Today, I spoke to Ryan Rancatore. Ryan is a personal branding blogger/columnist around the web, and the Advertising Specialist for a Fortune 500 brand. His experience building the brand of a globally respected firm helps provide a unique perspective on the world of personal branding. Ryan is one of the 100 Personal Branding Experts To Follow on Twitter in 2010.
Mohammed: What do you find easier: company branding or personal branding? Does your personal brand need to be stronger than the company brand especially as you change career or niche?
Ryan: It is funny, because ten years ago I suspect most everyone was focused on creating a “brand” within their own company. By staying extra hours, by networking with coworkers, by taking on difficult projects – the goal was to stand out, get noticed, and move up the ladder. Fast forward to today, and more and more people are becoming concerned about their brand outside of their company’s walls. In fact, I get the feeling that many are more focused on their personal brand than they are with their work at their day job. Which extreme is right for today? Neither, I say.
If you are employed (and happy about it), I suggest taking the following attitude about your job – aim for the best, but prepare the worst. In other words, give it 100% while at work, aiming to build that in-company brand that was so sought after in past years. But, realize that in today’s environment, roles, job tasks, and even companies may be fleeting. I think the global market crash of 2008 taught everyone a lesson that stability is a myth. Employees with an entire career’s worth of experience at a single firm were laid off in an instant, leaving them with a handshake and a Word Doc resume to show for the decades of hard work.
What can you do to protect against the worst? Build a personal brand that isn’t entirely tied, or tied at all, to your company. Blog, tweet, connect, study, expand your skill set – whatever it takes. That way, if the shock of a lifetime comes, you’ll be prepared.
Mohammed: Seth Godin calls remarkable/different people “linchpins”, what’s your recommended personal branding steps/processes to be a linchpin?
Ryan: The beauty of this question is that there is no “one size fits all” answer. I can’t possibly give a single response that will accurately describe the process for each of your readers. For example, I might be tempted to say “Start a blog, write everyday, share your expertise with the world.” But maybe your reader is a budding painter, and for her, the paintbrush is her sword, not the written word.
I also might be tempted to suggest networking via Twitter as an outstanding way to connect with others and build a brand. But, maybe your reader is a local pastry chef for a neighborhood that is not tech savvy. She is likely better off baking day and night, and filling the rest of her time walking the streets connecting with her community.
To become a “linchpin”, as Seth Godin puts it, you need 3 qualities:
1. An inner desire that isn’t driven by money or fame.
2. A natural talent that gives you a headstart.
3. Willingness to practice, practice, practice.
The athletes that won gold medals in Vancouver? The top bloggers across the web? The world’s best doctors, lawyers, professors. They all possess these three qualities – you simply can’t get to the absolute top of a field without this trifecta.
What does this mean for your readers?
1. If you pursue paths without your heart, you might be good, but you will never be great.
2. Focus on your strengths. Better to be amazing at one thing than pretty good at five.
3. There are no short-cuts, no matter how much talent you have.
Mohammed: What are your favorite ways to monitor what’s being said about you online? And how do you utilize the conversation to brand yourself?
Ryan: I really only use a few tools, yet I think I capture just about everything being said about me. I expect the same would hold true for your readers. My number one tool to monitor the web is Google Alerts. I recommending setting up alerts for the following terms, and having them e-mailed to you daily. 1. Your full name. 2. Any variations of your name (initials, abbreviations, common misspellings, etc) 3. Your blog title. 4. Your company name.
The second tool I use is the Twitter “Saved Search” functionality, which I monitor through Tweetdeck. I’ve set up a saved search for my full name and for my Twitter username. The benefit here is that not all of these mentions are captured in the @reply feed, so this method provides a fuller view.
In either instance, Google Alerts or Twitter search, I take the same path whenever someone mentions me. I find them, I connect with them, and I try to share something of theirs with my network. By doing so, I tend to form long-term connections with a much wider group – rather than having someone retweet my article one day and forget me the next. By not connecting further, I’d be missing an opportunity to strike up a conversation, which is what networking/social media is really all about. It is often the quantity of connections that is measured, but it is the quality that truly matters.
I like to watch this inspiring video every once in a while to remind myself how quickly the world is evolving, and how my personal brand needs to evolve at the same speed to keep up.”
Brand Word: My parting message is this – the strongest personal brands are those fueled by humility and a desire to share and connect with others. Mohammed exemplifies this, which is why I enjoy his work so much. Follow his generous lead and you’ll surely be on the right path.
Spotlight: I’m not selling anything at the moment, but I do have a favor to ask – actually two favors.