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Building a Personal Brand (Part 3)

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
19 min read

This is Part 3 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 discussed some intermediate steps you can take to build your personal brand.

In today’s episode, I’ll talk about how you can influence people too and do it at scale by building a personal brand. I’ll tell you why it opens the best kinds of opportunities. What it means to get advanced with your personal branding efforts and the steps you can take to start building today.

To effectively elevate yourself as a leader in your industry or community, you must first define your personal brand by identifying what you’re passionate about and where your expertise lies.

Here are some major steps you can take to elevate your brand to a more advance level:

1. Be a podcast guest

More and more professionals are tuning into podcasts as an information-packed complement to their daily commute, workout, or chores. One of the easiest ways on how you can elevate your brand is to be a podcast guest. Podcasting is an easy way to share your experiences, stories, and expertise with the world. And more importantly, you’ll have the exposure to a new set of audience and the marketing, and the production work are done by someone else.

2. Be a public speaker

It is perfectly understandable that many people don’t love the idea of public speaking. In fact, just the phrase “public speaking” takes many of us back to speech class in high school or college–and for most of us, it’s not a positive memory. But the truth is that speaking at a seminar or a conference is a uniquely powerful personal branding tool and should be seriously considered by anyone who is serious about building their brand.

Public speaking is an incredibly powerful way to brand yourself as an expert in your field. It’s a great way to increase your credibility, and it can even be a direct source of new business.

3. Write a book

Have you ever considered publishing a book? When you publish a book, it provides customers and others a tangible example of your work, which can establish your personal brand. Your book is a huge statement of who you are and what you know.

Spread the word about it. Publishing a book thus increases your credibility and authority in your industry—and beyond. Writing a book is an extremely effective way of positioning yourself as an expert: someone who has ideas worth reading.

4. Start a podcast

Putting a quality podcast together will allow you to reach a larger audience, as well as get your personal brand message to many more individuals through sharing formats. If the show is entertaining and you’re able to get good, well-respected guests to appear. No matter what the vertical is it will help you build your name recognition and brand.

5. Conduct Original Research

This is a great example of going out and collecting firsthand research data, that’s not enormous in scope but given that it is data-driven a lot of people would be interested with these kinds of original research.

6. Create a video channel

Being the prominent and largest video sharing site in the world, building a personal mark on YouTube can be beneficial in many ways. Aside from the popularity of YouTube, the site exploits the most powerful branding medium of them all, video.

The reason why video is so effective in communicating your personal brand is because your audience will already feel like they’ve met you by the time the video is over. With video, you get a sense of who someone really is based on their voice, their face and their body motions.

Mentioned in this episode:

Building a Personal Brand part 1
Building a Personal Brand part 2
Bridge Group’s Annual Inside Sales Study
Betts Recruiting
Morgan J Ingram of SDR Chronicles
John Barrows of The Make it Happen Podcast

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 3):

Full Transcript

I did it, and what now? There’s this weird mix of elation and triumph combined with fear and mystery that comes with finishing school. It’s true at every level. It was true for me after high school and after college and once again after grad school. I did it, and what now? As grad school wound down, I only had one class my last quarter and did just enough to pass. I mean, just barely. It didn’t hurt that I was friends with the teacher’s assistant either. When I graduated, it was time to think about getting a job. It seemed like it should be easy. I had years of experience, a freshly minted Master of Science degree and a 3.92, yeah, I’m going to get you down to the hundredths here, a 3.92 grade average from a prestigious university. I mean, who wouldn’t want me at their company, so I started sending out resumes cold.

I’d go find jobs online and I sent the resume. I was sure I’d have my pick of company. Then something happened that I didn’t fully expect. No one called, no one emailed. I was not flush with options after all. I did finally get a few offers though. The job I ultimately took originated from a referral made by a good friend of mine. He talked his way into this company and then he talked me into applying, and then he talked the bosses into hiring me. Sure, my degree in my GPA mattered some, and so did what I had to offer to that company, but it didn’t matter as much as the sway my friend brought to the situation. I assumed there would be a meritocracy, that I would be hired based on all of the awesome things that I could do, that I’d make it because of what I’d accomplished.

Yes, that is part of the story, but not all of it. Who I knew and what they thought about me mattered a whole lot too. In today’s episode, I’ll talk about how you can influence people too and do it at scale by building a personal brand. I’ll tell you why it opens the best kinds of opportunities, what it means to get advanced with your personal branding efforts, and the steps you can take to start building today. Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, and salespeople 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, and I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales.

This is episode three of my series on personal branding episodes here on Modern Sales. If you missed the first two episodes, or maybe just the first one or the second one, you can go back to the top of the series by just going back in your feed to the previous episodes. They’ve all been published right in a row. Go back and listen to those where I cover the reasons you might need a personal brand, how to get started with the basics, and then some intermediate steps that you can take without too much effort. But, in today’s episode we are going to step it up to the big leagues with some advanced steps you can take to build your personal brand. And I’m warning you, these are risky, they come with the opportunity to fail publicly, they’re time consuming and they will take absolutely years to execute, but they’re all 100% worth it if you’re invested in building your personal brand.

So let’s start with a question. How do you elevate to the top of your field? Like to the very top? A lot of people will tell you that you have to be the best. That being the best is absolutely undeniable. In some professions that may be true, but generally the world is much too big, much too complicated and much too noisy for anyone to know if you’re the best or not. Which is to say, even though we were told it was so as kids, the world is not a pure meritocracy. I know, shocking. I’ll give you a second to let that sink in. Because all kinds of people win without being the best. And look, sometimes the system’s rigged. People make it into Harvard because of who their parents are. People make it into USC because they pay millions of dollars. People get promotions because they know the boss, and people are passed on promotions because they say things that are unpopular. And that can really feel like it’s not a meritocracy.

But of course sometimes the best do rise to the top. Sometimes hard work and tons of effort actually do pay off. In fact, it does pay off for a lot of people. The problem is that you don’t have control over that. You’re asking for permission in many of these cases, and of course this depends on your individual situation, but there’s a lot of other smart people out there accomplishing great things. So how do you gain recognition in your field, in your industry or in your horizontal niche, and take more control over your own career outcomes, whether you’re running a company or working at one? One answer to that question is to build a personal brand and start to take it to the next level. That’s why in today’s episode I’m going to go advanced because it’s like giving yourself a promotion or a business development superpower. Imagine if, rather than having to ask for a promotion, people came to you and asked to elevate you to a higher level of leadership in their company.

Imagine if instead of sending out cold pitch emails, people were pitching you on working with them as clients, imagine that if instead of having to prove your expertise, people already knew existed based on their exposure to your personal brand. Suddenly you have something to offer that others don’t and what you have to offer is scarce. Perhaps the best part of building a personal brand is the flexibility and the options that come with it. As you have more opportunity, as you have more options, you can adapt to a changing world. You’ll have more opportunity than you can actually take on, and that my friend is a truly flexible situation that allows you to adapt to a fast changing climate. Now you may be thinking, holy crap, this sounds like it’s going to take a lot of time, and yeah, you are right. You just might have to become a marketer.

Oh my God, I know that feels weird. You’re in sales, you’re a consultant, you’re working on your expertise, whatever it is, and you’re thinking, here comes Liston telling me to spend all of my time marketing. Well, I’m not telling you to spend all your time marketing, but I think what you’ll find is that personal branding or just plain old marketing yourself becomes a bigger and bigger share of what you do as you become more successful at it. As more opportunity comes your way, the value that you can bring to people increases, and so does the payoff of the offers that are being brought to you, and therefore you’re going to have more time to market yourself.

I am not a big believer in the hustle until you die mentality. I need my sleep. I don’t get enough of it a lot of times, but I do think that as you do this, it is a hustle in the beginning, I’m not going to lie to you, but as you do it, what you’ll find is more opportunity comes your way. More good things are happening, and you’ll start to have more time for this brand building exercise. And the key here is to continue to be helpful and you’ll see your brand continue to increase.

So now you must be wondering how do I do it? In the previous two episodes, I gave you some steps that you could take, but today I want to get advanced, and so here are some steps you can take to start elevating your brand to a more advanced or elite level. The first thing you can do is be a podcast guest. Now, this is the easiest one on the list. I also think relative to the other things on the list today, it probably has the least impact, but it’s the least effort on your part. So here’s the scenario. There are tons of podcasts out there, they’re all looking for great content, all of the podcasts that are interview driven, which I would say is a majority of B2B podcasts, they’re all looking for great guests.

So if you can be a great guest, you’re going to make the podcast host or hosts happy. What you can do is pitch them on an appearance. I get these pitches a lot. Most of them are terrible, and also I don’t take unsolicited guests on my podcast, and as you know, I don’t have a lot of guests on my podcast, though that’s going to change shortly. I’ll get to that in a second. But being a guest on a podcast, it exposes you to an audience that doesn’t know you yet, that someone else has taken the time and energy to build, and the marketing and production work are done by someone else.

Overall, being a podcast guest is a pretty damn good deal for you. In terms of time to implement the things on this list, this is also one of the fastest. You can really do this quickly. If you were to reach out to let’s say 20 podcasts in the next week or two, you could probably have an appearance booked in the next month and you probably see that episode go live in the next, let’s say month and a half to three months. So be a podcast guest. That’s number one. That’s the easiest, and now they’re going to get a lot harder from here.

So number two, be a public speaker. I believe that public speaking is one of the ultimate and strongest and most authoritative ways to build your personal brand. Now, when I say that, you may be thinking, I’m suggesting you go be a keynote speaker at a conference, but you can speak at conferences and do breakout sessions or workshops or lots of other things that are a lot easier to land than that keynote spot. Also, generally keynote speakers are professional speakers. That’s what they do, that’s our main source of income. So being on the main stage, sure it’s great, but not the only way for you to build your personal brand and not the only way for you to have impact as a speaker at a conference.

There’s also a really low friction way of doing it, which is looking up meetups in your area. There’s also local business networking events. There’s all kinds of things happening where they want people who can speak, and I find that the bar is much lower than you probably think it is. Now, I’d also suggest you have your shit together and take it seriously. Have something to say, be well-rehearsed. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise given what you know about me, but I spend a lot of time on this stuff and I want to make sure I do a good job, right? So if you do that, you will get invited back generally. You’ll start to get some word of mouth over time.

You can also speak virtually through webinars. So webinars aren’t quite as powerful as public speaking, but if you were the guest presenter of a webinar with another brand that already has cache and an audience, this can be just as good if not better, because you also have the email capture is built in for you. So that’s a really powerful way to build your brand as well through, I’m going to lump that in with public speaking, even though it’s not exactly the same thing. But in terms of the conferences, the meetups, the local business networking events, whatever you’re thinking about speaking at, industry associations, the key thing you need to consider with speaking is that number one, it takes a lot of time and planning to execute regularly. If you’re looking at speaking at conferences, there’s a huge lead time to that.

And number two, you need to be clear about who you want to reach and how you’ll leverage your speaking into online conversations. Meaning how are you going to stay in touch with all of these people who see you speak on a regular basis? I mean, of course it’s great if people come up to you afterwards and you get their business cards and you can follow up with them directly, but most people won’t do that, and in fact, some of the people who you have the greatest impact on are either too shy or they have other people they want to talk to or they’re running to a next session. They just don’t have time to go talk to you there, so you have to give them a way to convert online, which usually means give them the slides or something that they can put their email address in, in order to get something back from you related to your speaking event. So that’s number two, be a public speaker.

Number three is write a book. If you have a big idea, a method or a better way of doing things, writing a book might be a good brand development tool. You don’t even necessarily need a big idea. If you can explain things in a new way or more clearly or in more depth, those all have value in the way that they’re packaged. EBooks are relatively easy to execute, but a full length book, even a self published one, has a lot more weight in terms of personal branding, and the reason is it’s just harder. It’s riskier. The longer the book, the more likely you are to bore someone to death. The more editing you had to do. If you have illustrations in there, wow, most people don’t do that. That helps. I’m working on a book now and I can tell you for sure that writing is only a part of the process, but what a book will do is immediately have really strong cache and it conveys your thinking and commands respect in a way that I think none of the other things on this list do.

The next option I have for you is to start a podcast. I did it. You’re listening to this podcast because I started it. I really liked the audio format. I also like a little bit longer format. In terms of personal brands at companies, one great example is the company Drift. They now have, and I’m not exaggerating, I went and counted, at the time of this recording, seven different podcasts all tied to personal brands within the company. So each podcast is tied to a person at Drift, it has a slightly different topic, and obviously podcasting is helpful for them because otherwise they wouldn’t have seven different podcasts. And by the way, I don’t mean podcast episodes, I mean different podcast feeds entirely. Different names, different people. One way to think about how to start a podcast is by format. So I do mostly solo episodes here on Modern Sales and then occasionally I do interviews or short series.

I’m going to be doing one coming up here called Buyer Insights, which is also tied to conducting original research. I’ll get to that in a second. But thinking about format may take a lot of the pressure off of you if starting a podcast seems daunting. So what a lot of B2B brands do is interview based shows, and one of the reasons for that is it’s just easier to execute. You don’t have to sit down and write. I script out all of these episodes, which usually takes me several hours to get the full script done and record it. But with an interview you can do maybe an hour of research, work with the guest a little bit through email, ask them to fill out a form and they bring the content to you. Especially a more seasoned guest will be able to do this. But what interview shows also do is they increase your network with influencers, clients and industry peers.

Your guests will also be promoters of the show. They’ll also be word of mouth for the show, and so promotion is built in a little bit more effectively in a way that I don’t get with the solo episodes. So the interview format is very popular. The other option is a cohost format. So, I do these solo episodes sitting in my office, but you can have a cohost sitting next to you and you can bounce ideas off of each other and play off of each other and have a rapport together. That may take some of the pressure off you as an individual, especially if you don’t want to manage the whole interview show flow. I find that unless there’s a really interesting angle to the interviews, I find that they’re generally boring.

What I’m seeing a lot of shows do now, and I don’t want to turn this into the podcast about podcasts, but what I’m seeing a lot of shows do now is a much more highly edited version of interviews where they’re writing different parts of it. But you don’t have to overthink it in the beginning. Just be conscious of what you’re trying to achieve on the podcast, which format you want to approach the show with and why, and that’ll take a lot of pressure off view to start your podcast.

The next thing you can do to elevate your personal brand in a much more advanced way is to conduct original research. So I’ve been looking at a couple of sales studies recently. One was by The Bridge Group. They, of course, do the annual Inside Sales Study. It must get them tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of email addresses. That’s got to be very useful for Trish Bertuzzi, who’s the head of The Bridge Group over there. And then also Betts Recruiting, which is also linked, puts out a compensation study, which I thought was really, really helpful. I’ve linked that in the show notes as well. It’s a great example of going out and collecting firsthand research data that’s not enormous in scope, but given that it’s data-driven, I’m sure that a lot of their clients are super interested in what else people are doing in their industry and how their pay scales compare across cities, across different titles, all that kind of stuff. So that’s a great research study.

But you can also keep it relatively small in scope. You could publish your findings from talking to 20 of your clients in the aerospace industry about a very particular problem they’re having and how they’re dealing with it. Once you have that information, other people in that industry, who either have the problem now or have had it or might have it in the future, they would be interested in knowing what you came up with as well. So conducting original research is a really powerful thing and it also can generate some intellectual property for you as an individual and as a personal brand.

The final thing that I’m going to recommend here, certainly there are more things on the list, but the final thing I would recommend here is to create a video channel. So two people who’ve done this really effectively in the sales world are Morgan J Ingram, who created the SDR Chronicles, SDR as in sales development representative, and John Barrows who has the Make it Happen podcast, which is also a Facebook live every Monday.

Now, funny enough, Morgan J Ingram now works with John, so they’ve maybe combined the forces of their video channels. I personally don’t like doing video for lots of different reasons, but video obviously is a very powerful way to connect with people. It’s a powerful way to demonstrate your personality and give another layer of communication, right. You can’t see me as I’m saying this, and if you could, it would really change the experience and that’s what video can do for you. Also, there’s all kinds of other neat things you can do with video, like including graphics and sort of fancy slick things, but video does have a much higher production component to it than anything else I mentioned here. It’s much more technical and it is really quite demanding to do a good video. Now some people will just say, turn on your smartphone and record a quick video of yourself and that’s all you need to do. Maybe.

But as time goes on and everybody’s doing that, one of the ways that you’re going to have to differentiate, I believe, is on production quality. And so the time will come when the table stakes are, you have a fancy camera with immaculate video quality just to get people to watch it. That’s my belief, but we’ll see where it goes. So those are the major steps that you can take to start elevating your brand. And at this point you may be wondering how to choose what works for you. My question for you is, how do you like to communicate? Different forums require different types of communication. My personal brand is all about learning and knowledge. I want to give you ways of thinking about sales and about the world that will unlock a new way of looking at things. I want to give you epiphanies. I want to give you moments where you’re able to understand something that didn’t make sense before.

That’s what I want to give you, and I haven’t really found a good way to do that well in a short video format. Maybe someone much smarter than me has figured it out. I personally haven’t, and I also love audio. I love music. I love listening to podcasts. I love radio, I love hearing stories. I love long form. I love hearing things develop over time, and I love writing and for me, podcasting combines all of that. In addition to the interview format, whenever I do that, which as you know, isn’t too often, I love talking to people and learning from them, which is why research will be another thing that I begin to do, which you’ll hear the beginnings of here on the podcast and an upcoming called Buyer Insights.

But whatever way you want to communicate, just do that and know that professionals, if you’re going to build a personal brand, you have to be professional about it, professionals show up regularly and can be counted on to develop an audience. People will expect the same from you, and if you’re not sure which styles of communication you like best, you’re going to have to try a few out. Just keep in mind that you can end anything you start and you’ll enjoy some of it more than others. Keep the things that stick.

Your key takeaways from today’s episode are that the stronger your personal brand is, the more options and flexibility you’ll build into your professional life. The point of this isn’t to be famous, it’s to be known by a specific group of people for a specific thing. The lowest effort, highest yield thing that you can do to build your personal brand right now is be a guest on podcasts. All you need to do is go search for some, contact the hosts and pitch yourself. That’s really it.

You can also try public speaking, which can be as informal as local meetups and as formal as international conferences. Writing a book establishes your idea and brand with a high level of authority, and I believe has one of the biggest impacts of anything that’s on this list. It’s also one of the hardest. Starting a podcast can be a great way to establish your brand and expertise, especially if you like longer format content or enjoy meeting and interviewing people. You can also conduct original research or create a video channel on LinkedIn, YouTube, or Facebook.

Whatever you do, show up consistently and do the things you love. That my friend, concludes the personal branding series. Next up on the podcast I’ll be starting a new series called Sales Questions where I’m not answering your questions, but each episode is a deep dive into a single question that I recommend you ask. Given the length of this podcast, we are going really deep on these questions, so be prepared for that. I’m going to give you practical tips about how to strategize around these questions and really think through all of the different amazing things you can learn about your clients and all of the wonderful follow-up questions you might be able to ask that are attached to each single sales question.

If you aren’t already subscribed to this podcast, please do so by clicking the subscribe button. You can also get notified of all podcast episodes with some behind the scenes info, as well as other exclusive sales content I put out by signing up for my newsletter at It’s totally free and it’s also linked in the show notes.

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

Modern Sales Podcast