Season 2, Episode 2: Brand You Before Others Do
This week on Outsmart, your hosts Nicole and Rex welcome Jen Campbell to the show. Jen is a personal brand strategist who helps people use their values and personal story to drive more impact, influence and income online.
In this episode we chat through:
- Differentiating your personal brand from your employer’s brand
- Striking a balance between being relatable and being professional
- Key questions to ask yourself when building your personal brand
Jen: More than likely you’re not going to be doing the same job or run the same company for your entire life. So having your separate personal brand, even though you might identify with whatever your business is, positioning yourself, that will help you for selling it someday if you choose to do that, to be able to start some other venture. But people need to know who you are individually.
Nicole: Welcome back to another episode of the Outsmart podcast. We are your hosts. I am Nicole Allen joined by Rex Petrill. And today we are really thrilled to invite one of our first external guests on. We have Jen Campbell who hails from Idaho, and Jen is a personal branding expert and she’s going to talk to us a bit about how to build a personal brand today. So, Jen, welcome to Outsmart.
Jen: Thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate it.
Nicole: Yeah, of course. Well, before we dive in, Rex and I have lots of questions for you. But before we start drilling you, why don’t you tell our audience a little bit about yourself.
Jen: No problem. I’m a personal brand strategist and I specialize in social media and branding yourself online because people will brand you and you want to brand you before others do. They will Google you, they will look at your website, they’ll creep your social media pages. So, it’s really important to position yourself as your authentic self and the way that you want to be perceived by others. I help people do that. I also help them tell their personal brand story.
Rex: I think that raises one of the first points because a lot of our audience are marketing professionals who are either looking out for their employers’ brands as well as their personal brand. So, what’s the difference between a personal brand and your brand’s brand?
Jen: A personal brand helps you connect on a deeper level. People connect with people, not with products. And especially if you have a company to be able to tell that founder story about who they are, that resonates with the customer. That will create that brand loyalty to the company more than anything else. I worked for Starbucks for a number of years and people know Howard Schultz. They understand his story and that helps him connect with the brand itself. And it’s the same with any business that you might have. Sometimes it can be difficult to be able to put yourself out there and say, this is who I am, this is my story. And it’s easy to kind of hide behind your brand, but that’s not what people want right now. They’re looking for raw authenticity or raw-thenticity in brands.
Nicole: I like that. Raw-thenticity, copyright that. I want to kind of flip around a little bit. I know we had talked about a couple of different questions we had, but one that I really want to dig into there is talking about that raw-thenticity, right. And the importance of being authentic. And a lot of times we find ourselves in conversations and I’m sure you’re in the same conversations with clients where there’s just a concern about folks not wanting to overshare, not wanting to share certain parts of their personal life and not being sure how to strike that balance of being authentic and personal, but also making sure that you’re saving space because private life is private. So, I guess what would your advice be when someone is thinking about building their personal brand and trying to figure out what their comfort level is with how much they’re sharing and how authentic that personal brand really is?
Jen: I tell people to say, if I only knew one thing about you, what would you want me to know? And that’s really telling. So, if you build your social media profiles, your website, and the story that you’re telling people about your personal brand, about that thing, it’s going to resonate with them. It’s important to protect your personal life and your private life, but work and life, it’s not really a balance. At least it’s not for me. There’s a lot of overlap and when you’re managing employees or you’re putting your public face out there, they want a little bit of your personality. They want to know about your personal life, your hobbies, your interests. That doesn’t mean that you have to post pictures of your children online. It doesn’t mean that you have to share all of your business and show the hot mess version of your life and be, ‘let me tell you what’s going on.’ They don’t need to know that. There is that balance between coming across professionally and representing your personal brand as strong as possible, but also being relatable. People want that. They don’t need the hot mess version, but the warm mess version makes you more relatable.
Rex: Where do people get started? What’s the first step in creating a personal brand?
Jen: I ask people to look at if they were to choose three words that really define who they are, that sum up their personality, start with those words and then they can build their profile and their personal brand story around those things. The other thing, as I mentioned before, is if they only knew one thing about you, what would it be? And then I have them look at their social media profiles. The number one social media platform on the internet is Facebook. And whether you like to be on social media or not, social media is not going anywhere. And you don’t have to spend your entire life scrolling through things or posting obsessively because a lot of people feel like it’s a time suck and it can be. But if you use social media strategically, then it can be a powerful tool to be able to build not only your personal brand, but your business as well.
Nicole: I want to talk a little bit, kind of circling back to that original question of the difference between the personal brand and the brand’s brand, right? And the importance of being authentic and of kind of striking that balance. But we know that just taking Elon Musk, for example, right, like, there is the Elon Musk person and its oftentimes kind of difficult for people to differentiate between Elon Musk and Tesla and we see that happen with their stock price when he tweets whatever he tweets. So, what’s your guidance on that? As we think about leaders, right, and folks who are on the front lines for their companies and they’re looking to build their personal brand, but maybe have a little bit of concern of how to ladder it back to the corporate brand, or do you ladder it back? Do you try to create some separation? What’s your advice there?
Jen: Both. Because more than likely you’re not going to be doing the same job or run the same company for your entire life. So having your separate personal brand, even though you might identify with whatever your business is, positioning yourself, that will help you for selling it someday if you choose to do that, to be able to start some other venture. But people need to know who you are individually. You can represent your brand but if you talk to any PR person, they’re going to say, stay away from controversial topics, hot social issues, unless it completely ties to what your core values and your mission is as a company. Making sure that you’re working for a company or a brand that aligns with your personal core values is going to make a difference as well. Now, you might not have everything aligned, but if there’s that disconnect between what you’re showing online versus who you are in real life, that’s how people get canceled. That’s when those execs get fired and that’s when companies get canceled on social media and boycotted, and it can really impact the bottom line of the business.
Rex: And even if it’s not, as far as canceled, the downside of what you’re saying, if you’re not authentic, if your online personality and your real-world personality are totally different, it’s going to be super obvious and people are going to see right through that. And it’s not going to have the benefits of telling a real story and connecting who you are as a person to what you stand for. And as you mentioned, hopefully what you’re doing for your day-to-day job brings elements of what you are as a person and how you value things and what your outlook on life is. Hopefully you’re not stuck in a lifeless job that they just hate and they’re just like, well, I’m just here for the paychecks, because that’s going to come through. If you’re trying to build connect a personal brand to what you’re doing in your business life.
Jen: Heck yeah. I want people to see the same Jen Campbell in person as they do online. My profile on social media should reflect what I see when we’re talking on a video call or when you meet me in real life. I am who I am, no matter where I am. That is what the core fundamental part of an authentic personal brand is. And you want to show the best version of yourself, but not some phony filtered, Instagram version of your life. And we’ve all seen those. You’ve got the big house, you’ve got the nice car in front of it, the 2.5 kids, the big fat stack of cash that you can flip the dollar bills off the top and make it rain. That’s not reality. And one of my best viewed social media posts is me on Mother’s Day with my four boys because I have triplets and an eleven-year-old son. And it’s always really loud and crazy. And I showed the picture, one of the 63 pictures it took to be able to get the one and the perfect one because there’s a reality of what Mother’s Day is and what it means to be a mother. And then there’s the version that we usually say, and I posted both and people were like, thank you so much for showing the real version. This is what it’s like. It gives hope. Because whether or not we want to admit it, that comparison, that’s the thief of joy, it still comes out there. And if we’re showing only the best versions of who we are, it’s not authentic, for one. And for two, you missed that opportunity to have a deep and meaningful connection on social media. I believe that’s possible. I’ve built fantastic relationships not only for my business and my personal brand, but I don’t call them my Internet friends. They’re my friends. And most of the people that follow me or that I follow on social media I’ve never met in real life. Or if I have, it’s been one time.
Nicole: I think the pandemic has really intensified that desire to be more real and more authentic and less filtered. And we’re seeing execs of companies come out and talk about their maternity or paternity leave and we’re seeing folks come out and talk about more social issues, which is really interesting because we spent so much less time together in the office, right? But we’re all forced into our kind of messy personal boxes. And there’s also apps like, excuse me, the app BeReal that chipotle is finding a lot of success with right now, where you get a push notification to just share a filterless photo of whatever you’re doing at that moment in time. And that app is finding a lot of traction and we’re starting to see people create that more authentic connection. So just curious, Jen, from where you’re sitting, being a personal brand strategist, are you feeling that shift too in the way that clients are talking to you about wanting to develop their personal brand and maybe taking that plunge?
Jen: They’re tired. People want to connect. People want to belong, and they know that a lot of people are working remote right now and they’ve continued to it. They’ve shifted what their job is because a pandemic gave them an opportunity to reevaluate what’s important to them and how they spend their time. A recent survey that the number one thing that people want right now is deeper connections with their friends. And so, using social media as a way to do that and to create new relationships with people or with customers is a fantastic opportunity. Showing who you are and showing up as who you are online is a lot less exhausting than trying to be someone else. I’m the cringey mom and I own that. That is part of my personal brand, and it was really hard for me to get over. I’m kind of cooky and I’m silly and I’m not a perfect person. And showing that online has helped me build my following and who I am. And you can do that in a lot of different ways. I’ve started using gifs and I’ll respond instead of having like the popcorn, you think about the top three gifs that you use when you’re responding in comments on social media. Mine were like popcorn and hey and I was really excited. So, I made gifts of myself, and I have a really expressive face, so that helps. But I metadata tagged them and now I’ve had over 6 million views of my gifs and that’s a powerful tool to be able to build your personal brand. And there’s companies like Gify who are integrated with social media, and it’s indexed by Google. So, if you want to geek out like I do about it, it’s helpful for your search engine optimization. When you’re trying to build a personal brand, one of the first things that come up, it’s your social media profiles and it’s wherever they see your name on the internet. So, the more that you can do that, the better. And I know that it works because I have a Google alert set for Jen Campbell, which there are a lot of other Jen Campbells out there, but I’m pushing to the top of that list and my gifs are helping me do that because they’re coming up there. So that’s a fantastic thing.
Jen: And I have random strangers and people that I know that they’re like, oh my gosh, Jen, is this you? And I’m like, yup. It is.
Rex: I am meme-ing myself. That is my way to personal brand-hood fame, is just memes of myself. I’m going to get on that right away. I may start with some of my coworkers first, but then I’ll eventually turn the lens inward. But it is an interesting point because I think we are counseling both our clients who are themselves trying to build their personal brands, but also managing the actual brand handles or whatever it is themselves. Like you said, you don’t have to be everywhere on social media. It’s a powerful tool. But don’t get on TikTok and try to do something on that platform if it’s not right for you. If you’re not going to be investing the time that it takes, or just like 8 seconds to ten second video clips isn’t your jam, that’s fine. There are other channels or other better outlets for you, for your audience, who you’re trying to make a connection with, as you say. So, I guess when somebody comes and says, I don’t know the first thing about Twitter or whatever, what’s kind of your mentorship to them? What’s your lesson to them to say, you don’t have to be everywhere, but let’s dig into one place and make the best of it.
Jen: You go where your people are, show up where your customer is and where they’re expecting you to be, and you can be playful and fun. But there is a different kind of feel for every platform. Even like LinkedIn is kind of perceived as kind of stuffy and uptight and more business-y, if you will. But they’re even pushing towards creatives and being more creative because whether or not you like it, short form video content is here to stay. And that’s what started with Tik Tok, and now you can record up to a three-minute TikTok And six weeks ago they passed the threshold of more people over 30 on TikTok than under 30 there. It has the second most watch time behind YouTube for social media platform. So being in the second wave of early adopters, even if you weren’t an innovator on that platform, it’s going to give you an edge over your competitors. And something that I’ve seen because I’m on the TikTok now, I’m spending a lot of time on the TikTok. It makes me super uncomfortable and awkward and weird, but I connect with other Gen Xers like I am. Microsoft is doing a fantastic job and there’s this girl named Emily Zwig and she has millions of followers and Microsoft only follows one person and it’s her. She redesigned logos and I’m a marketing person, of course, so I love it. And she makes them really awkward, and she does like straight faced comedy and sarcasm where you can’t even tell she’s being sarcastic about it. And I sent her an Xbox and she’s like, look, Microsoft sent me a box. I can’t wait to put something inside of it. Even though Microsoft is a serious company, and they own LinkedIn and everything like that, they’re using it as a way to be able to connect with a younger demographic because they know that’s where they’re going to show up. And even if they sponsor her as an influencer, it’s even bigger than that because they want to tap into that Gen Z and the younger generation, and there have been multiple studies and the number one thing that they value is authenticity, and they can see right through it because they’ve been advertised to since the day they were born.
Nicole: Yeah. And I think your original point of going where your people are, that’s just so powerful. And that goes for brands too, right? Like, we always have brands ask us, should I be on Pinterest? Should I be on TikTok? Should I be on XYZ? And it’s like, well, let’s look at who are you trying to reach? Where’s your customer? Where’s your prospects, where’s your employees? You might need to be on all those places in very different ways. You might just need to be in one or two places, right? It’s going to be different for a brand. It’s different for every individual.
Jen: Right. And you want to own your social media handles and ideally have them be the same on every social media platform. So, it’s easier for your followers to find you and your customers to find you. Ideally, you want to use the same photo or logo on everything. And when it comes to a personal brand, it should not be a logo. It should be your face with a smile on with no sunglasses. And you can have something in your hand that relates to what your personal brand is, but it should be of you because people connect with faces, not with logos. In your brand, if they can identify with the brand colors, fonts, and logos, then that is something that will reinforce your business brand.
Rex: I love that too, because it speaks to the kind of one of the things, Jen, that you said to us is just stop talking about this and just actually do something. And that’s like the first step in getting started and lowering the bar internally because I think a lot of us just get in our own ways and like, well, why would anybody care what I have to say? Or why would anybody care about my opinion on these things? And that’s really where you can start to develop this two-way conversation and if you can just be like. Oh. I just need to put myself out there. Have a conversation with other folks that are in the same industry or share the same opinions about where things are headed in the marketing space or whatever it is, those types of connections that can start to snowball and build into something bigger. And you can be a very important person and have a very influential brand with thousands of followers, not millions.
Jen: Right? And it’s the micro-influencer that’s the next big push and micro-influencers are all about. And influencer is a dirty word a lot of times when it comes to advertising because a lot of companies and brands have pumped millions of dollars into advertising to celebrities and people with millions of followers who either turn out to be bots or their followers, hey, they’re just getting paid to promote this thing and it doesn’t really resonate with them. The best advertising, of course, is free advertising. And when you create a loyal, absolutely fanatical fan base of people who love who you are that will buy whatever you have out there, because they’re like, oh my gosh, you are fantastic, I love what you do. And they’re able to tell your brand story because it’s really clear that’s the best form of advertising. And you’re able to do that through social media if you’re very intentional about it.
Nicole: Yeah, well, I think our last big question for you, Jen, we want to talk about time, because that’s kind of the biggest thing that we’re up against when we’re talking with our clients about building personal brands and the time that it is viewed to take to do that. So how do you know, we’ve talked about getting started and how to get started, but what’s your response when someone says, I just don’t have the time, I don’t have the time to build my brand, I don’t have the time to tweet, I don’t have the time to be on Instagram, I don’t have the time to blog, whatever. What is your response to that?
Jen: People find time for what they find value in. And if you recognize that it is something of value and you’re intentional about it, it’s worth it. You don’t have to spend three to 5 hours a day on social media, especially if it’s Twitter. You can just post it and it doesn’t have to take a long time to be able to craft it. In fact, I found that some of my most successful videos are ones that I shot one or two times and I put it up there and I haven’t obsessed about the hashtags because the algorithms are smart enough now when it comes to short form video content, that they can transcribe what you’re saying and the keywords that you have, and they know who your followers are, and they automatically push it out to people. And it doesn’t matter if your video goes viral, if it doesn’t target your ideal target demographic, it matters that your message resonates who your ideal person is with. And even if you have a small handful of followers, if you’re able to really connect with them because they appreciate who you are in your story, that’s priceless.
Rex: We have always learned a lot in our conversations. And we just want to say thank you for joining us on this episode of Outsmart. Everyone can check out the Cringy mom, [email protected], so please go visit, see what Jen is all about. She got some great content you can learn how to gif yourself, me, and yours. I know that that will be my next destination. So, Jen, thank you so much for joining us today.
Jen: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.