Investing in your personal brand can unlock new opportunities and bring a greater sense of purpose to your work—but it can be understandably challenging to establish and nurture your brand (especially if you’re new to doing so!).
Watch the full conversation on YouTube or read through the highlights below.
Q1: As we look toward 2024, do you think personal branding will be more or less important? Why?
There is so much content out there, and brand audiences are fatigued. If you want to break through, you need a strong personal brand to turn one-off experiences into compounding interactions.
“[Personal branding] is extra important because we have, in this stage of our internet lives, reached a place of content fatigue. There’s just so much out there all the time being thrust in our faces. It’s harder than ever to get people’s attention—to deserve people’s attention, and get them coming back for more. If someone sees a piece of content come across their feed, are they going to bother to consume it? If they do, are they going to remember that it’s you? Is that brand touch going to help build your brand, or is it just going to be a one-off experience? The real difference between the two is if you have that strong personal brand foundation behind it, the next time they encounter you—whether you’re speaking about a similar topic or doing a similar type of content, or they just see your face—something is consistent that kind of caught in their brain last time, so those brand impressions can compound instead of standing alone as one-offs.” – Christine Gritmon
“That glut of content [and] the fact that attention is an all-time premium really emphasizes how important it remains to have a strong personal brand.” – Christine Gritmon
Q2: What are the core elements of a personal brand platform?
The first part of branding is to justify your existence in your space.
“Why should they give you their attention? Why does this piece of content, why does this brand voice, [and] why does this person on their screen need to be here? The first part of figuring out your personal brand platform is kind of justifying your existence as a brand. Why are you going to be worth their attention? What value do you bring to the table?” – Christine Gritmon
Everyone has value they can bring. What is your value?
“One of the things that I work on with people is really unraveling the fact that there is a ‘yes’ in there for everybody. Everybody has something they can bring to the table that is unique. Everyone has value that they can bring that’s uniquely theirs—they just need to uncover it. And don’t be out there because you want people to see your face. Be out there because you have something to really offer.” – Christine Gritmon
“That reminds me of a CEO I worked with. He would always say that, from a content perspective, we have to remember that we were broadcasting from radio station WII FM—what’s in it for me. You’ve got to be able to serve up immediately for the people you’re talking to. What value you bring that they can’t get anywhere else.” – Erika Heald
Once you figure out your why, document a platform that you can activate with consistency. Use the same headshot, colors, fonts, and key positioning statements to reinforce your branding. We dig into this more in Q3.
“[Figure] out your personal brand, your brand values, and, of course, even those expressions of it like the fonts and hashtags.” – Christine Gritmon
Q3: Do you follow a template or process to document your personal brand platform? If so, what does that look like?
What do you want to be known for?
“It has to start with what you want to be the person for. [Erika] is the #ContentChat person, and I’m the personal brand person. What do you want to be the person for?” – Christine Gritmon
How are you going to express it?
“The window dressing, you know, the branding stuff. For myself, for example, I picked my official shade of red, and it is very consistent. And I had my particular typefaces, and I actually changed them. I figured out my showing font and the more readable font. And I do visual templates, but also some verbal templates for how I do things. ” – Christine Gritmon
Be consistent, which includes your content topics or formats.
“I try to not reinvent the wheel with the content I’m creating to express and to build my brand. I try to have certain consistent elements, because then, again, people will recognize it. Normally, I have a red curtain behind me, people recognize that’s me. So there are certainly elements that you want to make sure you define as consistent. The topics are often consistent, but sometimes it’s your content format. Sometimes you’re the person who does all those TikToks. Figure out what you will embrace and enjoy being consistent with, and then define and own it as much as possible.” – Christine Gritmon
“There’s no escaping governance. You’re always going to have to be doing that due diligence with your definition and documentation, even when you’re talking about personal branding. It’s really the only way that you can make sure that you are consistent and hold yourself accountable.” – Erika Heald
Q4: What are some of the essential ways that content marketers can activate their personal brand through content marketing?
First identify the topics you are passionate about creating content around, and your preferred content formats.
“Start from a point of what you feel like geeking out on. You can tell if someone created something because they had to or because they wanted to. Figure out what you want to keep creating, what you won’t hate doing. And you can do it badly a whole bunch of times and then learn and get better at it and get consistent because it feels good to you to create. Or because people consumed it and really loved it and engaged with it.” – Christine Gritmon
Experiment with new content formats. It helps to repurpose existing content to make this easier (when possible).
“Do consider trying new things, being willing to be bat at them, being willing to try.
Look at what’s resonating with your audience and what’s resonating with your personal interests.
“Pay attention to what’s clicking, not only in terms of what other people are engaging with, but also what’s clicking with you—what makes you say ‘OK, I’m interested in geeking out on this’ versus ‘do I have to do that, again?’ It’s not going to help you to make content to have made content, it’s not going to help you anymore. What’s gonna help you is content that cuts through. And what cuts through is the stuff that you didn’t hate making.” – Christine Gritmon
“I have a client who hosts a podcast. And while he loves the podcast, he had been recording it on video for the first few weeks because the marketing team wanted to have the video to use snippets on social (which sounds great, right?). Except then he found he was spending too much time being concerned about what he looked like on video and not enough time maybe like scribbling down things that the [podcast guest] was saying.” – Erika Heald
“Folks can get really fixated on thinking they have to do a specific thing. But if you really hate it, or you’re not comfortable with it, it’s just not going to come natural. And you’re not going to get that kind of engagement from other people with it because they’re going to feel your discomfort.” – Erika Heald
In the past year, some of Christine’s favorite personal brand activations have been podcast appearances and industry conversations. She also hosts her own podcast, Let’s Talk About Brand!
“I love having conversations like this, because they make me think about things in different ways. Sometimes I hear something phrased in a certain way coming out of my own mouth, and I’m like ‘Oh, I haven’t thought it about it like that before.’ And, of course, I similarly enjoy being on the opposite end of things. I have what is now a podcast that started out as a live stream, Let’s Talk About Brand. I’m learning, I’m getting to learn things, I’m getting to up my game, I’m getting to get incredible insights from brilliant people.” – Christine Gritmon
Q5: What opportunities become more attainable as you strengthen your personal brand?
A strong personal brand can help open up opportunities that are typically associated with thought leaders, like speaking sessions at industry conferences or contributed content opportunities at top publications.
“Once you’ve been doing this stuff for a while and you put yourself out there and you become known for whatever that thing is that you’re excited to share with others, then you start getting interesting opportunities coming your way. [Christine] and I were just at MarketingProfs B2B doing hands-on sessions with B2B marketers to help them, in [Christine’s] case, develop their personal brand and, in my case, develop a style guide to they would be ready to scale. That’s one really obvious example of the kind of extra benefits that can happen once you build that brand.” – Erika Heald
When you build a strong personal brand, people are more likely to recommend you to others when opportunities arise.
“In personal branding, the real value that’s hard to track is that your name will come out of other people’s mouths. When they hear about opportunities, they will tell other people about you. That unadvertised job market, how do you get into that? You get into that because your name is on people’s lips, because they know about you. I think that’s really the huge thing.” – Christine Gritmon
Q6: Are there considerations for balancing personal brand activities when working for a company full-time?
In the recording starting at 26:15, Erika explains how a previous employer instituted a social media policy that employees could circumvent by not disclosing what company they work for—so they did that!
“That’s a huge loss for the company, right? Because they could have had these 50 brilliant employees sharing thoughts, getting known under their names and reputations, and brilliance out there with the company’s name right under theirs. Huge mess.” – Christine Gritmon
It’s best for companies to allow their employees to develop distinct personal brands.
“Companies that are really smart and understand the value of personal branding for their employees are also the company that retain those superstar employees. If you try to compress someone’s activities and you say ‘no, you can’t go, you can’t grow too big’ you’re going to lose them; someone who values their brand is going to snap them up.” – Christine Gritmon
Christine addresses common fears about employees developing a personal brand alongside full-time work with an employer:
“I understand why companies are worried. I really do. They’re worried that if you build a strong personal brand, you’ll leave them. To which I say: So you only want employees who don’t have the option of working anywhere else?” – Christine Gritmon
“There’s also the fact that, yes, it is possible that an employee will behave publicly in a way that reflects poorly upon your company. I think the risk of that and the likelihood of that incident is likely much much lower than the best case scenario, which is that your employees reflect well upon you. And by the way, employees can reflect poorly on you, even if they never mentioned you on social media.” – Christine Gritmon
Ask about your company’s policies regarding personal brand activities, and ask questions about policies that don’t make sense.
“Question boundaries that don’t make sense. Have the courage to do that. And I think that companies really should think a lot harder about providing a framework for employees to do this in a way that doesn’t constrain them.” – Christine Gritmon
“Recognize that you’re doing nothing wrong. But also make sure you’re doing nothing wrong. It is good to familiarize yourself with the exact verbiage in your employment agreement. Make sure you know what you did and did not agree to.” – Christine Gritmon
“You should be a good ally to your company, because then they can realize that you can be a good asset to your company. Make sure you’re conducting yourself in a way that does fit in with your company’s values and does fit in with the way that they would also like to be represented. If that’s a point of trouble, if the way you want to represent yourself isn’t really aligned with that, then think about if you’re aligned with that place of employment.” – Christine Gritmon
Instead of having two profiles on social media channels—one for work life and one for personal life—Christine recommends you have just one profile.
“You can’t build a brand in secret. Don’t feel like you need to be a split persona. Don’t feel like you need to hide your area you’re trying to build expertise in from the area that you are working in, and vice versa. Don’t feel like what you’re working in has no relevance to the thing that you’re trying to build expertise in. There are always common threads. The common thread is you and what you’re bringing to it that is satisfying both places.” – Christine Gritmon
Q7: How can AI be used to support your personal brand activities?
Christine and Erika recommend using AI to check that content you create is aligned to your documented brand voice and style. AI can also make things more efficient and scalable with content creation, like generating transcripts from video conversations to then write a blog post or social media copy.