Like many people, when the coronavirus crisis hit, my business tanked. And then on top of everything, my wife became infected, and a few days later, I also tested positive.
There was a period of about seven weeks when my household was in a quarantined, non-functional haze. I was not getting enough oxygen to my brain during my illness, so I couldn’t read, think, or concentrate for nearly weeks.
As I started to wake from this pandemic fog, I went through a period of severe disorientation. What was my place in this new world? I was a keynote speaker without a stage, a consultant irrelevant to clients in a deep crisis, a college educator without students, a popular author with an unbelievable 90 percent drop in book sales when the virus hit in March.
But by July – just a few weeks later — my business had bounced back in a remarkable way and I had one of the strongest financial months of my career. I had a powerful realization. I had been saved from this shipwreck by my personal brand.
Here is something I’ve been preaching for years: If you are known in your industry, you have a permanent, sustainable competitive advantage.
And that’s exactly what happened to me. Even in a crisis, new doors kept opening because I had put in the work on my personal brand for so many years.
I have been consistent and tenacious with my content and online presence, and people remembered that. I’m still being sought out as a speaker, consultant, and personal business coach when others are falling into a deep business trough they may never get out of.
Every time I created a piece of content over the years, I was making a deposit into an insurance policy for my career. Now, it’s paying off. I’m making the “withdrawal” on the authority, reputation, and presence I worked so hard to establish.
In this period of unspeakable suffering and cataclysmic business change, I’ve been saying as often as I can that it’s not too late for you to work on your personal brand, too.
In fact, it’s more important than ever.
Creating a personal brand in this environment might seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, when I did the research for my book known, I found that every person who has become the “go-to” leader in their field did the same four things. No exceptions.
In my new book ‘Cumulative Advantage’, I report that career momentum builds when an initial advantage is applied to a seam.
Initial advantage might come from wealth, powerful family connections, or an elite education. But if you don’t have those benefits (like me), you can also create your own advantage through your personal brand. Without a doubt, being known and trusted in my industry is my competitive advantage.
A “seam” is a fracture in the status quo. It’s an undefended or under-defended niche. It could be a shift in style or taste, a technology change, or even a pandemic.
We are witnessing more shifts right now than any other period in our lifetime. We have shifted the way we work, shop, learn, connect, teach our kids, and entertain ourselves, to name a few. And each of these shifts represents an opportunity.
Whether I blog, speak, or consult, I am a teacher. The emerging seam of the pandemic was an opportunity to teach something new. People needed to learn how to deal with this new stress and uncertainty.
I shifted my content to align with the needs of the market at that moment and I was rewarded because people trusted me.
Without question, adapting to this crisis could not have happened if I had not established my personal brand first.
I’d like to share an inside secret of personal branding success. Consistency is more important than genius.
That may seem strange … perhaps even counter-intuitive in a world that reveres gurus.
I started blogging in 2009. I published at least one post a week (and usually two) for 650 consecutive weeks. I’ve hosted my ‘Marketing Companion’ podcast for nine years and have never missed an episode. I’ve written nine books.
There have been some weeks when I wondered why I should keep creating all this content. It takes a lot of time and sacrifice.
But when I look back at my career, I realize that every business benefit eventually sprang from the audience that loves the content I create. And now in this crisis, I’m so, so, so grateful I kept at it. I’m successful today because I didn’t quit.
Starting is difficult. It can even be nerve-wracking.
In six months, it will be easier, more rewarding, and even more fun. But you have to begin and you have to give yourself 18 months before even thinking about a pivot.
This is so important. If this is the right time for you, I hope you’ll start making those deposits in your own personal brand account this week. The work I put in for those years saved me in a crisis and if you begin now, it can save you in the next one.
Mark W. Schaefer is a keynote speaker and marketing strategy consultant.
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