What is personal branding?

Who has a personal brand?

Is personal branding necessary at all?

All these questions and many more will be answered in today’s interview with one of the most awesome personal branding professionals around the globe- Ryan Foland.

First of all, Here’s a bit about Ryan: Recognized by Inc. Magazine as a Top Youth Marketer and named a Top Personal Branding Expert by Entrepreneur Magazine, Ryan works with thought leaders to create and syndicate content that reveals their whole self to drive differentiation, growth, and loyalty. By positioning the expertise of people within companies as the core talent behind the corporate brand, He helps to drive reputation, trust and more clients to their businesses.

Vanky: What makes a personal brand strong?

Ryan: Let’s first define what a personal brand is before looking at what makes it strong.

A personal brand is an intersection between what you want to be known for and what people think about you.

The reality is that people who don’t know you make decisions about you based on the information that they can find. This is why you must discover what you want to be known for (Vision), then start communicating it with the world (Voice), where your target clients are looking for it (Volume), so that you become recognized as the thought leader you are (Validation).

Your personal brand is essentially the collective information you share about yourself on your website, online feedback, and social profiles. It includes the content you create, like blogs, images, videos, etc. It also includes the content that others produce about you, like features in publications, podcast interviews, and online reviews (both good and bad ones). When all these pieces of information are put together, it forms a representation of you. That “you” is your personal brand.

Everyone has a personal brand already, but not everyone is taking control of their own narrative. When you take control of it, the world opens up.

A strong personal brand is human. It’s not called a perfect brand for a reason. As a human, your perfect is coming to terms with the fact that you are not perfect. Too many people associate a strong personal brand as highlighting everything that is going great. The reality is that we often experience sets back before we find success. A strong personal brand showcases the real you as you traverse your ups and downs.

Take my business partner Leonard Kim for example. When he was stuck in a job he didn’t like, and on the brink of being homeless, he turned to writing on Quora to share how bad things were going. His authenticity and vulnerability attracted people to his story. Earning over 10 million reads of his content helped trigger momentum that he was able to build on. He then stacked his successes and is now recognized as an expert who is regularly featured in major publications and sought out by those who want to learn from him. Don’t wait for things to go “right” as a prerequisite for sharing your real story.

Making a conscious decision to build your personal brand is more of a journey than anything, and it is one where you share the good, bad, and ugly. If all you do is share the good, people will have a harder time relating to you. Does this mean you should complain about everything going wrong in your life? No. It means that you should be authentic, vulnerable, and share content within your expertise.

A brand is you, and you are your brand. A strong brand happens over time as people get to know you based on the content you create and share.

A powerful personal brand is a result of ditching the act and revealing the real you. That human connection is the real power. Get people to know you and trust you, then they will respect you and want to learn from you.

Vanky: What are 3 most important things necessary to building a compelling personal brand?

Ryan: You must discover what you want to be known for (Vision), then start communicating it with the world (Voice), where your target clients are looking for it (Volume).

Defining Your Vision: If you work as a professional, it means you are a specialist. This gives you a competitive edge compared to others who find difficulty in defining what they do. Having this information also lets you define the problem you want to solve and helps identify your target market. Your brand should be focused, and you should have a clear vision of where you want to go. A good way to start is with a Post-it Note exercise that we run with our clients. The basis of the exercise is to write down qualities that you want to be known for, then poll others on what they think of you. Then you can match those qualities that you want to be known for, with the qualities that you are already known for. You can access a video that walks you through the process here: http://influencetree.com/postit

Voice: Once you have clarity on your Vision, it is time to start sharing your Voice. This means creating content with your expertise through writing, videos, and/or imagery. Want to know a secret about content creation? Don’t ask, “What do I want to promote?” Instead, ask, “What do people who require my services want or need to hear?”

Volume: With your Vision in position and your Voice taking the form of strategic content creation, it is time to turn up the Volume. Volume is all about amplifying your content so more people see it. Most content creators feel so much frustration after putting their material online. They feel like they spend so much time creating something, for only five people to see it. When you think of how much time it truly takes to create something of quality, you can feel the frustration that one experiences when very few people get to appreciate that content.

In order to counter that, what experienced marketers do is syndicate their content. That means taking content you’ve created and republishing it on multiple platforms.

Think of social media as an amplification tool. Create the core content that your audience wants to consume, then based on where they are likely to be, you can syndicate a single piece of content over many platforms.

No matter what type of content you create, it should be able to be repurposed into various formats that you can then share on various platforms to increase the volume of views. One trick I teach executives is to record the audio from presentations, then transcribe them and turn the content into multiple articles. Remember that a talk can become a blog, a blog can become a video, and it could also be turned into an answer to post on Quora. Then you could tweet about it!

Vanky: How important do you believe personal brands have become today?

Ryan: Personal brands are extremely important these days. Think of building a personal brand as an investment in yourself. The more you invest over time, the more real-world results you will see.

But who actually needs a personal brand?

If you’re working on an assembly line but you want to run it one day, then it makes sense to build your personal brand.

If you’re working in the hospital as a nurse and are ambitious to the point where you want to one day be a part of the leadership team, that makes sense too.

If you’re a doctor stuck in an assistant professor position but want to lead a brand new department then it makes sense too.

But what if you just want a promotion from an entry-level position to the next level above you? Or to find a better job that pays a few more dollars an hour? Or what if you want to move from being a director into the c-suite?

Those are great questions to think about and it should get your mind to start pondering about whether or not a personal brand is for you… But the better question is…

Who doesn’t need a personal brand?

Let’s say you’re looking to stay in the same position at the same employer for the rest of your life, then you don’t need a personal brand.

Let’s say that when you decide to make career changes, you want to struggle because you have to compete against hundreds of other applicants, then you don’t need a personal brand.

Let’s say you are fine being overlooked internally for promotions by outsiders who have an established track record of success, then you don’t need a personal brand either.

Let’s say that you have to re-enter the job market when you get laid off or fired after dedicating decades of your life to a company and want to spend months, if not years, to land a new job. Then don’t worry about that personal brand.

Of course no one wants these things.

A personal brand is only effective if you are a person who wants to move ahead in your career, whether that be an internal promotion at your company, paving your way up to the c-suite, getting sought out by a competing company for better pay, landing the job of your dreams, or making sure that your career becomes recession proof. On the last point of being recession-proof, there is one type of candidate that is always sought out no matter how bad the economy gets. And that’s one who is well respected as a thought leader in their space.

Vanky: You are a 4x TEDx speaker!Any tips you would like to give the readers who have the ambition of becoming a TEDx Speaker?

Ryan: Yes, I am full of tips! Especially when it comes to making it on the TEDx stage. If I had to boil it down to my top 3 tips, I would say that you need to have a big idea, you need to sharpen your speaking skills, and you need to be strategic about applying.

  1. You need to have a big idea.

The TEDx stage is so powerful because it is focused on telling one big idea, not someone’s life story. Also, it is not a place to sell, but to share. The first thing I ask people who tell me that they want to give a TEDx talk is what their big idea is. I usually wait patiently as they spend a few minutes explaining multiple concepts. If you want to get on the round red carpet, you need to have a very focused and clear idea to share.

If I asked you what your big idea is, how long will it take you to answer me? Try it. Pretend you are explaining it to me and time yourself. If you are taking a long time to explain, then you are trying to fit in too much. The best TEDx talks are one inch wide and a mile deep, as opposed to a mile wide and an inch deep.

Think of your own life experiences. What is the one thing that you would want to share with people? Something that has made a massive impact on your life. Something that someone can be exposed to, then apply it to their own life. These are the types of things you should be asking yourself and clarifying before you even think about applying.

2. Sharpen your speaking skills.

Are you ready for the big stage? Like, really ready? The great thing about a TEDx talk is that it can be a great credibility piece. But it can also be something that works against you if your presentation is not up to par. I usually tell people to search for a local Toastmasters group and join. Toastmasters is an organization that creates supportive environments for people to flex their talk muscles.

They have a “Competent Communication” program that steps people through the core elements of a great speech, one by one. After completing this program, you will have had an opportunity of getting some great stage time, great feedback, and more confidence in presenting your ideas to groups of people. I have used Toastmasters as a place to practice each of my TEDx talks. I always like to say that the best way to become a better speaker is to speak more. And Toastmasters gives you a weekly “at bat” to practice.

Many of the TEDx applications will ask for a speaking sample or video. If you are well practiced and on your game, you will come across much more polished than someone who is not practicing weekly.

3. Apply strategically.

The best way to get on the TEDx stage is to be invited, and this usually happens after you have developed a strong personal brand. But what if you are not there yet, and you want to give a TEDx talk to build your brand? Then you need to apply.

Many people think that they must have others apply for them, as many applications are set up to nominate others. But the reality is that you can always apply on behalf of yourself. I applied and got rejected 13 times before I landed my first TEDx talk, then was invited to my 2nd and 3rd talks, and applied to my 4th. There is no shame in applying for yourself.

But you should be strategic.

I always suggest for people to see if their alma mater has a TEDx event. Universities love to feature successful alumni at their TEDx events. Also, do some research to find out the topics for various events, and make sure that your big idea fits the theme. If you want to get access to a database of hundreds of TEDx events across the US and Canada, it is part of my course called the TEDx Effect, where I break down all of the steps on how to land your next TEDx talk.

If you want a free resource with lots of great information on everything you need to know, you can read a detailed article I wrote here: https://www.influencive.com/everything-need-create-epic-tedx-talk/

Vanky: You have an amazing social media presence! Your favorite tip to stand out in this extremely competitive world of social media?

Ryan: Be consistent. I talk about what I call as the “Invisible Like.” You see, as you start to build your brand, there is a good chance that not all your posts, blogs, videos, etc. will get good traction. In fact, some may get no love at all. But you can’t be distracted by that. You need to focus on delivering great content, consistently.

I am now known for my stick figure drawings that I share every day. But it was not always like that. I have been drawing and sharing a stick figure drawing every day for over three years. In the early days, they didn’t get much traction. But I just kept drawing them and sharing.

The best way to stand out, it to keep creating content. So many people pop up, then fall off. Don’t be that person if you want to stand out. Building a personal brand is a lifelong journey. Technically, you will never be done with it.

That is why it is important for you to start. Then keep on going.

Vanky: What helped you the most in getting you the position where you are today?

Ryan: The people around me. I have learned so much from others that I owe much of my success to them. When I met Leonard, I was doing the right things, but in the wrong order. He helped me, and still helps me to this day, when it comes to understanding how to continue to build my brand. I also surround myself with other speakers whom I respect and admire. They keep me accountable and motivated. Make sure you surround yourself with the right people. The great news is that it is what anyone can do (#WACD). In fact, check out whatanycando , a book that outlines how to surround yourself with the right people to achieve the success you want. And if you do check it out, you will see that I illustrated the book with my stick figures. Everything comes back around to the people who are around. Create a tribe that supports your goals, and you will go further, faster!

Hope you guys enjoyed the conversation.

Because I am so awestruck by Ryan’s accomplishments and secrets to success. Keep inspiring us, Ryan!

Also, If you want to keep getting such insights and advice, You can follow me here on LinkedIn.

Originally published at www.linkedin.com


  • Vanky Kenny Kataria

    2 Time TEDx Speaker | Personal Brand Consultant and Linkedin Trainer

    Vanky Kenny Kataria is an engineer turned motivational speaker and personal brand consultant. He's a two time Tedx speaker and has been featured in publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, MSN, Reader's Digest, etc and in books like '30&Under'. 'PeopleMaven' named him one of the Top 13 Emerging Communication Skills Coaches from around the world and has also been awarded with the prestigious 'Radio Mirchi's Youth Icon' of Nashik. He has keynoted at conferences such as the 'Coca Cola Youth Speak Forum' held at Nashik, 2017 and is also the brand ambassador of India for 'Host Your Voice'. He's also a contributor to international publications like Thrive Global, KivoDaily, Better Days Global and others.