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What We Can Learn from These 5 Genius Personal Brands (Part I)


Kevin Rose is well-known as a tech entrepreneur and investor with a career that dates back to the beginning of the dot-com era. Long before he was writing checks for Google Ventures and disrupting the watch industry with Hodinkee, he was the founder of Digg, one of the most popular social sites in the early 2000s.

To promote Digg, Rose created an internet show called Diggnation that involved Rose and a co-host discussing the most popular articles on the site. This show propelled his personal brand, gaining him notoriety and an internet following. The adoration he earned from Diggnation helped him launch his tech investment career, giving him access to some of the hottest startup deals.

Rose is just one of many personal brand examples where someone was able to successfully leverage branded content to elevate his or her own personal brand and career.

There are many other professionals who used branded content to develop their own brand and give them a leg up on the competition. Here are 5 professionals, from different industries, who also saw opportunities online and took advantage of the situations promote their own personal brand and advance their careers. And here’s what you can learn from them too.

Danielle Morrill

Danielle_Morrill.pngDanielle Morrill is the CEO of Mattermark, a startup focused on collecting comprehensive data on fast growing startups. Morrill is extremely active on Twitter and has developed a reputation for asking thought provoking questions and participating in conversations around startups and venture capital. She regularly engages with some of Silicon Valley’s more revered venture capitalists. Her rise to being a notable Silicon Valley founder is rooted in her ability to create excellent content.

Having just shut down her first startup, Morrill was left to ponder what’s next? She decided to write 30 blog posts in 30 days on the very topic she was still stinging from...startup failure.

Morrill went to work, researching and compiling large amounts of data on young startups. She took this data and translated it into interesting stories that other founders and investors could learn from. As her stories made the rounds on social media, they caught the attention of investors, including Marc Andreessen.

Andreessen was interested in her data and reached out to see if she’d be willing to share it. This became a lightbulb moment, as Morrill realized she had a viable business idea.

Morrill is a perfect example of someone who created high quality content and was able to translate that into real business relationships. By solving a problem with her data-backed blog posts, she was able to demonstrate real value and gave investors a reason to approach her with business opportunities. Since she published that first blog post, Mattermark has gone on to raise more than $17 million in venture capital.

Key Takeaway

You never know when opportunity will knock, when it does, be ready. When Morrill was writing her blog posts, she wasn’t necessarily setting out to build a big company around them. But when she saw the opportunity in front of her from her blog posts, she took advantage of it.

Jen Friel

Jen_Friel.pngJen Friel is a force to be reckoned with. She’s a fiercely passionate internet lifecaster who dedicated years of her life broadcasting every incredible life story on her blog, Talk Nerdy to Me, Lover.

Friel’s candid blog posts and relentless energy to respond to nearly every online mention garnered her a loyal internet following. A following that coalesced under the hashtag #NerdsUnite. Her popularity grew with every post like, “I Crashed the 2010 Grammy Awards to Meet @PeteCashmore.” Friel’s zest for life was intoxicating and her audience couldn’t get enough.

As her personal brand grew through Talk Nerdy to Me, Lover’s increasing popularity, new doors of opportunity would open. She earned the right to pitch the investors of CNBC’s West Texas Investors Club on her mobile app. Then last year, after years of meetings with different television networks, Friel’s life rights were optioned by Jerry Bruckheimer’s production company and landed a pilot commitment with CBS.

Through sheer determination and hard work, Friel was able to create a personal brand that made it difficult for anyone to say “no” to. Personal brand examples like Friel’s can get anyone excited to go out and make their dreams come true.

Key Takeaway

If you bleed, they will read. The basis of Friel’s brand and success is that she’s honest and open with her readers, which has created an emotional connection. People are invested in her and her journey.

Jeanne Hwang Lam

Jeanne_Hwang_Lam.pngJob hunting is a dreaded experience for many young professionals. Hungry for a challenge, but short on experience, recent graduates may have a difficult time separating themselves from the rest of the competition. What results is months of frustration as they get no response from their desired employers.

Jeanne Hwang Lam decided to take matters in her own hands and separate herself from her peers. While everyone else was submitting traditional resumes to every company imaginable, Lam honed in on her dream company: Pinterest.

Lam created a custom resume for Pinterest...on Pinterest. She demonstrated her passion for the company while simultaneously demonstrating she knew the product intimately. While she didn’t land the job at Pinterest, her Pinterest resume did catch the eye of Pintics, a Pinterest analytics company, who ended up offering her a job.

Key Takeaway

Be creative. You don’t necessarily have to follow the rules, like submitting a traditional cover letter and resume. Make yourself stand out and let a company know you’re creative and can think differently.

Brittany Ashley

Brittany_Ashley.pngExcellent personal brand examples extend beyond tech. Brittany Ashley is a great example of this. Ashley is an up and coming comedian in Los Angeles. Not long ago she was a waitress, experimenting at open mic nights, and writing spec scripts when she could. Then she got her big break when she got an acting opportunity at Buzzfeed.

Right around the time Buzzfeed went all-in on video, Brittany started acting in a few of their online videos. As Buzzfeed created more videos, Brittany got more and more exposure, helping her develop her own personal brand.

As Ashley gained a reputation from her Buzzfeed videos, her online following blossomed. She has more than a hundred thousand followers across her social channels.

Thanks to Buzzfeed, Ashley has been able to get more stand up gigs, expanding her acting experience, and even made an appearance on Carson Daly’s Last Call.

Key Takeaway

Leverage unique opportunities. I’ve seen people/companies be given astounding platforms to amplify their personal brand, only to squander the moment. If you’re given the chance to shine because a large brand like Buzzfeed, make sure you ride that wave.

Andrew Bachelor aka “King Bach”

Andrew_Bachelor.pngNot long ago, Andrew Bachelor was just another out-work-actor in Los Angeles. Like so many before him, he was trying to carve out his own niche and make a name for himself in Hollywood.

In 2013, when Bachelor was getting passed up for roles, the 6-second video app Vine debuted. Bachelor quickly gravitated to the app, experimenting with videos.

Bachelor studied the videos that were succeeding on Vine and applied his training as a storytelling to come up with the character, King Bach. The new character was a hyperbolic portrayal of someone Bachelor refers to as a “fake thug.”

The character of King Bach took off and Bachelor soon had a following on Vine that was over 15 million people. Companies were lining up to partner with Bachelor and create branded content.

This explosive online popularity has help Bachelor transition to the traditional Hollywood roles he was being passed over for just a few years ago. His growing list of acting credits include House of Lies and the Mindy Project. Bachelor is set to star in Key and Peele’s new comedy about an undercover cop.

Key Takeaway

Have a plan. Know where you want to go and then map out a plan to get there. Andrew Bachelor wanted to be a big-time Hollywood actor. While he was fortunate to get on Vine early, his Vine success was due to the time he put in studying existing videos and determining how he could make videos that connected with an audience.

While anyone can have a personal brand these days, as the internet becomes more crowded, it’s much more difficult for you to stand out. Taking advantages of branded content opportunities or developing your own content and brand are effective methods to get a leg up on the competition. Stay tuned for Part II of this series, which will bring you even more examples.

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