I’ll admit it.  Last week, I sent an @ reply to MC Hammer on Twitter.It’s not what you think.  I wasn’t looking for fashion tips, or trying to break into the music world. Far from it!  Actually, I had just seen a video on YouTube of a horse race where the winner was owned by MC Hammer – and during her amazing stretch run, a split screen showed MC Hammer and his friends going absolutely crazy with excitement.It was fun to watch, and since MC Hammer is on Twitter, I sent him a message with a link to the video.   No real reason I did it… just felt like connecting.

Luckily, I’m not the only one who does stuff like that!

That celebrity attraction

It seems everyone loves to connect with celebrities. Shaq and Britney Spears have thousands of followers on Twitter. Established and emerging musicians quickly gain hoards of friends on Myspace.  Jennifer Lopez sells gallons of perfume that fans buy to smell like her.

We look for ways to connect with celebrities because we hope some of their glamour will rub off on us. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work that way with most famous people; I’m still no closer to a platinum album (or champion racehorse ownership) than I was before I reached out to MC Hammer.

But sometimes reaching out to famous people can work very, very well – and can give a big boost to your personal brand!

How?  Because (as much as we deny it) the world is still a bit like high school.  If you greet one of the cool kids in the hall, and they say hi back… you’ve just raised your profile. And if they actually invite you over and introduce you to their friends as someone awesome to know…

The same goes with famous people.  If you can connect with someone important, get on their radar, and get them to see you as someone interesting, you can leverage that to promote your own brand.

The key is to forget about people like Britney and MC Hammer, and start focusing in on the bigwigs in your own personal field.

Who are your industry celebrities?

If you’re in marketing, try connecting with people like Guy Kawasaki or Liz Strauss. If sales is your thing, focus on people like Brian Carroll, Kim Duke or Jill Konrath (whom I highly recommend even though she is my mother.) Or if you’re into creativity like me, you’d benefit from knowing Roger von Oech, Nadja Schnetzler, Paul Sloane, Gregg Fraley or Renee Hopkins Callahan.

There are a lot of personal branding benefits to putting in the time to connect with the “celebrities” in your field.  In my experience, connecting with bigwigs has given creditability to my brand as an innovator. I’ve been learning about creativity since I was 11, have a masters degree in the subject and have completed several trainer certification courses–but it’s really hard for someone in their mid-twenties to tell older decision-makers that they are thinking incorrectly!  They have a tough time taking me seriously.

But if I mention some of the connections I’ve made over the years, people twice my age start paying more attention to
my actual qualifications. After all, if some of the best-known people in the field of creativity are corresponding with me, giving me interviews and even hiring me for projects, it means I’m not just a hack.  It makes me an up-and-comer instead of an uppity, know-it-all youngster.

Dan Schawbel is another person whose brand has benefited greatly from connecting with important people in his field. He’s actually built up his status as an expert in part by interviewing many, many people who have knowledge of personal branding.

Share and shine with the stars

Whenever Dan interviews someone for the Personal Branding Blog, he’s shining a spotlight on their expertise.  At the same time though, the fact that he’s doing those interviews supports his image as a Personal Branding expert.

Every interview Dan does validates that he:

  • Has enough renown in the Personal Branding field that people want to be featured on his blog.
  • Knows a lot about the subject because he is constantly finding new people to interview who have interesting and useful things to say.

Each new connection that Dan makes reinforces his personal brand.

Those  aren’t the only ways that connecting with the “celebrities” in your field can help your personal brand.  If you’ve taken the time to form a meaningful connection with them, a bigwig could help you get your next job or project through a recommendation. They could introduce you to the people you want to know at your dream job, or help you get a free pass as a blogger to the to-die-for conference that you’d never be able to afford on your own.

They could even give you advice on how to complete a project so that your boss is completely wowed by your knowledge and expertise, or share their “super secret” strategies for making a workshop a success.  And, if you’re lucky, they could write about you positively in their blog or newsletter.  (The ultimate prize for many of us bloggers!)


Katie Konrath writes about “ideas so fresh… they should be slapped” at getFreshMinds.com, a top innovation blog.