I recently had the opportunity to be interviewed about Personal Branding in a way that’s smart and budget friendly.

I’m thrilled to give Personal Branding Blog readers first listen to the interview! Plus, I’ve included the transcript below.

As always, your comments and feedback is where some of the best lessons and insights occur so I look forward to hearing from you in the comment section below!



We have all seen some loser brands.  We’ve seen brands that have flopped.  The first one that comes to mind is – as some people listen to this, they may have to go back and google it – New Coke.  Remember New Coke that came out and lasted about 5 minutes?  So when coming up with a brand, or coming up with your own brand, do you have any 1-2-3-4-5 steps on building a winning brand?

Maria Elena:

Yes, actually I do.  It’s because I subscribe to what’s known as the Reach Methodology of Branding, which you may be familiar with. I feel strongly about it, because it focuses on 3 really direct steps.  The first one is to extract.  That is the uncovering of your brand.  I think that is where you see most of the failures happen.  People are so focused on how to promote, how to communicate their brand that they don’t take time to back up and uncover what the important attributes of their brand are. What are their core values?  What are they passionate about?  What’s their vision and their purpose?  How do they actually engage and participate in delivering that vision?  Because they miss that step, when they get out to the communicating part and promoting, it doesn’t feel authentic.  It feels almost like a crafted message.  It feels like they don’t buy into it 100 percent.

Then you see people who go out there and build some great connections, but then they almost back track because they are in the phase of discovering who they are and affirming if those are their true values.  I think it’s really important that people uncover what that is and who they are.  So many of us are taught what we are supposed to answer.  So we have that canned, expected answer. We don’t spend a lot of time discovering who we are and really expressing that in a way that feels good to us and really reflects our personal brand.

I like to say if you are going to spend any time developing your personal brand, 60 percent of that time needs to be in the uncovering – discovering who you are – phase.  Once you get to that, then you get to the next step, which is express.

How are you expressing it? Use those values – your vision and purpose – as the guide post to make sure you are expressing it in a way that is congruent and that supports who you truly are.  So then you don’t have that disconnect.  People really feel, like I am connecting with someone who knows where they are going.  We really do like connecting.  No matter who we are and our personality styles, we like connecting with people who are clear on who they are and not confused and puzzling. [The last two qualities take] too much time and energy and it just drains us to try and figure that out.  After you’ve expressed that, then in true reach we call it exuding.  I actually use it myself in practice as engaging.

Engage people who are like minded as a frame of reference, and that can give you that other experience, or who you see may have a similar passion and vision.  Then work together to target and engage those types of people.

Those are the 3 steps I focus on.  A lot of it is because my background is in marketing.  My degree and experience is all in marketing.  Many people might be familiar with the four P’s of marketing, which is product, price, place, and promotion.  It’s really the 5th P – Participation – that takes your brand and engages it with other people.  That’s something that we have seen with the activity and focus on social media.  People see more participation than they did in the past.  We may have seen it more on the street and people talking to each other.  Now that conversation has just been exponentially increased because of our reach in social media.


I like it. I like that you mentioned social media there and something else popped in my head as you were talking about that.  It’s something that I learned from Dan Kennedy, 7 to 8 years ago.  It’s where people will jump right to the media of their product, and not even realize what it is that they are pushing.  They will go right to media, because they think I have something here, so I have to advertise it, and go right to media, not knowing what message they actually have.

Maria Elena:

Exactly, then everyone connected, just like you were saying with New Coke.  Everyone connected with the brand as their rendition of what this change is with the brand, as opposed to what’s a nice congruent solid message that really reflects the brand itself.  There needs to be some discovery there.  I say that not just for personal brands, but for economy brands as well.  Your brand, your social media, all of those departments within even a company, don’t operate as solid.  Everybody who is connected with a brand represents that brand.  Whoever that person is, belly to belly with the consumer, is that brand.


And now with this day and age, the 21st century. Let’s face it, a lot of people have some sort of smartphone or tablet.  That technology is everywhere.  People run their businesses on smartphones these days.  Everyone has a Facebook profile, and they are working on LinkedIn and Twitter and an entire variety of many different social platforms out there to represent themselves online, that you can get confused.  What are the best practices, or how can one best represent their brand online?

Maria Elena:

I think first you need to do an audit of where you’re actually at.  Because unless you were just born, if you’ve had active profile online, you may already have a social footprint out there.  You need to know where you’re at socially.  You don’t want to be blindsided about sites that already show up from a time in your past when you were just 16 or 17 years old and you created the site.  You do need to know and have an audit of where you’re at.  Know how people perceive you, because it’s real important to how you perceive yourself and if it’s congruent with how it’s being expressed and the way it is being perceived.  It’s very important if you think of yourself as radio, that those lines and airwaves are very clear.  You need to know.  If there is a disconnect between what you say you do and what other people are saying, then you need to make those changes.  This is your brand, so you need to take active responsibility in making sure the communication and message is clear.

Sometimes a way to audit that is to look online and see where you are.  Google yourself.  Even when you are face to face with people, look at how someone else introduces you.  How they introduce you is [based on the] perception they have of you.  If they are completely clueless as to what it is you do and what you deliver, then their introduction will resort be “Hey this is so and so and let them introduce themselves,” because they truly cannot put into words what you do and they don’t completely understand what you deliver.  So do an audit first and know what your current assets are.  You also need to know what’s your niche and target for the market.  I know a lot of people do get confused with this.

Your niche is what [you do] uniquely and how you deliver it.  Your niche is all about you and your target market is who you do it to.  A niche is what makes you so unique.  Target market, who you do that to.  You need to know.  You can have several target markets, but your niche is the same across all target markets.  It is, again, your unique promise of value. Then, what are you best known for?  I think we talked about that already.  Really understanding your VP’s in your personal brand.  Vision, purpose, value, passion.  [You] really need to spend time on that.  I know I’ve said it a lot here, just in our short chat Shane, but that is so important. People spend more time on their grocery list than they ever do thinking about their vision, purpose, values, and passion.  I always explain to them, which is really, really more important.

Plant your word garden, so that you know this is what people perceive out here, and this is what I need to have available in my profiles, available in social channels, just so that it really expresses my true brand.  You can’t do that until you know what that is.


That is going to be the hardest, probably most time consuming part to the whole process.

Maria Elena:

It is.


Looking at what you have already gone over here, you talked about word of mouth, how you put that online.  You talked about building a winning brand, so we know how to do that now.  We talked about how to put our brand online properly, that’s all good. This could take hours, weeks, months to get [it] figured out.  But do the legwork first and reap the benefits after.

So now we have our brand and we are online.  Here is the biggest thing I see online, with folks I work around and with.  We are on social media, it can be very time consuming going from site to site and managing all your sites and doing it properly, not to mention, if you are going to stay disciplined, you end up wasting time on social media and watching the time go by, without being productive at all.  If you are on social media, and it is a media, how can we use it profitably?

Maria Elena:

To use [social media] profitably takes goals.  Shane, that is tough for people to put together sometimes.  I explain to them; when you put your goals together, put it down to 7 different tasks that would make that goal inevitable.  I wish I could say I owned that, but Jim Smithermon, who is actually the president of a bank that has several branches, is on my personal board of advisers and he’s the one who advised me on putting your goals down and breaking it down to 7 different tasks.  Because many times when we set goals, we make them so big that it is tough for us to make that connection between being, “I’m here at point A and the goal is to get over there to point B.” It’s just this huge journey.

If I break it down into 7 steps that would make that goal inevitable, then I can take the baby steps to see it happen.  For you online, you need those goals.  You need it somewhere where you see them.  Goals are not just meant to be written down and looked at at the end of the month or [after a] six month period.  You need to look at them every single day.  So you can make the choice: Am I doing something that works towards my goal right now? If it does not address the goal, then why am I doing it?

Another practice that some people do to get themselves in the habit of doing that is, every 15 minutes, just set the timer on your phone to remind you to ask the question: What’s important now, just look at your goals.  What I’m doing now, does it fit any of this? If not then drop it.  Don’t do any of the things that have nothing to do with your goals.  You do have to get really good at saying No, to make space for all of the things that you need to do.


Absolutely.  I am really big on writing down things, and writing down goals and my to-do list, so to speak.  You can look at the old phrase “How do you get an elephant to make one bite at a time?” I made a blog post on a forum a little while ago, about how I have 6 things that I do every day.  That’s all I have to do.  I put down that the title was basically “You only have 6 things to do today, so get to work.”  Those 6 things were the 6 most important things I had to get done that day.  You may have 40 things that you are going to do that day, but these 6 things have to be done, regardless.

Maria Elena:

They do.  See that is a perfect way to present that and practice to put into your life.  Doing that consistently and persistently is the challenge.  [People] go to their email in the morning and they utilize it to do their to-do list.  So it actually rules their day as to what will happen next.  Or their Hootsuite, or their social accounts.  They go in there and let those interactions all bounce around towards what they hope will be their goal, as opposed to looking at their goals and deciding okay, I am going to do this, I don’t need to do that.  Or, I can wait to do that.  Everything is focused on those goals.  If you don’t focus on them, you can’t create and make them happen.


Absolutely, if you do those 6 things a day.  At the end of the day, you got those 6 things done, and the next day you have 12 things done.  By the end of a 5 day week, you have 30 things done, objectives that have taken you closer to your goal.  To add those up, it does work.

Maria Elena:

I love that, the math really works for that.


Speaking of a to-do list and tasks.  I have never met an entrepreneur that was successful that didn’t have a list of things that they had to get done. But it’s all towards one thing, whether it’s your goal, or running a business here.  So we want revenue, we want sales, clients, customers, whatever it is you are doing.  How do you keep the pipeline full?  Is there a top 10 list of things you have to do every day to keep your pipeline full and keep your clients coming to you?

Maria Elena:

Yes. I believe there is.  I do keep that on my list as well.  That is something that is very visible to me.  My top 10 are:

Number 1

Daily gratitude.  I start work every day with daily gratitude.  That’s because it helps me focus on what I have accomplished and who’s helped me get there. There are many things that are around me that are resources and support.  I think it gives that right frame of mind, if you have ever heard of the reticular activating system.  You say you are going to buy a car, then you think you have a unique car, then you drive off the lot, and what happens, you see 10 other cars just like it.  And you are wondering, where were they yesterday?  It’s because you’ve actually engaged the reticular activating system, so now you are more aware and in tune with that.  That’s why I start with the daily gratitude’s because it really is to get my razz focused, so that I’m looking for opportunities to be grateful.  I’ve found if I do that, then I have more opportunities to be grateful.  Then I see things that I might have missed, because of the busyness of the day.

Number 2

Telling people that I appreciate them.  I do daily thank you notes.  Mary Kay Ash was the first to come up with that when she explained to her consultants that you need to do 5 thank you notes a day.  And I live by that.  I do 5 thank you notes a day, every single day, just because it keeps me focused and it lets people know that their relationship is important to me. Relationships are key and crucial to my business.

Number 3

I always stay connected with clients.  People always think it’s always about affiliates and meeting and greeting new people.  I happen to think that when you have good relationships with people and they feel that you are a valuable resource, they willingly, happily, and enthusiastically share you with their circle of influence.  They have the I-know-I-can-trust with that circle. You will never be able to build one on one [relationships] every single day.  You just won’t have that kind of time that someone else would have or the experiences they had to build that deep relationship.  So staying connected with clients and contacts helps them know they are important to me and also see that I am there to help and be a resource to them and a good friend.

Number 4

Learn something new every day.  What is it you can learn from [a situation]?  There is always an opportunity to learn something.

Number 5

Review my goals.  As I told you, I always review my goals.

Number 6

Always asking, too. Especially because of what I do.  Inside word of mouth marketing, we have a tendency to be short cut. All of us in marketing have a tendency to short cut and say “Oooh, we think people want this,” instead of asking.  I think it’s really important to go ask, so that you are not making those assumptions.  Nobody in this world likes someone to speak for them, on their behalf, without them being heard.  I definitely want to ask them.

Number 7

Nurture your social capital.  Find out how you can help them.  Find out if you are helpful to people, genuinely helpful in more than one place.  You are not just doing this so I can get your business in the end.  Genuinely helpful. If a friend of yours says, “I am having this issue with my child, they want to play on the soccer team here, and I am trying to figure this out.”  If you help them solve that problem, they will see you as someone who helps solve any problem they may have.  Someone who is a hub, who can connect them with other people that can be a resource to them.

Number 8

Do something different and creative every single day.  I think that helps you see a different perceptive.  Be reading something different or trying a different recipe or trying a new activity, or even driving home differently.  Those are some things to keep your visual awareness there.

Number 9

Read and grow.  I’m a reader.  Always have been.  I love reading blogs and making lists inside my social network so that I can stay on top of those that I really see as the crème of the crop and keep updated on their information.

Number 10

Still develop your face to face networking.  Don’t ever let that go.  Social media is a wonderful tool, but we still need some face to face networking. It helps us remember and keep in mind that these are people that we are dealing with, even across the internet.  It’s not just a hashtag on Twitter, this is somebody with hopes, dreams, and goals as well. So we want to make those connections, too.


That is a pretty good to-do list for every day.  I assure you that anybody listening to this were to take notes and open up the pdf, and highlight those and just test it.  Give it the 21 day test.  Do it for 21 days and guess what you got, a habit.

Maria Elena:

Absolutely. Look at it again, it’s not that huge.  In one conversation I could ask a current client a question and see how I could help them.  Ask that question too, “How can I help you?” and then be silent, so then you can hear the answer, not just fill it in.  You could do that in several different contexts. It does not just have to be a huge undertaking, but it is something that I do daily.


Maria Elena Duron, is managing editor of the Personal Branding Blog, CEO (chief engagement officer) of buzz2bucks– a word of mouth marketing firm, and a professional speaker and trainer on developing social networks that work. She provides workshops, webinars, seminars and direct services that help create conversation, connection, credibility, community and commerce around your brand.  Maria Duron is founder and moderator of #brandchat – a weekly Twitter chat focused on every aspect of branding that is recognized by Mashable as one the 15 Essential Twitter Chats for Social Media Marketers.

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