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Kim Bode, Owner, 8THIRTYFOUR Integrated Communications


Kim Bode is the owner of 8THIRTYFOUR Integrated Communications


Firstly, many people fear the words 'personal brand' as it means going public with your thoughts. I want to know if you have always found it easy to 'put yourself out there'?

I think it comes with the territory when you are a small business owner. It's hard to hide when you're in the marketing field and also actively publishing articles, blogs, podcasts; while also serving on multiple boards. When I started out in the field, I got involved in several industry specific associations and eventually ended up in leadership positions...which inevitably meant introducing speakers, coordinating events and often serving as the emcee. I have never had a problem with being "out there," but I do find as I get older that I very much value time away from the spotlight.


When it comes to building an authentic personal brand, what advice would you give professionals starting out?

You cannot fake it. Your personal brand is ultimately who you are, there is no cultivating a public persona that is the complete opposite of who you are in private. There is no hiding in the age of social media. Personal brand = public perception. My personal brand has always been about staying true to myself and that often means you will have haters. Write down 3 to 5 things that you are passionate about and truly believe in. For me that is being a small business owner, rescuing dogs, supporting women professionals and advocating for the LGBTQIA+ community. To live out these values means I am vocal, passionate, driven and I don't hesitate to say what I am thinking.


Do you think personal branding and reputation go hand in hand, and what can people do to maintain a positive reputation while brand-building?

Absolutely. I really think this is a simple answer - be a good person. Don't put anything out into the world you are not proud of. Every tweet, post, thread, photo, article and blog represents who you are. It shapes how people perceive you. You are not going to make everyone happy, there will be people that disagree with what you stand for or don't appreciate how "out there" you are. I've had to learn this the hard way. People either love me or hate me, there is no in between. Be comfortable in the uncomfortable.

Can you share a success story of how you or someone you follow used their personal brand to build business or career?

I think my entire professional career is a testament to personal branding. 8THIRTYFOUR has been around 17+ years because it was built on Kim Bode's personal brand. We are a million + company that has expanded nationally, been recognized by Forbes as at Top PR firm, named a leader in the DEI space by Crain's Grand Rapids, declared a fastest growing business in Michigan and we have consistently grown year after year. My business 8THIRTYFOUR very much represents who I am and the energy I put out into the world. I also started a personal blog, called Small Biz Musings (smallbizmusings.com) which further reiterates the values I live out every day. I talk about small businesses and how hard it is to run one. I am brutally honest, cause there just isn't enough people who say it like it is. People hire us because they love our "vibe," which is blunt, humorous and slightly irreverent. We are brutally honest and it has paid off for my business and for myself. Life is messy, and a perfectly curated persona is just so laughable.


Which platforms do you find most effective for establishing thought leadership and growing professional presence?

Find an industry association and get involved, join committees, boards and attend networking events. When I was starting out I was at something 5 to 7 days a week - breakfast events, luncheons, evening networking gatherings, galas and more. Publish articles through publications that accept contributors - Entrepreneur, HuffPost, Authority Magazine etc.

How do you ensure your personal brand stays true to who you are and your evolving goals?

Don't put anything out into the world that doesn't 100% represent who you are.


What are some practical strategies or tactics professionals can use to expand their network and build meaningful connections?

- Connect people, be a connector. Give more than you receive and do NOT ask for anything in return.

- Utilize social media to educate, inform and share your life. There are multiple ways to do so. Start with Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Twitter is a time suck and the network is losing the relevancy it once had.

- When you attend events, go to meetings or are giving a presentation; be sure to check-in on social media with an explanation of what you are doing. This broadcasts your involvement to the community and also allows those attending the same event to find you and network.

- Share photos of your adventures. If you are walking in downtown, grabbing coffee,

attending an event, grab a photo and share with your followers. This showcases you are out and about and involved. I realize this may seem silly, but how often do you check social media in a day? 12 times? 15 times? Too many to count?

- Post articles or blogs you have written or feel will educate on a certain issue that is important to you or relevant to your job. This will help position you as knowledgeable, informed and thoughtful.

Along your personal branding journey, have you encountered any common obstacles that readers of this interview should be aware of?

You will have haters, it is inevitable. When you put yourself out there, there will be people that just don't like your face, what you stand for or the fact that you might be more relevant than they will ever be. Try to tune them out, it's hard to do but you can't take it personal.


Imagine you have a time machine that can transport you to the future. What impact do you envision your personal brand having on the world?

I truly hope I have an impact on other women-owned small businesses by sharing my trials, triumphs and extreme failures. I also want there to be equality across the board and for the LGBTQIA+ community to enjoy the protections that most of us take for granted. If I can have even a slight impact on my corner of the world, I'll be happy with that legacy. This past year I started a scholarship at my alma mater for LGBTQIA+ students, I also joined the board of the Small Business Association of Michigan. Both of these commitments represent my values and will help me have a future impact.


Close your eyes and imagine you're a bestselling author. What captivating book would you write to share your personal brand journey and insights?

I honestly think I could have a reality TV show that follows myself, my husband and our 7 dogs around. The hijinks we get ourselves into would be very entertaining to the world. My book would center on my life as a small business owner, feminist, dog rescuer and all the lessons I've learned along the way. I've had some massive failures that have knocked me down but what matters is you keep getting back up and trying.


Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us here! Where should people follow you to find out more about your work?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimbode/ and instagram.com/bode834



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