“It has to be true to you—it has to be real.”
Heather H. Bennett is a marketing strategist and personal brand coach that lives and works in Chicago, Illinois.
Drawing from over 20 years of experience in brand marketing, research & development, and personal branding, Heather brings a unique spin to understanding how a personal brand can impact business and personal goals.
Her social media strategy expertise has been used by professionals and entrepreneurs in areas as diversified as financial wealth management and law to non-profit and professional speaking, education and consumer products to technology and start-ups.
In this episode we spoke about the hardest part of getting an MBA, how she defines personal branding, why all professionals (regardless of their industry) need to establish a personal brand, why a personal brand is important for doing the job you already have, common mistakes people make in the early days of personal brand development, how ageism affects a personal brand, and more!
Full Episode Transcript:
Kenny Soto 0:00
Breathing and then do a can never get used to how louder voices so I’m going to do a countdown and then we can start. We are now recording in 54321 Hello everyone and welcome to Kenny Soto’s Digital Marketing podcast. Today’s guest is Heather Bennett. Hi, Heather. How are you?
Heather Bennett 0:21
Kenny Soto 0:22
Perfect. So Heather, I like to ask all my guests this question just so the audience and myself and get a better context on who you are as a professional. So my first question for you is how did you get into marketing.
Heather Bennett 0:36
I actually entered marketing through research and development. One of my one of my first jobs out of undergrad was working as a research biologist for Unilever, which is a large consumer products goods company, globally, with some very well known brands.
So while there, I was working on brands like Vaseline intensive care, Suave Elizabeth Arden, cheese Burro ponds, and very recognizable brands, I fell in love with the concept of brand and the impact that having a product that really spoke to the end user, what could happen there. So I decided to go get my MBA, to switch careers from research and development to marketing, because I loved love the concept of brands and what they could accomplish so much.
Kenny Soto 1:29
So before we dive into your expertise, I do want to ask a follow up question for the audience, that any any person in the audience scuze me that may have an interest in getting their MBA? What was the hardest part of that process? And could you impart any advice to anyone who may be interested in in getting one?
Heather Bennett 1:51
Well, I would start by saying, getting my MBA was so much fun, it is a lot of work. But it was so much fun. The people I was able to you learn as much from the people in your class, as you do from the professors at the front of the room, or on the screen.
I know a lot of MBA programs have moved online now, which is a great opportunity for people to upskill and prefer a future career. I think the hardest part is understanding how you’re going to use that degree when you leave. And understanding how to make the most of the time that you have there. It’s not only learning the basics of business, which I think are invaluable.
I, I really believe that understanding of business from A to Z helps you no matter what field you end up going into. However, it really makes a difference if you take that time to network and learn from the people around you, and to connect with your professors as well. So that you have a strong network coming out of the MBA program.
Kenny Soto 3:00
Perfect. Now let’s segue into what I’ve been doing some research on when it comes to your background. How do you define a personal brand, and what got you into the field, if you will, of personal branding.
Heather Bennett 3:18
So about half of this would be off. So about 20 years ago, I was working in consumer products, goods, doing brand marketing, lots of fun, you know, 100 million dollar brands, the type of brands that everyone almost everyone has in their home. So very exciting work. And as a side gig side hustle, I was being asked by friends or friends or colleagues to help with projects.
You know, my friend is starting this business, she doesn’t have a business background. She doesn’t know how to do this. But she wants to be successful. And you know, so few new businesses succeed, that could you just talk to her or she’s my sister, my brother switching careers could. And I I was I was confused because I don’t have a background in career or HR or anything in that realm.
But apparently the way I was able to describe things or explain how you know how to view a person, and that’s really where the personal branding came from, is I was solving all of these career and business startup problems through the lens of a brand marketer. And when you do that, what I found worked consistently in this the side hustle was viewing the individual as a brand and understanding how if they understood who they were and what message they were sending.
While building this business whilst switching to a different career. They would be successful. If they didn’t take the time to really understand who they were and what they were bringing to the table and what made them unique, then they would tend to not be as successful So during, you know, at that time, I ended up switching over to personal branding, more full time because I realized this was something unique, it was very needed.
And I started seeing so much success, and being able to help so many people that it really made sense to go in that direction. So this was personal branding, probably about seven to 10 years before the term was even being used.
Kenny Soto 5:26
You alluded to this, and I just want to add a little bit more clarification. So my next question is, is this every professional need a personal brand? Or is it something that’s really only effective for quote unquote, tech folk?
Heather Bennett 5:43
Oh, everyone needs a personal brand. Think of how the impact that LinkedIn has had across all industries, and all types of work. The idea being, everyone has a resume, everyone has to interview everyone has to go through the career, the basics of a career process, a personal brand is necessary just for that, that aspect, like whether you’re trying to find a job, secondary to that a personal brand isn’t necessary to do the job you already have.
Because by having a strong personal brand, you’re able to convince the people in your industry, in your company in your department, to work with you to trust you, to listen to you, if you don’t have a strong personal brand, they’re not as likely to pay attention to what you’re communicating, and your thoughts. So definitely, I don’t think it’s limited to people in the digital world, or the marketing world, the tech fields at all, I really believe it’s consistent across all industries. And I would say that based on the variety of clients I work with on a regular basis, they are not limited to one area.
Kenny Soto 6:57
you’re the first person to ever mention that a personal brand is not only useful for, I guess, the outside network or audience that you are trying to communicate with, but also with your co workers and your team. So I wanted to dive in just a little bit more there is the messaging different, are there other outcomes to consider when it comes to your personal brand and how its associated with the audience of your coworkers.
Heather Bennett 7:28
Both in both situations, what you’re trying to communicate is your knowledge base, your capability, your skills, your sense. So that doesn’t change, especially as I always talk about personal brands being authentic, and how important that is to it has to be true to you. It has to be real, and authentic.
And having in your skills and your abilities. And what you bring in your knowledge will not change, whether it’s looking for a career or working within your current job. So I would say no, I, the What would change is if you were transitioning to a new job, either within the company or outside, then you have to really consider, you know, this would be an opportunity for upskilling.
So it may be having find ways to communicate how you’re able to go into an area that you may have not traditionally been seen as being successful or adept at.
Kenny Soto 8:30
And is there a right time or an ideal time to start developing a personal brand.
Heather Bennett 8:39
Immediately, I would say from the moment you enter, if you think about even students who are in high school applying to college, at this point, they’re the you know, the SATs and other standardized tests are not as important. So an interviewer or their online presence or their personal statement is really what’s getting them into college at this point.
So if you think about the importance of writing a personal statement, that is probably one of the first most powerful opportunities for personal brand to be shared, and to be used in order to get you to that next step in your career. So I don’t believe there’s ever too early of a time or even too late. A lot of the clients I work with are retiring, so their 60s and 70s. And they’re looking to start their next career and so are their next business. And so I don’t think it’s there’s too early or too late.
Kenny Soto 9:40
We’re gonna take a little detour just because I think you’d be able to provide some insight in I guess this trend I’ve been seeing online where it’s like, after a certain age, ageism kicks in and sometimes it’s harder for you to launch a new business or to get another or start, if you will, in your career based on how old you are. So because you’ve worked with previous clients that may be older, what challenges do they face in their careers because of their age.
Heather Bennett 10:16
A lot of the challenges I find with people who are starting their second or third career and this actually, I found this to happen even for the clients I work with in their mid 20s, where they’ve had they’ve gotten a degree they’ve worked their first job or two, and then they’re trying to decide, well, do I go back and get a graduate degree or so I think it happens for both of them is having this solidified mindset of who they are and what they’re capable of. And, and feeling those limitations.
It’s not to say that they’re to be come in and authentic at all, it’s more of learning to expand your view of yourself and what you’re capable of, and being willing to take risks to learn something new, and believing in yourself enough to be able to take those risks and to put the effort in to learn and to admit that you you don’t know everything if you’re entering a new field, and that’s okay. So I think having those limiting mindsets, is probably the biggest roadblock for people at that stage.
Kenny Soto 11:23
Speaking of roadblocks, what are some other common mistakes or roadblocks that you’ve seen your clients make, when they’re creating their personal brands prior to hiring you?
Heather Bennett 11:38
The first, almost immediately within that first conversation, I pull up their LinkedIn profile, and there’s so many simple things to do on a LinkedIn profile. To fix. Like, instantly, I would start there, that’s, that’s a really simple way I know you didn’t want to talk about tactics necessarily, but quick tactics, update your banner, don’t use the boring gray one, make sure you have a picture that’s friendly, and you know, shoulders up, and you’re looking directly at the camera, and is a good representation of who you are professional representation, you know, ahead and customize your LinkedIn profile URL, there’s a way to do that.
Really focus. And remember, most importantly, that that LinkedIn profile is not a resume. And it’s not written for you tell your story, the way you you know, just for your sake, it’s written so that you can communicate what someone trying to find you is looking for. So if you have to think put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s searching you on LinkedIn, and what are they going to look for? So I would start with that right away? That’s immediately beyond that. Yeah, they’re, they’re more, they’re more roadblocks that people put up for themselves.
Kenny Soto 13:02
What can you provide some other examples.
Heather Bennett 13:07
Other examples are not being aware of where you are on social media, or not being on social media at all. It is a huge red flag, in this day and age to not have anything on social media. So if you’re, if you Google yourself, and nothing comes up, not even a picture and not even, like anything, that that’s a concern, if, if your goal is to get a new job or get a career started, so having some presence online social media wise, and that doesn’t mean you know, necessarily personal information, it can be professional, you know, are you writing a blog about the industry that you’re in? Are you participating in, you know, it could even be volunteer work? And you know, is there something you can do? So, you need to have some online presence because it is a red flag now, when there is nothing online?
Kenny Soto 14:06
Are there any lessons from growing and defining a company’s brand that can be similarly applied to growing into finding a personal brand?
Heather Bennett 14:17
Wow, okay, that the I think the biggest lesson is to listen to your target market. Either way, I am a huge proponent of focusing on target markets and what their needs are, and communicating with them in a way that they want to be communicated with when they want to be communicated with were.
So for both of them really focus on who you’re trying to reach, who you can help, who you can serve, whether that’s with the product or with your abilities and services.
Kenny Soto 14:52
What core skills and these can be hard skills or soft skills. Have you leveraged throughout your career today? It
Heather Bennett 15:04
consistently through my careers, the ability to make connections between pieces of information, and understanding and seeing how different pieces of information relate to each other has helped me whether that was doing biology research, or understanding why one shampoo would sell better than another, or even, or helping someone with their personal brand, being able to see the connections in their lives and in their careers that will help them move forward.
Or even I’m on a couple of board boards of directors even being able to understand the connections between how the different aspects of a business work together, and and understanding how to best leverage those connections in order to meet business goals.
Kenny Soto 15:59
Two more questions. Can you tell the audience more about your most recent book? And if they’re interested? Why should they read it?
Heather Bennett 16:11
So I recently published fun and fulfilling careers one question at a time. It’s a step by step guide to thriving in your personal and professional life. This book was created, they should read it because it was it was written by a request. From my clients, there was about a seven month period three years ago, where I had people constantly asking me to write the book, I had a workbook at the time, I was doing a lot of webinars working with a lot of different people, workshops, retreats, and my clients, people at the work ups, the colleagues I work with said you really need to get this down on paper.
And and really share this, it’s, it’s so important, and it’s so useful. And there’s there’s just no one else explaining it and walking people through this process as simply as and easily as you do it. So after about seven months of being asked repeatedly, I started writing the book, I had no idea it would be finished during a pandemic, that was not expected.
But ended up be it’s a good time for people right now because of the pandemic because so much has changed in the workplace and out for people to really take a step back and figure out what the what work they want to do going forward, you know, what will they find fulfilling what will really serve a need in the world. And it was designed to be easy and and everything’s in bite sized chunks, it’s, it’s really meant to walk you through the process of understanding your personal brand, and then how to apply it with very good action steps and plans. I am MBA. So there’s definitely business goals built into it and to walk people through the process so that they can find success and their next job, their next career, their next role.
Kenny Soto 18:12
My last question is hypothetical. If you had access to a time machine, and can go back 10 years into the past, knowing everything you know, right now, how would you accelerate the speed of your career?
Heather Bennett 18:31
That’s a really good question. And I would say focus on people and connections, and be willing to be open hearted to give and give more I have I have found in the last three to five years that has served me very well is you know, a willingness to help others and to be interested and listen to what their needs are. So I would have started that, you know, the that process earlier.
I think I had no idea you when you start working for your job, you’re so focused on the industry and learning knowledge and all of the technical data. And what I have found has been just wonderful is the number of friendships and relationships that have developed and how much I’ve gotten out of those. So being open to networking being open to helping others. What has will definitely would I would do that if I could go back in time.
Kenny Soto 19:36
Amazing. Heather, if anyone wanted to find find you online and say hello, where can they go?
Heather Bennett 19:42
I’m on LinkedIn, Heather H Bennett. And you can find me at Creative brand coach.net which is my website. Also my book fun and fulfilling careers. One question at a time is on Amazon.
Kenny Soto 19:59
Amazing and I’ll put that book link in the show notes for anyone who’s interested in getting the book after listening to this podcast Heather thank you so much for your time and thank you to you the listener for listening to another episode of Kenny Soto rose Digital Marketing podcast and as always I hope you have a great week. Bye.