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Robert: Welcome to the eCommerce Marketing Podcast. This episode’s guest is Mel Carson. Mel Carson is the founder of Delightful Communications. He is a social media digital PR and personal branding expert. Welcome to the eCommerce Marketing Podcast, Mel. How are you doing?

Mel: Thank you, Robert. I’m doing very well. I’m here in not so sunny Seattle now. Summer is over here but I’m really looking forward to having this conversation about branding and personal branding.

Robert: When did you start Delightful Communications? When did you decide you wanted to start your own agency?

Mel: Well, I worked for Microsoft for many years, seven years, as digital marketing evangelist. Back in 2012, I got caught up in a big round of layoffs. They were laying off a whole bunch of people. I got caught up in that. I remember at the time, I’d written a blog post saying that I was leaving and I was on the lookout for jobs. If anyone knew of any roles that were going. It was really strange because there was such a reaction to the fact that I was leaving Microsoft after seven years, that I realized that there’s something I’ve been doing within the digital marketing industry to build up a personal brand for myself which really seem to resonate with people.
I kind of hit on this idea that maybe I could start a consulting firm to help other people in other areas and other industries with their personal branding. Really, ever since then, three and a years ago, Delightful has helped hundreds of people and their businesses business successful through using social and digital media, not just on a personal level, but realizing that the power that a personal brand can have in a positive way for a company brand has really helped some of these businesses be very successful.

Robert: Yeah, I’m really glad that worked out. That that happened with the layoffs, that you’re able to change that and use that as like your launch for starting your own company.

Mel: Yeah, it did all work out really well. I mean, it could have gone completely the other way. But I realized it was an opportunity rather than something negative that had happened to me.

Robert: We are going to be talking about how people and brands can put together a successful brand strategy. But before we get into the details or into the how, do you have any quick story you can share about personal branding or some fun facts you may have?

Mel: I think the main fact is that, and I will start at every presentation that I do that Nielsen came out with some very good research saying that any 15% of people will believe what a brand or a company has to say. Any fifteen people will actually trust what a brand is going to say, but 90% of people trust the word or the opinion or the recommendation of a family, friend, family member or peer in whatever industry. I think it’s really important that, now, we’re starting to move in this era or personalized marketing, where there’s enough data out there that we can really create personalized, more relevant experiences for people, that we’re putting the people power back into marketing, not just for the end consumer but also within our own businesses as well and helping create employee advocates. I definitely see that that’s a huge trend moving forward.

Robert: That’s very interesting. Based on that one fact, it seems like it just goes back to the old word of mouth marketing and just referrals.

Mel: Yeah, I mean, we’re not going to get rid of digital market, we’re not going to get rid of brands giving out messages and trying to market to consumers, but what I’m suggesting is that never before has there been the opportunity to empower employees at big companies or small companies to actually think about the impression that they’re making on the people that they come in to interact with on a daily basis, whether it’s through social media, LinkedIn, Facebook, what they’re saying, but also in person. There’s never been a better time to make and to be able to control the impression that that sales person or account manager or whatever field of business makes because we have all these tools and these kinds of strategies to our disposal.
If we’re putting people back into, for instance, PR is public relations but for all intents and purposes, a lot of the traditional PR agencies, it’s more being press relations. But now, with social and digital media and content marketing and search engines and the fact that we have this tiny computer in our back pocket called a cellphone, or the smartphone that connects us with billions and billions of people every day. It’s really important that businesses remember that people really are their best asset. They should be thinking about strategies to help their own people, right from the CEOs and the CFOs and whoever, all the way down to the foot soldiers that the customer call phase face so to speak, and that they are empowered positively to really help the brand through some more personal connections, people to people as opposed to brand to consumer.

Robert: Why is it important for the business and for the entrepreneur or for the individual to thinking about impressions? What’s the bottom line? What’s the end goal? How will a business or a brand benefit from having a strategy or thinking or putting the effort to make sure that they’re making the right impression with their customers?

Mel: It comes down to the fact that if all the—I mean, I could talk about research all the time but it does obviously make sense that having a human and a more emotional connection with your end consumer shows that you actually know and understand. What we suggest and what we work with companies on is actually having a strategy where we help them device a vision and a mission and a purpose for their brand but also the different campaigns that they might be setting up and pushing out there based on goals, obviously, because old marketing, you need goals, but also, competitive analysis as well, to make sure that brands is standing out and one of the ways that they can stand out is by having one element or one part of their strategy being involved in trying to create those more human connections between employees but also having a face of the company.

If you think of someone like Richard Branson for the Virgin Group, what a great job and what a great ambassador he is for that business but through his own personal brand and through what he has to say and is such an identifiable beacon for that business and does and enormous amount of good for keeping that brand alive and exciting in the hearts and minds of online customers.

Robert: That’s a good example with Richard Branson. How can a company or the listener out there, how can they get started if they don’t have a personal brand strategy for their company? Or if you have an entrepreneur listening right now, what can they do to get started to empower their employees or to be in the right mindset of how they want to establish a good and positive experience with their customers?

Mel: That’s a great question. We really suggest there’s three things you want to try and do, the three goals for an exceptional personal brand and that is to be discoverable, to be shareable and to be therefore memorable. Discoverable means that—there’s kind of two arms to this. There’s one is your infrastructure. CEO of X company will take a look at their digital footprint, what people are searching for related either to them and their name or the particular niche that they’re involved in and the industry to see what comes up. We do competitive analysis and look at maybe the CEOs of competing companies to see what they are doing as far as amplifying content messages, blog posts, though leadership, XYZ.

We take a look at LinkedIn as well and Twitter and all the social platforms and make sure that that individual’s personal brand is as discoverable as possible. There are all sorts of different tactics that you can employ to make sure that if someone’s searching for your name, it’s kind of online reputation management, making sure that those infrastructures are in place. The second, that’s kind of discoverability.

The second thing is about shareability. It’s actually putting together some messaging and content, whether it be blog posts and thinking about how you’re twitting or thinking about what you’re updating on Facebook that actually has a point. I’ve got a slide I love to share about your aura, AURA. A is the authentic, U is the useful, R is for relevant and A is for actionable. Everything that you’re putting out there and you’re sharing about your business and your own personal brand and where you are in the world and what you’ve got to say about the passion that you have for your business or your product or service or your industry, all that content needs to be authentic.

It needs to be useful as in there’s some utility to it because you don’t want people looking at it and just going, “Whoa, what was the point of that? Why did I just waste five minutes reading that blog post? It didn’t tell me anything.” Relevancy is obviously huge in marketing and that kind of stands to reason but actionable as well, making sure that any content that you’re putting out there is actionable and that people can take some kind of action to discover more about you, your personal brand, what you’re about, your business, your company, and such, because we only have a finite amount of time in the world in any given day, any given hour, and so the longer you’re persuading people to spend with you, your personal brand and your company’s brand, the less time those people will have to go and spend time with your competitor and learn something about that.

Robert: What about the—you talked about discoverable, being shareable and the last one was the memorability?

Mel: Yeah, that kind of should be a bi-product of both of them. What you’re trying to do is to have that kind of emotional connection. Make an impression, such an impression that people will remember you. There will be some brand recall the next time. Because they might not necessarily need your product or services. They might not necessarily need to do business with you if you’re an entrepreneur. But the fact that you’ve made it a positive impression will help with that recall and will help with that memorability. I mean, some of the stories that I’ve got off updating, I think I got asked how the TEDx Seattle and TEDx Rainier guys, the speakers with their personal branding and digital marketing. When I updated LinkedIn with that as an experience, I got all sorts of comments and contact from people that I haven’t seen for years and years and years.

A couple of those contacts actually turned into some kind of business. It was obviously something that had given people a bit of a poke that I was still around and I have this new business and all those kind of stuff. People had obviously remembered something about our interactions years and years ago but now it was when they needed something or they needed to hire us for some help with their marketing that having made that impression, being memorable, had obviously helped stimulate them to want to hire us back and end up doing some business.

Robert: You’ve mentioned, when you’re talking, you’ve mentioned a lot about personal branding, but can these same principles be applied to the business itself? It is only for the employees and the CEO and the entrepreneur or can this whole thing be applied to your whole business?

Mel: Yeah, you are looking at the same principles. When I worked at Microsoft, I was very much at the call phase. I was doing a lot of tactical execution. There were people higher up, they’re in charge of the brand, and I still look at that and just think “Well, that’s all just a logo. You don’t understand how much work we’re doing at this kind of level actually interfacing with the customers.” It was only really when I left that I realized that it is so important to have a mission and a vision for your brand and to have done some competitive analysis to see how you can differentiate and stand out and then everything else rolls up to that.

What we are essentially doing for people on the personal branding front is kind of content marketing and digital marketing for individuals. But the principles do still apply. It’s just that there are going to be different results. Sometimes, better results from an individual level than if it’s mass digital marketing for a big brand spend hundreds of millions of dollars on ad buys or Facebook ads and stuff like that. I think what we’ve been successful in persuading businesses is that it’s not the be-all, end-all but it is another layer of strategic thinking about how to leverage social digital media especially to create as good an impression for the brand through recognizing that people are your best asset.

Robert: What are some top mistakes that people should be avoiding when they’re building their brands?

Mel: I think the key to it is that you’re being authentic. I think some people kind of go out a little bit too quickly and try to be all things to all people and feel that they have to pump themselves up a little bit more than they need to. That is very, very obvious when you look at a lot of LinkedIn summaries of people, the way that they feel they have to speak about themselves. If you do a search for how to avoid LinkedIn buzz words, there’s a few blog posts out there, LinkedIn released a whole bunch of buzz words. The way that people refer to themselves is kind of inauthentic and almost inhuman because that’s what they think people want to read and see. But actually what LinkedIn have told me is that you should very much lead with that you understand your audience and that you are demonstrating what value you possess.

You don’t necessarily go out there and say twenty years of selling billions of dollars’ worth of this kind of stuff. Because at the end of the day, if people are looking at you as a potential employee or looking to do business with you, it stands to reason that they want to see what it’s like to work with you, not just what results you get. I think there’s a need to be authentic. There’s a need to build your brand slowly and not expect overnight success. I mean, I’ve been doing this for fifteen years in the digital industry. But the other thing is to make sure that you are being generous and empathetic and that it’s not just about broadcasting and saying me, me, me.

A lot of people, the certain kind of character types worry about putting themselves out there, “Am I going to have anything interesting to say? I really worry that people are going to think I’m an idiot if I seem to be showing off.” Actually, if you are an expert and skilled and have a good understanding of your particular niche or an expert in your particular industry, product or service, people are going to want to know about it. If you put yourself out there, and generous in sharing your knowledge and engaging with people especially on social networks and letting people know your thoughts and not just using it as a broadcast tool, that is going to be a much better way of making that good impression than just generally being a show off that doesn’t know their audience and who doesn’t interact with them in an engaging and authentic way.

Robert: When you’re building your brand, what are some of the tools that you think people should be using that’s going to help them create a great impression and that can just help them maintain a brand that’s going to help them and also help their business, whatever they’re working at?

Mel: Well, I think the biggest tool is going to be—I mean, it’s not a tool actually to think about having a strategy, having a vision, a mission, having a content calendar, having a communication [inaudible 22:33] essentially. One of the success metrics that we have is that you stick to the plan. You have a plan and you say, “Right, I’m going to tweet three times a day. I’m going to update LinkedIn three times a week. I’m going to write a blog post once every couple of weeks and I’m going to try and get a buy line on a … or submit an article to one of our industry magazines or publications once a month.” Actually sticking to that is really good, as good a success metric as any.

I mean, the platforms that we focus on mainly are kind of LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, helping people understand all the tips and tricks about how to get the most out of those. What people don’t understand is that there are various tools like Tracker, Buzz Sumo, Follow which are all influence seeking tools that will seek out different keywords and who’s connected to who and whatnot in Twitter profiles and across the web, so that it’s important to know and understand those tools that you set up your own infrastructure and your profiles in such a way that you are discoverable.

I also use those tools in order to seek out and do competitive analysis to find out who the other people in the content marketing space that I may be competing for eyeballs on Twitter or speaking opportunities or writing opportunities, et cetera. There’s a whole bunch of tools that you could use for competitive analysis. When it comes content, one of my clients, on a US brand ambassador is Majestic.com which is really good for understanding what content is resonating and how influential other people are by the amount of links that they might have to their blog or to their Twitter feed as well.

Really, having a content calendar that’s set in communication cadence is important. But one of the biggest and best of you can do is just to ask people. I do a lot of speaking at conferences and I stick my Twitter handle at the bottom of each slide and people will be sharing photos and doing running commentary on whatever talk I’m doing and that’s great, but I will always reply and say thank you very much and ask them, “What did you think? What was the best part? What could I improve?” I think there is a danger that we put too much emphasis on programmatic kind of tools and using digital online tool sets when actually we could just survey people and ask them point blank, “What did you think of that? Give me some feedback. Let me know how I can do better.”

Robert: Thank you. Thanks for all the strategies and things you’ve covered. Do you have any final thoughts on just personal branding?

Mel: No, I just think it is a huge opportunity for people to really take stock and really think about who they are, how they’ve got into their niche, what their professional purpose is, that’s one of the biggest things that we do for people to help them establish a professional purpose, because we all have to get out of bed and go to work and pay the mortgage and all that kind of stuff. But it really helps you plan and have a happier work life balance if you understand what your purpose is for going into work beyond financial or monetary gain. I just hope that people have picked up a few tips on how to think about their personal brand, how it could help them, how it could help their business as well and that you take a look on our blog, delightfulcommunications.com, and pick up some of the tips.

I’m more than willing to help anyone out if they want to reach out to me on Twitter and ask any questions and stuff like that. But I’m just very, very pleased and happy that Robert, you reached out to have this conversation. I wish you all the success with your podcast because I’ve had a great fun time this after.

Robert: Thank you. But before you go, you mentioned your Twitter. If you can just give it out so that people will know how to reach you on Twitter.

Mel: I’m @melcarson—all one word, M-E-L-C-A-R-S-O-N, and also Delightful is delightful—@delightful. We managed to get that Twitter handle which was quite cool as well, so… There you go.

Robert: Last question, if there’s one thing that listeners need to do now that’s going to help their business or help their brand, what’s the one thing that you could share?

Mel: From a professional perspective, I would take a look at your LinkedIn profile and make it a living one instead of just treating it as something that you just update when you get a new job. Start using it like a professional Facebook if you like. Because the amount of visibility that you can get if you publish on that and the amount of connections and the amount of potential discoverability is huge. They are investing an enormous amount in that platform. Revisiting your LinkedIn profile and making it a disciplined habit to check back every few days or at least every couple of weeks, you will start seeing an uptick in the amount of people checking you up.

Robert: Okay, Mel. Thanks again for doing the podcast. I really appreciate it. Until we talk next time.

Mel: Thanks, Robert.