Ryan Serhant knows a thing or two about branding. His resume says it all: top-ranking NYC real estate broker, celebrated author, successful entrepreneur, and beloved TV personality on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York.”

When I interviewed Ryan in February, I sought his advice on personal branding for real estate agents. His guidance was straightforward: “Build your own brand. Nobody cares what brokerage you work out of anymore.”

Now, Ryan is following his own advice. He recently departed Nest Seekers International to launch SERHANT, which received its brokerage license on October 1. Ryan has dubbed SERHANT “the real estate company of the future.” It’s a full-service firm with five divisions: Real Estate (residential brokerage), Studios (in-house production), ID Lab (marketing), Ventures (online course, incubator) and AX (machine learning platform).

SERHANT is entering the real estate world at an uncharted moment. New York City’s real estate market has been upended by the pandemic. But there are also big opportunities for brokers willing to try out novel digital strategies.

Amid this backdrop of a new brand in a rapidly-changing space, Ryan knows personal branding. Below I list 10 personal brand tenets that Ryan commits to memory – and you should too. Ryan offered commentary on how he makes these tenets work:

1) Every personal brand starts with a roadmap. A first and critical step is the self-audit — understanding yourself and your superpower. Then comes the strategic plan, complete with objectives, target audiences, messaging, and metrics. Ryan explains that like any other form of marketing, successful personal branding outcomes require a cohesive strategy that spans multiple channels and campaigns.

2) Branding is not about blending in. It’s not about looking like the competition; it’s about standing head and shoulders above them. Your brand should make clear why someone should hire you for that coveted position, or choose you to sell their house. Ryan has always been about standing out — from launching contests for free NYC rent to skywriting the name of one of his latest real estate projects. SERHANT continues this tradition: “Nobody is starting a real estate firm now. We are bringing a new concept powered by media, technology and entertainment.”

3) Personal branding is not a luxury. It’s a requirement for garnering new clients, ascending the corporate ladder, or nabbing a new job. “You can buy a lot of things — physical locations, advertising, computers,” Ryan explains. “But you can’t buy a brand. A brand is not a logo. It’s a reputation that is built over a long period of time.”

4) Personal brands are mobile. You can take your brand where you go, be it a new company or even a new career. Ryan notes that his departure from Nest Seekers is a prime example: People want to continue to do business with Ryan Serhant. At the end of the day, people make decisions based on their trusted relationships with individuals, not a business entity.

5) Personal brands come with many benefits. The payoffs aren’t abstract — they’re tangible, like greater credibility, recognition, and yes, currency. Ryan’s done an exceptional job at monetizing his brand through ventures like “Sell It Like Serhant,” an online course which boasts 4,000-plus agents in over 100 countries. Ryan has cultivated an audience that likes, loves and trusts him. And that sentiment matters: More than 80% of purchase decisions are based on emotion.

6) Master first impressions. The average American has an eight-second attention span, and it’s fast decreasing: in 2010, the average was 12 seconds. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of competition online: headlines, videos, podcasts. In this environment, you need to get your point across quickly. A strong online presence — like top Google search rankings and compelling social media channels — is everything and then some.

7) Unleash the power of great content. Ryan recognizes the importance of educating and entertaining his audience. Good is not enough – you need to create great content to capture your audience. Whether blog posts or videos, Ryan makes sure each piece of content he publishes is shareable, engaging, and actionable.

8) Focus on engagement. It’s not enough to simply publish content — you need to ensure it’s resonating with your audience. Ryan understands the importance of analytics and assessing what moves the needle. He always puts himself in the audience’s shoes and asks, What’s in it for me? This approach is paying off: With over 3.5 million social media followers, Serhant’s team has been the #1 residential sales group in New York and top five in the U.S. since 2008. And in 2019, Serhant’s team transacted $1.45 billion in real estate.

9) Know the power of ‘we.’ Besides developing your own personal brand, help develop the brands of those around you. Your staff and colleagues’ personal brands can combine to create something greater than the sum of their parts. Ryan empowers his staff to build their unique personal brands. They have access to the same tools he does, like an in-house production studio, at their disposal. Says Ryan: “I’m taking everything that built my brand and giving the blueprint to all my agents.”

10) Become your own news channel. Ryan is an example of personal brand broadcasting at its best. He is a Forbes contributor, YouTube vlogger, and frequent speaker at events and in the media. His latest focus is SERHANT TV, “the first real estate media network of its kind, revamping traditional television for the new digital space.” While most of us won’t reach celebrity status, consistent messaging and visuals that reinforce your brand are non-negotiable, no matter the channel.

When I asked Ryan what he wanted to be known for, there was no hesitation in his response: “I want to be known for changing the face of sales. And to make real estate fun and entertaining.”

Revolutionizing an industry is an ambitious undertaking. But Ryan knows that with the right tools — and personal branding is chief among them — it’s possible. And while we’re not all top real estate brokers or TV personalities, these 10 tenets can be applied to just about any industry.


  • Stacey Ross Cohen

    CEO, Co-Communications and Personal Branding Expert

    An award-winning brand professional and TEDx speaker who earned her stripes on Madison Avenue and at major television networks before launching her own agency, Stacey specializes in finding, cultivating and perfecting both business and personal brands. She is CEO of Co-Communications , a full-service marketing communications agency headquartered in New York which has garnered numerous awards including Forbes Enterprise and PRSA Practitioner of the year. Stacey is a sought after speaker and has been featured in Entrepreneur, Forbes, Crain’s, Sales & Marketing and a suite of other national media outlets. She is also co-founder of College Prime (www.college-prime.com), a company that provides social media and personal branding training to high school students to succeed with college admissions, internships, and beyond. Stacey holds a B.S. from Syracuse University, MBA from Fordham University and recently completed a certificate program in Media, Technology and Entertainment at NYU Leonard Stern School of Business.