Today we have the huge pleasure of having Walter Lim with us! Founder of Cooler Insights, a boutique agency that helps businesses grow their brands through content marketing, social media, and PR, Walter has almost 22 years of senior management experience in traditional and digital marketing and communications.
Passionate about building both corporate and personal brands, Walter is an advocate for the art and science of digital brand storytelling. His consulting clients include government agencies, MNCs, SMEs and startups from the education, fin-tech, retail, FMCG, financial, healthcare, and legal sectors. A seasoned trainer, Walter spoke at multiple conferences on topics like branding, public relations, social media marketing, and digital parenting.
Do follow Cooler Insights for the marketing latest trends. Enjoy the interview!~
WW: Hello Walter! Can you tell us more about yourself and Cooler Insights?
Walter: Sure! I’m a father of one, a geek marketer who loves to learn and teach, and a fan of science fiction and fantasy movies.
Like many geeks and nerds, I always carry around a book with me (I’m reading Captivology by former Mashable editor Ben Parr right now). I also listen to podcasts on digital marketing – Perpetual Traffic and Marketing School are my ear worms right now, and follow social media influencers on Facebook.
Cooler Insights began as a personal blog way back in October 2005 (ie 11.5 years ago). What started out as an idiosyncratic “hobby” for me became serious business when I was appointed to be a judge for the Singapore Blog Awards for five consecutive years. I was also invited to be a juror for the Mumbrella Asia Awards this year and appointed to be a member of the Media Literacy Council (MLC).
Today, Cooler Insights is both a B2B business blog and a content and social media marketing agency. We help clients tell their stories online, manage digital marketing campaigns, and equip marketers with basic social media skills. We’ve also partnered with Design Prodigy to serve bigger MNC and public listed clients. And yes, I’m still blogging – once to twice a week now in view of my busier schedule.
WW: What is personal branding to you?
Walter: Personal branding is about carving out a unique and distinctive personal identity, and allowing others to discover the value which you can bring to them.
A strong advocate of “give-to-get” marketing, I believe in sharing what I do know through my content on social media. By relentlessly producing quality content and delivering value to my colleagues, clients, trainees and partners, I have established my own personal brand as a geek marketer.
WW: You seem to be huge on semiotics in personal branding. Can you tell us what “semiotics” is, and how it matters?
Walter: My interest in semiotics was purely accidental, having heard about it on a podcast many moons ago. My highly abridged definition is that semiotics is about using signs and symbols to effectively communicate and convey the right meaning given a particular context.
To project the right personal brand, you need to use the right combination of words, images and actions while bearing in mind the individual and socio-cultural contexts of your target audiences. These symbolic elements may include your profile photos, mantras, quotable quotes, colours (e.g warm red or cool blues), as well as other “touch points” online and offline.
If you are not mindful of semiotics as a total system of communication, you may commit sins of omission and inadvertently send the wrong message. For instance, your love for monochrome suits could give others the impression that you’re classy but aloof, even though you may be a warm and down-to-earth person.
You can learn more about marketing semiotics in my article here.
WW: Previously you have written about vulnerability in personal branding. What is this, and would people not interpret it as an attempt at “sob story”?
Walter: In her book Daring Greatly (my book review here), Brene brought up the importance of vulnerability as a process of “daring greatly and having the courage to show up and let yourself be seen.” Only by doing so can we lead fully present and whole-hearted lives.
Being vulnerable is not about crying in public all the time. Neither is it about displaying weakness so that you can gain sympathy. Rather, it is about daring to try even though you may not excel in what you do, connecting and reaching out to others with empathy, and showing that you’ve also got skin in this game called life.
Allow me to share this beautiful quote from the book with you:
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” – Brene Brown
WW: What is effective storytelling to you?
Walter: A good personal brand story has the following ingredients:
- Universal themes that resonate with others;
- A compelling plot with believable characters and messages;
- Incorporation of heroic archetypes in the narrative; and
- Focus on positive elements and outcomes.
Beyond these elements, personal stories need to be emotionally satisfying. You need to get your listeners, readers and viewers invested in your narrative, and hooked on each episode of your life adventures.
WW: How would you advise introverts to do personal branding? Share 3 tips!
Walter: Being a natural introvert, I’m not a selfie person. I hardly take photos of myself, and cringe when I see myself on video.
However, that has not precluded me from building my personal brand online. In fact, I’ve generated lots of business leads and opportunities by sheer virtue of my personal brand.
Here are three things which introverts can do to build their personal brand:
- Listen Attentively: Practice engaged listening techniques to sieve out what others are saying, and tap onto the pulse of the masses.
- Write Prolifically: If you haven’t already guessed it, you’d know that most famous authors are introverts! Expressing yourself through words allows you to wield the power of the pen.
- Build Online: Social media is ideal for introverts. You can choose when you want to engage with whom online nestled comfortably in your favourite spot.
(You can read more about how introverts can become influencers here.)
WW: What is the number one misconception of personal branding to you that most people might have?
Walter: The greatest misconception about personal branding is that it is all about self-aggrandizement. In other words, blowing your own trumpet and boasting about your achievements.
While there are so-called “personal branding” consultants who cannot stop talking about themselves, I believe that the true essence of personal branding lies in creating a unique identity for yourself, providing value, and letting others know about it.
In other words, you need to “show, not tell.”
WW: What is the one thing about personal branding you wish more people can know?
Walter: OK, this may sound clichéd, but personal branding is truly a marathon and not a sprint.
It is about choosing to work and live in a certain way so that you can influence others positively, regardless of whether the spotlight is on you. It is about creating a dent in the Universe (hat tip to Steve Jobs) in whatever you do, no matter how small that impact may be.
WW: On a parting note, do you have anything else to add?
Walter: Think about the giants in your life. They could be a religious icon (like Jesus, Buddha or Mohammed), a popstar, a politician, a CEO or even your own mum and dad.
What aspects of their life do you respect the most? How did they change their worlds? What were their contributions to their communities?
Now go and do likewise.