personal branding

Building a personal brand in 2020

Building personal brand as a startup founder is one of the most effective ways to scale attention and grow revenue. Check out this guide on how to get started.

If you’re in B2B, B2C, or ABCD, doesn’t matter — I have some news when it comes to personal branding.


"84% of buyers start their buying process with a referral from someone they trust."


Prefer to listen instead? Here you go: 


Realistically, people refer other people, not companies. How do you improve the chances that they refer your tech business - even if they haven’t directly worked with you before? 

Your name is your personal brand, and vice versa. Use it to capture your target audience, and multiply the reach of your brand message, existing social media, and online presence. This article is about more than just pushing out a blog post, it's a complete guide to creating a personal brand identity, complete with your potential personal branding strategy.


How do you build influence and personal brand?

I’m forever a student of how humans build influence to inspire cool stuff to happen and benefit others around them on the way. 

It’s literally a super power. 

Despite the data-driven world we live in today, this personal brand thing, is still very difficult to measure, define, and study. 

Having a personal brand gives you incredible leverage and influence — it’s how the following regular-seeming names became not so regular in our minds:

  • Michael Jordan
  • Michael B. Jordan
  • Michael Jackson
  • Michael Tyson


Building your personal brand is building access. It gets you where money often can’t go. It is an asset that grows with time; the definition of a good investment in yourself.

The goal of this article is to get your name out there some day in the area (or tribe) you hope to start, or lead. Let’s begin! 


1. Your personal brand already exists.

There is no such thing as zero personal brand. 

It is pretty likely you are already known for certain things both professionally and personally. The key is to triple down on the attributes you wish to build affinity with.

Some starting points to help:

  • General industry expertise 
  • Specific industry expertise
  • Personal traits
  • Passion Projects
  • Hobbies
  • Topics you typically post about on social

That last one is important. Not because of the word “social” but because of the word “typically”.


Perhaps you are a startup retail tech leader and your team focuses on applying IoT to retail to revolutionize the experience for shoppers.

Similarly, you may be big on innovative tech solutions to eradicate homelessness.

Or, you’re on a mission to revolutionize how effective PR is carried out. 


What about you? 

Is what you are doing now aligned with the personal brand you wish to grow into? As a founder, as an industry leader?

You should aim to get to the stage of others saying:


“Oh, if you need [XXX] definitely go to [Your Name]. Her content is awesome and I’m pretty sure she knows her stuff.”


As discussed, this referral can take place offline or online, and will most likely take place online. It often happens in the places you least expect. Whatsapp, FB Messenger, a mention in an article, and so on.

But all this begs the question, how do I get discovered?


2. Put yourself in a position to be discovered.

The first one cause it’s a given: Offline. 


Everyone has a “brand” offline. It reminds me of Yelp, where it’s up to you to claim your brand — but it does exist. Things like how do you treat your co-workers, what people typically come to you for, and how often you recognize others (not just your direct reports, but higher-ups and counterparts too).


The beauty of focusing on building personal brand online for startups, is that it transcends platforms, and scales both online and offline when people share.


A lot of people find that hard to define, for me it’s very simple:

  • Articles you write (Web, LinkedIn, Medium, Quora)
  • Audio you recorded (Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher)
  • Videos and images you made (YouTube, IG, FB)


It’s important to treat your personal brand as something tangible, that can add value to many at once where possible. 


After all, this is how you build a scalable personal brand.


You are your content. Offline, video, audio, image and written, and perhaps VR one day.


It can be tough to be creating consistently, but it’s imperative. Fortunately, there are ways for personal brands to scale content-creation effortlessly. Now, it’s one thing to be [technically] discoverable, but it’s a whole other thing to get people to actually bother.


3. Get them to care by starting with yourself.

We already know how to make people care. We talk about them, and provide value that speaks to their own interests, dreams and fears. 

Setting that aside, how do we genuinely get people to care?

Not SEO, more like… Care- EO.

Which is interesting because if you can figure out that Care-EO piece for your audience, you will find it has a direct effect on backlinks and SEO. 

In turn, this has a direct effect on your company brand, and before you know it you have a devoted audience waiting to hear more from you. It starts with 1 person, and can grow to 10, or 100, or more.I’d rather you have 100 people talking about you than 10K who barely care. 

Poetic Justice

Even platforms are starting to make it more difficult for people to see your number of followers. My intuition on this is that it used to be a popularity factor, but frankly the market couldn’t care less anymore.


No one can get you better distribution and endorsement than your followers (enthusiasts and customers). Check out our guide on creating episodic content.


Especially when starting from scratch to build personal brand, start by giving free value to others — especially to those that you do not anticipate getting anything back in return. 


Get into the habit of quickly adding value to them in 5 mins or less, such as introducing them to someone in your circle, recognising them publicly, or even doing quick research to find an article that you believe would add value to them (hint: this one).

Pro Tip: Do it Privately

If you get into the habit of adding value to others around you, especially on a 1:1 basis where there is no “crowd” watching, it makes the entire interaction a lot more authentic, deep, and meaningful. 

If this article resonated, please comment with your feedback, or pass it on to a startup founder or industry leader you think may benefit from it.


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