Personal Branding: How to Successfully Build Your Brand

Do you want to build a personal brand? Wondering how to create a viable business around your personal brand?

To explore what marketers need to know about building a personal brand, I interview Rory Vaden on the Social Media Marketing Podcast.

Rory co-founded the Brand Builders Group and is the host of the Influential Personal Brand Podcast. He’s also the author of Take The Stairs and Procrastinate on Purpose.

Rory shares why marketers should care about building a personal brand, how to use the Brand DNA Helix to develop your own personal brand, and more.

Why Marketers Should Care About Building a Personal Brand

People don’t do business with companies. They do business with people they like. We have relationships based on trust and mutual connections. There’s just something about a connection with a human being that creates a level of endearment and customer loyalty beyond any relationship a company could ever reach. The strong bonds people have with one another can’t be overestimated.

Even big companies have people whose personalities serve to advance their brand’s mission. Apple had Steve Jobs, Tesla has Elon Musk, and Virgin has Richard Branson. If you’re a small business owner, then this persona is probably you. If you’re in the marketing department, it’s probably one of the executives. Even if you work for a company as an employee, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t build your own personal brand.

Personal Branding and Leadership

One of the most fundamental and enduring things Rory has heard about leadership is that a leader’s job is to influence people’s thinking. Today, avenues exist for personal branding that give any leader an outlet to influence people’s thinking. This can include their customers; vendors; shareholders, stakeholders, and partners; and even their employees and internal team members.

As a CEO, business owner, or founder, your personal brand serves as a huge asset that can grow your company both publicly and internally. Even an externally focused initiative like a podcast can be an incredible way to scale culture. It’s an opportunity to communicate with employees; especially those whom you don’t regularly encounter. Maybe you never see people many levels down from you, but they can listen to your podcast and find out exactly who they work for and what you believe.

I add that whether you work for or lead a company, you’ll become known simply by putting yourself out in public and allowing your thoughts to be known. People will start listening to you and may find value in what you have to say. The power of that human connection can potentially lead to more opportunity for you and your company.

What owner, founder, or CEO wouldn’t want to activate, utilize, and maximize every available asset to advance the mission of their company?

Listen to the show to hear more about the benefits and value of being known and trusted.

Building a Relationship Engine

The digital world gives us an amazing opportunity to create many human interactions and multiply them at scale. While it doesn’t compare to the level of closeness that comes with having coffee in person or getting to know someone face to face, the digital environment does allow for a one-way broadcast that lets people feel like they know you.

In Rory’s speaking career, he travels around the world and often meets people who know him as well as a best friend. He tells a story about a trip to Japan where the gentleman picking him up from the airport had read all of his books, listened to every one of his hundreds of podcast episodes, and read every one of his hundreds of blog posts.

Although they had never met before, this person from across the world knew an incredible volume of information about Rory, including details about his family, his favorite sports teams, and the time he was sick. More than that, he felt a deep bond with Rory. He was part of Rory’s army to get his message out into the world. It was the coolest thing!

Within the Brand Builders Group, this phenomenon is called the relationship engine. They take every personality they work with and create a digital ecosystem that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and across different media and environments. Every part of a personal brand they develop is tied to one overarching strategy and presents several touchpoints and opportunities for someone to get to know you, learn from you, or be activated by you.


Rory wakes up every day and says, “This is the most amazing time in history!” Don’t miss the boat on this opportunity to multiply your influence through building a personal brand. He encourages you to take advantage of the tools available to all of us.

What’s a Personal Brand?

A personal brand is a relationship with you, an individual who exists separately from your company. The process of personal branding involves finding your uniqueness, building a reputation on the things you want to be known for, and then allowing yourself to be known for them. Ultimately, the goal is to create something that conveys a message and that can be monetized.

Discover Your Uniqueness

Rory shares that the key personal branding advice he has received comes from Larry Winget, a member of the International Speaker Hall of Fame and bestselling author. He says, “You have to find your uniqueness and exploit it in the service of others.”

How to Start Developing a Personal Brand

Defining Your Message and the Media

The first thing you have to do when it comes to building a personal brand is to define your message. This is probably the biggest thing most individuals struggle with. The next step is defining the media and modalities through which you can communicate your personal brand. Then you determine the methods by which you can monetize your personal brand.

There are many media, modes, and methods to choose from. Having a personal brand doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be an author or launch a course. You don’t need to run a mastermind, lead an event, or even become a speaker if these things don’t suit you. While all of these things are possible, a personal brand can be as simple as driving awareness to a thing you love or already do every day.

Defining the Problem You Solve

The genesis of a personal brand is being able to answer one simple question with one word: What problem do you solve?

You can easily write an entire book but explaining it in one word or a single sentence is tough. It’s hard work but it’s a necessary exercise to describe yourself to the world. It’s also a litmus test for defining your entire identity as it relates to a personal brand.

A personal brand goes beyond superficial vanity. It’s meant to be your life’s purpose and illustrate what it means to you to live well. It’s what you’ve been put on this earth to do. When the problem you’re looking to solve becomes really clear, everything else will line up.

Personal branding is similar to what a company might have as a mission statement.

Amplify the Problem


Rory’s first book, Take the Stairs, is a great example of defining the problem and making it the focus of your marketing. The phrase “take the stairs” is clearly a metaphor for hard work. There have been millions of books written about hard work. The concept of working hard is probably as unoriginal as possible for a book. What sets Take the Stairs apart from all other books on hard work is that it solves the problem of procrastination.

Rory didn’t market the book as being about hard work, although that’s essentially what it’s about. Marketing hard work would have been marketing the solution. Rory wanted to be the ambassador of the problem. He wanted to promote, celebrate, highlight, and amplify the problem. Then position his book as the solution.

This approach has sold hundreds of thousands of copies of the book. It is a number-one Wall Street Journal bestseller and number-two New York Times bestseller. The reason it works so well is that people don’t really buy luxuries. They buy solutions to problems. To the extent that you can tap into a buyer’s emotions and responses to talking about their problem, the stronger you can position yourself to be the best solution.

Listen to the show to hear how Rory pivoted from the early focus of his career, solving the problem of procrastination, into personal branding and solving the problem of obscurity.

The Brand DNA Helix

Most people find it challenging to answer simple questions like, “What problem do I solve? What do I want to dedicate the rest of my life to? Why am I here? If I had a podcast audience of a million people, what would I say?” There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. They can be hard to define, articulate, and turn into a business.

In response, Rory’s company developed the Brand DNA Helix, a framework built on six primary discussions that help define an individual’s personal brand. Its methodology is wholly based on what’s uniquely true for the individual. As Rory’s company evaluates the questions, thematic overlaps and places where answers align are used as guideposts to determine what makes someone truly unique and irreplaceable.

The process allows you to break free and separate from the noise of a crowded marketplace. It conquers the notion of competition simply because there’s no one like you. Rory quotes Sally Hogshead’s idea, “Different is better than better.” There’s no race to the bottom when you’re in a space all your own.

Six Primary Discussions of the Brand DNA Helix

Unlike companies that have to deal with a collective of personalities, egos, politics, and ideas, personal branding is singularly focused on one individual. All you have to do is find out what makes you special. What’s your magic? What’s the thing you do that no one else can do?

The DNA part of the Brand DNA Helix’s name is a metaphor for the uniqueness of an individual person. The first phase of this process is drawn out with six questions, which are paired and operate together two-by-two like chromosomes. Half of the questions focus on the issue of who the world needs you to be. The other half deals with the concept of who you were designed to be.

If you’re only who the world needs you to be, you could be rich, famous, and influential. You could also hate your life, burn out, and get totally sick of what you’re doing because it’s out of alignment with who you were designed to be.

On the other hand, only being who you’re designed to be and only focusing on the things you want to do runs the risk of spending your time on something nobody cares about or needs. It would also fail to serve the other elements of your life that are equally important.

The Brand DNA Helix seeks to define the intersection where who the world needs you to be and who you were designed to be can meet. Each person is programmed with certain callings and their personal brands live somewhere in the space closest to this calling, whatever that may be.

What Problem Do You Solve and What Are You Passionate About?

The first pair of questions in the Brand DNA Helix covers the problems you can solve in tandem with what you’re passionate about. These two questions offset one another because there can be a limitless number of problems any one individual can solve and ways they can solve them.

Find something that the world needs but that also fires you up and activates you. Rory describes this feeling of finding your true passion as giving you “goosies” (goosebumps). Ask yourself what you could talk about all day or what really gets you excited.

Most people have a variety of skills and experience, as well as interests and passions. It can be a struggle to decide which way to go. Begin by making a list of all of these things and determine what you’re great at and what you actually like doing.

To visualize this, Rory is excellent at developing spreadsheets but isn’t particularly passionate about creating them or teaching others how to create them. So it’s easy to eliminate this idea from the start. Other needs and passions may be eliminated further along in the process if they don’t align with the other questions or fail to be an economic driver. This is only the first part of the Brand DNA Helix and other questions will further refine your personal brand.

Another way to approach this pair of questions is to ask yourself what’s the one thing you’d like people at your funeral to say that you helped them do or create. When you die, it won’t matter how many Instagram followers you had or how much money you made. What made your life worth living is what will matter.

Listen to the show to hear more about Rory’s litmus test for figuring out what fires you up and gives you “goosies.”

What Have You Researched and What Do You Have Results In?

The first pair of questions answers what you like and what you can solve. The next pair addresses what you should communicate and who the world needs you to be.

Draw From Your Education and Knowledge

The third question of the Brand DNA Helix, “What have you researched?”, asks you to consider what you’ve studied and know about. It combines your formal education and experiences, which encompasses everything you’ve read, heard, or observed, as well as the things that fascinate and intrigue you.

A major insight tied to this part of the helix is that Rory believes everything a person has done in their past and present has a throughline to their future. There’s always a significance and a reason, whether consciously or subconsciously, to the jobs or hobbies we pursue at any point in our lives.

Measure Your Experience and Results

The fourth question, “What do you have results in?”, explores what you’ve accomplished and what credentials give you the credibility to talk about a topic or the focus of your personal brand. Have you walked the walk and are you able to guide others to do the same thing? You earn the right to talk about something once you’ve actually done the work and seen results from it.

Rory’s company explores the results and accomplishments in each of these areas. Then it connects them to the things that you want to do or feel called to do based on your answers to the questions in sets one and two. Each accomplishment is evidence or an indicator of who you’re designed to be and whom you’re meant to help.

Often, the person you’re most powerfully positioned to serve is the person you once were. You understand the psychographics of what the person’s experiencing daily. To illustrate, Rory is one of the best people in the world to help someone who dreams of becoming a professional speaker.


Rory knows exactly what it’s like to have that dream but feel unqualified and clueless about how to start. He shares that he grew up in a trailer park with a single mother and limited opportunities for education available to him. He launched his professional speaking career by training for and entering Toastmasters’ World Championship of Public Speaking contests.

Over time, Rory heavily researched, studied, and received formal training in professional speaking. He has been able to turn his passion into eight-figure businesses that incorporate resources on branding, digital marketing, sales funnels, email marketing, PR, and so much more. Having served millions of people and successfully achieving hall-of-fame speaker status, Rory has the education, experience, and credibility to lead others in this space.

Listen to the show to hear more about how Rory pursued his passion for professional speaking by training for and entering speaking contests.

What Are the Things People Would Buy From You and What Business Do You Want to Be In?

The last pair of questions is often overlooked, but as a businessperson, you must address the economic components of your personal brand as you narrow your focus on your uniqueness. Once you’ve determined what problems you’re qualified to solve and which of those you’re passionate about pursuing, the next step, question five, explores the modality from which people would be willing to buy from you.

Creating a Business Model

Rory points out that a common mistake people make when trying to pinpoint their personal brand is that they get “shiny object syndrome.” They tend to constantly chase the latest way to make money. One day they’re selling video courses, and the next they now run a membership site. Maybe they’re developing a mastermind before hopping on to events, and so forth. In the absence of focus, we become strangely loyal to daily acts of trivia.

Rory warns that constantly switching business models isn’t only a huge distraction, it’s actually very closely related to the cause of obscurity and distraction, which he and I discussed in a previous podcast interview.

Listen to my previous podcast interview with Rory in which we discuss how marketers and business owners can get ahead by procrastination and minimizing distractions.

Monetizing a Personal Brand

The sixth question in the Brand DNA Helix asks, “What business do I want to be in?” This question considers all of the ways you can make money and create a viable business given your passion, skill set, experience, problems to solve, the current market need, and more.

Rory offers a framework and the DARES (Digital, Automated, Recurring, Evergreen, Scalable) test to put all of your business ideas through as you determine which you can monetize. Given the opportunity, the goal is to design a business model that has as many of these five as possible.

The Brand Process

The Brand Builder Group’s proprietary Brand Process is four phases. In this interview, Rory shares a fairly deep dive into Phase One and represents what would ordinarily be a two-day experience. Although they also have events, live virtual training, and webinars, the company works exclusively with personal brands and primarily operates through one-on-one interaction with a brand strategist who talks to clients and encourages them through the roadblocks.


Beyond the four phases, there are five specialty sub-components of phases two and three for those who are interested. They aren’t necessary for every personal brand. These include experiences such as “World Class Keynote Craft” that’s specifically about the art of speaking and “Full Keynote Calendar,” which teaches how to get booked as a speaker, as well as tracks for books and podcasting.

Discovery of the Week

Tuigram is a cool app that helps share tweets to Instagram as a story or feed post. Rather than relying on taking screenshots of tweets and posting them separately, Tuigram allows you to share on Instagram with a tap of the Share this Tweet button found on the tweet.


Select Tuigram and an image of your tweet will be generated and ready to post on Instagram. The image will be nicely formatted for Instagram but you can also crop, add hashtags or GIFs, and more as you would for any other Instagram post.

There are examples of this tool in action in Social Media Examiner’s Instagram account. We take questions posted on our Facebook and Twitter accounts and post them to Instagram using Tuigram to convert them into images. Erik shares that these are some of the most engaging posts on our account.

Tuigram is free to use and available in the App Store for iOS devices and the Google Play Store for Android.

Listen to the show to hear more about Tuigram.

Key Takeaways From This Episode:

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