In 1973, Erica Jong wrote a book called, Fear of Flying. It was a novel famously controversial for its attitudes towards female sexuality and was featured prominently in the second wave of feminism. It sold 20 million copies worldwide, and she went on to write another 10 fiction books, 7 non-fiction books and a series of anthologies and poetry.
While she became a household name in the U.S., she was also nominated for the United Nations Award for Excellence in Literature, Sigmund Freud Award for Literature, along with a number of other awards and became famous along the way. She said the irony of fame was that:
“Fame means millions of people have the wrong idea about who you are, so, they recognise you as being famous – not necessarily understanding what you do.” Erica Jong
For many clients and leaders that I work with, the question they often ask is how to build a ‘non-celebrity personal brand.’ One of the biggest fear they have is that they’ll start trying to look like they’re famous when in fact, that’s the last thing they want. They don’t want to be harassed. They don’t want to be walking down the street and be asked for autographs.
You actually don’t need a lot of visibility
I think the fear of becoming famous is a little bit like when women say, “I don’t want to do weights at the gym because I’m afraid I’m going to get really bulky.” Doing weights doesn’t make women ‘bulky.’ Building muscle mass is a combination of a strict diet, lifting huge amounts of weights and years of dedicated training. Women’s bodies aren’t engineered that way, and so, the answer is that you actually don’t need a lot of visibility.
Recently I had the opportunity to meet New York Times bestseller, James Clear. I asked him:
“In regards to your personal branding, you are New York Times bestselling author, if not one of the best of all time. Why is your face not very visible online? Do you not want to be recognised? I’ve spoken with people at this event today, and they said they wouldn’t recognise you if you walked into the room – but they know your name.”
He said that he had absolutely no desire to be famous – he wants his work to speak for itself. The average person says exactly the same thing to me but there are some catches that come with that if you want to be known for the work that you do but you don’t want to visible, famous or become a celebrity.
Here are some of the ‘catches’:
1. Drive your message, not your mug
You need to focus on and obsess about the area of knowledge and expertise that you have. James said that he spends around eight to ten hours on each blog that he writes. He writes every day, and he publishes about two blogs a week. He obsesses over every aspect of high performance but in particular, habits on how we can live better.
So, how much time are you spending writing blogs each week? Marie Forleo says that you need to create before you consume. Some people think that building your brand is about wearing a great outfit and looking nice. No, that’s the very lowest level of personal branding. What you actually need to do is obsess about what you know and that’s when your work will speak for itself. But first, you have to do the work.
2. Understand the tribe that you lead
If you look at James in terms of his social media following, he has an Instagram following, he has a Twitter following, LinkedIn obviously – but what does he really obsess about? He obsesses over his list. He has a database of over 500,000 loyal followers. So, he obsesses over the work that serves them and as a result, he has built an incredible community and tribe. This means he doesn’t necessarily need to put his face everywhere because he’s known for the work that he does, and they love him for it.
The challenge is that the average person does not obsess about their list. They’re far more focused on the numbers on social media and not connecting with their audience. So, my question to you would be, who is the tribe that you lead? Do you obsess about your list as much as James does so that you can afford not to put your face out there?
3. Know the business that you’re in
James’s life before becoming a high-performance expert was as an expert in building high-traffic websites, copywriting and building large databases and lists.
He was successful at getting a lot of people onto websites, and then went on to talk about high performance, productivity and habits. He chose an expertise that he had along with an interest which is a commercial way to make the most out of it. The intersection of those three things has created a really powerful personal brand.
But the real question isn’t necessarily what his area of expertise was. You’ve got to know the game that you’re playing in and in his case, it was copywriting and list building.
I remember reading an interview with Shelley Sullivan, the founder of ModelCo. She said when she started the business, she thought that she was in the game of beauty, but she soon realised pretty quickly that she was in fact in the game of retail.
Over to you
The question is, what is the game that you’re really in? If you’re a conference speaker, I would suspect you’re probably in the game of entertainment. If you are in the game of training, then you are probably in the game of engagement.
I’d love to know the responses to these questions and your insights so you can start building your non-celebrity personal brand.
Jane Anderson is a communication expert, speaker and the author of 6 books including the upcoming “TRUSTED: The Level Above Influence.” With over 20 years of experience helping people step into their personal power, she is obsessed about creating human connection to drive business growth in a world of disruption and automation. To inquire about her working with you or your organisation please contact us here.