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Is Your Brand By Design or By Accident? – Bri Seeley
The Agents of Change

You have a brand, either by design or by accident. If it’s by accident, it may not be a brand you want to stand behind. Branding expert, Bri Seeley, helps you discover whether your brand is actually serving your business, and how to fix it if it comes up short.


Rich: My guest today believes that entrepreneurship is the best pathway to freedom, which is maybe why she’s known as The Entrepreneur Coach. She works with both established and emerging entrepreneurs to create highly profitable businesses. Whether you’re ready to make your first dollar or your first million, she will help you to create long term sustainable success on your terms,

You may have seen her winning awards as the Top Entrepreneur Coach on Google or in any number of press outlets, such as Good Morning America, the Today Show, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Women’s Health, and more.

Today we’ll be diving into building a personal brand, and whether you can extend that to your entire business, with The Entrepreneur Coach herself, Bri Seeley. Bri, welcome to the podcast.

Bri: Hello, Rich. Thank you so much for having me.

Rich: I’m excited. I really enjoyed meeting you at Social Media Week Lima, and your presentation was great. I immediately had to come over and start talking to you right afterwards. How did you discover your passion for entrepreneurship?

Bri: I call myself a bit of an accidental entrepreneur. I grew up and my mom owned several businesses. And she, I grew up with a single mom, and so I spent a lot of time with her at work and I would watch her experiences as an entrepreneur. And I was like, I don’t want that at all. That is not something I’m interested in.

So fast forward, I go to get my undergraduate and my graduate, both in fashion design, come back to the states, end up in a space that doesn’t really have fashion as a career path option. And so I was like, well, I’ll just start this little thing on the side.

And low and behold, it grew and grew and grew. And during that time, of course I faced challenges, but also, I really saw the opportunity that entrepreneurship gives to people. And I fell in love with it. And so eight years in that business stopped feeling aligned. It stopped exciting me and filling me up, and I decided to walk away from it. But the question about what my next step was, the only known part about that was I’m never going back to work for anyone else ever again. Entrepreneurship is it. And I bit the apple, I got the bug, whatever it is. And I just have not looked back. And entrepreneurship for me is the only option in life.

Rich: There’s obviously millions of us out there, entrepreneurs that is, but you then took it kind of maybe to the next step and you started working with other entrepreneurs. What was that transition like? Did you make a conscious effort or decision that you’re gonna go out and help entrepreneurs, or did some people just start coming to you asking you questions and you’re like, maybe this is my calling?

Bri: Entrepreneurs have always kind of resonated with me because I am so passionate about entrepreneurship. But I wasn’t teaching entrepreneurship. I was teaching more things like mindset, and manifestation, and energy, and personal development, and things like that. Until a friend called me out of the blue one day and said, did you know that you’re ranking on Google for the term ‘entrepreneur coach’? And I was like, I don’t know what any of that means. And he said, “Well, are you an entrepreneur coach?” And I was like, “Well, I work with entrepreneurs, but not really. I mean, yeah, I guess I do, but not formally.” And he was like, well, maybe this is a sign.

And so I had kind of been dipping my toe in and moving in that direction. But again, kind of quote, unquote “accidentally” the universe put on my path this opportunity. And so, he and I retooled my SEO. I started adding more business strategy into the strategy I was already doing with entrepreneurs, just a little more overtly, and went from position sixteen on Google to position one pretty much overnight. And that was a big enough sign for me that I was on the right path. So, yes and no. It was accidental and a little bit on purpose.

Rich: All right. Sounds good. So what we’re gonna be talking about today is the whole idea of personal branding. And this is a phrase that different people seem to have different definitions for. So how do you define it, Bri?

Bri: Really for me, when I look at, like you just said, there are millions of entrepreneurs out there. And in your particular industry, there’s probably at least tens if not hundreds of thousands. So the question starts becoming, why do you choose X, Y, Z roofing company over a different roofing company? Why do you choose this kind of coach over that kind of coach? And honestly, a lot of it comes down to branding.

So obviously if you have a company that is an Infusionsoft or a ConvertKit or something, the branding for that is a little different. If you are your business, if you’re a solopreneur or at least the face and the CEO of your business, you become the brand. So that to me is what personal branding is. You are the face of your business, people resonate with you, they connect with you, and then decide to engage the service.

Rich: It almost sounds like you went through a little bit of that process yourself when your friend discovered you on page two of Google said, I think with a little bit of work we can move you to page one. And so it was a little bit of the universe speaking with you and a little bit of you taking your own action to kind of really focus in on that. Would you say that’s accurate?

Bri: Absolutely. And that’s kind of my whole approach to all of it anyways, is this combination of the things we cannot see, the energy that we know we have access to, but we can’t physically touch. And also the things as humans that we can be the feet on the ground creating the results. So in general, I mean, that just kind of sums up in general, my approach to business, to life, to everything anyways.

Rich: All right. So you kind of touched on this, but why do you feel this personal branding is so important? There are so many things that go on in our business. There’s business development, there’s serving customers, there’s sending out invoices. Why shouldn’t we be paying attention to those things first?

Bri: First, personal branding honestly, it’s really like the first touch that people are gonna have with your business.

So if you think back, when I was growing up it was kind of faceless corporations. You think of all the big things that were going on in the eighties and stuff, and it was really, truly faceless corporations. Also back then, we didn’t have social media. We couldn’t find out who, well, I mean, we could find out who the CEO was, but we didn’t really have access to get an insight into who they were, what they stood for, how they showed up in their life and business. And so now, it’s really the first touch that people have with you and your business. And so if you want someone to become a customer, that’s how they’re gonna connect and resonate with you.

People have more of an emotional connection and response to another person than they do an inanimate logo or object. So why not utilize who you are in the world to help people connect and resonate with you, that then they realize that you can help them with the next step and they become a customer. I think we have so many opportunities to us now as entrepreneurs and business owners than people had 30, 40 years ago. Because we do have that opportunity to build a relationship with someone very easily, without having to go out to all the networking things, run ads on the television, put up a billboard, be in the newspaper, et cetera, et cetera. Like, why not utilize that opportunity that you have to create those relationships to either partner up with people or turn them into customers, whatever that looks like.

Rich: If somebody’s listening right now and what you’re saying resonates with them and they’re like, yes, this is what I’ve been missing, personal brand. What is the work, what should they be doing first?

Bri: Well, first you’ve gotta know who you are. You wanna make sure if you’re putting a personal brand forward, it has got to be authentic. If it is not, people will sniff out that inauthenticity in a matter of seconds.

And nowadays for the most part, no one wants to work with someone that’s lying to them or that is fake or that is inauthentic. So in order to put forth a personal brand, it starts with the person, it starts with you. You have to know yourself. What are your values? Why did you become an entrepreneur in the first place? What makes you stand out in the marketplace that other people don’t have? What is it about you and your services that your customers really latch onto and love about you that makes them want to engage with you further? And you really just have to essentially caricature yourself to then be able to share it as a brand outside of you.

Rich: I’m sure some people are sitting there. Maybe they’ve been planning on launching a side hustle or leaving their business, or they’re just getting started, they don’t have that customer base on why somebody might have chosen them already. What steps might they take?

Bri: Honestly, start showing up and aggregate data. Show up in all sorts of ways online that feel authentic to you, obviously, and see what people respond to. There are things about me that I was told in the beginning should never be a part of my business or my brand by all of these experts. One of which being my cat. I am a huge cat lady. I have my cat tattooed on my shoulder. It was her 16th birthday two days ago. I love my cat. I was told by people at the very beginning of my business, keep your cat out of your business. And now people love when she’s in my business. She shows up in my Reels. She is very mouthy. She’s also deaf. She can’t hear herself so she’s loud. She shows up in my podcast because she’ll be screaming in the background. She shows up in photos. I just had a photo shoot done on Sunday and she was hopping up in front of the camera the whole time. But people love about me that’s part of who I am.

So you have to aggregate the data. You have to know what people are gonna resonate with and not. If people didn’t resonate with her, would I share her? Probably not as much as I do. But you know, I’ve even started, she has her own Instagram now. Like she started building her own personal brand. So you just have to know there’s no formula for what your people are gonna resonate with and what they’re not. And so test it, aggregate the data, make a spreadsheet of what posts you posted, what the response was, what the engagement was, all of that stuff and just see what resonates and do more of that.

Rich: So for the people who own the plumbing business or the lobster shack or whatever it is, and they’re like, look, people just choose me because I’m a good plumber or because our lobster prices are low. What would you say to them that might convince them that personal branding is something that’s worth investing their time and energy in?

Bri: So back in the old days you looked through like the yellow pages, right? And you just picked a plumber and you called them. Nowadays, people go through and they look at the experiences people have had with you. And if you are the kind of plumber that shows up and you’re just not very nice to people, that’s gonna impact. Like, that is your personal brand and that’s gonna impact your reviews online, which is gonna impact whether or not people hire you.

People are very vocal nowadays about the experiences that they have. If you’re a lobster shack and you’re only concerned with your cost and you’re not concerned with cultivating a good employee experience and your employee is rude to someone, no matter how cheap your lobster is, that person’s probably gonna go somewhere else and share with another 10 people the bad experience that they had there. So your personal branding also goes beyond just who you are and how you show up. It’s the experiences people are having with you. It’s the word of mouth that people are willing to share about you.

And so you need to look a little deeper and look at, do you wanna be the personal brand that is the one that’s like super rude to people online. I think in my talk, I shared the experience of Ed Debevic’s in Chicago, I remember eating there as a child. And their whole brand is just being rude to people, and that’s their brand and that’s why people go there. If I did that in my business, I would probably go out of business within three months.

Rich: So you couldn’t pull it off Bri, because you’re too nice. So it wouldn’t be authentic.

Bri: Well, that too. Yes, it wouldn’t be authentic. But you know, I think the personal branding thing, yes, it’s about you as the person. But it also extends into the experiences people are having with the feedback, the word of mouth, all of that stuff as well.

Rich: So what I’m hearing is you have a personal brand. You either are working on it and designing it and crafting it to be optimized, or it’s happening to you by default. So if you’re not paying attention to this stuff, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a personal brand. It’s just not gonna be one that you’re proud of.

Bri: That was a mic drop moment, everyone. For all of you listening, excellent. Rewind 15 seconds and write that one down.

Rich: So it also sounds like some of the work that we need to do is to figure out how we’re different than anybody else. You talked a little bit about standing out. So how do we determine, do you recommend that your clients go out and take a look at other people in their industry to see how they’re showing up and they’re presenting and finding a differentiator between you, or is that just something that happens natural?

Bri: I think that can be part of it. And it is good to know what is happening in your industry. If every single person is going left, how can you be the one person that’s going right? So, yeah, again, aggregate that data, understand what’s going on and how you can be the one that’s a little bit different.

The other thing I would say too, is go out to friends and family and people that know you really well and ask them, what makes me different? How all the people in the world, what is one thing about me that you would say that that is the only person that I know that does that, or has that, or talks like that, or shows up like that? And start to then really own whatever that thing is.

For me, one of the things is I care very deeply about my clients and customers. It’s just a thing. I tell people on sales calls I’m like, if you become a client of mine, I will fall in love with you. And that is just how it works. That’s just what it is. But also my tagline is I give… I didn’t ask if I could swear before we start a recording.

Rich: We’ll bleep you out if you say anything really bad.  Go for it, be you.

Bri: Okay. Well my tagline is, “I give a [expletive] about your success”. And so that’s something that I really don’t see. Other business coaches are very much like, “I can help you make more money” or I can do this, or I can do that, which I can do as well. And I care so deeply that my clients from seven years ago, I still know what’s going on in their business today because I care so much about them and their business. So find what that factor is for you and amplify it, accentuate it, and use it to your benefit.

Rich: The word ‘amplify’ was bouncing around my head ever since you started talking. Because I think a lot of what that we’re talking about is about finding the things that resonate with your ideal customer. And this whole idea of a personal brand is really a two-way street. It’s part of what I’m putting out in the world. And maybe the part that I want the world to see. But also paying attention to what my ideal customer value is as well, where we’re in alignment. So with that, what is the role of the ideal customer, and how do you identify or define your ideal customer?

Bri: So the identifying defining thing is something, you just have to sit down and really start… So in all of these conversations, I always start inside first, and then I can kind of modify or tweak or readjust that stuff based on outside feedback. So I always think, who do I want to be serving?

And a lot of service-based entrepreneurs, we end up serving the people that we were five or 10 years ago. So I look back at who I was as an entrepreneur 15 years ago, when I first got started and all of the struggles I had specifically in the first eight years of my business and start to wonder to myself, well, I now have a different perspective cuz I’ve now been in business twice as long and I’ve gained a lot of insights. So who was that person in that one to eight years? That’s the perspective that I currently have today. So that’s a really great starting point. If you’re not serving who you were 5to 10 years ago, just start thinking about the value and the expertise and the knowledge that you have that could make an impact in someone’s life. And then who is that person? What are they struggling with?

One of my favorite questions is always, “When they are stressed and they can’t sleep, and they are up at 3:00 AM in bed holding onto their phone and they open up Google, what are they searching for? And why are they stressed out? And how can you solve that problem?” So I think that’s the client avatar. And then the role that they kind of play, like I said, is you start showing up online authentically, little by little here and there, and you then see what fits and resonates with those people. And then you get feedback like, oh, that part of myself actually doesn’t really resonate with my ideal customer. So it’s not that I have to change. It’s just that I don’t really include that part in my marketing moving forward. And it’s not a big deal and you’re not manufacturing fake things about you. You’re a multidimensional human being. So there’s more than just one thing about you that people potentially might resonate with. And then it’s just a matter of trying stuff on, seeing what fits and what doesn’t fit.

Rich: Absolutely. So you had kind of teased this a little bit before as well, but there’s the idea of the personal brand. And for Rich Brooks, there’s a personal brand, then I have The Agents of Change, and then I have my day job president of flyte new media digital agency. How can I take my personal brand that may have already started to attract clients to me over the years – and I’m saying me, but for anybody listening – how do I teach my team these things? How do I get them to kind of adopt this? Or is it even possible? I don’t want them to be mimicking me, but at the same time, Rich Brooks is so embedded in the DNA of flyte new media, and there are things that I find that are important and I wanna share those with the world. Can this be expanded to my company? And if so, what are some of the steps that I might take, especially if I have employees?

Bri: Yeah. So this is definitely something that I’m actually going through right now as well. I just hired a copywriter in my business for the first time. And one of my fears about doing it was my mom will always say to me, she’ll always read my stuff and then be like, “I know you didn’t write that.” And I’m like, oh, thanks mom. Yep. Got it. So I’ve had this fear that no one’s gonna be able to replicate my voice.

And what I loved about the copywriter that I hired is she. Should we do a deep dive into creating essentially a handbook that outlines what my cadence is, what words I use a lot, do I use ‘we’, or ‘we are’, what are my color schemes? Like I can recite my two hex codes for you off the top of my head. What topics do I talk about on a regular basis? What are my values? She’s basically creating an entire handbook or like a textbook on Bri Seeley.

So not that you have to go that far, but I would say two things. One, if people are showing up as you, you do have to find a way to distill to them the most important parts about who you are and how those then come through. My next step is gonna be hiring her to start writing my newsletters. And then eventually I wanna start hiring someone to be writing my social media content for me, because it’s just stuff that is not money generating stuff that I need to be doing. But the people that are doing those things need to do them in a way that still feels authentic to me. And I will still probably have a final say, a final approval, a final edit on all of those things. But you do have to find a way to communicate that.

The other thing I’d say with having an agency, and I think this was something that got brought up at the conference as well, is that you want all of the employees in the agencies to also each have personal brands. Because this is the world that we live in nowadays. And if you go to hire an employee, you can be damn sure that employer is going on and checking out your socials before they hire you. So each per each of those people, you want them to have a personal brand. And you wanna make sure their personal brand isn’t in contrast to the business brand. How many of those stories have we heard about the insurrectionists that were at the Capitol that have since been fired from their jobs because their companies weren’t willing to have that personal brand affiliated with their business. So you may also wanna put together a small handbook or something that’s, “Hey, I know it’s your personal brand. And if this thing or this thing gets posted on your personal brand, that could potentially be something that impacts your employability within the company,” or things like that.

So you wanna make sure that there’s parameters around your employees without controlling them. And I mean, you don’t wanna tell them what to do and what not to do, but also, your personal brand impacts the company brand and there have to be parameters around how that looks.

Rich: Absolutely. And that’s a tricky thing as you start to grow about what you can and can’t censor, and whether they identify themselves as an employee while they’re on social of your company. And also, I hate to think about putting up fences for people on what they can say online, but at the same time, talk about what’s important to you. You don’t want a bunch of mini me’s running around, but if you have some things that are part of your personal brand and have then been extended to your business brand, then those are important things for any potential employee to know about.

And this gets back to your point about you were talking about interviewing people and finding out those pain points. When we get somebody coming to us, we always hear horror stories of the last agency they worked with. “Oh, they never listened to me. They never brought me any new ideas. They weren’t transparent. They weren’t easy to reach.” Okay. Boom. These are things that were already important to me, and now we’re just gonna focus a little bit more attention. And it sounded like a lot of that happened with The Entrepreneur Coach side of your business is discovering that suddenly you were known for something and you’re like, but I love that. That’s great. Let’s just hone in on that.

So we’ve talked a lot about building up this personal brand and some of the steps to get there once we feel comfortable with this is – and I’m sure it’s an iterative process – this is what I’m putting out there in the world. This is a digital marketing podcast, what are some of the techniques you talk to your clients about getting that message out there? Whether through social, email, website, what have you?

Bri: So a few things. One, obviously all of those platforms just need to be in alignment. So your socials, your website, your newsletters, everything just has to be kind of on the same page. You don’t want to be sending out a newsletter that sounds like it’s coming from someone else, that doesn’t match up with the information that’s on your website and your socials. So step one, make sure everything’s in alignment and incongruence.

Step two, I always like to focus on kind of the most important thing. So I don’t wanna be spending my time all day every day on 20 different social media platforms if my clients are only hanging out on two of them. So focus in on what’s gonna make the biggest impact in your business. And just allow yourself, give yourself permission to just do that. At some point, if you have a team, I have someone now who she takes my Instagram Reels, she repurposes it to YouTube shorts, Facebook, Pinterest, all these places, but I don’t have to be the one doing it. It’s a waste of my time. So focus in and hone in on the best places where that’s gonna be.

The other thing I’d say, and this is something that I coach people on all the time is that if you’re starting at zero, it can be really hard to get momentum behind you to be building up these platforms. The one thing, and I’ve already honestly said this three times in the last 36 hours, the one thing that I wish I had done differently seven years ago when I started my coaching business, is partnerships. Because there are people out there who already have the audience that you are looking to build, and it is about providing them some sort of value to get in front of that audience. I just literally, right before we got on this call, I was in a coaching session and I said, I have around 16, 17,000 Instagram followers. If you wanted access to those people, you would have to go out and make individual relationships with all 17,000 of those people. That’s a lot of work. Versus, you come make a relationship with me and offer me value to put in front of those 17,000 people, and all of a sudden you have access to a community of people that know, love, and trust me, who I have then extended that know, love, and trust to you. And then they want to find out what you are doing. So I would say partnerships is the one thing that I wish I had done when I was starting my personal brand.

Rich: That is excellent advice. Something I still need to take more advantage of. So a great way to wrap this up. If people Bri, wanna learn more about you, your services, your business, where can they find you online?

Bri: Yes. So I will give you guys my website, briseeley.com. But if you go to briseeley.com/free-resources, I have two workbooks for people, depending on what stage of business you are in, if you’re a new entrepreneur or an established entrepreneur, that you can access there.

And then my favorite place to hang out where people find me is Instagram, my handle is @briseeley. And I’m starting to hang out more on TikTok, and my handle there is also @briseeley.

Rich: Awesome. And we’ll have links to all of those in the show notes as always. Bri, absolute pleasure chatting with you today. Thank you so much. And again, belated birthday wishes to your cat.

Bri: Thank you so much. Appreciate you having me.

 Show Notes: 

Bri Seeley takes entrepreneurs from struggle to succeed! Check out the free resources suitable for any level entrepreneur. And go follow her on Instagram and TikTok, and tell her you heard her on this podcast.

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.