Tina Wells started her now-booming company, Buzz Marketing Group, as an intrepid 16-year old. “I started writing product reviews for a newspaper geared toward girls my age,” she explains. “More and more, companies started sending me products and asking for my opinion. It wasn’t long before I realized I had a business opportunity.” Today, Buzz Marketing Group continues to focus on youth culture—they have a network of buzzSpotters, teen and millennial influencers who both provide intel into what their age groups are interested in, and also influence their peers. Tina has built a wildly successful business with an impressive roster of clients—Microsoft, Sony Music and Johnson & Johnson, to name just a few. This year, Buzz Marketing Group will celebrate its 20th anniversary.
We turned to Tina for her millennial marketing prowess, and asked her to weigh in on building a personal brand. “I really became interested in the idea of personal branding in 2008,” says Tina. “After the financial crisis, millennials were—and still are—underemployed. It has never been more important to stand out and create a career that’s true to you. The key is making employers aware of who you are and what you stand for.”
According to Tina, building your personal brand really means defining what you’re passionate about and determining how to make a living off of it. “The happiest people I know are the ones who have figured out what they love and how to make money doing it,” says Tina. “They’ve built careers that are true to their personal brands.”
Tina broke down the (somewhat daunting) concept of building a solid personal brand, and generously shared her system with us.
Determine your passions
Your brand statement not only says what you do, it also says what you’re passionate about. For example, I’m passionate about pop culture—everything I’ve done in my career comes from that passion. By saying that, I don’t limit myself to doing one thing (running a marketing company). Instead, I’m able to translate my passion into many seemingly unrelated things, like writing my best-selling young adult book series, Mackenzie Blue, while still building a career that aligns with my personal brand.
Figure out what you want to do with your passions
Once you’ve determined your passion, think about what you can do with it and how you can monetize it. Your statement should read something like this: I’m passionate about x, and this is what I do with that passion.
Find ways to monetize your passion
Take actionable steps toward making money off of whatever it is you love to do. Ask yourself these questions: Who are the important people I need to get in touch with? What conferences should I be going to? What blogs should I be reading? What tools do I need to make this happen? What skills do I need to learn? What companies align with my personal brand? This will lead you to the concrete steps you need to take to start building a career that aligns with your personal brand.
Start with your inner circle
Among your family, friends and co-workers, become the go-to person for whatever it is you’re passionate about—if you love travel, become the friend everyone talks to when they’re planning a trip. Then, ask your friends why they turn to you for this kind of advice. Their answers will lead you to your figuring out your strengths and what your value is. For example, if you ask your friends, “Why do you ask me about cool things to do in New York?” they may say something like, “Every restaurant you recommend to me, I’ve really enjoyed.” Then you’ll know that you have an eye for hot spots in the city. The purpose of this exercise is to figure out what your strengths are, and what value you can offer. Ultimately, people make money because they provide value.
Align your resume with your brand
As an employer, when I’m hiring, I ask myself, “What is the position I need filled, and how does this person’s resume fill it?” Your resume should demonstrate your personal brand—what you’re passionate about and what you do with that passion. Your experience should show this, but you should also explicitly say it by writing a personal mission statement at the top: I am a _____ who does _____.
Apply your brand filters to your digital footprint
If you’re applying to be a travel reporter, your Instagram profile should be filled with travel images. Pilar Guzman, the editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Traveler, is a great example of someone whose personal brand is reflected on social media—she fills her Instagram feed with stylish, travel-focused images. Now, more than ever, companies are looking to hire people who live the brand, which means that now, more than ever, it’s important to show who you are and what you’re about in your online profiles.