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Hillary Weiss on Personal Branding: Start With Nah

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
3 min read

About This Talk

This talk is by Hillary Weiss and was recorded on October 23, 2020. You can learn more about Hillary by:

Also mentioned in Hillary’s talk:


00:00 Intro
02:13 The Challenge with Personal Branding
03:50 The Statement Piece Framework
08:20 Starting With No
15:38 Examples of Starting With No

The Statement Piece Framework

One of the first things you do to build a personal brand is to sit down and write something. Committing your expertise to paper – or the internet – allows you to demonstrate your best thinking.

But what happens when you sit down to write something? You might look at what’s already working, or what other people recommend. Hillary was writing for copywriters, and often didn’t feel great about the results of her writing.

But then she started writing things that she cared about like the emotional side of business. Then she decided she wanted to put together a framework for writing. What did she do? Once again started looking around on the internet for how to put together a framework!

Then she totally changed her approach by asking a question: what if I start with no rather why? How would that change my approach to personal branding?

Enter The Statement Piece Framework. (NOTE: you really should click that link and download her framework – it’s the best take on personal branding I’ve seen.)

There are two models you can follow: anti, or advocate. Here are a few questions you can start with to determine if you’re “anti” or “advocate”:

  • Are you for something, or against something? (Philip Morgan would call the latter a contrarian point of view)
  • What are things that clients say that are repellent to you?
  • What are things clients say that click with you and make you want to work with them?

Starting With Nah

Most advice tells you to pick something you’re for. Hillary suggests you start in the opposite direction. Think of it like this: starting with why is all about picking a bullseye on the target, whereas starting with no allows you to slowly and methodically eliminate what you don’t stand for.

Starting with why can feel like the beginning of an existential crisis, especially when it comes to your personal brand. Starting with no, on the other hand, can be much more obvious: if you have any sense of your boundaries and how to maintain them, then starting with no is much easier and allows for systematic refinement over time.

Your No Can Change Over Time

No doesn’t have to be negative, it can just be a line in the sand. It’s like a personal or professional boundary you draw. And guess what: people and opinions change. As Philip Morgan would say, it’s not like you’re getting a tattoo on your forehead!

Getting Attention With “No” Doesn’t Make You Negative

One objection you might have to starting with “nah” is that it’s negative. Okay, sure, that’s one way to look at it. But you could just as easily take the opposite view: starting with a negative also tells people what you do believe and what you stand for.

Figuring out what you don’t want can lead to tremendous positives for you and your efforts to build an audience.

Ideas for Your Personal Branding Efforts

Hillary gives some ideas you can start with in your personal branding efforts:

  • What’s a big industry trend NO for you? Define a contrarian view you have that you can use front and center in your marketing.
  • What can you create that’s counter? Make content and branding choices that run directly counter to industry and market norms.
  • What’s a big branding no for you? If there are brands out there that are clearly not for you, define your branding boundaries and make choices that demonstrate what’s different about you.
  • How would you do it your way? Put a spin on branding choices you see out in the wild so you can make your brand truly yours.

Eventually your “no” will push you to explore why you feel so strongly about it, and what you’d rather promote or stand for than the industry common knowledge. When it comes to your brand, keep going deeper and don’t settle for just a single no.