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Should You Promote Your Personal Brand Or Your Product Brand?

By Kerry McDuling
22 Comments

Kerry McDuling, our resident publicity expert, today takes a look at whether you should focus publicity on your product or service or your personality and expertise. While not always a clear situation, Kerry presents a compelling case especially for experts to focus on their own story rather than the product itself, which as you will see has several advantages.

Here is what Kerry has to say…

The Richard Branson Effect

These days, I seem to refer to Richard Branson quite a fair bit during meetings with my clients, and it’s not because I am particularly a huge fan of him or his business, but because I think he does business and publicity very, very well. He is one of very few who has built a brand around himself, thereby ensuring that any of his business ventures (be it mobile phones, gyms, insurance, air travel, you name it) immediately gets attention.

The reason I use this example with some of my clients is because this is what I believe that they should be aiming to do. Rather than build publicity around a particular product, they should be building it around themselves. Firstly, they get multiple bites at the cherry, and secondly, because whatever they want to do from that moment forward, if they do a good job with the publicity, their next venture or product will immediately have kudos.

I will use the example of book authors to demonstrate this concept, because this seems to be when I have most often used it.

How To Promote Your Book In The Press

Many of my clients are authors and approach me to publicise their book. I have worked on books of all topics, including professional services, real estate, safe driving, religion, and business, caring for elderly parents, divorce, suicide, history, pregnancy, and nutrition. There has also been fiction thrown in there, but very quickly I discovered that this was not what I wanted to do, and have been (politely) turning away fiction authors ever since.

I am relatively new to book publicity, having only really started at the beginning of 2009, but really enjoy the journey and have achieved some fantastic success for my clients, including on morning TV, national radio, national magazines, online publicity and newspapers.

I have received not only referrals, but wonderful advice and support from my gorgeous friend, Chelsea McLean, who is without a doubt, the most successful book publicist in Australia. She has a very useful blog called Book Publicity that focuses entirely on the subject with very handy hints for authors, and she has been my rock.

In the early days, there were a lot of phone calls between myself and Chels – we found that we had experienced the same stumbling blocks and challenges. By and large, we both almost always achieved great publicity for our authors, but it was not without a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears, and sometimes multiple goes at finding an angle for the media. Whether or not our results actually matched the expectations of the authors was another matter entirely.

One day, when I was particularly disillusioned by the amount of hard work I had put into promoting the book of one particular author, and to receive his luke- warm reaction to my results (which, by the way, included two appearances on two different morning TV programs, at least six radio interviews, and three newspaper stories) I had enough. I decided I was either going to stop working with authors altogether, or do something different.

This is when it came to me. There was nothing wrong with assisting authors with publicity, but I needed to change my approach. It occurred to me that most of my authors are experts in their given field, and have usually written the book to increase their profile and add to their credentials (highly recommended, by the way). What I needed to do was design a strategy around promoting them as the expert in their industry, which in turn will sell books.

If I were to approach their publicity this way, they would benefit because it would open the doors to whatever else they wanted to do in the future, including writing and publishing another book, plus I get a number of reasons to approach the media. The book is simply a “by the way” and gets publicity almost by default. Genius!

Since I worked this one out, I have been continuing to work with authors and experiencing far wider reaching success.

A Book Promotion Case Study

Take my client, Trudy Williams, for example. Trudy is an award winning Accredited Practising Dietitian, and operates a successful private nutrition consultancy in Brisbane, as well as being Director of FoodTalk and Wesley Nutrition Centre. Trudy contacted me initially to promote her newly published book on portion sizes for kids – a book containing more than 340 life-size full colour photos of food, titled this=that child size. The concept was based on a similar book she had published some years ago, containing portion sizes for adults.

Using the expert status concept, we came up with a number of related discussion points Trudy can talk about, including why kids are fussy eaters, how to pack an exciting lunch box, snacking during school holidays, the psychology around food that kids can pick up from adults, among loads of others. As a result, Trudy has been the source of a number of magazine and newspaper articles, as well as radio interviews, that may not have been achieved had we focussed only on the book itself. Plus, we have longevity now – the story of the book being launched will date, but we can continue to come up with timely angles on kids and food, and mention the book in the process. Trudy’s website is kidsfoodtalk.com.au.

People Work Better With People

Trudy is only one example that I have had enormous success with while applying this concept. It makes sense to me to build your profile around yourself, because you may not always do what you are doing now, but if you are a high profile person, like Richard Branson, you can move into another area with relative ease (depending on your reputation, of course!).

Furthermore, in this highly technological day and age, people prefer to do business with people, rather than companies. It’s so much more personal. We want to feel like we can really connect with that person – that they are real, like us. This is why I almost always encourage my clients to put their face and personality to their product or service, and to the media. Give it a personal touch. It will make you so much more accessible to both the media and the public.

Obviously, if your personality is too much associated with your brand and company, it may prove difficult to take a step back or sell it altogether, if this is where you want to head in the future. However, it hasn’t proven the downfall of Richard Branson who doesn’t own many of his various companies around the world to this day, and to the almost zero care factor of his clients and the public/media (did you notice how the media interviewed him after the technology debacle that saw flights grounded nationally at the end of last month?)

What are your thoughts? Brand yourself or your product or both?

Kerry McDuling

About Kerry McDuling

Kerry McDuling is a publicist and Director of her own public relations and publicity consultancy McDuling PR and exposure speciality business, Stratosphere Me – building brands and developing profitable business opportunities for companies, authors, speakers, and entrepreneurs.

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22 Comments

  • This was a good write up. I like the personal branding angle because your personality follows you everywhere and compliments everything you promote. For me, it has worked very well when it comes to repeat buyers.

    Most of my new products/services are initially adopted by previous clients and they are making their buying decision based on me rather than the product/service itself. I guess it could have it’s downfalls as well but in my experience, this is definitely the way to go.

  • I would say that branding your company or product is a safer way to go and it seems to be more prevalent.

    It’s safer because the company’s identity isn’t tied to possible blowups like Tiger Woods. I also tend to tune out hot air hype machines like Trump and Branson.

    It would also depend on the client themselves and whether they enjoy the media spotlight.

    • That is a good point. If I were basing my patronization on a product that was based on Tiger, his recent activities would have certain played a role in my continuation of said patronization. But if it were a company owned by him, I might have not even noticed.

  • This was a well written and interesting post by Kerry.

    From my personal experience, I feel branding yourself is far more powerful than branding a product, because when you brand yourself you are building credibility, trust, and familiarity with your audience. This is crucial because as we all know in business, “People buy from people they KNOW, LIKE and TRUST!”

    And more importantly, building a brand around you, as the authority figure in your niche, is a no-brainer and a must because it will allow you to set yourself up for long term success well into the future.

    As for branding a product, it will become outdated and can easily be duplicated, whereas your personal brand can have its own personality and differentiate itself among competitors.

    Great post. I love Sir Richard Branson’s entrepreneurial spirit. Very inspiring.

    Sonam

  • I think this is true and that promoting yourself can be similar to the storytelling sales approach. If you promote your personal brand, you will have the option of making more sales in the end. You have to promote products too, but if you have no personal brand at all, it will be difficult for people to trust you-and trust your products.

  • Jon

    I agree; in fact, I believe personal brand can be more powerful than product brand alone, however the trick is being able to have a good balance of both…

  • I believe this strategy is also followed by Steve Jobs of Apple.

    I’m 100% with branding personality rather than a product.

    The personal story has its own magic!

  • Interesting post Kerry, I think it really depends on exactly what kind of business you are running. For example, I have two different businesses within the same niche, and after building the first one and building brand recognition for it, I can now tie it into the second one.

    So, instead of people knowing it was me, I can simply say “from the company who brought you XYZ comes ‘insert new business’”. I feel that this type of branding within the same niche can work extremely well as long as the first business/product has built a great reputation.

    In the end though, it will all depend on whether you are trying to make an expert of yourself or a powerhouse of a business within the niche.

    Jeff

  • I think it’s important to build a great product first, but once it becomes successful, build the next one around your brand. Branson did a great job of this because his company had a name that was easy to remember, and once people knew the quality of the companies he owned, they new the next one would have similar standards.

    Google is doing a great job of it right now as well, because at first they were associated only with internet search, but now they have branched into so many different sectors of the internet (and into brick and mortar businesses too) that people will associate them with high quality.

  • Personal branding.

    Definitely. By branding yourself to be the one delivering high quality, value for money (even if it’s a high ticket item), once people believe, trust and knows you, then it doesn’t matter what you do next.

    Even if you sell the business, people will think “hey, this guy who delivers high quality stuff” will think the business is worth more, and that even if you’re no longer in that product, simply by positive association is still good.

    Later, once you feel like starting something else, your personal branding will carry effect into future ventures as well, so regardless, its a win-win situation.

    Also, people do business with people they like; that’s what business is for. If you just brand a company or brand, people might not know or even associate it, but if you put a face eg Richard Branson (super cool guy, by the way) on a airplane, even thinking about him and his super death defying and in your face challenging stunts is enough to give me a positive reaction.

    Verdict: Personal branding wins. All the time.

  • yes ,I quite agree with you, when you build the brand around you , it rubs off on all products and services you offer. thanks for the insight.

  • This post was timely for me as I’m rebranding my site and business as we speak and have also built up my own credibility through my site as my own brand.

    That said I think the two can go together.

    In my case I am promoting the Suitcase Entrepreneur movement, I am leading that movement. I don’t want to label myself as the Suitcase Entrepreneur even though I do travel the world, running my business and living out of a suitcase.

    The point is one day I may be doing something different and can change the direction of the movement if I need, but if I branded myself as the Suitcase Entrepreneur it would be harder to leave it.

    I think it’s still something people struggle with including myself. Social media has allowed us to build our own personal brand along with that of our business – at the end of the day if you love what you do and do it everyday then aren’t you actually your business?

    Natalie

  • For this question, I personally prefer to promote a product brand than a personal brand.

    If my personal brand (my name) become famous, because I have special expertise which someone else doesn’t have. So people will search me for my expertise. And I must perform jobs continously and no one can replace me for the job.

    If I successfully develop a product brand become famous. So I can manage my employees to maintain the product brand and people will search the product, not me. And buy the product in massive amounts. My company becomes bigger and attract the ultimate investor for it. So I can work relaxed and I get passive income regularly. :)

  • I think it is dependent on your niche as to whether you need to focus on the brand or yourself. However if you choose to focus on yourself, be careful not to make any major blunders re expressing your opinion as that will definitely damage your business.

  • Hey guys
    Thank you so much for your interesting feedback and points of view. I absolutely agree that it depends on what business you are in, but even a large company like Disney or Coca-Cola needs a spokesperson, even if he/she is interchangable.
    Dennis, thanks for your comments regarding Tiger Woods and the fact that you tend to tune out “hot air types”. What about Oprah? She has built an amazing brand, and you may not liken her to an entreprenuer.
    Natalie, I love your business concept and would love to connect further.

    Kerry x

  • Great post and comments.

    At the end of the day, I remember the likes of Richard Branson, Suzie Orman and Oprah and resonate with the “warm and fuzzy” personal branding of each of them. (In my own life, I want to be like them.) Even the Dyson scientist, vacuum guy. He’s smart and he’s the creator of a better vacuum. It has impact.

    So, if you’re passionate and educated about your topic or philosophy and think you can present it in a somewhat unique or super passionate way then personal branding seems like the way to go. The caveat is that you really do have to be passionate about it, because I think that’s the real key to branding success.

    If one brands themselves as a “Suitcase Entrepreneur” and moves on to becoming a “Travel Entrepreneur” (just as an example). It’s possible that person will be referred to as “The Creator of the Suitcase Entrepreneur” as they move onto other endeavors and that would give folks a reference point or something they resonate with in a “warm and fuzzy” way. That prior, built-up branding still has real value.

    I, like (the first) Natalie, am working out the topic of branding as it relates to my educational website, Stock Trading Warrior. I am so passionate about stock trading and believe that pretty much everyone can be better at trading and investing. As I think about this, I believe that’s part of the model for a personal branding situation: A person that does or knows something that others may want to model.

    Even if one decides to go the personal branding route there are ways to create passive income.

    Also, the author of this article, Kerry, may have realized how much more potent promoting the author (personal) is that just plugging a book (thing). And also, how much rewarding that is for her and possibly the author herself.

    It’s such an interesting topic…

  • I personally tried to Promote My Blog In The Press but only got around 10% increase in visitors and thats why I am currently not using Press to promote anything but I think there are several reasons for that.

  • In order to generate demand, interpret market or consumer behavior, growth, changes in consumer preferences, etc. you have to measure and have statistics on each and every variable that is relevant to design a strategy or a course of action.

  • I will also like to go with self branding because self promotion makes auto promotion of the brand related to the person who is getting promotion and it works because targets directly with the market on the personal basis that seems one of the most powerful way to get space in this competitive market.

    Thanks for posting this article covering a lot of value from the different stories well known by almost all of the readers here at entrepreneurs journey.

  • I like your point about giving your service or product a personal touch. I believe this idea applies to both online and traditional businesses.

  • Lea

    Timely article – this is one issue I’m currently struggling with, whether to build my site around me or a persona ‘the gracious host’. In a way, even using my name and face is still a persona of sorts, but it can add credibility to the brand to have a human face. Thanks for the article.

  • I am running my network marketing business with my face and personality versus the product I am selling. I want to be identified first before the product I am selling. One thing this article reminds me of is that I need to write more about “my story” and make the content even more personal. It is funny but because I am so used to third person business writing, it is taking some conscious effort to write in the first person. Very interesting observation I think.

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