5 Secrets of Building a Personal Brand

(Episode 2 of 2 With Jason McDonald)

5 Secrets of Building a Personal Brand

Welcome back to another episode with Jason McDonald. In the first episode, we talked about the benefits of publishing a book on Amazon. In today’s episode, we’ll discuss five secrets of personal branding. 

Personal Brands vs Business Brands 

A personal brand is built around our name and personality whereas a business brand is built on a new, independent identity, separate from ourselves. 

Becoming personalized in our brands and businesses is becoming more and more crucial to success. A study found that 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase a product or service from a brand that provides a personalized experience (Source: Forbes). As we develop a personal brand, we increasingly resonate with our audience. 

“I think personal branding is the most underrated skill that people have today,” Jason said. “Everyone needs a personal brand.” He continued, “People do business with people, not with brands per se, and so personal branding is a recognition of the strength of that.”

Elon Musk is one of the best examples of a personal brand. If we asked a group of people who the CEO of Tesla is, the large majority could tell us it’s Elon Musk. But if we asked that same group of people who the CEO of Ford is, the large majority wouldn’t know. The same applies to Toyota and Honda. Very few people could name their CEOs. This is what personal branding isputting a face to our businesses. 

Tesla doesn’t have a public relations person who controls the company’s Twitter account. Elon Musk Twitter account is the primary Twitter account. He’s the one talking to people and connecting with them. That movement is highly appealing to people. 

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5 Secrets to Personal Branding

As we create and develop our personal brand, we strengthen our relationships with our customers and have higher success rates. As a consultant in personal branding, Jason gave five secrets to help us build our personal brands. 

1. Become a Helpful Expert

After we determine our personal brand and find what makes us unique, we need to become a helpful expert in that area. 

We should figure out what we want to be helpful in and then do it. The first step to building a personal brand is all about providing value and giving back to our customers and inviting people to follow and trust us. Once we’ve determined how we can be helpful, then we need to become an expert in that area of expertise. 

According to Malcolm Gladwell, anyone can become an expert in nearly any field as long as they devote 10,000 hours to studying and practicing the subject or skill (Source: VeryWellMind.com). To become an expert, we simply need to take the time and resources to learn and grow in that one specific thing. We can take what little knowledge we have and start to build our personal brand, building our expertise on the internet even before we actually feel like an expert.

“We live in this era of personal brands,” Jason said. “It’s your brand on the internet. Where you position yourself generally is what I call a helpful expert in a certain topic.” 

If we go back to the example of Elon Musk, we see that he takes his personal brand and makes himself the expert on it. He’s very good at getting his name in the media and connecting his name with being an entrepreneur. 

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We can’t just assume everyone will figure out what our personal brand is on their own. We need to make what we stand for, what values we have, and our personality obvious on our website, social media channels, and other platforms. As we do this, our audience will slowly come to believe we are an expert in our field. As we become an expert and share our knowledge, we gain credibility. 

In a way, we make ourselves an expert by projecting our personal brand consistently and constantly. Musk did just that. He shows and tells the media that he is a great entrepreneur until they believe him. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

2. Learn the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy 

Jason said he is an expert at making something out of nothing. “How do you know that I’m an expert on SEO? You go to Amazon and you see my book or you Google ‘SEO expert San Francisco’ and you find me. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he explained. 

After we’ve dedicated ourselves to becoming an expert in our niche area, we have to show it to the world. We need to take action ourselves. We need to develop our online presence and show our audience why they should believe we are an expert. If our personal brand includes social media marketing, we should write a book on it, be active on every social media channel, write a blog, and more. Then, when someone searches for our topic, our name will show up. Eventually, we will become the leading expert in that topic according to our consumers. 

“What are the signals that people look for that establish you as an expert in [your] area? You’ve got to create those signals,” Jason said. 

What is going to validate the truth of what we say? For many people, this signal can be something as simple as how many followers we have on our social media channels. Jason describes this as an illusion of being successful since it is grounded in something that doesn’t necessarily reveal our expertise. Having a million followers doesn’t prove we know what we’re talking about, but it does show our audience that we offer value that one million people are willing to trust. 

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One platform Jason uses to fulfill the self-fulfilling prophecy is LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, he has over 500 connections. He also creates videos and posts about SEO, telling the world he is an expert. With enough content and enough followers, people will eventually start to believe it. 

“People are going to go to my LinkedIn, and they’re going to see I have over 500 connections, and I have a lot of videos, and I have a lot of content. I create the illusion on LinkedIn that I’m really successful,” Jason said. Eventually, with time, the illusion fades until we actually do become successful and an expert.

3. Find a Movement 

Personal branding is often about finding a movement or tectonic shift and taking advantage of it. Success isn’t just based on building a great personal brand; it is also about watching the marketplace and our customers. 

Going back to Elon Musk, his company isn’t just about Tesla or SpaceX. It’s also about the electric car movement, green energy, and space exploration movement. Musk became the face of electric cars and space exploration, appealing to a specific market that already existed. Musk didn’t create the desire for green energy, he tapped into the movement already there and substantially increased that movement through his influence. He resonated with the culture and things already happening. 

Jason once read that marketing doesn’t create demand, it moves the demand forward.

Jason writes books to help build his credibility and establish his expertise. He has found that the books that succeed are the ones that resonate with an already-existing audience. We should think about what demand is already out there that we can directly target.

4. Become a Detective 

If we aren’t sure how to build our personal brand on certain platforms, we simply need to do the research. We need to become detectives. 

One of the newest social media platforms is TikTok. TikTok launched in 2016 and has exploded in popularity with 689 million active monthly users worldwide (Source: DataReportal, 2021). With so many active users, this platform has the potential to give our company access to millions of people. 

Many businesses may wonder how they can take advantage of TikTok to help build their personal brand. A great way to discover how we can use new platforms such as TikTok is by looking at what our competitors are doing. Researching our competitors is a great way to determine how we can effectively share our personal brand. 

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“One of the things I try to teach people in my class is [to] learn to be a good detective or to go look at other brands and see what they’re doing. Take a brand and [do a] simple Google search,” Jason said. 

5. Be Aware of the Permanent Record

The internet never forgets. As we develop our personal brand, we need to be aware of everything we put onto the internet. One silly tweet from 10 years ago can still damage our personal brand today. 

“The internet is like an elephant, it never forgets. If I could give one [piece of] advice to people, [it is] before you tweet before you create that TikTok before you create that Instagram post, think about the downstream implications that this could have for your whole life. . . . We clearly live in an era in which you’re leaving this massive digital footprint, and it can really come back and get you,” Jason said. 

Before we post anything online, we need to consider the future implications of that post, especially as we build our personal brand. Not only should we avoid posting negative things, but we should also seek to post positive, impactful things. Just as something bad can come back to bite us, good things can also leave a lasting impact, and come back to benefit us in the future. 

Key Takeaways

Thank you so much Jason for sharing your stories and knowledge with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

1. Building a personal brand is becoming crucial to success. People connect with people.

2. We need to become helpful experts in our specific field. 

3. We should create signals that tell our audience we are an expert. 

4. Personal branding is often about finding a movement or tectonic shift and taking advantage of it.

5. Before we post anything online, think about the effects it could have on our personal brand now and in the future.

Connect with Jason


If you enjoyed this interview and want to learn more about Jason or connect with him, you can find him on his LinkedIn or his website, jasonmcdonald.org. You can also find his books on Amazon

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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