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Kelly Waffle On How to Build a Powerful Personal Brand In Any Economy

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
4 min read

About This Talk

This talk is by Kelly Waffle and was recorded on October 15, 2020. You can learn more about Kelly by:

Also mentioned in this talk:


00:00 Intro
04:40 Standing Out From the Pack
06:40 Elevating Your Expertise
20:40 Top Personal Branding Techniques
21:40 Start With Writing and Promoting
28:55 Own Your Email List
36:15 Planning Your Personal Branding Journey
40:50 Your Ongoing Plan

Standing Out From the Pack

Buyers value specialized skills and expertise more than anything else in their evaluation of vendors and partners. They also want expertise that’s not available in-house. We know that buyers will seek and hire outside expertise – but how do they find experts, and how do they choose who do hire?

The problem is that expertise is invisible. People can’t see your expertise, so it’s costing you business. What you need to be is what Hinge Marketing and Kelly call a Visible Expert.

A visible expert is someone whose expertise is clearly demonstrated in public on their own website, social channels, through live speaking, and through the written word.

Elevating Your Expertise

Kelly spells out five levels of expertise. Take a look and see where you are now, and what you have to do to increase the visibility of your own expertise:

  1. Resident Expert: known within your firm, and you’re the go-to person on specific topics
  2. Local Hero: your expert brand is starting to be known beyond the boundaries of your firm. You are starting to engage in blogging and speaking.
  3. Rising Star: you reputation is regional or even national
  4. Industry Rockstar – nationally recognized within your niche, driving top tier business opportunities and commanding premium feeds for yourself and your firm
  5. Global Superstar – known outside of your niche; in some cases, your name has become synonymous with your areas of expertise

As you grow as a Visible Expert, you’ll also need to adjust how you work, what you deliver, and what you charge. Growing your personal brand will also help you grow your earning potential:

Key Skills to Develop In Building Your Personal Brand

There are three skills you need to develop to build your personal brand:

  1. Writing
  2. Networking
  3. Speaking

For this to work, you really need to know your audience. For instance, some industries have not made a digital transformation yet, so it’s unlikely that you’ll reach them on digital channels. Perhaps it’d be better to focus on live speaking events, local networking events, or other traditional forms of reaching an audience.

Top Personal Branding Techniques

Hinge has found the following techniques and channels to be critical:

Start With Writing and Promoting Articles

Kelly recommends you consider SEO as a good method to begin establishing your expertise. For particulars on how to rank and plan your SEO strategy, check out Kai Davis’s talk on SEO for firms.

It’s not enough to just write your articles. You’ll also have to measure how they’re ranking and make periodic updates so you give yourself the opportunity to rank higher. Even though you can publish on LinkedIn, Medium, or guest publish in prominent publications, your SEO work won’t help you nearly as much if you don’t have your own website. A simple WordPress or Squarespace site will do.

You Own Your Email List

Once you begin writing, start collecting email addresses as soon as possible. Having an email list gives you the most ownership and control in reaching your audience. You can implement simple forms on your site, or offer downloads or bonus content in exchange for email addresses.

Kelly recommends you segment your list and not send a single email to your entire list. I recommend you position yourself effectively, and hold off on any segmentation until you reach a point where you have at least a qualified inbound lead every week before you worry about optimizations like email segmentation.

Planning Your Personal Branding Journey

What do you want the results to be from your expertise? Answering this question will help you plan your personal brand journey and be effective in your approach. Here are a few steps you can take today:

  1. Determine the audience you want to reach
  2. Decide which techniques you’ll use to reach them
  3. Assess and develop your skills – but start with writing!
  4. Determine who is going to help you – an agency, contractors, internal team, etc.


There are a few pieces of infrastructure that’ll vastly improve your personal branding journey. If you plan to do any partnerships or PR placements, you should have a media kit with your biography, social and website links, and a professional headshot.

Have a profile on your website and an updated LinkedIn page. Get set to blog, and set up  your conversion process. For more on this, check out Jason Bay’s talk on driving inbound leads.

And finally, set up your email platform so you can collect email signups and send emails to your list. I personally use Drip for this, but there are a handful that are great and will get the job done for you.

Your Ongoing Plan

Now that you’ve reached the end, you might be wondering…what now? What can you do today to improve your personal branding?

Kelly recommends you start by developing a habit of continuous learning. Set aside time each day to work on new marketing and business development skills. Continue to develop expertise, and start writing about it as you do.

And finally, decide on your weekly commitment. Here are a few suggestions Kelly makes:

  • Low level of effort = 10%, or about 4 hours
  • Medium level of effort = 20%, or about 8 hours
  • High level of effort = greater than 20%, or 10 or more hours

If you truly want to develop your expertise, I recommend you move to at least 50% time dedicated to marketing yourself, writing, and other content creation to make your expertise visible to the world.