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Building your Personal Brand: Dan Schawbel Interview

There are blog posts, articles, and even books dedicated to helping you create a personal brand, but personal branding expert Dan Schawbel warns against making a critical mistake that can decimate your brand overnight. I had the chance to interview Dan Schawbel about personal branding and his book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps for Richer Life. Go to Richer Life to listen to the full Dan Schawbel personal branding interview.

Robert: How specific should someone be when creating their personal brand? Let’s say a few years ago my personal brand was “I’m the MySpace expert.”  And now all of the sudden MySpace is dead.  So is there a fear with committing too much to a specific brand?

Dan: You don’t want to commit to someone else’s brand.  By saying you’re a LinkedIn Expert or a MySpace Expert, you’re committing to someone else’s brand, so you’re placing a bet that their brand will grow and succeed and therefore your brand will grow and succeed, because there’ll be more of a demand for your services.  But it’s a fool’s bet.  It’s not something that I would ever recommend.  I’ve seen some people be successful doing that, but it’s too risky and it’s building someone else’s brand and not as much building your own.  So I think it’s really important and it’s part of the reason why I did personal branding—because it’s something that was written about 10 years before social media.  It was getting talked about and social networks were being created.  So therefore, my belief is that it’s something that will survive even if social media becomes something else later.

Robert: That little nugget right there is huge, because I think for a lot of people they do tie their personal brand with maybe another company or with a product.  Let’s say  I’ve got a book coming out and I want to tie my personal brand to that book.  Now, if the book doesn’t do well or if I have four or five more books that I have in my head, there could be a problem if I say that’s my brand and I’ve tied it specifically to a particular product.

Dan: Absolutely.  You’ll be irrelevant if that company or that social media tool does not exist anymore.  You’ll be completely irrelevant, and then in order to position yourself back in the marketplace and something else it’ll be really tough.  It’ll be really tough because you’ve become known as the LinkedIn Specialist, but if there’s no LinkedIn what are you going to be known as?  And to create new brand perception is a lot of work, and it’s tough, and it’s going to take years, so it’s definitely not something that I would recommend.  I think you just have to create your own job title, be unique, and be committed to what you’re going to do, because it takes a lot of work and you have to build it over time.  I didn’t, you know, it took me six months and then I was fortunate enough to get written about in Fast Company which expedited my success.  But what if that didn’t happen?  Maybe it would have taken a year, two years.  That’s why you really have to love what you do and you have to be.  When you love what you do and you really enjoy it and you gain confidence in it, you gain a positive attitude and you’re committed to it.  So the chances that you’ll be successful (even if you aren’t Donald Trump) are very high, because people are more apt to do business with people who love what they do.  If you have hate what you do (as you know 80% of people or companies hate what they do), it’s going to be hard for somebody to really, really want to work with you.

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