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Building a Personal Brand (Part 2)

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
17 min read

This is Part 2 of my personal branding series. If you’d like to start from the top of the series, go back and listen to the last episode where I cover the reasons you might need a personal brand, and how to get started with the basics.

In today’s episode, we’ll step it up from personal branding basics to some intermediate steps you can take to build your personal brand.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Associate yourself with existing influencers
  • Make a large one-off project
  • Be seen as an important curator in your marketplace
  • Answer questions your market has

The first step to building brand is to be self-aware about what you have to add to the conversation. You have to understand what you do and the things you want to talk about. You can associate yourself with influencers to strengthen your personal brand. Influencers can help spread the word, which can make a big difference for your visibility.

Some may call it bragging, but singing your own praises works to improve and support your personal brand. Complete a big project? Post about it. Head up a successful volunteer activity in your community? Post about it. Your personal brand is a supplement to your resume. Show potential clients that you are active in your industry and successful in your endeavors.

Email marketing is still one of the most effective marketing techniques, but building a list derived from your personal brand, rather than company, and sending out a weekly newsletter can be very beneficial. It’s the perfect place to tell people about yourself, to share useful tips and ideas, to be an inspiration and an educator.

Aside from everything I have mentioned, answering questions from your audience is also important. It will help you demonstrate your subject matter expertise, build your digital credibility, and elevate your personal brand.

Mentioned In This Episode:

How to Be Remarkable by Seth Godin
Known by Mark W. Schaefer
Personal Branding article by Ryan O’Hara
Justin Welsh’s LinkedIn Article
Dan Oshinsky’s Not a Newsletter

Personal Branding (Part 1)

For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.

Building a Personal Brand (Part 2):

Full Transcript

January 15, 2002, a guy posts a blog about a trip to the mall. Nothing exciting there. In fact, it was even titled Boring, in total just 108 words. That year the same guy posted 50 blog entries, or about a post a week. He picked up speed in the following years finally settling on a new post every single day, not five days a week, seven days a week. He doesn’t miss many days. Why am I telling you this? There’s nothing inherently interesting about a guy who posted his first blog and called it Boring, or even that he now posts daily. What is interesting is what he eventually has had to say. Here’s an excerpt from his post titled How To Be Remarkable. He says, “Understand the urgency of the situation. Half measures simply won’t do. The only way to grow is to abandon your strategy of doing what you did yesterday, but better. Commit.”

That guy is named Seth, and he has one of the most popular blogs on the internet. Readership doesn’t matter so much as influence. What started as an occasional blog became the signature branding effort of Seth Godin, an accomplished author, speaker, and entrepreneur who’s a leading voice of modern marketing. He doesn’t blog to be famous. He blogs to be helpful and, as a result, he has incredible reach. I want you to note he is not an overnight success. In fact, they don’t really exist. It won’t be you. It’s definitely not me. But, if you keep at it and you are invested in your personal branding, you will eventually have incredible reach.

Mark W. Schaefer, the author of the book, KNOWN, puts it like this. He says, “The goal isn’t to be famous. It’s to be known.” In this episode of Modern Sales, I’m continuing the discussion of personal branding as it relates to sales. I’ll give you some intermediate steps that you too can take to become known by your prospects, clients, industry partners, and market as a whole.

Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, and sales people looking to have more and better conversations with your perfect clients. You’ll get a healthy scoop of psychology, behavioral economics, and sales studies, to help you create win-win relationships. I’m your host, Liston Witherill. I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales.

This is Episode Two of my series of personal branding episodes here on Modern Sales. If you’d like to start from the top of the series, go back to the last episode in your feed where I cover the reasons you might need a personal brand and how to get started with the basics. Now, in today’s episode we’re going to step up from the basics to some intermediate steps you can take to build your personal brand. The first thing that you need to know is that a personal brand, or any brand for that matter, takes an enormous amount of time, effort, and energy to build, and it must stand for something.

Just to recap, in the last episode I talked about the four pillars of a personal brand, people, persona, position, and presence. You’re going to need to define each of these as you move from the basics to intermediate and eventually to advanced. If you ever decide to go that far, you’ll definitely need definitions for each of these four pillars. You have to be crystal clear on who you’re going after. You have to be clear on the personality that you want to put out into the world. You have to be clear about how you want people to remember you and what’s different about you. You’ll have to have a strategy for being present and persistent on a regular basis.

Now, in terms of your persona, you can be known by your personality. In just about every market there’s the straight-talking person, there’s the class clown, there’s the nerd. I’m probably guilty of that. One helpful way to think about it is the different personality types. You can check out Ryan O’Hara’s article. It’s linked in the show notes if you’d like to learn more about how to do that. Basically, what he proposes is choosing a personality archetype based on the Jungian personality archetypes. That’s Carl Jung, the psychologist. He proposed these 12 different personality types. I’m probably closest to the sage or the explorer. Maybe you’re more like the hero or the every man. I don’t know what works for you, but whatever feels natural to you. I would go take a look at Ryan’s article, see what he has to say. You can also Google Jungian personality archetypes and take a look at that because I find that that’s a helpful way to start.

However you choose to approach developing your persona, it should be something that you can sustain. If you don’t want to be known as the court jester, don’t rely on humor as a primary branding mechanism. For me, a big part of my brand and who I am in real life is always exploring new ideas and finding ways to apply them. That’s a thread you’ll always get in my podcast or in my articles or wherever you see or hear from me. That’s why I say I’m probably closest to the sage or the explorer. I do think that there’s room for nuance in personal branding, but I also think it really depends on the medium you choose.

You may be hearing me talk about persona, and thinking, well, you don’t really want to be a caricature of yourself. I totally agree. One of the reasons I stopped doing video on LinkedIn is because it really felt like I had to be a caricature. I had to be kind of a one dimensional version of myself in order to show up consistently there. I didn’t like that very much. What I can do here on this podcast is give you a lot more of my personality. I can be a little bit more natural, I can laugh a little bit, I can make some jokes, I can give you research, I can do it all on this sort of long form informative way, right?

It has a lot of components that work for me and are suitable to my personality, my persona, as I’m defining it for this branding exercise. That’s another thing to consider. However you want your persona to come across, I think the more nuance you want to come across, the longer form you’ll probably have to do and the more direct speaking to your audience. Think about that. These, again, are intermediate steps. If you don’t have answers, maybe it’s just something that you can think about now in the meantime.

From persona, you’re going to move on to the positioning component. Positioning is all about how people think of you. One way to think about this is, if you were to ask someone what’s different about you, what would they say? Better yet, if someone in your audience recommended you to a friend or a colleague or a peer, what would they say? That’s the positioning that we want to have some control over. We want to influence how that recommendation is made. We want to influence how people are thinking about us. Having a conscious approach to positioning, I think, is a really important thing. I do have to admit this is one of the harder things to do in all of business, not just personal branding or building up your own lead-generation arm as a salesperson. This is just one of the most difficult things to do.

I also want to relieve some of the hesitation that you might be having. That is, plenty of people succeed without good positioning, but it’s usually the result of existing connections, luck, or some combination thereof. Now, you don’t need the perfect positioning. All of these components play together, right? You’re going to choose an audience, and then you’re going to choose your persona, however simple or complicated that is. Then you’re going to choose your positioning. Then you’re going to show up over and over and over again, and build a presence.

All of those things work in conjunction, so you don’t need the perfect positioning. You don’t need the perfect persona, you don’t need the perfect definition of your audience. You need to keep refining and getting better at each of these in order to really multiply the impact of them. How you position yourself is really up to you. It’s helpful to choose an underserved niche or space in your market. Again, I’ll leave that up to you because I don’t know what market your exactly in, but making it as clear as you can to people about what’s different about you and why they should turn to you for advice is a helpful thing for your audience and for you.

Finally, there’s presence. Once you have a position and a persona, you need to be seen. The best way to be seen is through content. I do not know how you can do personal branding through content. Again, I quoted Schaeffer at the top of this episode. He talks about being known rather than being famous. You have to be known for something unless you’re a reality TV star. I’m guessing if you’re listening to this, you’re not. Maybe you can make your own reality show about how you’re a salesperson online. I personally wouldn’t want to watch that, but maybe someone would. Either way, you’re creating content, right? My approach is to create useful content, not just entertaining content. You have to make something. You have to give back. Now, I think the advice that you should make content that no one else can make is really totally useless. You’ve probably heard this before if you’ve looked at all into personal branding. I think it’s completely useless to say that.

First of all, how could you recognize the absolute uniqueness of it yourself? Secondly, I see plenty of run of the mill content getting lots of attention, and plenty of really excellent and useful content released into obscurity. Quality alone is not the determining factor about whether you’re going to build your brand. It helps for sure, and uniqueness is a worthy ideal, but you also need persistence. Your brand isn’t going to form overnight. It’s going to take many, many years to build this. I’ve seen some people build a brand in six to 12 months. I would say that’s the exception, not the rule. Generally, this is going to be a multi-year process though. I promise it is worth it. This is the way the world is going. People trust people. People want answers from other people. People want a connection and access to other people.

With persistence, eventually you’re going to learn what’s unique about you and what you can give to others through this presence arm of the personal branding pillars. That’s a lot of Ps, isn’t it? Through this presence arm and your persistence, by making a bunch of stuff, you will start to realize exactly what you want your personality to be, exactly what you want your positioning to be, exactly the niche of the people you want to serve. All of this is going to feed into the other aspects of your personal branding journey. That’s the final thing I want to emphasize here. Being helpful, or at least useful, is the key. What matters is not what you want. What matters is how much you can give to other people what they want. Focus on that. Now I’m sure you’re wondering what are these intermediate steps you speak of, Liston?

I will tell you right now. I’m going to give you four different categories of intermediate steps you can take to build your personal brand. I’ll give you some examples of each. The first intermediate step that you can take is start to associate yourself with existing influencers. Essentially, this is influencer marketing applied to B2B, applied to you. What you’re going to do is leverage the platforms that other people have built and give value to their audiences. Think about it as a Venn diagram with three circles. You’re one circle and there’s stuff that you want inside of that. The influencer is another circle, and they have stuff that they want. Then there’s the influencer’s audience. These three circles will have a very small amount of overlap, but if you can hit it, you’ll be giving both to the influencer and to their audience.

This could come in all kinds of forms. In writing an article, in creating a webinar, in making a podcast, making a video, on and on and on. There’s all kinds of different ways that you can do this, but I want you to think about associating yourself with two types of influencers. The first is what I call the step-up strategy. Find influencers who are just one or two steps above you who can amplify your content. You’re not looking for big numbers through them. What you’re looking for is attempts, fairly low risk, low stakes, attempts to start doing this. If you have 2000 people on LinkedIn, and when you put up a post you get four comments on it, or even no comments on it, find someone else who you can collaborate with who gets maybe five comments. That’s the step up strategy is looking for people who are just slightly ahead of you. Obviously, you’re going to have to continue to do that as it pays off.

The flip side of that is the home run strategy. You’re just going to go directly for your dream partnerships. Now, depending on your market, there’s going to be less of these people available to you. If you had 50 ideal partners out in the world, you’re obviously not just going to want to go spam them because that’s a small group of people. You can’t afford the time to reach out one at a time and figure out how to tee up those dream partnerships. Also, in the beginning it’s going to be very hard to land those. There are some ways that you can get influencers who seem like home runs to you, but maybe within their market they’re losing to a big competitor, right? That’s a good leverage point for you. These relationships are going to take time. The step-up strategy can pay off today. If you wanted to go find an influencer who’s just a little bit ahead of you, I’m pretty sure you could get a yes on that today. If you’re looking for home runs or your dream partnerships that are going to have that 10X or 100X leverage for you, that’s going to take a little bit of time. That’s going to take some deep thinking about how you can contribute to them and their audience.

The next suggestion I have for you is to make a large one-off project. This is a big monster asset that you can put together without too much effort, maybe a month or two of time. I’m thinking of things like a small ebook, 20 pages, a podcast series of say five or 10 episodes, a video series, an interview series that you do. Basically, there’s a start and an end, so you’re not approaching it with this idea that you’re taking on this permanent commitment because it doesn’t have to be that. You’re going to go out, you’re going to try something, and it’s something that’s marketable both for you and for the people who consume it. For you, it has to serve the purpose of building your brand. For the people who consume it, it has to be useful and make them feel smart.

One of the advantages of making a large one-off project is it feels like it has more weight to the consumer of that content. If you’re putting out a substantive ebook. or you’re putting out a podcast series that you launch over the course of five weeks, or whatever you do, that feels a lot more important than just a LinkedIn post or even a daily LinkedIn post. There’s a difference there in perception. There’s also a difference there in risk. It took more for you to do it. It’s socially riskier. Your putting more of yourself on the line. People respect that and that has an influence on how persuasive that content is to the recipient. That’s Number Two. Make a large one-off project.

Number Three. Start collecting. Be seen as an important curator in your marketplace. One way you can do this is to send an email newsletter, either weekly, or I’d say on a minimum monthly, with the best content that you found. One of my absolute favorite newsletters in existence is called Not a Newsletter: A Monthly Guide to Sending Better Emails. It’s by a guy named Dan Oshinsky. I’ve got to tell you, Dan goes all out I would say This month’s email newsletter, and I put this together in August of 2019. This month’s newsletter is 13 pages. There’s some pictures in there, but there is a lot of content. Oh, my goodness. There are so many links in there.

I don’t think you need to go to this extent in order to put together a useful newsletter. I think a couple pages would do the trick for most people, especially getting started. All Dan does is he sends an email to me and probably thousands, or tens of thousands, of other people once a month. In that email is a link to a Google Doc. He doesn’t have a website really. You just go to the Google Doc and you read the newsletter and that’s what you get. It is phenomenally good. I’ll link to that in the show notes. That is a great way to think about approaching an email newsletter without having to worry about a website or too much technology.

Another way you can collect great content and put it together to make the sum bigger than the parts is to put together the best content from your team or network and post it on LinkedIn. I want to give a shout-out here to Justin Welch for his weekly LinkedIn Roundup, which combines a bit of influencer marketing, a newsletter, and post curation on LinkedIn. I’ve linked to one of his articles in the show notes, but I’ll summarize what I’m understanding he’s doing from the outside. I haven’t spoken to him about this, but maybe I can have him on the podcast one day.

He puts together different posts that he finds on LinkedIn, and he puts them together in a LinkedIn article. The cool thing about that is the LinkedIn posts that he curates from other people on LinkedIn get embedded in that article. Then, I’m guessing… Here I’m guessing because this is the way I would do it. He’s going to then go to all of those people who he mentioned and let them know, “Hey, I mentioned you in my newsletter. Just a heads-up. If you want to share it, here’s the link.” Something like that. That probably grows his reach, that grows his connections, and it also cements him as someone who knows what’s going on on LinkedIn and a good source of curation for good content on LinkedIn. We all know we don’t see every post that comes onto LinkedIn. Justin’s there to help us out and see the best stuff. That’s Number Three. Start collecting.

Number Four is answer questions. People in your market have all sorts of questions and you can answer them. Just be there as a resource to answer those questions. Two of the best ways you can do this is go to You can follow topics there, or you can just type in different questions that you might feel more qualified to answer. Locate those questions and just start typing. At a minimum, you’re going to want to link back to your LinkedIn page in your profile so people can hunt you down online.

The second thing you can do is go to forums wherever your perfect fit clients hang out and respond to people on those forums as yourself. Don’t adopt a pseudonym, I guess, unless it’s on Reddit because you can’t really be yourself on Reddit. I typically will just say who I am, where I’m from, and link off of a forum in order to give people more information. I always answer their question completely. I’m not teasing them with an answer and telling them to go somewhere else in order to get the full answer. I do link to relevant content within forums or even on Quora if that’s feasible. That’s Number Four. Answer questions for people in your market.

Here are your key takeaways in today’s episode. Choosing the persona that you’ll use for your personal brand will naturally attract people to you and create consistency. The way you position yourself can act as another attraction mechanism and help people understand how you’re different than everyone else. Building up your presence through persistence is required and will help you on all of the other fronts as well. Making stuff helps you figure out exactly what you want to make next time, and how you can be helpful to people. You can leverage the platforms that other people have built using the step-up or the home run strategies to connect with influencers. You can make a large one-off project, which can relieve you of the daily grind to always post or add new things while also becoming known and giving a lot of value to your burgeoning audience. Or you can start collecting and sending information even just on LinkedIn or through a simple email newsletter. If you want to go really, really, low-fi, just answer questions people in your market have Quora or in forums.

In next week’s episode, I’ll talk about some more advanced options for personal branding. If you really want to get serious about striking out on your own one day, you will need to hear this episode, or at least if you want to reserve the option to do that, you’re going to have to elevate your personal branding to another level and even increase the frequency and the size of the projects you take on for your personal branding that much more. If you aren’t already subscribed to this podcast, first of all, thanks for being here and thanks for listening. But please do click that subscribe button in your pod catcher. It helps me get the word out if you share this podcast with your colleagues or friends. It would really help if you shared it on LinkedIn. If you’re listening to this online, of course you can just go to Spotify or iTunes or any pod catcher of your choice, type in Modern Sales and you can subscribe.

Finally, if you’re looking for help for your team of client services professionals to sell more to big companies, I can help with remote and onsite training options. Just head over to, click the contact button, and you can fill out the quick form to begin the conversation. Thanks so much for listening. I’m Liston Witherill of Serve, Don’t Sell. I hope you have a fantastic day.

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