Early in my career as a law professor, I was struggling a bit with my professional identity. I knew I was smart. I knew I had dreams of “success” (wasn’t clear on what that meant yet, but roll with me). I knew I wanted more than what I could see at that moment. But, I didn’t really know how to take the things I’d done and turn them into a cohesive message so that I would become known for XYZ sought out for XYZ and become financially independent doing my work in the XYZ field.

I had a lot of unanswered questions, ya’ll. What is success? What XYZ do I want to be known for? How will I make money on this?

Around that time, I saw a press release come out at work about a male colleague–let’s call him Mike–who had written an article for a national publication (I believe it was Newsweek or Politico, but I can’t be sure at this point). The press release was very complimentary of Mike, and his article, which was about American politics at that time, was an enjoyable read.

My typical response to things like this at work were “oh, wow, good for him,” and then I’d move on with my life. At that time, I mostly stayed in my own bubble at work–minding my business and doing what I needed to do to get that direct deposit drop every 1st and 15th.

Basically me back then.

But, for whatever reason, I became very interested in how Mike had landed a high-profile spotlight for his work, both in the national publication and within our employer’s press loop. Especially because he started working at our employer several years after me.

This created somewhat of a perfect storm for me professionally. I wanted more but didn’t know how to get it, and I saw someone within arms reach who seemed to be making it happen for himself. I didn’t necessarily want exactly what Mike had, but I knew I wanted to feel as fulfilled as he seemed to be and others seemed to recognize in him.

Like any good lawyer, I began to investigate this question–what had Mike done to get there?

What I found was that he had taken all the stuff we had to do at work and branded himself into a public expert on these topics. He had written dozens op-eds and guest columns, appeared on local radio, and begun accepting non-academic speaking engagements. This further piqued my interest, so I went and talked to Mike about the why, how and where-to-starts with his activities. Thankfully, he was very transparent and happy to talk about it.

This began my journey with figuring out my own expertise, personal brand, and career goals in a more uninhibited way. I believed my job at the time had only one path to “success,” but boy was I wrong about that.

As I’ve created my own personal brand, I’ve noticed a few different patterns that I’ll share here. Four simple things will help you create a dynamic personal brand that attracts the opportunities you want. To start honing in on and developing your own personal brand, you should:

  1. Create a Vision
  2. Develop Content
  3. Share Your Message
  4. Leverage O.P.P. (other people’s platforms)

Create a Vision

If you’ve been following me or the content at LVRG for any amount of time, you probably know how I feel about creating a vision. I believe a vision is critical…basically mandatory….for folks who need guidance to find the light at the end of their tunnel.

I once read a book by Michael Gerber that asked, “with no clear picture of how you wish your life to be, how on earth can you begin to live it?” This question stopped me in my tracks. If I don’t see the destination, how can I know what steps to take to get there?

Even with Google Maps, you have to know where you the location or address for Google’s AI to magically tell you the best route to get there.

If you don’t have a vision yet, I’ve condensed the steps I believe are critical in developing a vision into a less-than-30-minute program. You can watch the first of the four videos below.

If you liked this, you can sign up to receive the rest of the videos by clicking here.

Develop Content

Your vision will serve as the big picture blueprint for your personal brand. Once you know your destination, the stuff you create will help you establish your position and reputation in your destination of choice.

While you may be brilliant, the only way to prove it is by sharing your brilliance. If it’s in your head, we don’t know that—we ain’t mind readers! You first step to develop a personal brand is to create content that communicates what you want others to know about you and your experience.

“Content,” according to Dictionary.com, is “something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing or any of various arts.” It can be created in various forms, including:

  • social media posts,
  • videos (film, television or otherwise),
  • podcasts,
  • radio shows,
  • CDs,
  • books/e-books/workbooks/pamphlets,
  • email newsletters,
  • text messages,
  • magazines,
  • blog posts,
  • articles,
  • interviews,
  • classes,
  • presentations,
  • speeches,
  • conferences,
  • live-events,
  • pictures,
  • gifs, and
  • more.

The phrases “content creation” and “content creators” have become popular buzz words. The rise of social media has become the California Gold Rush of competition for people’s attention, and content is how to grab that attention. Videos, social media posts, podcasts, blog posts and articles, pictures, gifs…..this content is designed to attract and keep people’s attention. Forbes even declared in 2019 that we are in a “new content economy.”

In today’s economy, your content is your personal brand’s currency —–what can you buy right now with yours?

You should be regularly creating content that displays your expertise in a particular field/topic/industry. This will help you attract the opportunities you want!

Share Your Message

Once you’ve developed that content, the next step is to share it broadly and widely, particularly with folks NEED your information to improve their own lives. To start, you can share your message through your own platform or on social media.

First, consider creating your own website, email newsletter, platform (digital or otherwise), or app (I’m sure I’m leaving some things out!). You can control your narrative and share information how you see fit.

Another way to get your message out there, and likely the most popular way, is social media.

Did I just hear a groan? I know…social media can be a distraction. It can also be overwhelming. But, it CAN provide you with free/low-cost levers to build your brand and business.

The behemoth social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Pinterest may be the appropriate places to start, but your brand and business could be uniquely positioned to do better elsewhere. Wikipedia lists more than hundred different currently-active social media sites.

Leverage O.P.P. (other people’s platforms)

The fourth step in building your personal brand is leveraging other people’s platforms.

Once you’ve created your content and shared it broadly on your own platforms, you should also have a strategy to create mutually beneficial relationships with other people, brands, companies, etc. who can share your message and content with their networks.

For example, TED Conferences LLC shares “ideas worth spreading” through TED/TEDx talks. The organization has a HUGE platform that people regularly leverage. After I gave my TEDxAtlanta talk, I got inquiries from literally all around the world.

You could also pitch an article about your message/expertise to media entities looking for guest contributors/op-eds. Popular services include The Conversation and The Op-Ed Project.

Perhaps you’d make a great media commentator. Sign up for a service like Help A Reporter Out or add your name to a database like Women Also Know Stuff.

If you take this advice, do it as part of a larger strategy!

Say OPP (OPP) I like to say with pride

Now when you do it, do it well and make sure that it counts

Naughty By Nature, O.P.P.

If you’re going to write and op-ed, or be a podcast guest, or speak at SXSW or on a TED stage, make sure you know both:

  • what you want to contribute and how you will add value; and
  • what return, if any, you’d like to see for your work. Note that this may not have anything to do with money.

These four pillars–Create a Vision, Develop Content, Share Your Message, and Leverage O.P.P.–will have you well on your way to a dynamic personal brand in no time!

Once you have the opportunity to implement some of these for your own brand, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. In particular:

  1. Where do you already have experiences/expertise that you can lean on to build your personal brand? What is one type of content you can create to share publicly right now?
  2. What kind of platform do you need to create/use to share your message broadly?

Please give as much information as you can in response to these questions. I’d be happy to share more tools and resources that help you get what you want. And, I know the other folks reading this can learn from your experiences! We are all in this together.

I always say that I’m on a mission to build a nation of good people with dynamic personal brands and successful businesses. We can learn from each other on this journey, particularly when we have accountability partners. This is why I am building a whole nation of them.

Download the app

You can connect to the the private community I’ve created to provide support and encouragement along the journey–online and via app. Check us out at programs.shontavia.com or via the Mighty Networks App.

Download the Mighty Network app by clicking here. Once it downloads, click “Find a Mighty Network” and search for Shontavia Johnson. You’ll find content there that I may not share elsewhere.

Thank you so much for joining me on this roller coaster of an experience. I am eternally grateful that I get to do this work with wonderful people each day.

Let’s make it happen,

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