendar predicted the end of the World (i.e. no more ice cream for Nic) in 2013....

 

So far - those mythical Haagen soothsayers from the past have been VERY wrong...

bdorman264
bdorman264

 @ginidietrich Yes, but as long as it's not an issue nobody will even know how overpaid I am just from opening a door.........:)

AlaskaChickBlog
AlaskaChickBlog

 @ginidietrich No. I've never had to answer that question. I suppose we created it, because when I started with HubSpot , to create the website, as I learned, I was told we had to "Create a blog" for the business. Well, "create" to my ignorant thinking was "make something up." Thus, Alaska Chick's Blog (I have always detested my own name! LOL) was born. (January 31st will be it's 3rd birthday).

 

Well, I am Alaska Chick, and I say this a lot, because I was also taught to "say what I mean, mean what I say" and all about "transparency", being online and all that STUFF. So, YOU know that I am Amber-Lee, a guide at Pioneer Outfitters, that has experience and knowledge of this and that, that I share with you and the rest of the world at a mostly- regular basis, and you decide you are going to come to Alaska and know me, personally, so who are you going to want to have as a guide? My guess? Either myself, or the top dude himself- who wouldn't want Master Guide Terry Overly as their very own guide? Seriously.

 

But back to the rest of your question- "...so they wouldn't always expect your dad"- See, because of Social Media, a LOT has changed for us. Now, people actually EXPECT to be guided BY my Dad. But what people don't realize, looking in from the outside (#1) and the current personal demographics of the clientele of today's generation (#2); is that Pioneer Outfitters is one of the oldest and largest vendors in the state. (We fell into the back wash of the power curve of technology.)

 

We do our major business over a time frame of 50 days. 50 days a year we WORK. That time is broken into 5- 10 day slots. Every ten days, 6-9 Professional Guides, with helpers, trainees and clients, head into the wilderness. And Terry WASN'T one of them! Not for years! (He was the one in charge of checking on all of us wild ones with his Super Cub, Cubby) Now? Now he's a happy sourdough, doing what he really does best- Guiding.

 

Tinu
Tinu

 @ginidietrich Girl. I've had partners in my firm for going on 6 years and we are Still trying to figure out how to keep growing without everyone wanting MY particular attention, content, etc. We've tried it so many ways and I think we're getting close but MAN is scaling a bitch.But having a little bit of a name is Damn handy. It's like a Catch-666, LOL

Kara
Kara

 @ginidietrich  @Kara Betty's spent the last 20 years building a team that really fits the culture she wanted for the company.  It's been a lot of trial and error, but the structure she has built is finally to the point I think she feels confident (as much as that's possible) that this place can run without her (she can take a vacation now and not feel guilty!).  As the CEO she sees herself more as the big picture, long-term goal-setting visionary.  It's been hard for her to step back from the close client contact she used to have though because she loves that side of the business. 

 

As far as client expectations, she is up front with them regarding our process and the fact that they will have a PM who will be their main point of contact.  She also tries to enforce the fact that they can contact her at any time should they have a question or concern.  Most of the time though, the AE is the client's contact through the proposal and contracting phase then a PM takes over with the AE still checking in throughout the project.

Latest blog post: About

jennimacdonald
jennimacdonald

 @stevenmcoyle  I agree that it might not be a reflection but when it comes to social media marketing, everything is gone so quickly that you can not rely on a campaign you did for a client last year. Not only because it will be old, but it may be irrelevant due to how quickly social networks change.

 

I think it is necessary to have both. Even though I have a personal Twitter account that doesn't mean it is not professional. I tweet mostly about social media, and all of the connections I've made through that account NEED to come with me when I leave my employer. Thx for sharing your thoughts. : )

 

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