Digital Marketing

Why Brian Clark Doesn’t Care About Personal Branding

There are few personal brands in the digital marketing world more powerful than that of Brian Clark.
For that reason, the old cliche “needs no introduction” should apply. But just in case you’ve been hidden under an equally-cliched rock, Brian Clark is the founder and CEO of Copyblogger, arguably the best-known and most successful site in the field of producing content that generates revenue.
More recently, Brian launched the Rainmaker Platform, a “complete website solution for building your online marketing and sales platform,” started the podcast (which has now become a full-scale podcast network), and just to fill his idle hours, also started Further, a weekly email curating the best content on how to lead a healthier, more productive life.
While every site, product, and venture listed above is awesome in its own right, there is no denying that much of the success of those various enterprises is due to the personal brand that is Brian Clark. Brian’s warm, approachable nature, sense of humor, and superior ability to communicate in both writing and speech have earned him a loyal and appreciative audience who love, follow, and sign up for, whatever he produces.
So it surprised me a bit when at last week’s Social Media Marketing World conference in San Diego, I heard Brian say from the stage:

I never concern myself with my “personal brand.” It’s far better to build something bigger than yourself. Then your personal brand will take care of itself.

When I heard one of the most powerful personal brands in my industry say that his secret is never thinking about his personal brand, I needed to know more.
So I met up with Brian Clark after his presentation to ask him what he meant by that. What follows is what he told me in that conversation (slightly edited for clarity and concision).

Build Something Bigger Than Yourself

Brian Clark: I kind of find the concept of personal branding odd in that it seems to be a euphemism for self-promotion, and doing that doesn’t necessarily involve providing value to others. It’s just elevating yourself.
I don’t think it works that way.
It’s similar to how we talk about content marketing. It’s media, in the sense that people want it, as opposed to marketing, which they try to avoid. And yet it still does the job of marketing.
People want media; they reject marketing. Let media do your marketing - Brian Clark
So, in regard to a personal brand, I see it as you working on something bigger than yourself, that delivers value to others. In Copyblogger’s case, that’s been content that first and foremost built an audience, and that in turn allowed us to build our company.

It’s Never Been About Brian Clark

Brian Clark: Along the way, it’s never been about Brian Clark. I’m not necessarily looking for attention, and yet you can’t stop it from happening. Even nine years later it’s still the same thing.
So my “personal brand” worked itself out just fine by focusing on delivering value to others. That’s why they value you as a person. That’s how they get to know you as a person, as opposed to just being a relentless self-promoter.
Now, there are some people who I think do personal branding the right way, but do we really need that terminology? I think it confuses other people out there. They spend a lot of time on building their personal brand, but end up coming across as “that guy,” instead of working on building value. They should be building a legitimate following of people based on value, as opposed to trying to run straight for the cult of personality thing.
Real personal brands build a legitimate audience based on value - Brian Clark
Everyone wants to be a star. Well, how did anyone get there? By hard work, and delivering value and benefit to others.

Personal Brands and Company Brands

For some time now, I (Mark) have been studying the powerful effect of personal brands representing a corporate brand. Since Copyblogger has generated several such Personal Brand Representatives (PBRs), I asked Brian for his take on that concept.
Brian Clark: The interesting thing within an existing brand, whether it be enterprise or SMB, is that you have people within the company who are personal brands. You have to go out there and let them shine. But again, they are shining by delivering value to prospects, and with perspectives that don’t necessarily need to come just from the marketing department.
You have people in your company who are great personal brands. Let them shine! - Brian Clark
I know that’s a big challenge for a lot of companies. It’s hard for even the founders or owners of the company to get behind that idea. But that’s where we’re at.
So you have a collection of personalities, and maybe even mini-celebrities, within your walls. Maybe it’s you; maybe it’s Jane from accounting. You have to turn them loose, not to build themselves up, but to show what the brand stands for. In the process, they are going to get their own little followings. But all that acts to build the trust and reputation of your brand.
Listen to an audio version of this interview.

Thoughts on “Why Brian Clark Doesn’t Care About Personal Branding”

  1. Interesting read, thanks Mark.
    I think there are a number of personal brands online, especially in the social sphere, that seem shallow and false – I’m guessing they’re the ones who focus more on their own branding rather than the real value of their product or service… Maybe they get away with it, at least for a while, but personally I think their lack of integrity and genuineness shows through.
    Good to read the comments of someone who’s done it properly, thanks.

  2. Good point Dennis. Not to pick on the women… but how many “young, pretty” social media girls with the big toothy smiles do you see out there? It’s like the former cheerleading squads now work as social media gurus. I prefer the old-schoolers who were marketing online before Facebook and Twitter. Their advice and businesses have already withstood a test of time.

  3. I understand what you are getting at, but would shrink back from the implication that because a woman is “young and pretty” in her profile photo, she is just getting by on her looks. I know that’s not what you meant to say, but I wouldn’t want anyone to form that generalization in their mind and be automatically prejudiced against someone because of their avatar.

  4. Great advice. And not everyone needs or even wants a personal brand. While I think it is fun to be known as the “Bug Guy” in some very small SEO circles, being know isn’t going to get me or the work I do very far. Most days I sit behind a desk and have very little direct influence on people. It’s far more important to me that the website and ads I create get attention over me getting any attention.

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Mark Traphagen

Mark Traphagen was our Content Strategy Director for Perficient Digital until February of 2019. He has been named one of the most influential content and social media authors in numerous industry listings.

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