I am an insatiable reader + student (you may have guessed just by that statement that one of my Supporting Archetypes is the Sage). I have been known to read the ingredients on the back of the cereal box just to read something, although it is extremely rare for me not to have some book or reading material close at hand.
I went on a learning binge recently around influencer marketing + business and bought Mark W. Schaefer’s book KNOWN: The Handbook For Building And Unleashing Your Personal Brand In The Digital Age
I have followed and lurked around Mark’s blog for a few years (I don’t know Mark personally, but I feel like he would be ok if I referred to him as Mark rather than Mr. Schaefer) 😉
As a Personal Brand advisor and mentor myself, my ears perk up whenever he talks about that topic and I wanted to read about his take on personal branding in the digital age…which is a topic I find endlessly fascinating.
I was delighted to find that we share some of the same beliefs on what it means to have a personal brand today and the possibilities that it affords someone if he or she chooses to tap into the power and potential of it (and one point we most definitely agree on is that the phrase ‘personal branding’ has lost almost all worthwhile meaning). In this age of the pursuit of the perfect selfie, ridiculous expectations of what you ‘should’ be doing, and a catchy tagline we’ve lost sight of what it really means to have a personal brand.
The crux of what I teach clients and what Mark spends a great deal of time deconstructing in the book is the question of
what do you want to be known for?
This goes beyond the micro level of ‘pursue your passion’ or ‘do what you love’ battle cry we are so used to hearing. I love entertaining and throwing parties…love it, but I would very much dislike the other parts of pursuing that passion: working weekends, not being a participant, and living where I live, there isn’t a significant audience throwing soirees every weekend, so I’d be traveling and hustling quite a bit.
This would suck and I would grow to hate the very thing that brings me joy.
For personal branding to stick, you have to look at the question of what you want to be known for more at the macro level. In other words, what do I enjoy doing that is sustainable, have a natural gift for, and that the right people will care about what it?
Personally, I love teaching, not only do I love it, I identify myself as a teacher. I have a degree in teaching and taught for 15 years before jumping on the crazy train of entrepreneurship. At my core, I am driven by the idea of transformation, and I am endlessly curious about this juxtaposition of people as brands, doing work that matters to them, and creating a business.
So, I enjoy teaching, have a natural gift for helping others shift the lens, and my Right People are service-based entrepreneurs. I could teach anything, but I have found subject matter that I am curious about every day and it gives my work a purpose.
Mark calls this Place + Space= A sustainable interest and what you want to be known for and an uncontested or under-occupied niche with enough people to matter.
The key is find something that keeps you curious and combines that with your natural gifts. I’m not sure about the finding an uncontested or under-occupied niche…I believe there is always room for you in whatever capacity you want to be known…you just need to find a way to show that your approach is different and own it.
The book is peppered with stories of people who have taken different paths to becoming known for specific work or a specific message.
One of the most important key takeaways (that most people either underestimate or discount entirely) is the idea that all of this takes time. You must be willing to be in it for the long haul, as consistency is the secret ingredient to becoming known. I have seen far too many talented, brilliant people struggle because they keep flitting to one idea to the next with getting clear on the core message and taking a stand for it.
My favorite chapter in the book is Chapter 10- Pivots and Grit. Mark covers some key questions around getting known and stresses that there are no overnight successes…or what I like to call “flash and dash”. It takes time to build a reputation and credibility for your work and what you want to be known for…that’s the bottom line. In my experience, there is usually a tipping point when your work gains momentum and it is directly correlated to the amount of action you take.
Known is a practical, grounded book that will have you thinking about your work and how committed you are to it for an extended period of time. This doesn’t mean you can’t pivot or take a different path, but the more aware you are of the progress you’re making (or lack thereof), the easier it becomes to know when you might consider adjusting or pivoting.
Assess your commitment to consistency and sustainable interest and apply the tips and strategies Mark outlines and you too can become Known.