Online, people have the opportunity to create and leverage branded content as a vehicle to grow their careers and their personal brand. Last week, my colleague Jesse Bouman published a post highlighting how Danielle Morrill, Jen Friel, Jeanne Hwang Lam, Brittany Ashley, and Andrew Bachelor (aka “King Bach”) each tapped their own interests and creativity to build a platform to rise above the noise. What Bouman shared are perfect examples of what regular people can accomplish when marrying branded content with their personal brands.
Below, I’m following up on his story with four additional examples of ways everyday folk have used content to build an audience, form new connections, strengthen coworker relations, and gain access to new job opportunities.
How Ricky Yean unintentionally built a massive audience
On January 22nd, 2016, Ricky Yean published a personal essay describing his experiences as an underprivileged tech entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. In some ways, Yean’s goal was to reinforce the belief that founders who grew up “desperately poor” have a much harder time building successful businesses. At the same time, the publishing of this essay was personally liberating. By sharing his story and allowing himself to be vulnerable in front of his friends, family and peers, Yean took what he describes as one step towards overcoming mindset inequality, which handicaps many entrepreneurs who simply can’t afford to fail.
But something unexpected happened when the story came out. Silicon Valley tech circles began to circulate the piece because it contributed to current conversations Valley entrepreneurs and media were having about reported income inequality. The next day, the piece skyrocketed to the front page of Hacker News, the unofficial homepage of startup tech news. Within a week, the piece was syndicated to popular media outlets such as Business Insider and New York Observer. Today, people continue to reference Yean’s story to encourage current and aspiring entrepreneurs who feel saddled by the mere fact that they grew up poor whilst their peers grew up rich.
Unintentionally, Yean has developed a name for himself as one of the more prominent examples in recent history of a tech entrepreneur succeeding in an industry that consistently favors privilege and contributes to widening inequality. Consequently, Yean has also been able to use this extra publicity to promote his latest venture, PRX, a turnkey solution for public relations.
Piggyback off of today’s “hot topic” and be vulnerable. Audiences love hearing different experiences and perspectives on current news, and they especially respond well to personal stories.
Why Jake Newfield blogs for free
Jake Newfield, author of A Cloud in the Sky: Life's Greatest Lessons and Regrets, marketing specialist, and entrepreneur, spends much of his spare time blogging. As a contributor to Inc.com, The Huffington Post, Elite Daily, and Tech.co, Newfield publishes a handful of articles each month to not only expand his already-impressive writing portfolio but also to network with professionals he’d love to meet. Through interviews, Newfield gains access to entrepreneurs who might not otherwise give him the time of day and turns those connections into alliances and partnerships.
Newfield, like many influential bloggers, uses content as a warm way to initiate conversations with other busy entrepreneurs and marketers before leveraging those relationships for new business opportunities. While the articles he writes are provided to noteworthy publications without compensation, Newfield certainly sees a huge return on investment for the time and effort he puts into each blog post.
Give away free publicity to form new professional connections. Invest in crafting incredible content about other professionals in your industry. Your sources are then likely to reciprocate with offers to help you and your business grow.
How Ash Read’s small shout out goes a long way
Brian Peters is one of the newest members of the Buffer team; he joined the company earlier this year in February. A month after joining, Peters was responsible for drafting a blog post that would give Buffer’s audience of nearly 1 million monthly readers an inside look into the company’s social media strategy. For anyone thrust into a new role, responsible for a project that could potentially reach 1 million people, this would be a nerve-wracking experience.
So, when Peters finally published his first post on the Buffer blog, coworker Ashley (Ash) Read shared it on Twitter along with a few words of encouragement. In Read’s tweet, he wrote, “Inside Buffer’s Social Media Strategy: http://buff.ly/1RmB6bs. Awesome to see @Brian_G_Peters make his debut on the Buffer Social blog 😎.” With a quick virtual kudos, Read did something that reflects positively on his team behaviors. Read demonstrated appreciation for his colleague’s work, helping to reinforce the company’s positive and supportive working atmosphere. And, surely, that simple shout out strengthened their working relationship and put a smile on Peters’s face.
Publicly praise and promote your coworkers’ projects. That way, you contribute to a corporate culture that recognizes everyone’s contributions. Furthermore, you also become more likable at work and build better relationships with your colleagues.
What Nina Mufleh did to guarantee a job interview
Nina Mufleh knew she was at an employment disadvantage when she resolved to switch careers and enter the Silicon Valley tech scene after having built a career working with royalty and Fortune 500 companies in the Middle East. Over the span of 12 months, Mufleh received dozens of rejections from West Coast tech companies she had applied to; it was unclear why her job search wasn’t producing any real results. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Mufleh shares, “I did everything I was taught to do: I created a list of the top 20 companies I wanted to work for, I customized my résumé for each opening, I networked online and offline. I met some fantastic people throughout the process, but nothing got me closer to a securing a role, or even a chance to interview.”
Finally, she realized she needed to take a different approach to generate serious interest from recruiters and convince employers to extend her a job offer. Mufleh explains, “As a marketer, I decided to re-frame the challenge. Instead of thinking as a job applicant, I had to think of myself as a product and identify ways to create demand around hiring me. I applied everything I knew about marketing and storytelling to build a campaign that would show Silicon Valley companies the kind of value I would bring to their teams.” So, she developed an in-depth report for Airbnb, making a case for why the company should expand to the Middle East next. When the report was live, she tweeted it out and copied the company’s founders. That same day, Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, responded saying, “I am reviewing right now. Very impressive :).” A few days later, Mufleh was brought in for an interview with Airbnb. Many other Bay Area tech startups invited her to chat too. Although she didn’t land what she first envisioned as the perfect dream job at Airbnb, Mufleh managed to find an incredible opportunity at Upwork, where she is still employed.
Mufleh turned her Airbnb report into a major marketing asset for her personal brand. She leveraged social media to grab the attention of hard-to-reach founders who instantly decided that Mufleh was worthy of an interview. Not only did she use content to propel her personal brand, Mufleh used it to start a new career.
Mediocre content always falls flat. Take some risks, and tap into your own creativity to produce and share content that is actually worth reading.
Across the web, there are many more examples of individuals using content, social media and a bit of marketing savvy to bolster their personal brand and advance their careers. Now, we’d love to hear from you, our readers, about your own examples of ways you’ve creatively used branded content for personal and professional purposes.