Using personal branding to enhance your employer’s brand

Creating a personal brand isn’t for the faint of heart, but with a mix of authenticity, consistency, and diligence, it can pay off for you and your employer.

The way brands truly connect with consumers is to tell a compelling, authentic story. The same holds true for personal brands, those you cultivate among your online following.

Personal branding goes beyond sharing cute photos of your dog with your followers — unless cute dog photos are really your thing, in which case own that and make it your niche.

Where personal branding really has power is in its ability to help not only build your own brand, but also the brand or brands of your employer. Not everyone has bought into that concept yet, though Quentin Allums is proving that it can work.

Allums, CEO and co-founder of Urban Misfit Ventures in Milwaukee, is a digital storyteller, having amassed over 10 million views on his LinkedIn content as one of the earliest video creators on the platform. However, it took time for him to find his online voice.

“I don’t come from much and have been very familiar with struggle in my past,” says Allums. “I launched two startups prior to my current venture and they both failed. But during that time, I was creating a lot of content and one day people started paying attention.”

Quentin Allums

According to Allums, he created over 500 videos before anyone really noticed, using YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and AskWhale, among other online platforms. “Nothing really took off for me, but I used the medium to learn about myself and track my progress,” Allums explains. “I moved to LinkedIn because a mentor pushed me to start writing more on that platform.

“Around the time that I joined, LinkedIn released its video feature,” he adds. “I was afraid at first but decided to make the leap for three reasons: 1) I was struggling and needed to make money; 2) I knew that I had the skills and personality to standout on the platform and also, the feature was new, and I knew I could bring something fresh to the platform and get noticed (and maintain that viewership); and 3) because the decision-makers were there. Saying that LinkedIn changed my life would be a massive understatement.”

Allums leveraged his newfound online influence to launch Urban Misfit Ventures with three other co-founders. Now a team of 11, Urban Misfit Ventures is a parent company to three subsidiaries: a storytelling/content agency, events company, and a podcast studio. Allums fills the visionary/integrator role, mostly dealing with all high-level strategy, culture/hiring, driving inbound leads, and fostering relationships.

His LinkedIn success has also led to speaking engagements, including the upcoming Disrupt Madison 4.0, Wednesday, June 5, at the Sylvee, where he’ll discuss digital storytelling, from the benefits of creating content online as a professional to how creating will shape the person that you become offline.

Using his own experience as an example, Allums believes it’s important for professionals to actively cultivate their own digital brand, both separately and in conjunction with their employers’ online brand.

“I remember meeting a buddy of mine, Mark Metry, the host of the top-100 podcast Humans 2.0, for the first time in person,” recalls Allums. “We were in NYC, he had just finished speaking at a university, and he said something that I agree with 1,000 percent and have preached: ‘A lot of students think that their business is going to be the next Uber, Facebook, etc. And it could be … but more than likely it won’t be. And that’s why it’s so important to build a personal brand because you will always take that with you.’

“Mark is dead on,” notes Allums. “Companies fail, they die, they get acquired, but personal brands live on as long as you do. I’m a perfect example of that.”

Digging deeper, Allums points to the rapid pace of innovation in fields such as virtual reality, augmented reality, internet of things, blockchain, and artificial intelligence. “Individually, all of those things have the power to impact the world and our lives as we know it. Collectively, there’s another revolution coming. When a machine can do anything and everything that we can do, only better and cheaper, it’s going to be very hard to stand out if you don’t have that brand and that story. Share your story.”

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Successful stories

Allums knows firsthand the benefits that can come from creating your own digital brand.

“For me personally, I went from barely eating to owning a fast-growing startup and speaking at events such as VidCon, TEDx, and Inbound,” says Allums. “That’s the benefit. It makes you more attractive, more desirable, and it really doesn’t matter what industry you work in, your age, occupation, etc. It can help just about everyone.”

Still, Allums acknowledges there are a lot of reasons why people don’t make the leap themselves, foremost among them being fear. “Another one that I see is that people think that it’s egotistical. My response to all of the excuses would be to ask yourself why you’re doing it. For me, I want to leave a legacy and ensure that no one has to go through the struggles that I’ve had to, and show everyone that resourcefulness is always going to be more important than resources. That’s why I do it. My mission is more important than my fear, and it’s more important than everything else. So, what’s your mission? Figure that out and ask yourself, is it worth it? More than likely it will be. If not, that’s probably not your actual mission.”

Of course, Allums isn’t suggesting that everyone just start making videos and start their own companies. In truth, personal brands can be the perfect way to augment your employers’ corporate brand.

“My company thrives because of this,” Allums notes. “We surpassed six figures in our first few months without any real outbound sales or outreach. For the most part, clients came to us because [we personally spoke about the brand]. Before I started this company, I was going into organizations and teaching them about the importance of their employees having — and the companies investing in — their own personal brands. There was a lot of resistance there. What if they leave our company? Why would we do that? That’s stupid. But it really does help both. More eyes on people means more eyes on the brand, so long as you do it right. The trick is to make sure that both brands are aligned, which is why we take our culture so seriously in our company.”

Allums suggests in order to create unique, relevant content that begins the process of creating a personal brand, individuals should at all costs avoid copying someone else, or outright stealing their ideas.

“Start with figuring out who you are,” recommends Allums. “What do you believe? What are your thoughts? What makes you unique? Take some time to get to know you and then start somewhere. There is no right or wrong place to start, just start. And don’t stop. Focus on getting really good at being you. I test everything. What’s resonating? What’s being shared? Because of that, I’ve gotten to know myself, my strengths, and what people like to see from me. But just take it one day at a time.”

After trying his hand at a variety of other platforms, Allums prefers LinkedIn because of its organic reach and sense of community. “It’s been fairly easy to build communities from my experience. The first group I created on LinkedIn had 1,500 members in a little over 24 hours. A lot of that is because I focused on building my brand on the platform first, but the people are there, and they want to support you. To give you an idea of that community, I launched a viral campaign out of that group within the first week, #WhyVideo, that generated millions of views.”

Individuals don’t need to amass thousands of followers and millions of views, however, to reap benefits from their online content creation — even offline.

“Imagine that you’re on an island, it’s storming nonstop, and everything that you want is on another island,” says Allums. “You have a small fishing boat and a paddle to get there. The boat is your brand. The paddle is your content. The ocean is the internet. The storm is all of the messages/noise being sent out on a daily basis. You need to build your brand so that you can get to everything that you want. The content is the thing that will bring you closer. And the longer you wait, the more it’s going to storm. Without that brand, it will more than likely be even harder to stand out in the future.”

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