What You Can Learn from Three Exceptional Personal Brands
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Being a financial professional makes for an odd challenge in branding – what’s the line between your company’s brand and your personal brand? The reality is this: In many ways you are your company. Many clients might feel a vague sense of confidence and trust if you work for a big-name brokerage, but they trust you with their livelihoods.
How do you brand … yourself?
We’ll do so by looking at three financial professionals and what we can learn from their personal brands. But first…
What is a personal brand?
It’s an important question for us to define. Branding is being known for something. Vanguard is known for low fees. Edward Jones is known for small-town, highly personal investing. Goldman Sachs is … Goldman Sachs.
Personal branding puts a twist on the concept: It’s what you become known for. And it’s about taking that core “thing” and applying it in every single thing you say and do in the business community and beyond.
Steve Jobs is the quintessential example of strong personal branding. Apple was founded on a principle of complete and utter simplicity. Now think about Steve Jobs: the way he dressed; the way he ate; the way he ruthlessly cut business lines in order to simplify his company. Simplicity. Simplicity. Simplicity.
Now, let’s take a look at three financial professionals who use personal branding to their benefit.
Sally Krawcheck: Origin = truth
Sally Krawcheck is … intimidating. The CEO and co-founder Ellevest is a former top Wall Street executive who ran the global wealth and investment management division of Bank of America.
Sally. Is. A. Powerhouse.
What I like most about Krawcheck’s entire personal brand is that her executive presence and ability to trade punches with the best of them is clear and ever-present in every aspect of her personal brand.
That all begins with Krawcheck’s origin story. From being bullied as a kid to dealing with sexual harassment early on in Wall Street, she is a fire-hardened professional. What’s great about Krawcheck’s brand is how clear that fighter in her is present in everything she does.
Look at how Krawcheck carries herself and drops (very approachable) “truth bombs” in her Ted Talk. Check out how her bio doesn’t just speak to an incredible resume, but bluntly says that her mission is to “get more money into the hands of women.” Her book is called, “Own It: The Power of Women at Work.”
She is someone whose brand emanates “empowerment” every which way. And the lesson here is that – similar to how every great hero has an origin story – Krawcheck has one too. The things she’s experienced in the past have shaped her, and she’s letting those roots inform every action she takes to build her personal brand.
Ron Carson: Right down to the clothing
I became connected with Ron Carson on LinkedIn many, many years ago – I have no idea how. For years, I’ve been watching this rather interesting, quirky guy posting some odd videos on LinkedIn. It took me a bit to realize that he was one of the most powerful RIAs!
Ron Carson is what I would call a “money Sherpa.” He’s more of a financial philosopher than he is a financial professional. And he owns that image, right down to his clothing, the settings from which he speaks, his entire demeanor. Check him out in this video – is that a Puka necklace? Watch him in this LinkedIn video (if you’re able) – is this guy one with nature or what? There’s something peaceful, ethereal and almost other-worldly about Ron (okay, now I’m exaggerating, I admit it).
What’s powerful here is how perfect this image is for a guy who founded a company that’s pushing the idea of “true wealth” – freely living your life through money. His personal brand demeanor clearly ties to the business brand aura that he wants to promote.
Ray Dalio: Who said finance can’t be creative?
Dalio is a guy who bears no introduction. His book, Principles, took him from a famous name in finance to a household business name.
And yes, just like his book is titled, I would describe Dalio’s brand as the “principled investor.” It’s an idea that clearly has the potential to pay dividends for Bridgewater, his firm: The more the company’s investment culture is seen as revolving around “principles,” the more likely they are to be perceived as able to generate consistent returns. (Note: This is a perception thing. It doesn’t help Dalio when reality strikes. Ouch.)
I’ll point out one neat aspect of how Dalio built his brand: He did it creatively. Check out these awesome videos that Dalio used to explain his principles. Short, animated, episodic segments that have an almost whimsical nature to them. What better way is there to showcase the power of each bite-sized principle, and its impact on everything from finances to life?
The lesson here: It’s not just about understanding what your brand is – it’s also about understanding how to build it.
What you can do
How can you go about building your personal brand? I’ll shamelessly self-promote that I have a free personal branding template that I am happy to share with you if you fill out the form on the page. Below are the things you will need to do in order to get started:
- Start with the origin: What makes you, you? What were the most impactful experiences in your early life? How have those experiences shaped who you are today, and what you believe in? Every great brand has an origin story – and it’s no different when it comes to your personal brand.
- Write it down: You need to capture all of the most important aspects of your personal brand on two or three pieces of paper. Again, my personal branding template will help you write the most important bullet points down, but you’ll want to have a clear definition of your core positioning, belief system, awards and accomplishments, and even the tone of your brand. You have to define these aspects so you can be intentional about how you deploy them.
- Attack the foundation first: Your bio. Your LinkedIn profile. Your headshot. Your clothing. Your personal elevator pitch. Commit to updating one of these foundational “pieces of personal branding collateral” each month – sure, you can do more, but I know you’re busy. By updating foundational ingredients of your personal brand, you will be building your brand each and every time someone gets to know you – all without lifting a finger.
- Be intentional about building it: One LinkedIn post a week. One video per month. A chapter of a book every quarter. You have to define how you are going to build your personal brand and what systematic activities it will take to get there. And it goes without saying – make sure that every one of those activities ties right back to the messaging work you did in steps 1 and 2.
Building your personal brand is a great resolution for the New Year. Good luck!
Phil Edelstein is the founder of PHL Branding, a branding firm with a focus on the financial services sector. In addition to a multi-year tenure as head of advertising, public relations and internal communications for Hartford Funds, Phil has brought his expertise to bear for financial firms like the Maples Group, DLL, Beneficial Bank, Philadelphia Federal Credit Union, Sun National Bank and a number of other wealth management and fintech brands.