What does it really mean to “be your own brand?”
You’ll probably get a different answer from every person you ask, but since you asked…
I believe it means precisely identifying what makes you uniquely you, embracing it and then strategically positioning all the pieces that make up that uniqueness and presenting it in a manner that is cohesive, accessible, super valuable to other people, and therefore monetizable.
I encourage all my clients to start by taking a deep and analytical look within in order to find their brand. But for the purposes of today’s post, we’re going to take a look at a handful of other brands, created by some of my favorite women, who are simply killing it in the game of online personal branding.
These following 19 women are prime examples of what it looks like to take your passions, your quirks, your gifts and — with structure and strategy — turn them into bonafide, profitable businesses.
One common thread you’ll find among all these women is that they are all, in some shape or form, spreading love. They each position community, connectedness, self-worth and giving back as key components to their message. I believe that like attracts like and when you come from a genuine, positive place, you will always find your tribe. That, above all, is the exemplary model these amazing women set. Let them inspire you, educate you and inform which direction you might take in becoming — and building — your own brand.
In no particular order…
1. Natalie MacNeil, SheTakesOnTheWorld.com
Natalie is the epitome of the Entrepreneurial babe. Her site, which was named in honor of her passion for travel, also happens to have been listed on Forbes Top 10 Websites for women. MacNeil’s belief is that “the best way to get your dream job is to create it yourself.” This is the common thread behind her all her content and programs. She doles out inspirational advice and actionable tools on being your own boss and offers programs to precisely teach you how. (The Conquer Club launched — and sold out — last year.) She uses a lot of images of herself throughout the website, effectively and synonymously branding “Natalie, the girl” with “She Takes on the World,” the business.
2. Tara Stiles, TaraStiles.com
Tara is my homegirl. She started teaching yoga out of her Manhattan apartment, and in just five short years, has catapulted into an international yoga celebrity-dom. As her highly popular studio, Strala, grew, Tara published yoga “how-to” videos on Youtube.com, was named the “Rebel Yogi” by the New York Times, partnered up with Reebok as their yoga brand ambassador, became the face of the W Hotels lifestyle and fitness program and along the way, published three best selling books, launched a mobile app, partnered with Lifetime Fitness and has been the star of endless DVD series. Her slogan is “Who Made the Rules?,” and she imbeds it everywhere: from her Reebok tanks, to her hashtags, to the title of her new book. Check out my interview with Tara on SimplyBe TV, where she talks about how she stays true to herself despite all of her insane success.
3. Tara Bliss, TaraBliss.com.au
If I lived in Australia, I would want to be BFFs with Tara Bliss. She’s a beautiful example of someone who effortlessly and gracefully shares her truth in order to help her audience. She’s a self-professed recovering party girl turned life-coach and author. Every aspect of her brand, “Such Different Skies: Get High on the Good Stuff,” aligns with her lifestyle based on healthy living, yoga and spirituality. All of her messaging, from her blogs to her Instagram to her design, tells a very cohesive story about who she is and who her target demographic is. On top of being a yogi, coach and downright gypsy beauty, she’s one seriously amazing writer. Tara has published a handful of books, work-books, day planners, recipe collections and video trainings. Her newest book: “High, A Party Girl’s Guide to Peace” launched in the winter 2014 to rave reviews.
4. Gala Darling, galadarling.com
Gala Darling is everything that you would want and expect her to be. A Kiwi-turned-New Yorker with a penchant for retro fashion, tattoos and glitter, it’s hard not to love everything about her. She’s a beautiful example of a blogger who has monetized her website (and herself) in a myriad of ways. On top of founding The Blog Academy, a traveling three-day workshop that sells out to aspiring bloggers across the world, she’s also created the Radical Self Love Bootcamp and has developed digital products such as e-books and courses, has launched seminars and speaks on stages all over the globe on the topic.
5. Nisha Moodley, nishamoodley.com
Her brand and business philosophy is: “The world will be set free by women who are free. Sisterhood is key.” I have freakin’ chills just transcribing that. Nisha Moodley is a life coach who has transcended her work into the digital stratosphere and exploded. Her 8-week training videos and group coaching sessions have waiting lists months long. Tim Ferriss called her “nothing short of amazing.” Danielle LaPorte called her wisdom “sensual and inclusive.” Her inspiration for creating Fierce Fabulous and Free came from her own personal struggles and she shares her story openly, and her success exemplifies just how deeply we resonate with authenticity. She sets a beautiful standard for not only women entrepreneurs, but for women in general.
Tim Ferriss called her “nothing short of amazing.”
6. Star Khechara, starkhechara.com
Star Khechara is one genius little Brit. I discovered her through her free online course: “Pimp Your Chimp,” a video tutorial series on how to optimize Mailchimp. It wasn’t the most polished video product I’ve seen, but her personality and talent shined through, proving you don’t need to spend a pretty-penny on production if your content is solid. It was enough to sell me on Star for the longterm. If you spend just a few minutes surfing her site, you’ll get what I’m saying. The truth is, Star has sold not one but multiple businesses, banks well-over six-figures, is location independent (currently she’s kicking it Thailand) and works three days a week. Her mission? To teach you how to do the same. She recently launched the 10-day Monetize YOU challenge. If self-monetization is your game, get on the Star Kechara train.
7. Laura Roeder, lrksocialmedia.com
Laura Roeder is the badass entrepreneur next door. She’s a social media master (or should we call her a maven?) who has skyrocketed on the internet marketing scene. Laura has built a massive global business with her consulting agency, LKR Social Media. She’s done so by ditching “trading time for dollars,” and instead created sophisticated and highly valuable online courses for all types of businesses and entrepreneurs. She’s become a true social media authority with her weekly blog and newsletter “The Dash,” which provides insanely valuable content for anyone looking to grow their business. Laura’s in a league with Marie Forleo, Derek Halpern and has rubbed shoulders with Richard Branson. Now, LKR Social Media is a seven-figure business and growing, and she’s done it by leveraging her instincts, her experience and her confidence. We love that.
8. Alexis Jones, alexisjones.com
Alexis Jones makes me proud to be a part of this generation of entrepreneurs. She’s a trailblazer. Alexis founded the organization I Am That Girl, “a community, a support system and a movement, inspiring girls to love, express and be who they are.” The organization has touched hundreds of thousands of young women across the world and along the way, Alexis has become the face of the brand. When she’s not leading campaigns and retreats for I Am That Girl, she’s speaking at the White House, Harvard Business School and the NASA Innovation Summit, to name a few. Aside from being a publicly recognized activist and speaker, she’s also a media personality and author and has been honored alongside Oprah, Sheryl Sandberg and Hilary Clinton.
9. Kate Northrup, katenorthrup.com
Kate Northrup wrote one of my favorite books of 2014: Money, A Love Story. This book is a must-read for anyone who has ever struggled with their finances in any shape or form. It’s practical, approachable and enlightening, but most of all, it’s vulnerable and honest. It is Kate’s personal story that makes the book so compelling, and to that end, I would say that’s the essence of her brand: REAL. Kate’s developed a handful of courses on creating financial freedom, launched her own show on “loving life and being free” called GlimpseTV and recently launched a hands-on Feng Shui course to optimize your home and office for more prosperity. If you sign up for her weekly newsletter, you’ll get her free Money Personality Quiz, which gives you a first hand look just how truly valuable and helpful Kate’s work is.
10. Sally Hope, sallyhope.com
Who wouldn’t want to read a website that declares: “Carpe the Hell out of Your Diem“? Sally Hope is a self-proclaimed wild heart, a former-rocker-turned-life-coach, clad in cowboy boots who rides motorcycles and hosts spiritual retreats. I mean, C’MON. If anyone is a shining example of what it looks like to monetize being downright cool-as-hell, it’s Sally Hope. She’s created a product called the “Wildheart Revolution,” where you can work with Sally on a per session basis, or join her community of Wildhearts for an ongoing portal into a community filled with daily support and inspiration.
11. Denise Duffield-Thomas, luckybitch.com
First thing’s first: kudos to Denise Duffield-Thomas for nabbing the best domain name in history. Moving on, when you dive deep into Denise’s site, content and business, you find so much more than just genius branding. You’ll find a kick-ass business coach committed to helping you get over your money blocks. She does so with her best selling books, digital courses and one-one-one coaching sessions. Denise knows what money noise sounds like, as she herself struggled with things like charging the appropriate rates for her time and sending invoices without vomiting. She’s uses her whip smart candor and slightly uncensored sarcasm to inspire you, equip you with the right money-making tools and shows you that anyone can be a lucky bitch. Yes, even you.
12. Allie LeFevere, allielefevere.com
“You don’t need anyone’s permission to thrive but your own,” says Allie LeFevere. Spend a bit of time reading her site, (especially her bio), and you’ll feel like she could be your best friend, your sister, or possibly…the most loving version of yourself you’ve been waiting to talk to. Allie has taken her personal story and has created her “brand story,” showcasing just how gorgeous and compelling authenticity can really look like. Allie is a woman’s life coach, and the creator of workshops, courses and programs, designed for you to reclaim your self-worth and celebrate your beauty. Keep your eye on this one. She’s a star in the making.
13. Sarah Jenks, sarahjenks.com
Sarah is a speaker, coach and the founder behind the “Live More, Weigh Less” revolution, an 8-week lifestyle program and community designed to help you create your ideal life and body without dieting. She’s empowered thousands of women all over the country, has been recognized by The Boston Globe, Forbes, Redbook and more, and partners with some of the most recognized women in the branding game including Danielle LaPorte, Marie Forleo, Erin Stutland and Christine Arylo. What I love so much about Sarah is how she has taken the darkness of self-sabotage and body-hatred, transformed it into the light of self-love and acceptance, and is now serving the world with her higher mission. A ‘brand story’ doesn’t get much better than that.
14. Erica Eckman, everythingerica.com
Whenever I talk to someone who has read Erica Eckman’s blog, the first thing they say is: “I feel like I know her.” I believe that’s the best response one can have to their blog. Erica is your “foodie friend with the inside scoop.” She blogs on everything from her self-created master recipes, local restaurant reviews, the latest juice cleanse, her favorite cooking appliances and so much more. Recently, Erica added a “Cook With Me” section to her website to monetize her passions. She created three separate programs: “Everything on Your Plate” — a recipe consult, “Everything in Your Kitchen”- a complete kitchen revamp and “Everything Cooking Classes” — intimate cooking classes. Erica partners and consults for restaurants, plus lifestyle and food brands, and has become an Instagram master. The fire this woman is cooking up is clearly not limited to her kitchen.
15. Vasavi Kumar, vasavikumar.com
Words cannot express how much I adore Vasavi Kumar. She’s a perfect example of how a multi-passionate, multi-talented entrepreneur can create multiple revenue streams, while staying aligned with truth and service. Vasavi is a Ayurvedic Dosha expert, a life coach, a media personality, a speaker and an author. Via her website, programs and her newsletter (which I highly recommend signing up for), she effectively balances all of these talents into one cohesive brand experience. But what I love about her the most is her unapologetic attitude when she decides to change her mind, switch gears, ditch an old product or launch a new one. She is so consistently authentic that her audience follows her wherever and however she changes.
16. Ash Ambirge, themiddlefingerproject.org
Ash Ambirge is a copywriting comedian/coach extraordinaire who has taken her bruised, painful, tortuous path as a struggling entrepreneur and has turned it into online gold. Her blog serves us straight-up business advice for business-owners everywhere. Here’s an excerpt: “Let me put it this way: Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. It’s also not for weak people, shitty people, irresponsible people, undisciplined people, stupid people, forgetful people, lazy people, irrational people, impatient people, or people who blame everything on Obama. She’s leveraged her knowledge, experience and her wit into coaching programs, copywriting classes, speaking and consulting.
17. Erika Napoletano erikanapoletano.com
I am slightly afraid of Erika Napaleatono and I kind of like it. She’s a self-proclaimed Executive Dominatrix (she will kick your ass and you will ask for more) with programs titled “Buy Me Coffee: One-on-One Coaching” and “Private Ass-Kicking With Erika.” I guess people must have a penchant for pain because her 30,000-strong Facebook group has some of the highest engagement I’ve ever seen. That’s because the bottomline is this: as a consultant, TedTalk’er and a blogger who uses the word “fucking” enough times to make you blush, Erika delivers tremendously useful and excruciatingly raw content on life, as well as business.
18. Alexandra Franzen, alexandrafranzen.com
If ever there was fairy dust for entrepreneurialism, it would come sprinkled in the form of an email from Alexandra Frazen. She states: “Words can change minds, open eyes, heal wounds, break hearts, or start wars. It all depends on how you use them.” Ms. Frazen is a copywriting coach extraordinaire, penning articles for TheMuse.com, MindBodyGreen and Huffington Post, plus she’s a ghost writer for some of the biggest authors and entrepreneurs on the planet. But it’s in her own blog and workshops where she really shines. Her gift is in helping others communicate their messaging beautifully, simply, articulately and with the perfect dose of intrigue. If you’re putting your messaging online, in any shape or form, get your dose of fairy dust ASAP.
19. Cerries Mooney, thebrandalchemist.com
If you dig crystals, horoscopes, tarot cards and chakras, you’ll love The Brand Alchemist. No, she’s not a holistic healer, but rather a brand and marketing expert who has developed one of the most intriguing and unique online businesses I’ve seen. She’s a self-professed “Soloprenuer,” and it’s clear based on her own branding, that she is keenly aware that the girl who finds her website probably is one too. She’s created The Archetypical Calibration System™, a program designed to get you closer to your brand’s identity. You can begin by taking her insightful quiz on discovering your brand archetype. Prepare to get lost in one of the most beautiful, enlightening and soulful rabbit holes on the internet and expect to find the greatest treasure of them all…you.
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.