How To Use Self-Branding To Grow Your Influence With Mark Schaefer, Author Of ‘KNOWN’ [AMP 060]

Do you have an idea that you haven’t told anyone about or a project that you want to work on but haven’t planned yet? Maybe you would like to become a leader in your niche but you haven’t done anything to make that a reality. Today we’re going to talk to the marketing genius Mark Schaefer. Mark is the author of several books, including The Content Code, KNOWN, and The Tao of Twitter. He also speaks at tons of marketing conferences and has podcast called Marketing Companion. Mark is going to give us tips on becoming known. He’s done it extremely well and has mentored others in doing the exact same thing. If you’re ready to overcome  your fear of failure to become known, you won’t want to miss today’s show.

Some of the highlights of today’s episode include:
  • Information about Mark and his books, particularly his newest one, KNOWN.
  • Mark’s story about leaving corporate work behind and becoming an entrepreneur.
  • Mark’s thoughts on the power of personal branding and the importance of being known.
  • How people can build their personal brand even when they are working for someone else.
  • Mark’s framework for helping people find their places and their spaces. He talks about four steps you can take.
  • How Mark’s book lays out a path for people to follow and begin to see instant results.
If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The Actionable Content Marketing Podcast! The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Google Play.

How To Use Self-Branding To Grow Your Influence With Mark Schaefer

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Nathan: In his book Poke the Box, Seth Godin says if you don’t ship, you actually haven’t started anything at all. At some point, your work has to intersect with the market. At some point, you need feedback as to whether or not worked. Otherwise it’s merely a hobby. Have you ever felt that? Is there an idea eating at you that you just haven’t told anyone about yet? Is there a project you know would work but haven’t planned? Would you like to become known in your niche but you just haven’t done anything to make that dream a reality? Today on the Actionable Marketing Podcast, you and I are chatting with the legendary marketing genius Mark Schaefer. You’ve probably heard of Mark because one of his books is sitting on your bookshelf right now. Maybe you’ve seen him speak at nearly any marketing conference that’s actually worth attending. Or you’re a dedicated listener to his Marketing Companion podcast. Today, you are going to learn how to become known. It’s something Mark just wrote an entire book about and it’s something he’s done extremely well. Not only for himself but for tons of other people too. Let’s get started. Let’s not let the fear of failure or imperfection prevent us from becoming known. I’m Nathan from CoSchedule. Let’s check in with Mark. Hey Mark, thanks a lot for being on the podcast today. Mark: I am delighted to be with you, Nathan. Nathan: I am delighted to be here with you. Let’s kick this off, Mark. Tell me a little bit about you, some of the stuff you’ve been up to recently, all that sort of thing. Mark: I’ve been up to a lot. I teach at the university, I’m a blogger of course, I have a podcast. I’m really excited about the new book I have out called KNOWN. I’m really passionate about it. I’ve written six books. The other books, people have said, “I love this book. It really helped my business.” But this book, the feedback has been, “I love this book. It’s changed my life.” I didn’t really expect that. There’s been a real emotional connection with this book. The premise of the book is to really walk people through this pattern I’ve found through almost two years of research to figure out what do people in the world do today to become known. It’s a simplified form. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It’s really had a big impact on people. I’m excited to see that response. Nathan: That’s exactly what an author would want, the emotional connection to the book. Mark: Well, yeah. But I was so close to it. I’m just in the middle of this thing and putting these stories together and weaving this 240-page book. I just didn’t know how strong the emotion would be. The first review on Audible was, “This is the most inspiring book I’ve ever heard,” which I was like, wow. It’s been so rewarding, Nathan. It really has. Nathan: Yeah. You mentioned story and inspiration there. I know you’ve got a really interesting story about leaving the corporate life behind. Could you tell me a little bit about that? Mark: I became an entrepreneur but I have maybe a bit of an unusual story. I was never the kind of person that said, “Oh. I can never work for the man. I can never work in the corporate environment.” I had a great career. I got to go all over the world. I had many great friends. But I got to the point where the company wanted me to move to Europe. It’s a personal situation. I just didn’t really want to move to Europe. We went back and forth for about six months and I said, “You know what? I’m at a point in my life, it’s time to try something else.” I started to teach. I started to consult. I’ve started different side businesses here and there. It’s been great. I loved every minute of it. It’s been so much fun. It’s been a big transition but now it’s hard to even remember those days. I’m so fully immersed in what I’m doing now. Nathan: I think some of your personal brand has landed to a lot of credibility. You’re a master at this sort of topic, you’ve written the book KNOWN about it. Let’s just start there. What’s the power of personal branding? Mark: I think it’s sneaking up on people would be a good way to say it for a couple of reasons, Nathan. The first is one of the things that propelled me to write the book was that people were asking me questions like how do I write a book someday? How do I become a speaker someday? How do I have more opportunities in my field? I’d like to be invited to teach at a university someday, how does that happen? I kept giving the same answer to everyone. I said, “Well to do this in this day and age, you have to be known.” Then I struggled with this concept, how do you become known. What is that process? Is there a process? Is there some formula that anybody could follow? Could anybody become known? I just became obsessed with it. The first answer to your question is that I think one of the reasons it’s important is because let’s face it, this is the only possible, permanent, sustainable competitive advantage you have as a person today. Either you’re known or you’re not. If you’re known, you will always have an advantage. That’s why I’m on your podcast today. Nathan: Yeah, really. Mark: Somebody else down the street isn’t. Because I’m known and this other person isn’t. The other reason that I think it’s sneaking up on people is I’ve been doing a lot of meeting and reflecting on what does it really mean to be at marketing today? A lot of the traditional things we’ve relied on in marketing aren’t working anymore; advertising. The ability just to attract attention through advertising is declining. The people who trust companies is in decline. They don’t trust your messages. They don’t trust your advertising. What do they trust? They trust content. Content that’s being shared by friends, influencers, reviews. How much of that is in the control of the marketing department? Not that much. But what if you elevated your employees? Not just employee advocacy but really trained your employees to be able to have an effective social media presence. If you had the attitude, that today having an effective social media presence is a life skill. What if you said, “This is part of what it means to be in our company. We want to have more of our employees to have that life skill. We’ll nurture that and train them for that and give them the room to grow and do that,” you’re going to win as a company. That’s part of personal branding too. In the future, a corporate brand may be less about the accumulation of ad impressions and more about the accumulation of human impressions. I think that’s another reason why this concept is important. Nathan: Yeah, I love that advice, Mark. Something that I think some people might struggle with is that they’re at this company, they know they need to be building their personal brand or they want to, they want to be that person who speaks at a university. How should people be thinking about their personal brand even when they’re at a company? Mark: Everyone, even if you’re happy at your job, you need to be thinking about the long term. You never know what’s going to happen in your career. Look, the statistics show that most people are going to change jobs five or six times in a lifetime. Number one, I think for any individual, why not be mindful about this? Why not create the presence, the authority, and the reputation in an intentional way to give yourself the best shot at achieving your goals, whatever they are? Maybe it’s being better at your own company, getting the next job at your own company. That’s perfectly fine. Maybe it’s raising money for charity. Maybe it’s getting your ideas heard. Those are perfectly viable ideas, perfectly wonderful goals. Whatever your goals are at life, I think it makes sense to think about your personal brand. On the company side, if it’s a smart company, they ought to be encouraging you to do that. They shouldn’t feel threatened by that. Some people ask me, Nathan. They said, “If companies encourage employees to develop their personal brands, aren’t they vulnerable? That person could leave.” It’s always been that way. When I was in sales 20 years ago, you were always worried is your star sales person going to jump shift and go to another company? You know what? Sometimes that happens. But you can’t manage your company with an attitude of fear. Today, you need to unleash people. You need to trust people, nurture people. Give them every opportunity and every tools to succeed in their job. Today I think part of that is helping them create a personal brand. Nathan: Wow. Alright, I hope you’re enjoying all of this amazing advice from Mark. If you are, I bet you’d love all the other episodes of the Actionable Marketing Podcast too. Check them out on iTunes, leave a review and rating. Send a screenshot to I’ll hook you up with some pretty sweet CoSchedule swag. Just send a screenshot of your iTunes review to podcasts at Give me your t-shirt size and postal address. Let’s get back to the deets with Mark. You have a really interesting framework or concept about helping people find their place and their space. Could you describe what that looks like? Mark: Those are the first two steps in this process. Maybe I’ll put it in context by talking about what are these four things? What I found, Nathan, is when I write any book, I let the research write the book. I’ve got a hypothesis. But I learned through the process. I grow through the process. I let the research ultimately tell the story. In this case, I started by doing research with everything I could get my hands on about how people grow personal brands today. What I found was very disheartening. It basically was all about follow your dream. Well okay, then what? Well, follow your dream. But as a business person, there’s a lot more to it than that. You just know that there is. When I tell my friends I said, “I want to know who is known in this world? Who is known in their field but not marketing?” I found people who are the go-to people in education, law, art, music, fashion, construction, real estate, banking. I interviewed them. I started to hear themes. I started to hear patterns. What I determined is that every single person in every single field in every place in the world did the same four things without exception. Since the book came out, I still haven’t found any exception. It’s basically what do you want to be known for? Once you know that, how are you going to tell that story? Where are you going to tell it? What kind of content are you going to use to tell it? Finally, how do you build an actionable audience that’s going to help you achieve your goals? You asked about the first two. This is where a lot of people get stuck. It is good to talk about that. The first one is you really need to spend some time finding what I call the sustainable interest, which could be different than your passion. It’s good to find and have a passion. Your passion without a plan is a hobby. Sometimes it’s fine to have a hobby and keep it as a hobby. But you need to find something that you can sustain, that will help you achieve your long-term goals. If you love knitting, maybe that’s not going to help you achieve your long-term career goals but maybe mentoring people or talking about compassion in the workplace, that’s something that’s interesting and sustainable. That could help you achieve your long-term goals. You’ve got lots of exercises in the book. There’s also a workbook that goes with the book where people can record their answers to the questions, the exercises. If you complete the workbook, you have your plan drawn out for what you’re going to do. The other thing you asked me about was the space. It’s a very noisy world. It’s a very crowded world. What you need to try to do is find a space that’s underserved or maybe even unoccupied. It might be creating a certain kind of content on Instagram. It might be being the first person in your discipline to have a podcast. It could be something like Pinterest, who knows? But you have to do a little research before you just start creating content and working on your brand. Do a little research. Step back. Look at what’s everybody else doing? If you just do what everybody else is doing, then it’s going to be really hard for you to stand out in a significant way. Just look at what’s going on out there already. Again, I’ve got exercises in the book to help people think that through. Nathan: Mark, you mentioned there two other steps. Could you go more into detail on those two? This is awesome stuff. Mark: Now you know what you want to be known for, you know where you’re going to tell that story. Now how? This is where people get caught up and overwhelmed. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, creating content. I don’t have time. I don’t have the ability.” I address all of those problems in a very frank way, in a very honest way and say, “Look. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming.” Here are the options. Basically, you got three options. You create something in a written form, an audio form, or a visual form. Pick one. You don’t have to be everywhere. You don’t have to do anything. But you need to develop one, I call that rich content. The writing, audio, video. Those are three platforms for rich content. There are some people that can also do that in visual content, something like on Instagram or Pinterest. But for most, at least business people, is writing video or audio. Again, I have exercises to help you figure out what’s best for you, what’s going to be fun, what’s going to connect with your audience. The last part is your audience. I make this distinction that many people are lulled into thinking that a social media audience is a victory. A social media audience typically represents weak relational links. Meaning they’re not going to really buy something from you. If somebody likes you on Facebook, they’re waving at you. That doesn’t mean they’re going to open their wallet. It’s important to have a social media audience because it introduces you to new people you might have never connected with before. But it’s just the first step. You’ve got to take the next step and build it into an actionable audience who’ll actually engage with you. There’s no shortcut to that. You’ve got to work on that over time and build that emotional connection so that people trust you and they’re loyal to you and they’re eager to support you. Nathan: Let’s say I just want to implement this advice. I think it’s really awesome. What do you lay out for a path for becoming known? How do you talk to people about that? What should they do? How do they actually implement this stuff? Mark: The thing that’s so amazing and inspiring about this, Nathan, is that the people they’re interviewing in that book, on average, it took them about 2 ½ years before their personal brands really started to take off, really exploded on the scene. One of the themes in the book is the importance of patience, tenacity, consistency. Here’s the thing that surprised me. Since I wrote the book and people are reading the book and taking this very logical, linear path where I set out this is exactly what you need to do to do it like these people. I’m getting feedback from people that are saying, “I’m having immediate results.” I’m thinking, no way. That’s not what I expected at all. Because I interviewed nearly 100 amazing, incredibly successful, inspiring people, they weren’t able to do it that fast. How can you do it that fast? Here’s why. The people I interviewed didn’t have the book. They stumbled around for two years. Now, people know exactly what to do, exactly what to expect, and even how to measure it step by step by step. I’ve reduced the learning curve. It does make sense. I know I absolutely, positively have laid out the path to develop a personal brand. No question in my mind. You’re asking about what do people do to activate it. This is what you need to do. You need to have the courage to begin. You can’t overthink it. You can’t try to be perfect. You’re not going to be perfect. I guarantee you your presence, your content, your tone, your voice is going to be different six months from now than it is today. It’s going to be easier. You’re going to be more effective. It’s going to be more fun. You’re going to be getting more feedback. But you’ll never have that experience unless you start. That’s where a lot of people, they overthink it. They want everything to be perfect. You got to let that go. It’s okay to not be perfect. Starting and being consistent and not giving up, that’s more important than being brilliant. It’s more important in having that big idea. Just being consistent, being reliable, becoming a habit to people is more important really than being an expert. Nathan: I love that advice, Mark. I think that’s an awesome place to end this episode too. I want to say thanks for all of the advice that you provided today and for taking the time to chat with me and for chatting about personal branding.
About the Author

Jordan Loftis is the founder & head of manuscript at Story Chorus. He loves the nitty-gritty on topics like video marketing, copywriting, and waffle making—the latter being most key to his work. When not creating content or breakfast food, he likes to mountain bike, play music, and travel with his family.