Personal branding in the age of the Millennials has become a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's wonderful to see all of us young people declaring ourselves as "brands" to the world. On the other hand, I'm sure a few non-Millennials wish they could put the genie back in the bottle about the whole personal branding movement!
The rationale is simple: In our post-direct-advertising world, buyer behavior is driven by trust. And, no matter what subject you're interested in, you'll always lend more trust to the widely recognized and agreed-upon subject matter expert.
To serve this trend, friend and fellow entrepreneur Adam Witty has built an entire multimillion-dollar business around the concept of authority marketing, which is the process of unearthing one's unique expertise and then making one known and recognized as the unequivocal subject matter expert.
But when I asked him about his take on authority marketing, he had some shocking advice for those looking to brand themselves.
It turns out that there are two personality traits that we can mostly agree are signs of a brilliant, emotionally-intelligent leader. But, as Witty pointed out, those traits will actually hold you back in the world of authority marketing.
Surprisingly, Witty says that humility -- though a sure sign of emotional intelligence -- is actually the first personality trait that will work against you in the context of authority marketing.
"When you truly are an expert at something, you have to strategically and systematically get the word out and let the world know that you are indeed an expert at this thing, because the world is not going to find you otherwise," Witty pointed out about humble experts who aren't willing to trumpet their expertise to the world.
"While being the humble servant is appealing," Witty said, "it doesn't do a lot in terms of captivating a marketplace." No matter where you stand on the matter, look at the 2016 election as proof of this, when the humble-servant leader Kasich went up against -- and got obliterated by -- the aggressive Trump.
While it may work in building a harmonious business culture, humility will only get in the way of taking strong stances, writing strong articles and speeches, and otherwise declaring a position that will make you the authority -- and make people stand up and take notice.
The second trait that works against authority marketing is related to humility, and Witty describes it as "a lack of ego."
"It's interesting because you think entrepreneurs have built a company of some size, from scratch, and they had to have some degree of confidence to go out on their own and start a business," Witty explained, "and yet most sit around, saying, 'well what do I know?' and 'who cares about what I have to say?'"
Oddly enough, this enormous mountain of self-doubt gets in the way of even (and sometimes especially) the multimillionaire entrepreneurs among us, making it impossible for some to capitalize on authority marketing with the confidence it requires to pull off.
Witty has solved this dilemma by using the power of authorship as a means to create a type of shield for his clients -- in other words, he shows his clients how to write books that form a protective, safe place from which to broadcast their authority. For those who are shy about beating their own drum, Witty's team helps draw out their unique expertise, package it into a book and then use the book as the marketing tool that can engender trust in prospects and get past pesky gatekeepers who would otherwise tune out an advertisement.
In turn, the book's authority breeds trust and notoriety, and the expert's business grows with the rising tide.
When you look at it that way, personal branding and authority marketing may someday be the only ways in which people and brands build meaningful interactions.
But the key is a mindset change for you as the entrepreneur. Witty warned that "if you're waiting for someone to come and crown yourself king or queen, you're going to wait forever. Today's successful entrepreneur is the one who sees the crown sitting on the ground, picks it up, dusts it off, and squarely places it on their head."
In other words, even if you have the expertise, you've got to capture it and tell the world you're the authority if you want to get ahead of your competitors once and for all (not to mention, it would be catastrophic if your competitors used this strategy to put you in 2nd place forever).
So if you've had the feeling that becoming the known authority in your space would grow your business, increase your opportunities, and help you finally get rewarded for your expertise, I highly encourage you to embrace that little voice in your head that says you would look awfully good keynoting that industry conference next year.
And if speaking truly does scare you, write a book. As Witty pointed out, "the consumer public loves books. They say, 'if she wrote a book about it, she must know a lot about that topic!'"
You certainly do. Now go get recognized for it.