Why Start-Up Founders Need to Focus on Their Personal Brands

Jun 2, 2015
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shutterstock_158459390Are Your Personal Search Results Hurting Your Startup Success? 5 Must Answer Personal Branding Questions for Start-up Founders

The following is a guest post from Jason McDonald, Director of StringCan Interactive Europe, and his US Agency Brand Strategy Partner, Robin Bramman of Robin Bramman International. StringCan Interactive is a digital strategy, design and development agency that helps European brands gain access to the US market. Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, with an office Paris. You can follow StringCan on twitter at @StringCanEU.  

Your Product is Ready, Are You? 

I know you do it too. As soon as I am asked to meet someone new my initial reaction is to cyber stock him or her. My goal is to find out as much as I can about the person before I make a decision to meet with him or her. As Mr. Will Rogers once said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” and today your first impression is made more and more online.

We’ve found that start-up founders tend to focus all their energy and efforts on building their product, acquiring users / customers, and seeking funding. However, they often forget to consider that they are the product or the investment and their online reputation is going to affect every aspect of their business.

Daymond John is a well-known investor on the popular startup funding TV show, Shark Tank. He says, “I’ve come to learn that my initial investment is more about the person versus the product that I am buying into.” More often than not, your online brand is going to contribute to you either getting a meeting with the Daymond Johns of the world or not getting a meeting. 

To help with the vital question of personal branding I asked international personal brand expert and partner of StringCan, Robin Bramman to outline what all founders should be focused on for their personal brand. Below is what Robin had to say. Also, at the end of the post, Robin shares a brand worksheet and an example of Personal Brand One Sheet to help get you started.

Investors buy people not products – 5 Must Answer Personal Branding Questions for Start-up Founders

Investors consider the person or team of people behind the product, they want to see all sides of the individuals they are considering making the investment in. We call this 3 dimensional branding, showcasing the individuals Life, Work, and World brand. Robin Bramman, Master Brand Strategist and StringCan Brand Partner, shares the 5 must answer personal branding questions that Start-up founders should be able to answer to prepare for investor consideration.

  1. Understand what you want to be known for – What is at the core of your personal brand? Are you a strategist, a developer, a technologist? What is the one word you would use to describe you at the core? For example, I am the lead Brand Strategist, so an investor would know that I would be driving the brand experience and all of the touchpoints for the company and product going forward. What is your core role or expert position?
  2. How are you different from everyone else who shares a similar background or set of experiences? What makes you unique? What expert training or certifications have you acquired? What have you done different that others that share the same title as you? There are many people claiming to be Brand Strategists in the world, but for me, I am one of a handful of Global Master Brand Strategists that hold the highest-level certification from Reach Communications in New York and have rights to use their methodology and toolsets with global corporations. I have also developed my own business brand toolsets that I license to agencies for use with their clients. What sets you apart?
  3. What skills, smarts or attitude do you have that will make people want to work with, follow or “friend” you – in real life or online? – What is your know, like and trust factors? What can I learn from you? and where can I find you in person as well as online? I have established a broad online presence and provide my knowledge through blogs on LinkedIn Pulse, I am developing eCourses online and I hold in person events for entrepreneurs on the subject of Branding, Design and Media. Where can people meet up with you in person and where can they find you online? What would an investor learn if they Googled you? 
  4. How can you help others? – What do you do in your community? Where could I meet-up with you to learn more? Can I find you via blog posts, doing online webinars or speaking? I have developed a Brand Apprentice program and support development of agency staff on the subject of branding. Additionally, I reach out to the start-up community to hold lunch-and-learns at co-working locations and at the yearly Start-up week. Where are you giving back your knowledge to others?
  5. What sort of contribution will make you feel satisfied? – What charities do you support? Are you on the board of any organizations? What do you contribute to the connected world? I am philanthropic and enjoy helping others be successful, I support the KIVA foundation (http://www.kiva.org/)  as well as other local foundations by giving my time to grow the entrepreneurial core. What will make you satisfied beyond making money?

I recently worked with Kirk Morales, founder of the startup Intrakr and he decided to focus on his brand because as he said “Building credibility for a business starts with its founders. If the founder of a company doesn’t have the presence he/she needs to portray confidence to investors or potential customers, it reflects poorly on the company.”

Google Kirk, does your personal brand clearly represent your brand, your company and what you hope to accomplish like Kirk’s online brand does?  

For a US investor considering investing in an European company – European founders need to remember – You reside “overseas” for US investors so your digital identity essentials start with your personal brand.

This allows potential global investors to get a 360 view of you so they can determine if you are worth meeting with and investing in. The more they can understand your differentiation and determine the know, like and trust factor of you, the easier the investment decision.

Have you Googled yourself lately? 

How do you show up?

What key words represent your brand?

Do you have a profile on LinkedIn…is it built out to help you succeed? 

We know deciding where to start working on your personal brand can be overwhelming, if you need some help you can download a free personal brand worksheet and Kirk’s Personal Brand One Sheet as an example here.