By Dennis Shiao published April 15, 2020 Est Read Time: 10 min

How to Build a Personal Brand After a Job Loss

In November 2008, I read a new blog post from David Meerman Scott – “Downsized? Fired? Here Are the New Rules of Finding a Job.” A month later, I was laid off from my job. Returning home, I immediately reread the post.

The takeaway can be distilled into these two sentences:

You want to find a new job? You have to stop thinking like an advertiser of a product and start thinking like a publisher of information.

Looking for a job? Stop thinking like a product advertiser and start thinking like a publisher, says @dmscott via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

David shared how Microsoft’s Heather Hamilton didn’t use conventional methods for sourcing and hiring candidates. Instead, she searched the web for potential employees. As David concluded, “So if you’re not publishing, you won’t be found by Microsoft.”

Thus, began my content marketing journey to create a personal brand.

Launching a blog

In the year prior to being laid off, I helped to plan and execute virtual events for clients in the tech sector. I worked for a B2B technology media company and partnered with a virtual events technology company to provide the platform for our events.

I worked with clients like HP, Oracle, and CA Technologies on large-scale virtual events that attracted thousands of attendees. These companies saw virtual events as the next era of online lead generation.

The day after my layoff, I created a blog on WordPress. I gave it the name “It’s All Virtual.” My first post was titled “2009: The Year We Go Virtual.”

The day after @dshiao was laid off in 2008, he started a blog about his industry, via @cmicontent. #personalbranding Click To Tweet

As luck would have it, I found a new job right away. The virtual events technology company (i.e., the vendor at my prior job) hired me as a client services executive. I would work on virtual events with their clients and serve as an industry evangelist.

Making an impact

I emailed my new boss a link to that first post. He wrote back, “Dennis, I shared this with our team. We knew you had experience with virtual events, but we had no idea you knew this much. We are so impressed.”

During my first months of blogging, a reader asked to chat. He began the call by saying, “You know, in last week’s post, you shared some ideas about virtual events that really got me thinking.”

My inside voice said, “Wow! Not only did he read my post, but it’s helping him plan virtual events at his company.”

This sort of positive reinforcement gave me the inspiration and desire to continue writing.

I found that a consistent publishing schedule for my blog was essential. I published one post per week from 2009 to 2012. I wrote the post in a Microsoft Word document, staged it in WordPress, then scheduled it to publish the next morning. In parallel, I blogged about virtual events on my employer’s website.

Creating a consistent publishing schedule for a #blog is essential, says @dshiao via @cmicontent. #personalbranding Click To Tweet

As a result of the weekly cadence of publishing, I established myself as a leading expert on virtual events. I was invited to author guest articles and speak at industry conferences. I assembled posts into PDF guides and even self-published a book, “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events.”

David Meerman Scott’s advice to be a “publisher of information” was starting to work.

Now, that said, it doesn’t mean I did everything perfectly.

What I wish I would have done when I started my blog:

  • Better managed conflicts between my personal brand and my employer’s brand
  • Broadened my domain of expertise since my selected topic was too niche
  • Featured other industry experts in my content
  • Built a list of email subscribers

Taking to Twitter

During my time as a virtual events blogger, I discovered a community of event planners and meeting professionals on Twitter. We followed each other and used Twitter to share ideas and content.

Twitter is the most important social network for my personal brand, even more so than LinkedIn.

#Twitter is the most important social network for my personal brand, even more than LinkedIn, says @dshiao via @cmicontent. #personalbranding Click To Tweet

While I’ll occasionally tweet about my favorite sports teams (and my quarantined neighborhood’s daily dance party, which local ABC news picked up from my Twitter feed), I’m usually on Twitter to converse about marketing. It’s these conversations with other marketers that elevate my personal brand.

Craft a mission statement

I developed a mission statement for my Twitter presence: “I want to share interesting content about marketing, while showing people that I don’t take life too seriously. I want people to think of me as useful and engaging. My ultimate goal is to meet new people and find interesting content.”

Here’s a template I developed from that mission statement:

I want to [ACTIVITY], while [BALANCED BY]. I want people to think of me as [ADJECTIVE] and [ADJECTIVE]. My ultimate goal is to [GOAL].

Be a part of the conversation

In the early days, I thought of Twitter as a distribution channel, a place to share my latest blog post. Today, I think of Twitter as an always-on, global conversation. I still share links to content but find more enjoyment interacting with others.

I also refrain from overpromoting my company and content. You gain more respect and appreciation by generously sharing other people’s content.

To gain more respect on @Twitter, refrain from overpromoting your company and #content, says @dshiao via @cmicontent. #personalbranding Click To Tweet

I participate in Twitter chats. They give you an opportunity to share your expertise in front of a captive audience. In content marketing, two popular chats are #ContentChat (Mondays) and #CMWorld (Tuesdays). Each chat has a core set of regulars, which you’ll undoubtedly get to know.

What I wish I would have done in my early days on Twitter:

  • Followed others back more liberally
  • Focused less on sharing links to content
  • Engaged more with other users
  • Obsessed less over the sequence of tweets in my profile
  • Had more fun

Starting a marketing meetup

In 2015, I launched a marketing meetup. My goal was simple – to bring marketers together to learn from each other. I went to Meetup.com and created the San Mateo B2B Bloggers Meetup.

At this time, I was working for a B2B software company and my boss let me use the office after hours to host the gathering.

Based on input from members, I broadened our mission, changing the name to Bay Area Content Marketing Meetup. To date, we’ve hosted nearly 60 meetups, all with the same format: 30 minutes of networking and pizza, followed by a 60-minute expert presentation.

We’ve hosted presenters from Marketo, Demandbase, VMware, SiriusDecisions, and Flipboard. We also had special visits from Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi. While our members enjoy the learning opportunities, the connections and community are what they cherish the most.

I’ve seen people find new jobs, land new clients, and develop close friendships. I met people from Kazakhstan and Japan who were visiting the area and found our listing at Meetup.com.

Today, I work as an independent marketing consultant. Six of my 20 clients can be attributed to the meetup.

What I wish I would have done when I started a meetup:

  • Asked for help earlier – I did everything by myself in the beginning
  • Asked presenters to promote the meetup to their networks
  • Experimented more with paid advertising
  • Gained more financial flexibility by selling more sponsorships

Note: Due to the stay-at-home order in place in California (and most other states), we can’t meet in person now. We adapted by moving our meetups online and making them more frequent. We now have a 30-minute meetup every Wednesday at noon PT on Zoom that’s attracting participants from around the world.

Sending an email newsletter

I launched an email newsletter when I thought I might experience a second layoff. I liked the idea of building an email list, an audience with whom I could share my thoughts and expertise.

I also wanted to further promote our upcoming meetups. The Meetup platform allows me to send a message to the group; however, the system doesn’t provide me with email addresses. I created a free account on Mailchimp and called my newsletter “Content Corner.” I asked meetup members if they wanted to subscribe and manually added them to the list.

The newsletter comes out every other Friday and includes these sections:

  • Introduction
  • Around the Corner (curated content)
  • Next Meetup
  • Twitter Corner (one Twitter user feature)
  • Podcast Corner
  • In Your Corner (an interesting article not related to marketing)

I take great joy in uncovering interesting articles that others would find valuable. I’ve become quite selective. Instead of publishing a laundry list of content, Around the Corner now has only one or two selections. For each pick, I write several paragraphs to convey why I included it.

While designed to inform, educate, and sometimes entertain my subscribers, the Content Corner newsletter also features many aspects of my brand, from my writing and perspective to my taste and expertise.

It’s a fabulous vehicle for amplifying my personal brand. When one client was thinking of hiring me, this email newsletter clinched the deal. I’ve helped a few clients create email newsletters. Seeing my personal newsletter in action helped them understand how I might help.

What I wish I would have done when I started the newsletter:

  • Focused on quality over quantity with curated content
  • Hired a graphic designer to help with the logo and HTML template
  • Found more ways to grow my subscriber list

It’s time to work on your personal brand

2008 was the light bulb moment for me. Getting laid off was the trigger and David Meerman Scott’s blog post was the savior.

In the 12 years since, I’ve actively and purposefully managed my personal brand. It’s not a one-time, spring cleaning sort of thing. For me, it’s ingrained in most everything I do online: publishing articles, organizing meetups, tweeting with others, sending out my email newsletter, etc.

Managing your personal brand is not a one-time, spring cleaning sort of thing, says @dshiao via @cmicontent. #personalbranding Click To Tweet

In my full-time roles, my personal brand gave me more visibility in my industry and made me more effective at my job. Now that I’m a marketing consultant, my personal brand makes it easy for new clients to find me. It’s content marketing for me and it works.

Expand your content marketing skills for you and your employer. Enroll in the online Content Marketing University. Use the code FRIEND200 for a $200 discount on access to the courses for an entire year when you register by April 30.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Dennis Shiao

Dennis is an independent marketing consultant who works with brands on content marketing, product messaging, and social media marketing. Formerly, Dennis led the content marketing function at DNN Software. Dennis curates an email newsletter called Content Corner and publishes marketing-related content on Medium. Feel free to reach out to Dennis on Twitter @dshiao

Other posts by Dennis Shiao

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