The indispensable guide to developing a personal brand, building an audience, and nurturing followers, by digital marketing thought-leader Cynthia Johnson.
In the modern world, influence is everything and personal branding equals influence. Platform is the why-to, how-to handbook by top expert Cynthia Johnson for everyone who wants to develop and manage a personal brand. In Platform, Johnson explains the process of going from unknown to influencer by achieving personal proof, social proof, recognition, and association. Johnson herself went from an on-staff social media manager to social media influencer, entrepreneur, and marketing thought-leader in just three years using her process of accelerated brand development, continuous brand management, and strategic growth. Fans of #GirlBoss and #AskGaryVee, who wonder how their favorite influencers found their voices and built their audiences, will find the answers here and discover that the process is technical, creative, tactical, and much easier than they might have expected.
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About the Author
CYNTHIA JOHNSON is the cofounder of the Los Angeles–based branding agency Bell + Ivy and has 1.7 million followers on Twitter (@CynthiaLive). She was named one of the top five personal branding experts in 2017 by Entrepreneur magazine, Inc. listed her as one of the 20 digital marketing people to follow, and Mashable named her the third most important marketer to follow on Snapchat (#CyninLA). Johnson sits on the advisory board for The Millennium Alliance, a leading technology, business, and educational advisory firm serving Fortune 1000 C-Level executives. Cynthia is a global keynote speaker and has addressed companies and events such as Alibaba in China, World Government Summit in Dubai, and Global Ventures Summit in Indonesia and Mexico, as well as USC's Marshall School of Business and Stanford's Igniter program. Her work has been featured in Inc., Forbes, and TIME and she has advised on the social media, branding, and viral campaigns for companies such as Vans, Levi's, and the Susan B. Komen Foundation. Visit cynthialive.com.
Read an Excerpt
My goal in writing this book is to encourage the real experts, the careerists, to start laying the foundation for their platforms, if not for themselves, then for the world. There is so much noise coming from so many people and places that we are exhausting the public attention span for experts and important causes. We need to hear from the people who understand topics completely and thoroughly. Platform is about you and your expertise, your reputation, and your inﬂuence. You can change the world with your voice if you have a platform to stand on and people who will listen.
So why am I the expert to write this book? Let me introduce myself: I am Cynthia Johnson, or as you may know me, @CynthiaLIVE. I have 1.7 million followers on Twitter. (I even have the blue check mark on Twitter and Instagram.) Mashable says I am the third-most important marketer to follow on Snapchat (@CyninLA); Entrepreneur magazine says I am one of the top ﬁve personal branding experts, and Inc. conﬁrms that I am the twelfth-most-inﬂuential person when it comes to shifting marketing budgets and keeping chief information ofﬁcers informed. Adweek thinks that I am one of the top marketers whom venture capitalists should be following. Basically, I am awesome and an expert at everything (insert some kind of hashtag here). I am kidding, of course. I am not an expert at everything, nor am I even a fan of the word expert, but I am a recognized digital marketing and personal branding professional.
As you read how I accomplished it all, you’ll start to understand why the way I got here— and the mind- set required— matters. I worked hard, earned my reputation along the way, and took huge risks to get where I am, but many people have done the same without ever gaining substantial recognition or realizing new opportunities. My career was born out of a combination of being in the right place at the right time, having strong mentors, and necessity. The truth is, no matter how you look at it, all roads point to one main decision that launched my career and set me up for success: I created a personal brand.
Establishing a personal brand has enabled me to become a writer for major publications and to speak at various events and conferences, such as the Global Ventures Summit, Alibaba’s Golden Bull Awards, the PR News conference, and the GetGlobal conference, to name a few. I am on the executive advisory board as well as a coach for Fortune 1000 executives (there are only twenty of us, and some are C- suite executives at companies such as Aetna). On occasion, I have the opportunity to travel around the world to work as an advisor. Have you ever heard of the World Marketing Congress or the World Government Summit? I had not heard of them either— until I was invited and ﬂown to Dubai, China, Portugal, Bali, India, Turkey, and Israel to meet with government leaders, local experts, and philanthropists.
I have grown my following to nearly three million people across all social channels. I have spoken at nearly seventy- ﬁve events or different industries on various topics, in twenty- ﬁve states and seventeen countries— all in less than three years. I have been mentioned and featured in several major publications and blogs. I have become a go- to marketing and branding expert for some of the largest start- ups and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles and have been able to monetize my brand without losing my authenticity. I have taken myself from a social media manager and student to a social media inﬂuencer, entrepreneur, marketing thought- leader, executive consultant, and women’s empowerment advocate. The opportunities I’ve had might seem out of the ordinary, and you may be thinking, She must be special, or, She is really lucky. But they all resulted from building, focusing, and maintaining my personal brand to achieve my personal brand mission. This transformation and growth took place within a few years and required a lot of focus, but if I can do it, you can, too . . . and you will.
Repeat after me: Personal branding is for everyone, not just the privileged and well networked. When people write blogs and articles about how personal branding isn’t a necessary or worthy act, they are actually building their brand— a brand based on eschewing personal branding. To reiterate, personal branding is for everyone, including you. Is it hard? No. Does it require effort and a strong work ethic? Yes. Half of the work is to consistently show up and be ready and available for the opportunities that arise.
Having a personal brand is inescapable. If you don’t build and man-age your brand, the world around you will do it for you, and you will be putting your future in the hands of others. This is risky. If you’re trying to achieve greater success in your career, it is nonsensical to allow others to build your personal brand. Everything we do, every-one we associate with, every company we work for affects the way the world perceives us. To structure and maintain our reputations, we must develop and manage our own personal brands. This is not just a must- win for our careers. As artiﬁcial intelligence grows, we will start to see that our online presence, which is the most public expression of our personal brand, will be used in ways that affect our lives overall— to assess our risk for loans or our suitability for admission to educational institutions, for example. You are more than what you post: your audience’s perception of you is your reality. Change their perception, and you create a new reality.
What does it take to develop and manage your own brand? You must create a strategy. Approach your personal brand with the same seriousness and due diligence that branding agencies show their corporate clients. In addition to your brand message, you need an audit, a goal- setting game plan, growth strategies, and an aware-ness of the space you are in or want to enter.
The goal is to deﬁne and demonstrate your identity in a way that accurately represents your successes and paints you as the person you want to be (not necessarily who you currently are). Your brand should bring you opportunity, not take it away from you. If your brand positively speaks on your behalf, then you get to remain modest in conversation. You should have a personal brand message that is immediately clear; your brand message both controls and dictates what people say about you when you are not in the room.
Take a look at some of the most well- known and studied personal brands in history: We have the Rockefellers (not recent but still relevant), Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian, Gary Vaynerchuk, Mark Cuban, Oprah Winfrey, and Martha Stewart, to name a few. We know these people really well. We have watched most of them go through some sort of public scrutiny at one time or another. We have also seen them quickly achieve the unthinkable. Kim Kardashian went from a leaked-sex-tape victim to TIME magazine’s “Top 100 Most Inﬂuential People in 2015.” Donald Trump transitioned from businessman to reality TV star to president of the United States.
Personal branding is built on four main factors: personal proof, social proof, recognition, and association. These are the elements that support your personal brand. However, you cannot successfully achieve any of these objectives without clear direction, planning, and goals. Platform will teach you my methodology for accelerated brand development, continuous brand management, growth and pivot strategies, and monetization.
You will learn how to build your own brand to achieve your goals and reach new heights in your career, all while having fun along the way. You will come to understand what it means to build a brand and how to get out of your own way so you can do this. Start with the realization that everything we think we know could possibly be wrong. This will help you gain the conﬁdence to challenge the status quo and acquire the tools to make a splash in your industry and your life overall.
As you read Platform, keep in mind that personal branding is not a new concept but a tool that has been used by the privileged few who were willing to embrace it long before the rest of us. Today, personal branding is something we all need to do. By building my own brand and helping others build theirs, I have learned that there are signiﬁcant beneﬁts to cultivating your own public persona. If you deﬁne your direction, you will move quickly into positions of inﬂuence simply by controlling your own world and the elements surrounding it. Branding is technical, creative, spiritual, and scientific, and it is much easier than you think.