If you're an entrepreneur, you need a personal brand because you are your company. Your startup is who you are. If you aren't taking care of your personal brand, that will negatively affect the brand of your company.
Unfortunately, a personal brand is a lot like a company culture: If you don't work to create one, one will be created for you.
But how do you do that? How do you build a personal brand that engages potential customers, that shows you who are in an authentic, genuine way? One surprisingly easy way is to use the power of video -- even if you're a guy who already appears on national television at least thirty-three times a year.
Brennan Poole drives for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He's on television over thirty weekends a year, on weekdays he makes appearances for his team and his sponsors... but he doesn't stop there: He's the only driver in a national touring series who shoots and produces his own vlog series, showcasing his life in and out of the race car.
Not only have the videos helped build his personal brand, but NASCAR features each installment on NASCAR.com, and DC Solar, the clean energy company that is his primary sponsor, promotes his videos as well.
Where did the idea for creating a vlog series come from?
I started following Casey Neistat. He's a very popular vlogger on YouTube, has an HBO series... and I started watching his vlogs every day instead of watching the news. I checked him out and then would head off to the race shop.
That made me think, "Man, someone in racing needs to do this. Why not me?" All I needed to do was buy a camera and get going.
So I started filming own daily vlog, giving race fans a behind the scenes look at what a driver does throughout the week, and what a race weekend looks like through our eyes.
You had no experience with something like that, correct?
No, at for a while that was obvious. At first it was really awkward and weird and I wasn't capturing a lot of interesting things. You'll see that each one gets better. (Laughs.)
Now I'm more comfortable. I don't care as much that people are watching me walking around with a camera. At first I worried that people were thinking, "Wow, could he be more self absorbed?" (Laughs.)
How did you get past that?
I started to not care as much because I care more about getting the content. Plus time and experience just makes it easier.
Plus as the series gets more traction, as the viewer numbers go up, knowing that people enjoy the videos helps me enjoy making them.
We try to put out videos every Friday so over the race weekend people can watch them, and every other week I post a funny video just to have extra content... and then the following week I post the vlog for the previous two weeks.
If you decide to do something like this, create a schedule. That helps a lot, both in terms of keeping you on track and also because knowing you have another installment to publish will help you think of ideas for the next videos.
You're in an unusual position because what you do -- and what you video -- reflects not just on you but on your team and your sponsors. Although maybe that's not so unusual, because what an entrepreneur does reflects on his or her company as well.
That's true, but that's also a non-issue. I'm just myself. I am who I am. Fortunately I've been really blessed with partners who know me on a personal level.
I've worked with DC Solar for three years. They know me and trust me. So I can just can be myself. I think that's really important, because I'm not a good enough actor to pretend to be someone else. Plus, people don't respond to fake. They want you to be real.
How much do you try to plan ahead?
A lot of what I video is on the fly, but I do try to think about what I can do that will be interesting. Luckily my life is pretty interesting: I get to be around race cars, I travel most weekends... I get to do some pretty cool things.
For example, last week I raced in Sedona, CA and also got to drive Corvettes at Ron Fellows Performance Driving School. I'm really fortunate that I get to do a lot of cool things. So that makes capturing some interesting moments a lot easier.
But I also try to think about things that might be interesting in a different way. I filmed my favorite restaurants in Daytona. I go to the same places all the time, and that was fun.
I'm just a normal guy who is pursuing his dream in NASCAR. I just want to capture those moments and show the things I'm working towards and what I'm doing to improve myself as a driver...
Race fans enjoy that look at the sport, but it's also fun for me. Someday I'll be able to look back at all of it -- the good weeks and the bad weeks, the experiences I had... because I'm doing this, I'll have captured those memories.
You mentioned race fans. What has the response been like?
The feedback has been really positive. Sometimes I have a vlog that might be long, and I hear about that. (Laughs.) I try to stay under ten minutes. But if I have good stuff, I'll put it in there.
I don't think there is a perfect length. People say videos should only be three or four minutes, but most of the Casey Neistadt vlogs are about ten minutes... and I watch every single one and never get bored.
Interesting is interesting.
Say I want to create a vlog. (I don't, because my day to day is really dull, but let's pretend.) Tips for me?
Make sure you have a good camera, but keep in mind most phones are really good. You can capture almost everything with your phone, so always have it with you because you never know.
I've missed things that would have been great to capture... but I just wasn't thinking. That will happen. You'll miss things and think, "Man, I should have filmed that?" And you'll feel bad because you can't go back.
In time it gets to be second nature. Noticing cool things, picking out the right moments... that will become a habit.
Then you just have to do it. There's no other way to get comfortable shooting. At first I was really aware of walking down the street, walking through a casino, filming in a restaurant... people don't know what you're doing. They think you're obsessed with Snapchat or something. (Laughs.)
That's where a phone comes in handy. But I've also gotten god at using a video camera; mine has a screen I can flip around to see myself while I'm filming, it has a good mic...you don't have to spend a lot to get a good camera.
You can also keep things simple for editing. A buddy of mine, Brian Baumgartner, helps me edit my videos. We just use iMovie.
The key is to spend as much time as you can focusing on content, not on production. Ultimately the content is everything. Do that and you'll build an audience. No matter how technically great a video is, if it's boring... who wants to watch it?