Which channels should you leverage to grow your personal brand?


With the right personal brand strategy, you can outpace corporate marketing efforts and see exponential results…


Carson Morell is the co-founder and COO of Arcbound, one of the fastest growing personal branding marketing firms.


In this episode, he’ll break down how you can get started with a personal brand, including:

  •     Where to build your presence
  •     Identifying a message that resonates with your audience
  •     The importance of authenticity
  •     How to create effective content
  •     And more

Mentioned in this episode:



Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.


Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. The topic for today’s episode is which channels you should leverage to grow your personal brand. Here to speak with me is Carson Morell, who is the Co-founder and CEO of Arcbound, a company that provides thought leadership as a service. 


Arcbound is one of the fastest growing personal brand marketing firms focused on working with Fortune 500 executives, venture backed founders, Ivy League professors, and best selling authors. As a natural operator and leader, Carson has grown his team to over 30 FTEs and over 40 clients in under four years, with plans to scale Arcbound to 1000s of clients by the end of the decade. Carson, welcome to the show.


Carson Morell: Great to be here. Thanks for having me.


Steffen: Well, Carson, before we start talking about personal brand, and you know whether you need to or should work on your personal brand, and then if you decide to do that, how to do that. Tell us a little bit more about yourself. How did you get started in your career? What led you to founding Arcbound?


Carson: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, so I have a bit of a non-traditional background. I have half a degree in finance and accounting. And while I was in school, I was managing a coffee shop, and working full time putting myself through school. And at a certain point, I was ready to get into entrepreneurship, in some way shape or form. 


And a customer put me in touch with Bryan Wish, who’s my business partner and co-founder. And shortly thereafter, after an internship with Bryan, we found that we had a really good partnership and complementary skill sets. And it became an opportunity for me to apply some of my interest in operations and finance to something different. So I left school, we started the business right before the pandemic started. 


And the pandemic ended up being a blessing in disguise to push everything online and forced us to innovate and expand our service offerings beyond just LinkedIn, which is what we started with, to all social platforms, newsletters, podcasts, full book ghostwriting, websites, design and more. And really what is a full service personal branding firm that we’ve developed. And yeah, it’s just been, it’s been a blessing to build an incredible team. And we’re growing quickly, and have an exciting future ahead of us.


Steffen: Perfect. Well, that sounds like a great story. Now, who should be leveraging their personal brand?


Carson: Short answer is anybody who wants to drive some kind of result. At this day and age, everything’s online. And ultimately, the fastest way to market with a message is through a personal brand. You can outpace and out compete any corporate new corporate brand, with a personal brand right now, given the current media landscape. And so yeah, anybody in business, anyone who’s a creator, an artist, whatever it might be, there’s always an angle to be leveraging your brand.


Steffen: Now, how would someone start off? So if someone listens to this and said, hell, you know what? I’ve been thinking about this. But so far, I haven’t pulled the trigger. Because also I just don’t know where to start. Where would they or where should they start?


Carson: Yeah, that’s a great question. So when we’re speaking to friends, colleagues, prospects about personal branding, really, in terms of understanding where to get started comes down to three things. Industry, audience and opportunity. And so on the industry side, if they’re in tech, if they’re in VC, if they’re already a thought leader, in some regard. Maybe they’re an author, or professor, or, more specifically, subcategory of the industry. 


Could be healthcare, CPG, whatever it might be, understanding what industry they’re in, to then identify the platforms they need to be on. On the audience side, two pieces here. One, who do you want to be getting in front of and then who are you already in front of to understand where you are, where you need to go. And then includes the whatever associated business is associated with the individual. 


What that business’s audience already looks like. And then the last one is opportunity. New platforms are constantly arriving on the scene. And there’s constantly potential for new creators to get out in front, grow a new audience on a new platform that’s just come out. And so early days of TikTok, just three, four years ago, people got in the ground floor there. 


Being able to build a platform that they can then transfer over to all other different media assets like LinkedIn, newsletter, website, etc. So really, it comes down to those three and depending on who they are, their audience and the opportunities. That’s how we identify where they need to be focusing their effort and resources.


Steffen: Now identifying where someone should build their presence is one thing, right? But then how do you go about identifying a message that resonates with your audience. A message that displays you, or broadcasts you in the right way?


Carson: Yeah, absolutely. So there are a couple different things to consider. One, it depends on the platform. If you are on LinkedIn, the content you need to produce to be differentiated and stand out is different than the content you need to produce on Tik Tok or Instagram. And so it really varies platform to platform. But really getting an understanding of course, your unique value proposition. 


But beyond that, what’s your approach, what really makes you different? And then bringing in the personal component. A big piece of our work is that building that personal relationship with the audience, and I’ll go in more depth on this in a bit. But those different pieces are super important to consider.


Steffen: We just talked about building the relationship with the audience. So how do you go about that? How do you find that message that really works for you?


Carson: Yeah. it needs to be authentic, right? It needs to be content that you’d want to consume yourself. A lot of our clients that we work with, they’re producing the content they wish they had when they were building their business, or when they were launching their book or starting their career. And so it needs to be content that is interesting to them. And then again, aligning on the message comes down to what people have an appetite for, and tying it back to that core message that you have. 


It’s really easy to make things land once you’ve built the relationship with the audience. Something that we’ve dug in deep to are parasocial relationships. The relationships that we have with entities, people that we don’t know personally, but we have a media connection with them. Sports teams, entertainers, athletes, right? We watch them on TV, we get excited when they win, we cry when they lose. 


That is the core of, on a much smaller scale, building your personal brand, right? How do you build the connection points up that show that you’re a person too. You go through experiences just like them, build that trust, and then it creates that foundation to be able to land your content, land you message, get that across. And each one of your posts or your comments, that’s the parasocial interaction that builds up to that parasocial relationship.


Steffen: Yeah. Now, if someone uses your company, obviously, a lot of this is kind of a guided approach, I would assume, right? Do you have people that help your clients identify those things. And you do that for them later on. The kind of the develop of content, the execution of these media outreaches. But what if someone just wants to start out themselves? 


If they kind of want to dip their toe? Are there channels that you would say, they should focus more on? Because obviously, you know, as you said, you could go on LinkedIn, you could do Facebook, you can do, go on podcasts, you can do TikTok. I mean, the channels are multitude. There are lots of channels out there. But if you do it yourself, you don’t have the time probably to service all of them.


Carson: Yeah, that’s a great question. So I can make it just so we can be specific here. Let’s say somebody is in business, any kind of business. Own a business employee, whatever. Two platforms, we always recommend to start on. And this is for, again, just people in our world that we meet are asking about it. It’s LinkedIn and it’s newsletter. LinkedIn is the lowest risk platform. You’re not going to get yourself into trouble talking about business content. 


So I mean, you’re not an idiot. You can experiment, you can try all different forms of content from text to long form videos, carousels, whatever it might be. So it’s low risk. And it’s just a really good experimenting ground. The other piece to LinkedIn is that it’s not a high volume game. You go to TikTok. If you’re not producing daily, or more than once a day, you’re going to fall behind. 


Twitter, if a tweet doesn’t take off in the first 20 seconds, it’s on Twitter, it’s not going anywhere. You need to be tweeting 10 to 20 times a day to crack that platform. And so I would not recommend that. So LinkedIn number one. Low risk, low volume. And then on the newsletter side, what’s really interesting is it’s while it does take time to produce a newsletter, A, usually the highest return. It’s people that you already know. It allows you to stay top of mind with a few 100 or even a few 1000 people depending on the size of your list. 


You can test content safely with people that are in your orbit, and so it’s not out there on the channel to be dug up later, if say you go a different direction down the road. So again, really good for experimenting. But I would say in terms of direct attribution to some kind of a return on the time you put in, newsletter is one of the best.


Steffen: Now you talked about experimenting. So testing out messages, testing out content. How do you define success? How do you measure whether, you know, approach A is better than B?


Carson: Yeah, absolutely. So it really depends on what you are looking to get from building your brand. So if you’re a venture capitalist, you want deal flow, you want greater allocation on the deals you already get. And you want talent for your portfolio companies amongst a number of other small things. If you’re an author, you want speaking engagements, workshop opportunities, coaching, consulting clients, it varies on what you’re going to the platform for. 

But you need to determine that. 


How do you want to extract value from the platform that you build? That’s what you want to determine first, and then how you measure that. There are so many different metrics. It can be tangibles, or intangibles. People reaching out and just saying, hey, I’m really liking your content. But that person is, you know, in your on par target audience, right? That could be a metric of success. It’s not necessarily a number that grows super quickly. But it does happen. And it’s something you want to track. 


Of course, you have your basics. Likes, engagement, views, followers, all super important. And there are a few different formulas you want to track. So you have the proper ratios of, say, your views per post, per follower, to make sure that you have a properly engaged audience. So there are different pieces there. And it really just, it just comes down to what you want to get from your platform, and then measuring against those targets.


Steffen: That makes a lot of sense. Now, what kind of content should thought leaders focus on based on their respective industry?


Carson: Yeah, absolutely. So we talked about personal earlier. But in terms of, say business on LinkedIn, number one, you want to have some kind of vehicle to show your expertise. You want to show your face, have video content, super important. LinkedIn lives, pieces like that. Again, building the relationship and creating that association between their face and the message. So when sales come up, they’re coming to you because you’re putting out sales content, whatever it might be. That’s a piece of it. In terms of themes and topics, that’s where it gets into experimentation. 


Of course, there’s going to be the topics you want to talk about. And there are ways to make those topics land. But you also need to pay attention to what’s going on in pop culture, what’s going on in world news, what’s happening around you, that relates to the industry or the vertical that you’re in, in making sure that you’re producing content that’s timely. That content always performs better. And then the last thing is, if, I mentioned earlier, identifying the audience you have now and the audience you want to grow into. 


Making sure that you have themes that take that initial foundation along for the ride. Unless you’re starting from scratch, making sure that you’re creating a bridge from topic A to topic B for that initial follower base, otherwise, your engagement is gonna be low, your views are gonna be low. Especially on a platform like LinkedIn.


Steffen: Yeah, it sounds like it’s a little bit like, you know, when you build a brand for a company, right? There are a variety of topics that you probably want to distribute. Some might be more focused on having a side slide sales message, for example, others might really just sharing tips and tricks. So it needs to be a mixture of things, because you cannot constantly bombard people with kind of the same type of message, because that probably will tire them out. 


Carson: Yeah, exactly. 


Steffen: Now, when someone is in an organization, you know, in a more senior role, how can I convince the company to actually potentially pay for a service like yours?


Carson: Yeah, absolutely. Number one is do it yourself. Show the value, deliver the value. Show that being out there and building your brand drives results back to the business that are measurable. If it’s a larger organization, there’s value in the public perception and the messages that you put out there. There’s value in content that drives awesome talent. There’s value in content that drives traffic back to the company website. 


So really being able to demonstrate success in numbers of some sort, is really helpful. Of course, at the C suite, it’s a lot easier. And something that we see a lot of organizations do that we work with, you know, we’ll start with one C suite executive and then we’ll scale to the entire team. And the first piece is true, right? 


Start with one, CEO drives value back to the firm. But when you multiply that by five or eight people, your impact scales significantly and you again, you outpace the corporate marketing efforts. All it takes is for those people to really be crushing it to make a bigger dent than possibly the company brand is.


Steffen: Interesting. When you work with people, what kind of results have you seen? I mean, again, obviously, results depend on what someone wants to achieve. That could be kind of I just want to I don’t promote my new book, right? So the author wants to get visibility, probably get a podcast to talk about it, etc. For business leaders, they might want to go on to conferences and get speaking engagements, you know, get invited to those compared to having to pitch topics all the time. Can you talk a little bit about the variety of results that you’ve seen from working with different clients from different industries?


Carson: Yeah, absolutely. And first thing to note is the results take time, and everybody’s on their own track or their own arc, right, with their building their content. Might take somebody two to three years to find real traction in that content audience fit. It might take somebody a couple months. We have a client in the legal industry, who’s only been with us for four months or so. And through building his content on LinkedIn, and driving people back to his free webinars, he’s closed three, six figure legal deals. 


And that’s way ahead of schedule, from what we see. But it can happen. And that’s the value in it. That’s the magic of it, especially for somebody with an established organization like this client. On the other end, it might be an author who has one successful book under their belt, but has a smaller audience. And it takes time to build that audience up. 


But again, if you stick with it, we have a lot of clients who’ve been with us three, four years, these opportunities, that flywheel starts to roll organically, and it’s a speaking engagement a quarter. It’s two podcast placements a month that come inbound. It might be a deal to go speak at every corporate headquarters for a particular organization. And we see those things a lot. And then the other piece, and then what’s really special about what we do is our clients are also a community. 


And so there are opportunities and benefits to doing this alongside other people who have similar goals. Partnerships, we’ve seen businesses spun out of two of our clients working together. Co-writing a book. And those are, again, unless you’re playing the game and you’re putting out content, you’re interacting with others who are doing it, you’re just not going to find those opportunities.


Steffen: Yeah. So what you’re basically saying is, it’s not something that you do two, three months, and then all of a sudden, you see results. It’s, as you said, the longevity is the key part here, you need to consistently put out content, you need to consistently engage with your target audience in order to see results coming in.


Carson: Exactly. We’ve never seen a client stick at it for more than two years and not see significant results that are growing exponentially. But again, it’s like building a business. It’s slow at the beginning, or it can be.


Steffen: Now, we talked earlier about content. So how should I, if I want to do it myself, how should I go about creating content?


Carson: Yeah, absolutely. So first, understanding who you want to get in front of. This kind of goes back to which platforms do you choose? Probably wouldn’t make sense for you, for example, to be on Instagram, or TikTok right away, but maybe later, it would, if you’re producing a lot of video content, for example. 


In terms of the themes that you’re aligning on. Again, think about the content that you wish existed. What is the content that you wish you could be consuming right now, and just make that and see if it resonates, because most likely, there are lots of other people craving that same kind of content. 


And if you’re the first to deliver it to them, you’re gonna see some fast traction. In terms of mapping it out, we always work to stay as far ahead as possible with any of the evergreen content. Content from your books or your talks. But then make sure you’re saving space in the week for those timely events. The world events, the pop culture, the things that happen, that you can’t predict the day before and make sure you’re saving space during the week to act on those. 


The first person to comment on the intersection of whatever’s going on across the world and supply chain. If they’re the first person that commented on, or create a piece of content about it on LinkedIn, the first mover is going to get a lot of traction. And so staying agile is really important.


Steffen: What are some tips you would give people that say now, look, I want to get started. We talked earlier about probably get started with LinkedIn, and newsletter if someone has kind of a list already. What are some other tips that you think someone that wants to get started should follow or consider? 


Carson: It can be nerve wracking to put your voice out there and produce content and we see that with a lot of clients who haven’t done it before. So, A, go at your own pace. If you want to do one post, one month and to the next and three, the one after that, that’s perfectly fine. There’s no rush. It needs to feel comfortable. And you know, part of our job is to make that feel comfortable. 


But if you’re out and you’re doing it on your own, just remember that it takes time, there’s no rush. And the landscape changes so quickly that you’re going to be iterating, regardless of when you start. So I’d say that’s part one. Part two, begin with the end in mind. What’s your end goal doing this? Actually have a reason. Not a reason for next week that you need to you know, you need to make content to close a sale to meet your quota. 


But five years from now, and you’re switching organizations into a leadership role, or you’re trying to and you know that your brand is going to be important. Begin with the end in mind. It’s super important and know why you’re doing what you’re doing. And then the last piece is, when you align on the metrics that you want to set, just just like business metrics, set ones that ladder up to that end goal. 


And make sure you have a plan and you’re tracking along the way and see how you’re feeling and doing check-ins with yourself about the content. Check-ins with your team, if you’re working with a team. And make sure it’s still a good fit. Because at the end of the day, it needs to be enjoyable for the content to do well. 


Nobody out there who’s killing it on content, doesn’t love content. That’s really important. Unless they have a massive team, and they’re forced to do it, whatever. But for the most part, if your content is doing well, you love it. So make sure you’re still enjoying it. Because it takes a lot of work.


Steffen: Yeah. So now you share some tips and tricks. Let’s look on the other side. What are some pitfalls, some things that people should not do? I mean, you manage and have managed this for many people. And what have you seen works, doesn’t work? Where have you seen people make mistakes, especially when they go out on their own to get started?


Carson: Yeah. So first one, like we said, not giving it enough time. Your first post isn’t going to explode. Highly unlikely. LinkedIn does this thing where if you haven’t posted in a while, that first post you put out does well, it’s exciting, but then your next one’s probably going to flop. And so not setting your expectations too high when you start. There are smaller things like on a platform like LinkedIn, or email, or Instagram, don’t cannibalize your own content. 


A lot of people make the mistake of spamming posts on LinkedIn 2, 3, 4 times a day. Give your content time to breathe. Twitter’s a different story. But platforms like LinkedIn, if you post within the eight hours after you posted your last post, you’re gonna cut the legs off of the previous post. And whatever the new one, it still has a shot, but that last one’s out. So give your content time to breathe. 


Another one is gather feedback. If you’re seeing a small group of people, even three, four or five people engage with your posts every single time, reach out to them. Set up a call, if you have the time. Find out what’s resonating, what’s working, especially if they’re the people in your target audience. That’s super important. 


We will do polls and surveys on behalf of our clients a lot of times to understand what’s connecting with their audience, or their existing clients who have maybe started working with them from the content. The last piece is, understand that attribution is really hard. And you might get a client who comes to work with you. 


And they don’t say it but they saw your content seven or eight times and maybe they didn’t like it, maybe they didn’t comment, but they’re seeing it, and you’re top of mind. And so just remember there are so many unmeasurable outcomes of this work in putting out content that sometimes they feel intangible or they’re not there. But trust the process because there’s a reason people say to do it.


Steffen: Well, Carson, unfortunately, we’ve come to the end of today’s podcast episode. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge on why building a personal brand is important, who should have a personal brand, and then where to get started. If someone wants to kind of begin the journey on their own. Obviously they can reach out to someone like you to Arcbound to get support. Now if people want to do that. If people want to reach out to you and say hey, you know what, I love what you shared. How can you help me? How can they get in touch?


Carson: Yeah, absolutely. I mean any of the Arcbound social channels, DMs are great. On our website we have forms. arcbound.com. a r c b o u n d .com or my email carson@arcbound.com. We’re always happy to have a conversation and point you in the right direction if you’re just starting out.


Steffen: Perfect. Well, as always, we’ll leave that in the show notes. Thanks, everyone for listening. If you liked the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.


Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience-focused and data-driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at symphonicdigital.com.