Over the last couple of months, dozens of people have asked me about my personal brand.
They’ve either read one of my articles (like you’re doing right now), listened to a podcast, watched a vlog, seen a Tweet or a LinkedIn post, etc.
Some of them are surprised. Others are intrigued. And there’s a few that want to get started as well.
But, before I walk you step-by-step on how I’m doing it –and how you can too if you are interested–
Let’s start with why:
I started Jakt, a digital product and innovation studio, 7+ years ago. I launched it from my tiny apartment in New York City. And I don’t want to pull the “rags to riches” cliche, but I was barely scraping by in the beginning.
So I closed my eyes and worked. Obsessively (I’m now changing that). Hundred-hour weeks became the norm.
And the truth is, I did it happily. I found purpose and meaning in Jakt and LOVED helping other businesses.
Now it seems, I “woke up” 7 years later. Jakt is now a $4M/year company with over a dozen fantastic employees.
Looking back, it hasn’t been easy.
There has been a handful of moments where Jakt’s survival was threatened:
Like when my business partner left about 2 years after we founded Jakt. Or realizing I needed to improve as a leader when half my team quit in a matter of weeks –it wasn’t all my fault, but it was my responsibility. Or when we got sued… on and on.
There were also plenty of extremely satisfying moments. The thing is, I’ve learned a fuckload over the last seven years. Both highs and lows (and probably, even more, the latter) were packed with plenty of extremely valuable lessons.
But I’ve kept my mouth shut for the last 7 years. There are different reasons for that: one, I was too busy working. And two, I didn’t think I had enough “meat” to bring to the table.
My role at Jakt has transitioned into a high-level architect.
I’m focused specifically on our strategy, vision, and having the right people around me.
That has also reduced the number of hours I work on Jakt –freeing up space for my personal brand, SBB, and the new businesses I’m spinning out of The Polpo Group. Our CFO + Accounting service for agencies is an example of that (check it out if you run one).
At the same time, I now think I have enough experience to add to the conversation. While I haven’t seen it all, I’ve seen a lot –and I only create content about what I know anyway.
My personal brand is an investment. My honest goal is to build an audience that trusts me, my content, and my experience by adding a disproportionate amount of value. And then redirect that attention to present and future business ventures.
I am finally ready to get started. So that’s why and why now. Let’s talk about how.
A 24/7 Content Machine
I look at my personal brand as it’s own little business. As such, I’m applying principles I use to run Jakt + the other Polpo Group companies to this.
You can’t build a 24/7 content machine all by yourself. Seriously, this would be a 100+ hours/week if I had decided to fly solo. There’s just no way one person could do all of it.
So, something I’ve learned about building your personal brand (it’s all still fairly new to me), is to not do it alone –as long as you can afford it. But building teams and gaining leverage is something I have experience with.
For my personal brand, I see myself, once again, as the CEO and architect. My job is to set up systems, tools, and find the right people. There are obviously things that only you can do –be on video, talk on podcasts…–, but don’t be afraid to push other decisions out to your team.
That has helped me reduce the number of hours I dedicate to it. Instead of spending all my time on producing and content distribution, I spent the first month getting the “machine” set up.
I found the right people, implemented the right systems, created and refined our workflow, etc. It went from almost 20 hours per week in December 2018 to less than 5 hours per week in January 2019.
You’ll see how there’s just no way I could do this alone. Really, I am now spending roughly 20h/month, but it looks like I’m posting 24/7. Well, it’s because my systems have created that constant flow.
Let me run you through a week’s worth of content so that you understand the magnitude of what I’m talking about:
This is how I use written content:
- 3x 1,000-word articles (like this one). Publish them on my blog, Medium, Quora, Linkedin and create snippets for Twitter. We sometimes submit them to Forbes, Entrepreneur, etc. for wider distribution + SEO.
- Daily post on LinkedIn. 3x/Week will lead to the newly published article. 2x/Week will direct to either a podcast or a vlog. And 2/week will use them as original content.
- 10+ tweets per day. We use Buffer to schedule them in advance.
- 3 emails per week to my newsletter. These are usually 350-400 words, and I redirect them to another piece of content.
The way I can create so much written content is with the help of a ghostwriter. Yes, I could take care of all this –but I’d rather headbutt a knife than spend hours on end checking for periods and commas.
It’s much easier to have someone who can capture my voice and understand what I’m looking for. We first have a 50 minutes weekly interview where we discuss the week’s topics. Then, after he sends me the article, we go through the final edits.
For the Linkedin, Twitter and Email content, I don’t even check over that anymore because we’ve gotten into a well-defined groove. He also knows my voice so well that I trust what he puts out.
I host a biweekly podcast called Reflections of a CEO where I talk about running an agency, entrepreneurship, personal finances, and personal development.
We post it on Anchor, and it is distributed from there to all mainstream platforms: iTunes, etc. From there, we also link the podcasts to my social media channels –Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram stories, etc.– to drive its exposure.
Finally, we use that big piece of content –the Podcast episode– and create 1-minute clips of its most valuable moments. These are micro pieces of content that we distribute to socials as snippets.
I create one video blog (vlog) episode per week. They’re usually 15 to 30 minutes in length. But I also sometimes create shorter videos on topics I’m interested in talking about when I feel like it/seems to me like it can help people.
I host my show (called The Journey) on Youtube and Facebook Watch. In addition to that, I film myself when recording the podcasts I mentioned above so that they also become video content in itself.
Side note: As you can see, repurposing content across platforms is something that I’m really emphasizing. The most expensive thing (we’ll talk $$$ soon) is to create the content.
Why wouldn’t I try to bring the most exposure as possible to it?
From each piece of video content, we also pull 2-4 microcontent clips that we distribute on socials –mainly Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
How much am I investing in my brand’s equity?
That’s a good question. Something I am really trying to encourage is breaking the money taboo and promoting an open discussion. So how big of a hypocrite would I be if I didn’t give you numbers?
There are two main costs to it: content creation and paid advertisement.
I currently spend about $6,000/month in creating content. That includes written, audio, video, social media management, social media content, etc.
Then there are paid ads. I will be spending $3-5k/month on Facebook and Instagram Ads. In Q1, the majority of spending will go towards building an email list. My goal is to get to at least 10,000 subs this year.
Why am I focusing on an email list and not using ads on growing a social media presence?
There’s a couple of reasons. First, you own the email list. There are no algorithms that limit your organic traffic, etc. If you have 5,000 subscribers, 5,000 people will receive your email. And second, having an engaged list makes it easier to build a relationship and present them with whatever I decide to sell in the future
So, all in all, I’ll spend $100k+ on my personal brand in 2019. While there won’t be an immediate return, I’m playing a longer game here. That said, this is an experiment. There may actually not be a positive ROI (although I really think there will).
But even if there’s not, I am not risking money I cannot afford to lose. Whenever I spend money on experiments, I only spend money that, if it goes to 0, I’ll still be totally fine.
In this case, I’ll be fine financially no matter what happens with my investment. I’ll also have learned a ton, so to me, it’s a win regardless.
Always play a game you can’t lose.
- Building a personal brand is not a one-man show. If you are a CEO, you don’t want to manage a whole team of graphic designers, podcast producers, ghostwriters, etc. You want 1 guy who manages them for you –so that your time is not wasted.
- There are different types of content that you can create: audio, written, and video. Ask yourself if there’s one that comes more naturally to you –and start there. But don’t be afraid to try new things.
- Building a personal brand will take you out of your comfort zones. I am more of an introvert, and sharing with people doesn’t come naturally to me. But I force myself to do it anyway.
- This is not a vanity spending. I am not throwing $100k to have people tell me how cool I am. I am ROI-focused (even if it’s long-term). At the same time, helping other business owners is a HUGE passion of mine. There’s nothing better than hearing someone say that I helped them out with their business.