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Episode 16: Building a Personal Brand by Being of Service to Others

In this episode, we talk about Ben’s experience at WordCamp US in San Diego, California, and how building a personal brand is good for both entrepreneurs as well as employees. But just how do you go about building a reputation and a personal brand? We determine that being of service to others and helping others learn and solve problems in your niche of expertise is the fastest way to build authority and a reputation that serves you for years to come.

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Timestamps & Links

  • 0:00 Introduction
  • 0:19 WordCamp US recap
  • 5:19 What is personal branding?
  • 6:37 Creating authority in your niche
  • 8:08 Aligning your brand with who you really are
  • 9:41 Imposter syndrome and being authentic
  • 11:10 Focus on being helpful and being of service to your niche, help who you were yesterday
  • 14:59 Focusing on your niche
  • 17:00 Your personal brand when you work for a company
  • 21:33 When you don’t like sharing on social media
  • 22:27 What’s happening with Kadence product & publishing

Transcript for Episode 16

Kathy: Hey, welcome to The Kadence Beat episode 16. It has been another hot minute, but this is how things are gonna happen with the summer. We’re gonna be busy. There’s mountaintops to climb. This time it was WordCamp US. Hannah and I couldn’t go to, but Ben, give us the low down. How was WordCamp US in San Diego?

Ben: Good Yeah. I think it was definitely different from other WordCamp US. They limited the amount of people that could come which meant that there was a lot less of the average WordPress user and a lot more of the people that work for hosting companies and people that work for product companies. Some big agencies, but I think in general, the group was a little bit different, which had some pros and some cons for sure. It was definitely fun. There’s a real sense in the WordPress space of people being really happy that we’re getting together again cause it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic that there’s been in person events.

And so there was definitely a sense of just joy to be together. Getting a sense of the community. Again, I think it’s such a key part of WordPress, when you are getting involved in the WordPress community. It’s a really cool community. Yeah, it was definitely good to be there. And a lot of fun to get to see a lot of different people, meet a lot of people, hear about what people are doing. It’s a cool time.

Kathy: Excellent. Great. We sent some people to to take some selfies with you. How did that go?

Ben: Yeah, it was fun. I think there was definitely people that I didn’t know that came up and were like, “Hey, I want a picture with you.” And then some that I knew just from like interactions with Facebook and social media. But definitely, it was funny that there were people coming up to me while I was talking to who I would consider much more well known people in the WordPress space.

And they were like, “Hey, can I get a selfie with you?” So I think my favorite moment came right around the end of the conference. Someone who had seen me was like, “Hey Ben, I wanna get a selfie with you.” And he walked up and Adam from WPCrafter happened to be standing next to me and the guy just hadn’t made that connection.

And so Adam says, “Oh yeah, I’ll take it.” And the guy goes, “Oh Adam! It’s Adam!” So that was fun. But definitely good to get pushed outta my comfort zone. I did a lot of talking to a lot of people and that’s always good for me.

Kathy: That’s great. And what was the general sentiment of people that you didn’t know who came up and wanted to talk to you about Kadence?

Ben: Yeah, very positive, which was great. Obviously it’s encouraging when people come to you and they gush about your product. It’s a little, not sure what to say other than thanks, I’m glad you’re enjoying it. But there was, yeah, definitely a lot of people who had a lot of positive things to say a lot of people interested in what’s coming next. And definitely like excited to talk about, “Hey we’re we are working really hard on some big things that are gonna benefit everybody.”

Kathy: That’s excellent. Great, Hannah, how is it for you sitting and watching hashtags?

Hannah: It was sad. It’s okay. I struggle with FOMO in everyday life. So like the fact that they were all together and I was here was sad. And then also the fact that it was in San Diego was like, what the heck? Like I went to Saint Louis, last time. No offense if you live in St. Louis, it was a fun time, but San Diego come on. That’s okay. I’m glad it was fun. We’ll make it. We’ll be at the next one.

Kathy: I hear though, we didn’t miss out at all on the after party. Like our after party at the last one in St. Louis was way better than this after party. Ben, is that true?

Ben: Yes, that is absolutely true. I’m yeah. Not to dis’ any of the organizers, all that they had to work with and what limitations and everything else, but this after party was not what I would consider to be a highlight. We just had drinks on the lawn, so it was fine, more talking with people, but.

Hannah: Not quite the City Museum.

Ben: Not quite the city museum that St. Louis had. Yeah. That was so memorable.

Kathy: Wow.

Ben: Yeah, they announced the next one is in Maryland.

Kathy: Right outside of Baltimore or DC?

Ben: I think DC.

Kathy: Okay. Interesting. That’ll be fun. They’ve got to be able to find something fun for an after party around there.

Hannah: One to think let’s hope. I like Maryland, though.

Kathy: We’re rooting for you, organizers. We know the job is hard, do have adoring fans that know what you’re capable of. So can’t wait to see it, that’ll be fun. And I think it’s in, what, August of 2023. So it’ll be a late summer type of thing. So a vacation might be cool. I am glad that you got a little bit of a taste of being a rockstar because I don’t know, that’s my jam, making everybody turn out to be rock stars because it’s fun. And it’s also funny and I’m here for the lulz. This segues into our topic today and talking about personal brand.

It’s a term that’s bandied about that, the personal brand somebody’s identity associated with a product with a company or just their identity in the world, you could talk about certain politicians that have a personal brand, or you could talk about rock stars. If you say Cher, you don’t even need a last name, you automatically know who that is. So the idea of a personal brand, but I wanted to talk about it in the context of maybe our world in terms of WordPress or selling software, or just helping people do better with websites.

There’s a lot of people in this industry, a lot of our customers are people who help other people with their websites. So I wanted to talk about it in the context of our world. What is a personal brand and how important is it?

Ben: There’s a definition online for what a personal brand is. And I think it’s a good starting point. Personal branding is the conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning themselves as an authority in a specific space. And so I think what that comes down to is you are trying to influence,

A specific space as an authority to help solve people’s problems.

I think just even starting there and being like, okay, so understanding that’s what defines a personal brand? How does that then play in? If you are trying to build a personal brand that makes you money or trying to build a personal brand that is connected to a brand you work for, like when you maybe own or when you are a part of, or even as like an employee of a brand, how a personal brand can help you in that area. All those things are really interesting.

Kathy: Yeah, there’s a lot of different facets to that. What exactly would authority be? Someone who has a reputation as being an expert, and there’s a number of people, in the WordPress space, who you immediately would think of when you think of WordPress expert. If you are trying to be that kind of person, how much intentionality goes into developing that?

Ben: To me, you get authority by being proven in the space. Whether that’s you’ve been able to help people proven you’ve been able to solve problems. Getting that out there that might even be like a product or something, a book, a blog post, like all those kinds of things can help proof.

That you have that authority to then you build that influence. So I think if you are, if you’re sitting there and you’re like I want to start building a personal brand, a strong personal brand, I would say you want to make sure it’s genuine for who you are and what you can offer people.

And not just trying to follow something. A lot of people wanna be influencers. A lot of people do. Cause why not? Sounds like a great life. I just get to talk about things and make a lot of money. But the best influencers are ones who start with a personal brand in terms of I’m going to do the work to help people, not as an influencer, but as someone who’s just building a personal brand, which to me means more like my name is on the line and I’m much more involved in your success and getting that proof and that authority by being able to say I help them. So much more like people and problem focused than like general influencer. Listen to me, I know all the answers, but much more like what’s your exact problem and how do I help you solve that? Then I think it’s those influencers that have become or those people with a strong personal brand that have become very good influencers.

Kathy: I heard a couple of things from what you said that really resonated with me. First of all, the worst thing in the world is to have a personal brand or reputation that doesn’t align with who you really are. Like, let’s say you are really into… being a midwife. We’re gonna use Hannah as an example. You want that to be your personal brand? I’m a midwife. I’m the best midwife. No other person is going to help you in this most important moment of your life than I am. But then all of a sudden, you wanna make a change. And you’re moving into another field, for example.

And everybody still knows you as that. And that’s your reputation, but what you, what your real passion is like empowering women to do anything and everything in the office. And now all of a sudden you’re of in the same vein, but you’re changing it a little bit, but everybody still looks at you as what you were rather than what you know, really speaks to your heart.

And I think that is really important to really know who you are not to say that you have to make this lifelong decision. I think it’s pretty easy. As long as you have this foundational aspect of being of service. Also just having there’s a lot of, I think, influencers out there that you can see through what they’re doing. Maybe especially I’ve seen in the internet marketing world, a lot of people who are helping you get rich quick, but have they gotten rich? You know what I mean? They’re talking the talk, but they haven’t really walked it. They haven’t really done it. And it just rings very hollow. Have you seen people like that?

Hannah: I think examples that I see even going back to midwifery are like even students who have so little experience being a real midwife, and yet they’re posting these things of course there they’re good things and they’re inspirational and all that, but I’m like, oh, but you don’t have the experience behind it to really give you that that power and that credit that it deserves.

And I think that’s true of a lot of things like, and I tend to be more critical too. So if I know that. Somebody hasn’t lived up to something that they’re walking, then I’m like, oof, like just don’t post that. And I’m actually so wary of posting myself because I’m like, I don’t wanna say something out of line when like other people have way more experience than I do.

And of course there are times where it’s you have to just take your experience and be confident with it. Be like, look, this is what I know. But then there are times too where it’s you actually need to just be humble and step back. And just be where you are instead of trying to be what you’re not.

So you don’t write a blog post. That’s like how to make a million dollars when like you’ve only made $10,000 blogging. Okay, let’s start with that because lots of people wanna make $10,000 blogging and we don’t need to know how to make a million dollars yet and let the million dollar people write their blog posts.

That’s how I feel. But everyone’s got their own take on that.

Kathy: Yeah. You said something interesting about, this whole idea of imposter syndrome of I’m talking about all of these things, but I haven’t done it, but there’s a lot of people in the WordPress space that, they can tear apart WordPress. They understand how to read PHP, but they’re still like, okay, there’s more people out there that are better than me.

How do you move through that imposter syndrome?

Ben: if you’re focusing on helping people and not trying to say that you are something, but just, I’m just trying to help. That gets you past a lot of it. Like in the end, I’m humble and I’m trying to help and I might be wrong, I’m gonna take what I know and try to help you with it.

That always comes across in a positive way and that can lift your influence cuz people just trust that you’re not trying to like BS your way through but you’re actually like, just this is what I’ve learned. This is how it’s helped me. Let me see if I can help you. Instead of coming at it, like I know the ultimate answer and if you don’t listen to me, you’re never gonna succeed. I think, yeah, you can get through it that way.

Kathy: Something I’ve heard someone say is help the person you were yesterday.

For example, I’ve cleaned at least 2000 hack sites, there’s somebody out there, there was somebody in Post Status just yesterday who’s dealing with a hack and it’s okay, how do I be of service?

I know exactly what’s going on here. And how do I be of service? Because this is the person I was yesterday dealing with all of these kinds of things. Am I going to go try to help somebody, let’s say their computer is completely hacked. Do I have a lot of experience doing that? No, I’m not gonna go out there and put myself as the expert of doing that but I think the general rule of help the person who you were yesterday because there is always going to be somebody. Find the person that is where you were before and help them reach where you are now.

And then you’re never an imposter because you’re not really trying to pretend something that you’re not. So definitely that whole adage of just being helpful. And where can I be of service today? Builds a reputation and it’ll start building your confidence too. When you are trying to build a personal brand, there’s definitely this fear of I have to put myself out there. How am I gonna put myself out there? Here’s my goal. And say your goal is 500,000 people following you on YouTube.

And you’ve got 500,000 subscribers and people bringing you brand deals left, and right. Maybe that’s your goal. You’re gonna have to start. Five people subscribing to you on YouTube and then 50 people and then 500. And so there’s going to be a progression that happens there. You’re never gonna go from zero to 500,000.

I don’t know. I maybe there’s some people who go like completely in total viral, but I don’t think people have control over you can’t predict what’s going to be viral. But if you see somebody who’s consistently doing the work and consistently being of service, you tend to see someone who finds success because they create that track record of a reputation of how can I help you get to where.

Where I am. And then you find the people who are ahead of you who are at that 500,000 level and find ways of modeling them. So that. You can reach where they’re at. There’s a I always wonder what it’s gonna, what it’s like, like when you hit that pinnacle, when you hit that peak of this is, I don’t know what to do now.

Cause I always think of something else. But I think of like Mr. Beast on YouTube, obviously he’s huge. He’s got like hamburgers. Every time I look at him, he’s doing something else, he’s always inventing something else to do though. He’s always creating a new challenge for himself.

So I don’t know that there’s ever like this I’m done. I’m an influencer.

Hannah: Yeah. I don’t think there should be.

Kathy: Yeah.

Hannah: Yeah. I don’t think there, there ever should be a like, oh, I’m finished. There should always be something that we’re working towards and there should always be a humility that we’re walking in. There’s always things we don’t know.

Like we’re never fully experts, even though we may have an expert status it’s you can’t walk with that kind of identity. Cuz then you lose your humility and no one wants to listen to you. But yeah, there should always be higher mountaintop that going towards.

Kathy: There is, except until you climb Everest and then you’re done.

Hannah: Right. I guess.

Ben: Try to do it faster.

Hannah: Then you retire, move to a beach.

Ben: I think something else to throw out there for personal brand and those who are on the track to become an influencer. Like I think we should probably step back and talk about other personal brands, but real quick on that you wanna stay very clear on what you can help with.

I see this sometimes where people. We’ll put out all their content. Let’s say their videos, their blog posts on a specific topic. That’s where they started. That’s where they have some experience, some expertise and they’re not getting the traction. They thought they’d get with like people. And so then they start creating content to try to open up their potential target audience. Which generally doesn’t work. when you start getting real, real wide with who your target audience is, you’re not talking to anyone. And so I would just say even though you’re like not growing as fast as you wanna be growing and all that stuff, double down on being somewhat niche or at least focused in what it is that you are trying to where you’re supposed to have authority.

Make your content better, work on, making it more helpful and getting that feedback than being like, I’ve gotta broaden the content that I’m creating. That would be my suggestion to people out there. I know you can look at it and be like this has a hole in the market.

And if I just create a video on that, I’ll get a whole lot of subscribers or whatever. I don’t think that’s how you grow a really strong, personal brand. But to step back, we’re all employees of a company. What does a personal brand mean for an employee versus someone who’s on the trajectory of I’m building a personal brand to be influential so that I can open up and it doesn’t mean you have to go to an influencer, I’m making all these brand deals or doing all this affiliate stuff.

Like it can definitely mean. businesses, headhunt people who have authority in spaces to hire you. There’s those reasons for it. And then there’s also just because it’s a passion, which is where it should be birthed out of. You can build a personal brand because you’re passionate about it. Not for an end result of some big payout or affiliate deals or anything like that.

But as an employee I think it’s important to talk about what are the differences? How would you approach it differently as an employee versus someone who’s like trying to build a, potentially like a personal brand that becomes its own brand and company or a personal brand that has its own influence or a personal brand that, you’re trying to just as a hobby, what’s a personal brand inside of a company look like to you guys?

Kathy: I might be weird because I spent a long time not being an employee of a company and helping my husband build his business with his personal brand. Was pretty successful at that for a long time. But ended up working at a company again with no intention whatsoever of developing my own personal brand or anything like that.

It just happened. I have to work on something that’s I feel good about, that I feel very passionate about, and that kind of comes through. Things that it’s like things that I know and things that I’ve experienced plus something that I’m passionate about cough, Kadence, put those things together and it just happens on its own.

It’s like I’m out here as a marketer, trying to help people understand what Kadence can do and help them be successful, doing whatever it is that they’re doing. And that to me is just like my sweet spot. If I had to go get a job, doing something else, just as a marketer for a product that I didn’t necessarily feel really good about, but it’s like a job I can do type of thing, I would not be as successful. But my personal brand, if you wanna call it, that is a side effect of what I’m doing. That’s not my goal. Like I don’t care how many followers I have on Facebook or Twitter or what I don’t really care. It’s somebody contacts me says, “Hey, come to this, meet up and talk to us about anything Kadence.”

Okay. Sometimes they come at me and wanting me to talk about security, cuz I still have that as an authority space. And I’ll talk to anybody about those things because my goal is anybody who’s sitting in that audience. How do I help them elevate their life? And like with the security stuff, it’s not even necessarily about WordPress. It’s just let’s learn about two-factor authentication for your banking system for everything, please. Oh my gosh. Stop using your dog’s name for a password. That kind of stuff. Like I’m trying to be of service to help them live a better life, no matter what. And then the personal brand is like this side effect that happens.

My philosophy is anybody who is customer facing or market facing anybody who’s active on social media, that’s working at a company they’re automatically soaking in it. Just the way social media is these days, if you’re on social media and you’re working at a company, I know a lot of people say tweets represent my beliefs, not that of the company, but you’re still if you say where you are working in your Twitter you’re representing the company. So to have a strong, personal brand elevates the company in my experience.

Hannah: Yeah, I think so too. I had an Instagram page or actually I still do that was just strictly for midwifery. So I would post pictures of births and babies and placenta and weird things like that. Not weird but weird to a certain audience. And so I made it a separate page for that reason. And while.

It was my own page with my own name. I did have the name of the company I worked for, like in my bio. And so while I wasn’t posting necessarily for that company, I was actually like in a roundabout way, bringing the business by posting things that were inspirational and like just telling of what home birth is and how beautiful it is and posting these, beautiful pictures of people in their home and the lighting suite and the mom, you have the, that mom holding her baby for the first time.

And it’s just. These sweet moments that are captured, then you look at them. And for me it feels like, how could you not wanna have a home birth? Obviously I’m very biased, but that was the picture I wanted to paint. And so in that I was actually bringing business to the company I worked for, even though it wasn’t my own company.

Kathy: And see how much passion comes through. Like you’re talking about it and it’s like your excitement and your passion is all there. You don’t even have to try.

Hannah: Yeah. If you wanna talk about home birth, hit me up. I’ll talk about Kadence too. It is weird that I live this double life, but if, honestly, if you go on my Instagram, you probably won’t know, but I work for Kadence, although I do run the Kadence Instagram. So.

Kathy: I think it’s beautiful. I think it’s really awesome that you have this dual life and that you can bring both of those passions together. I think it’s awesome. And you’re a tremendous representative for a Kadence, and I just love working with you on it.

Hannah: Thanks Kathy.

Kathy: And Ben too, Ben also a tremendous representative of the company that he started the brand that is super solid and taking WordPress by storm. It wouldn’t be what it is without you out there. And then also playing along when I’m throwing you out there and saying, “Hey founder, Ben Ritner!”

Ben: Yeah. I think for all those out there who aren’t good at social media, I would just say like I’m with you and. I hear you. It definitely, isn’t my strong suit. I, I’ll look at a tweet and sit there and stare at it for a while and then go, NA, it’s not worth it. I’m just not good at sharing that way.

I’m much better one on one or like even in a small group. But I think working that muscle. Is still important to be at least out there a little bit. And what helped me was the Facebook group and just focusing on helping people versus needing to make all these posts or anything like that, just get in there and see what I can do to help people.

Kathy: Yeah. And then surrounding yourself with people who do have that muscle, who do have that skill set, I think has helped a lot too, because you through this journey have been surrounded by people like Hannah and Adam who have elevated that and allowed you to go in when you’re comfortable, but also really focus on product.

So, I think you’ve hit a sweet spot there. That being said, let’s talk about product. I know you have been very busy with things that have not been necessarily code related, but is there anything that people should be aware of that is coming down the pike?

Ben: Not in the short term. If you’re listening to this podcast in, a month or two, we’ll definitely have some stuff out. But primarily right now, I would say for the rest of this month, we’ll be pushing out bug fixes here and there, as stuff comes up. But we’re really have our heads down trying to get through this major release, and then we’ll be releasing a beta version of that.

And I don’t have an exact timeline because there’s still enough moving pieces to make that hard. But. I am really hoping it sooner rather than later. And getting that in the hands of people to start testing will be great and something I’m really looking forward to. Cuz I think it’s gonna be just really helpful.

Really excited about this release. It’s gonna at some. New features, bring a lot of stability to the code base and add some performance enhancements as well. And then the whole settings UI for all of our blocks is updated. So brand new feel when you’re using at least the settings in the sidebar.

Kathy: Excellent. We will not bother you too much. And let you keep your head down, working on all of that. Hannah, we’re really focused on helping people with Shop Kit right now and getting out some content with that. Can you give a preview of some of the stuff we’re working on there?

Hannah: Yeah, just better docs. Honestly. That’s the biggest thing we’re working on getting better documentation so you can know exactly how to implement these incredible things that you’re seeing and how you can do it yourself. So I’m working on both written and video documentation. I do not love documentation, so it’s coming but yeah, that’s where my head’s been.

Kathy: excellent. Great. Yeah, we’re starting to see more and more people using Shop Kit. Obviously a lot of people in the Facebook group talking about what they’re doing with that, and that is exciting to see. We will continue to put out content that will help you use all of these tools and Kadence as a whole.

So with that, I guess we can wrap this up. Thank you guys for, Hey, episode 16, getting easier all the time. Isn’t it.

Ben: Yep.

Hannah: 16. Yeah. It’s we’re like pros essentially.

It’s a lot of episodes, but then some podcasts have like hundreds and hundred of episodes and I’m like, what do you talk about, I guess you just keep figures it out. I feel like eventually we’ll just go back to episode one and redo it to be a little bit different though.

Kathy: as long as the market keeps, giving us more and more ideas of what they wanna do with Kadence and Ben keeps answering those needs. We’re always gonna have something to talk about. You know what I mean? There’s just always have something happening. So that’s why everyone who’s listening.

If you have not subscribed, that is something you should do right now. Add us to your podcast, your app, and we’ll see you in a couple weeks. Thanks for listening.

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