What do you do for a living, and how does networking and personal branding come into play?
I run a branding-focused design studio through which I create brands from scratch for companies and help individuals take control of their personal brand.
I also run a blog called Exile Lifestyle, where I write about entrepreneurship, branding, lifestyle design, minimalism, and anything else that catches my interest. The readers of my blog vote for a new country every 4 months, and then I move to that country, living in and operating my businesses from there.
I recently soft-launched a company called ebookling, which is an independent ebook publishing and distribution site.
Each of these projects require that I have a strong personal brand and a solid network; none of them would be possible without the trust and expert status that these two things build.
What is your approach to networking? Is it different from the standard methods?
It’s quite different, actually, in that I don’t focus on building business relationships, but rather more personal relationships. This forms a stronger bond, establishes trust, AND makes it much more likely that you’re do business successfully with the people you want to do business with. It also results in a far better lifestyle, and at the end of the day, that’s what all this is about anyway, right?
I wrote a book about this very topic, which is called Networking Awesomely and available here.
How about personal branding? Have any basic tips you can share?
If you want to have a successful personal brand, forget about all the complicated details of how to manage your Facebook and Twitter accounts, your personal collateral, etc for the time being and focus on just the fundamentals of what a personal brand should be.
A personal brand consists of the associations that you have attached to yourself and your work. These associations can be physical (‘this is a man who is quite stylish!’) or intangible (‘this is a woman who adheres firmly to what she believes!’) or iconically associative (‘he’s definitely an Apple kind of guy’), but all of them add up to how others see you and what you produce.
What you present should be as clear as possible, as confused messages breed distrust. If someone can read you from a mile away, however, those primal walls won’t go up and you’ll generally make a much better first impression. Take the time to figure out what you believe and what you stand for, and focus on expressing these things clearly through your grooming, how you dress, what you drive, and every other little detail in your life. You’ll find that it’s much more satisfying personally (as you’ll be more strictly adhering to your philosophies) but it will also lead to more positive results, socially and in business.
What do you say to people who look at branding as trying to trick others?
I say that some people do that, but that’s not branding, that’s lying.
The purpose of branding is to take the properties of a person or product and emphasize what’s already there, painting a clearer picture for those who are unfamiliar with what’s being branded. To create a property that doesn’t exist (or that is not a prime, representative property) is a scam, not a brand.
I can emphasize the fact that I travel for a living and that would be branding. If I were to emphasize the fact that I’m an astronaut (which I’m not), however, that wouldn’t be legit, and therefore wouldn’t be branding.
How did you get into networking and branding as a profession?
I actually just kind of learned it as I went along.
I have degrees in graphic design and illustration, and none of those classes taught me anything about this kind of thing. As soon as I started working, however, I learned immediately how important it was to, say, make sure that I was giving as much value as I was getting (a key component of successful networking) and to pick out the important parts of a brand’s message (vital when you’re building a brand).
These are things that we all have the opportunity to practice every day, it’s just a matter of making yourself aware of what works and what doesn’t and continuing to refine your skill in these areas as you go along.
If you get good enough, people start to pay you for it!
Any networking success stories you can share?
There’s one that I wrote about in detail here, but I’ll give you a more concise version of what happened.
Essentially, I ended up at a lesbian dance club with an attractive female friend. She was pulled into the crowd immediately, while I hovered around the outskirts, completely ignored.
An opportunity came along to give some value (in this case, my shirt) in exchange for value (in this case, attention) and I leapt on it, despite the risks. By the end of the night, I knew everyone in that club, whereas my friend had only made a handful of new acquaintances. Because of this, I gained a reputation for being a strong networker; the guy who walked into a lesbian dance club and made friends with everyone.
How can readers find out more about you, what you do, and get more advice on how to network and develop their brands?