SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: PERSONAL BRANDING WITH KARL SMITH


Networking and personal branding expert Karl Smith probably wasn’t sure what was in store for his future when he left his last full-time job  to start a partnership. It’s when he left his corporate job … that he thought clients were just going to fall into his lap. He didn’t bask long in his newly found glory and he soon discovered that it takes much more than handing out business cards to get clients.

Rather than dwelling on the cold reality of economic struggle, he poured himself into networking, personal branding and referrals and success literature. He wanted to learn and turn it into a meaningful spiritual pursuit. It worked! He started sharing his success secrets with a group of referred clients and he watched their success unfold before his eyes! Now, he’s developed a unique networking, personal branding and referrals turnkey system, bottled it and he is now sharing it with the world!

What first sparked his interest in personal branding? Karl refers to his pressing desire to get his name out in the market as an authority on authentic business networking.  He stumbled upon a 1997 article written by Tom Peters and titled “The Brand Called You” on a cold winter’s night in 2006. Up until that point, the term ‘personal branding’ wasn’t a widely discussed topic and there was a lot of confusion between personal branding and personal image. He found the introduction of personal branding to be “kind of an intersection between networking and trust”. Other similarities he noted between these two fields:

“People buy from people that they Know, Like and Trust”

“People refer business (or career opportunities) to those they Know, Like and Trust “

Smith says that “business is truly a human endeavour”, and that service professionals, entrepreneurs and employees on social media have the opportunity to communicate their personal brands to develop deep emotional connection, communication and community. 

“Many people think social media is about broadcasting, but it’s really mostly about listening and giving. The key to utilizing social media is sharing ideas, developing insights into products , services or skills and engaging your community on a deep level,” says Karl. The biggest mistake he sees people and companies make when using social media goes back to his idea that “they sell, but they don’t necessarily use it to earn trust and credibility.”

As he watches people build their personal brands on the Web, he sees a lot of personal branding disasters — efforts that detract from brand value rather than increase it, Karl says in summary of our discussion.  Here are some personal branding mistakes he sees repeated over and over. Avoid them to build a powerful and compelling presence that increases your brand equity.

1. Be Fake: Personal branding is not about fabricating a persona; strong personal brands are based in authenticity. You can’t start building your brand until you understand who you are, what you want and what makes you exceptional. As writer/aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh once said, “The most exhausting thing you can be is inauthentic.”

2. Be Wishy-washy: Trying to be all things to all people is the opposite of branding. Strong brands take a stand and often repel as many people as they attract. You need to know what you want to communicate and how that message differs from what your peers are communicating. What’s your area of thought leadership? What’s your position? How do you want to express your personality? Answer these questions and stick to your guns.

3. Aim for as Many Contacts as Possible: Branding is not about fame; it’s about SELECTIVE fame. The only people who need to know you are those decision makers and influencers who can help you reach your success and business goals. Trying to be everywhere with your message will exhaust you without adding much value to your brand. Think about your target audience, then research the best places on the Web to express yourself. The scattershot approach isn’t very effective … and it isn’t very fulfilling, either.

 4. Talk About Yourself: Personal branding is about giving to your brand community — value, insights, feedback, recognition. Many people are confusing social media with advertising — blatantly promoting their services 24/7.

Follow Karl on Twitter (@NetworkingGuy) for daily motivation and email him on karl@businessnetworkingsouthafrica.co.za for your free Ebook titled, “How To Position Your Personal Brand As An Expert”

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