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Paige Arnof- Fenn, Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls

Paige Arnof-Fen is Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls

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'?

As an entrepreneur I have learned to build my brand through Thought Leadership activities like writing articles, hosting webinars, podcasts, guest blogging and building my following on social media which have all contributed to increasing my awareness with potential customers/clients, building my credibility with a larger community more broadly, and raising my profile which allows me to raise my prices by attracting more clients/customers. Without a brand you are a commodity and therefore compete on price. Personal branding is very important because if you do not brand yourself then others will brand you instead. Having a brand is what helps you stand out from all the noise and competition.

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

· Be original. What makes you unique or special? Is it your voice? Height? Eye color? Athletic ability? Fluency in foreign languages? An invention or patent? Whatever it is, use it to your advantage. Can you imagine Barbara Streisand with a different nose, Jay Leno with a new chin or Cindy Crawford without her mole? Everyone remembers the original, but the copycats start blending together after a while, so differentiate yourself to stand out from the pack. Be remarkable and extraordinary to grab attention and get noticed. Good is not good enough--where are you great? When you exploit what makes you unique, people will remember your authentic brand. · Be creative. How do you want people to think, feel, act or react after interacting with you vs. your competition? What are four words that come to mind when people describe you? Is that how you want to be described? As George Washington Carver once said, "When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world." · Be honest. Turns out that telling the truth about what you are and are not, what you can and can't do is very refreshing. Who would have thought that in 2020, brutal honesty would be the killer application? Because there are so many candidates out there, recruiters and hoping managers tend to choose the people they trust most. Let your brand be known for speaking the truth, and you become the trusted advocate and go-to source. People don't always want to hear the truth, but they'll respect you for telling it, and when they're ready to listen, they'll remember you for it. · Be relevant. Brands aren't created in a vacuum. They require lots of attention, care and feeding. The process of creating a brand for yourself isn't unlike what you'd do for a company--developing a mission, vision, unique positioning and so on. You must define your brand, communicate it and review it periodically so your brand stays current. Look at Madonna, circa 1985 (leather outfits, bleached hair, wild child) and today (yoga, family, spiritual). The branding basics still apply when the brand is you--having a core message, a brand promise, visual and verbal identification and fully integrating all components. You'll need brand positioning, brand architecture and a brand strategy to develop a promise that resonates clearly with your customers. · Be consistent. Develop a cohesive message, and make sure it ties to your blog, website, resume and LinkedIn profile too. The repetition reinforces your key points so people will remember them. It takes time to build great brands--no one wins Olympic gold medals, Grammy awards, Oscars or anything of importance overnight. These things require an investment of your time and energy. Every experience with you is an opportunity to build trust in your brand. · Be passionate. If you remember nothing else, remember this suggestion--it makes up for any shortfalls above. Everyone loves to work with people who are passionate about what they do; it makes life much more fun and interesting. So build your brand around what you enjoy and remember the words of John Ruskin: "When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”

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

Yes, having people speak highly of you/your business is incredibly important to building a strong brand especially when most of your work comes by referral/word of mouth. Reputation management today is about seizing control over your online narrative/the image your company generates in the hearts and minds of customers/employees/partners/ stakeholders including online reviews/consumer complaint forums/news articles/your social presence/ visibility in search results. Everyone must consider the role each factor plays in shaping/defining your online image to cultivate the impression you’re making publicly to know how you’re perceived and which actions you’re compelling among consumers/customers. I think having a good online reputation is incredibly important to building a strong professional service business like mine. To monitor your online reputation I recommend you set up a Google Alert for both your company’s name and your own name to notify you any time one of your press releases post, when your name is mentioned on another website, or whenever you are indexed by Google. As a business leader, you’ll want to monitor and track everything that reflects on your business and you personally as well. It is best to know what digital dirt exists on you so you do not get blindsided or surprised when people check you out online.

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

I became an entrepreneur and took the leap right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose. Being an entrepreneur provides me a platform to do work I truly enjoy with and for people I respect. I get to set my priorities, I have time to travel and hang out with my inner circle, and work out every day. It has been a journey to get here but I am lucky to have found it. I love the autonomy, flexibility and the fact that I know every day the impact that I have on my business. When I worked at big companies I always felt the ball would roll with or without me, that if I got hit by a bus someone new would be in my office right away. Now my DNA is in everything we do and I can trace every decision and sale to something I did or a decision I made and that is incredibly gratifying and fulfilling. Early on I was doing a lot of public speaking and started writing a monthly column for Entrepreneur which drove a lot of traffic to our site. I was serving on several boards and networking a lot too so all the roads converged to create a multiplier effect. Like most entrepreneurs, I am working harder and longer than ever and I have never been happier. Working for yourself and building a business you started in incredibly rewarding and gratifying. It has been a lot of fun, I joke that I am the accidental entrepreneur.

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

You do not need to be everywhere, it does not matter which platform you choose just pick one or 2 that are authentic to you. In my experience, influencers and key people need to be on LinkedIn so that they can be found. It adds credibility and transparency when you know the people you are meeting or working with know people in common. LinkedIn has become more than an online resume or rolodex, it is the foundation for building trusted relationships in the digital economy. You do not need to blog or be on all social media platforms but make sure you are active on the ones where you are. If your customers do not use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to find you then you do not need to make them a priority. For professional service businesses like mine, LinkedIn matters the most. To present yourself as an expert in your industry post interesting and educational content by sharing a great article you've read recently or if you truly want to make valuable connections and represent yourself as a talented thought leader in your industry, you should be crafting your own articles on LinkedIn.

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

By being consistent, it should look and sound like you and the brand you have built. Whether your brand is polished or more informal, chatty or academic, humorous or snarky, it is a way for your personality to come through. Everyone is not going to like you or hire you but for the ones who would be a great fit for you make sure they feel and keep a connection and give them a reason to remember you so that when they need your help they think of you first.

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

With LinkedIn, you don't have to wait for a networking event to make meaningful business connections. You get one chance to make a great first impression with recruiters/employers so make sure every section of your LinkedIn profile is complete, with no blank spaces or gaps. Include a professional head shot and powerful headline followed by a summary with highlights of your personal brand, what you do well and how you can benefit potential clients or employers. Keep this section brief and easy to skim for best results. Keywords are a great way to help professionals and recruiters in your industry find your profile and strategic keywords in your profile give you an advantage in networking too. Prospective customers and jobs can come from anyone anywhere anytime so you should always be nice to everyone and make friends before you need them, you never know who is in or will be in a position to help! Give before you get, give them something of value before you ask for anything. It can be an article, invitation for white paper, webinar, podcast, etc., just show that you value them and want to build a relationship beyond the transaction. It goes a long way when you take the time to educate, entertain and inform people, respect their time and show you are in it for more than a paycheck. People like to do business online and offline with people they trust. Stop selling and start active listening for ways you can help.

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

Being invisible online is a terrible strategy so making sure you have a consistent online presence is important. Develop a cohesive message, and live it every day. Make sure you become known as a reliable source with social media profiles and personas that tell the same story, if you appear to be serious/buttoned up on one site and a comedian on another it can be confusing and dilute your brand. Don’t spread yourself too thin on social.

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 have tried to build a platform to bring world class marketing talent and expertise to organizations that want to make a difference in the world regardless of size or budget. I believe every organization deserves the right words and pictures to tell their story in compelling ways.

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 would write a book called “Falling Up” to show how I learned and got stronger & better in my entrepreneurial journey with each setback and problem. I do not believe in failure if you learn from each mistake. For example, I wish I had known that the people you start with are not always the ones who grow with you. The hardest lesson I learned when I started my company is not getting rid of weak people earlier than I did in the first few years of my business. I spent more time managing them than finding new customers. I knew in my gut they were not up to snuff but out of loyalty to them I let them hang around much longer than they should have. It would have been better for everyone to let them go as soon as the signs were there. They became more insecure and threatened as we grew which was not productive for the team. As soon as I let them go the culture got stronger and the bar higher. “A" team people like to be surrounded by other stars. It is true that you should hire slowly and fire quickly. I did not make that mistake again later on so learned it well the first time. I wish I had known it even earlier though but lesson learned for sure!

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


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