Today we have the huge privilege of interviewing Kaitlin Zhang, a branding consultant who works with businesses to design and promote their brands, drive profit and build customer-focused strategies. Kaitlin has helped startups and SMEs secure close to half a million pounds of funding. Enjoy the interview!
IKIGUIDE: Hello Kaitlin, thank you for accepting our interview! Can you tell us more about yourself and how you became an expert in personal branding?
Kaitlin: I had a very international upbringing: born in China, grew up in Canada, did an exchange in Australia, worked in San Francisco, now living in London. My international marketing experience span from the non-profit sector in San Francisco and Seattle, luxury consumer market in Vancouver to commercial property development in Shanghai.
Prior to starting my branding consultancy Kaitlin Zhang Branding in 2016, I was working in corporate branding, in particular for tech start-ups in London, raising over half a million pounds for SMEs. I learned that investors actually care a great deal about the personal brands of the CEO/founder as well as the core employees for start-ups. It’s not only about the brilliant business idea, but also the skills and experience of the team that can execute that idea.
So I decided to test my theory by running personal branding workshops in London for O2, NatWest, Google. The reception was amazing; I even won an award from O2 for my workshops. Now, Kaitlin Zhang Branding is a team of consultants and digital marketers that specialize in personal branding online as well as cross-cultural corporate branding between China and the West.
IKIGUIDE: How would you define personal branding?
Kaitlin: Personal branding is about finding the best part of yourself that matches with your audience’s wishes and expectations.
This means that your personal brand changes when it comes to interacting with your customers, your boss, or your family. You are still the same person, still authentic in every way, but with a better understanding on how you can best serve others.
I divide personal branding into two main areas: offline and online.
Offline includes areas such as fashion style and body language.
And online is about managing your online reputation and how you present yourself on the internet. I specialize in online personal branding.
IKIGUIDE: How would you personally measure the ROI of personal branding?
Certainly the ROI depends on your goals.
For a typical solopreneur or freelancers, the direct goal is using a powerful online personal brand to reach your target audience and generate clients. It doesn’t really matter how many social media followers you have as long as your digital marketing strategy results in real revenue.
For business owners, senior executives, the ROI is measured in how much your personal brand contributes to your customer’s perception of your corporate brand. For example, many people are more inclined to purchase a product when they hear the founder’s passions, story and struggle to make the product.
IKIGUIDE:If the effects of personal branding are really so powerful, why are some people still not making enough effort to brand themselves?
“My privacy is at stake.”
“Working on my company’s branding is more important than my personal brand.”
“Personal branding takes too much time.”
I think some people are falling for these Top 5 Myths About Personal Branding. Ultimately, it’s between a lack of understanding of how powerful a great personal brand can be and the lack of knowledge on how to establish a personal brand.
That’s why I created a really simple process of 5 Steps To Build Your Personal Brand Online. Here are 4 Tips On How You Can Improve Your Personal Brand Over a Weekend.
IKIGUIDE: How can an individual determine the type of values he/she stands for? E.g. what sort of questions can he ask to gain clarity on the personal values?
Did you know that your personal values is not about you? *cue gasp*
Your personal value should be a reflection of which values you hold dear as well as what matters to your audience. Talk to them to find out what values matter to them and then see which ones resonate with you.
And please stay away from over used and boringly obvious phrases such as “honesty”, “hardworking”, “passion”, “innovation”, “teamwork” etc.
IKIGUIDE: Do you think image is getting more and more important in today’s world?
Image has always been important. It’s just the medium that’s changed.
Increasingly people are meeting online for the first time and your online reputation arguably matters the most now.
IKIGUIDE: What is the one tip you would give to an entrepreneur who wishes to brand themselves online?
Don’t start with your social media. That’s the number one mistake people make when they start working on their personal brand.
Start by understanding your target audience, competitors, the market and then establish your brand positioning and brand values. Build a foundation first before jumping into social media.
IKIGUIDE: On a parting note, do you have anything else to add?
On my website www.kaitlinzhang.com you will find blogs, videos and upcoming events with a lot of great tips on how you can improve your personal brand. You can also say hi and ask me any questions via email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!