Interview with Pete Kistler, CEO of Brand Yourself
You have probably Googled yourself, but if you haven’t someone else has. Did You Know 80 million people are Googled a day?
I recently interviewed Pete Kistler, the CEO of Brand Yourself, a firm Ruby Media Group has partnered with and a pioneer in the personal branding space. Pete Kistler is an inspiration to many entrepreneurs and members of Gen Y- I am personally inspired by his motivation, drive and passion and left the interview feeling invigorated. Why invigorated? Because it is very rare to meet another member of my generation who has taken the road less traveled, who has followed his passion and who turned down job offers in this economy to create something out of nothing. Pete took a blank slate and created what is now one of the fastest growing personal branding platforms in our field and we are honored to partner with him and work with such an innovative firms. The Brand Yourself platform that Pete created makes it much easier for personal branding coaches like myself to monitor and track progress for our executive branding clients.
In our exclusive interview, Pete Kistler shares his personal story in creating Brand Yourself, advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, hiring tips and his thoughts on the role social media is playing in new media dating…
Why did you start Brand Yourself?
I saw a few of my colleagues losing job opportunities because of what was out there on the web and at the same time I saw other friends winning opportunities- I realized there was a huge opportunity to help others win. My idea for Brand Yourself first began at Syracuse when I presented it to the Entrepreneurship Club and the President pulled me aside and said this idea had merit and that he believed we would take it to the next level. The President was RJ Sherman, who is now the Chief Technology Officer and CFO
What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
First and foremost- an idea is not worth much- the most important part of an idea is executing it.
Always share your ideas with as many people as you can-they will give you new perspectives that will make it stronger.
Don’t be afraid to put your new idea out there- if someone wants to copy it they will have to sacrifice their time- most people aren’t willing to do that.
The key to success is having a strong team around you- having a dynamic team where people feel comfortable putting ideas forward and analyzing them from different objectives. Our team is compiled of diverse backgrounds and our ideas become much greater then where we started.
Find a mentor- Entrepreneurs are over-confident in nature which is why they take huge risks that may completely fail but the believe they will succeed. With that level of confidence, you need to bring in outside perspectives of people who have 40 years of experience in your field. They will tell you things that will save you a lot of time; you might as well learn from someone who has already made the same mistake.
To find a mentor, start with your personal network- Ask someone in your network, “ Do you know anyone who has been doing social media successfully?”
What are some workplace trends among members of Gen-Y that you have noticed?
In general, Gen Y has an entrepreneurial mindset, which is awesome! Whether it takes form in starting a new business or even being entrepreneurial within a role in their company and then becoming promoted faster, Gen Y is extremely entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurship is becoming more heavily engrained in the corporate culture amongst Gen Y.
Why do you like working with Gen Y?
I love it because they are so entrepreneurial and they are willing to speak their minds. Some people from older generations don’t expect younger people to speak their minds, but I do and I love it.
Tell me about the Corporate Structure you have created at Brand Yourself
It has been a flat structure since the beginning- almost every company decision has been talked over informally as a group. It is non corporate and non hierarchical; everyone feels like they are a part of the team and their opinion matters. We started off as friends- making the shift from friendship into business can be hard but for us it has worked well.
We also pride ourselves in taking an experimental approach- we like trying new things and seeing if they work. We aren’t afraid to take risks!
What are your thoughts on a 9-5 job?
It kills me. My mom has been working for 40 years at the same place- she isn’t excited about what she does but she loves her co-workers so work is completely fulfilling to her for that reason. I have been entrepreneurial from the get go so when I think about working for someone else at this point seems “ridiculous.”
As entrepreneurs, we realize that if we have a goal it really is achievable- the toughest part is doing it, but unfortunately most people don’t understand this. We are confident that whatever we want to do in the future we will be able to do- and that means not working 80-hour weeks for another employer.
What have you sacrificed to make your dream come true?
I have sacrificed the traditional route- people are expected to graduate and then obtain an entry-level position. At Brand Yourself, we threw all of that to the wind and said “What if we can create value right now?” I sacrificed a typical college experience but I know its worth so much more. I am also not able to put as much time into relationships as I would normally be able to. You really find out who your true friends are because they don’t get mad if you have to cancel a dinner for a work related event because you are the CEO.
Ideally, I would want to attract an entrepreneurial woman that shares the same mentality.
What role does social media play in your hiring process?
It is so vital! If a potential intern doesn’t have a strong social media presence, it is immediately a strike against them. Especially for the Social Media role in particular, we need people who understand the space and who are comfortable and passionate to be doing it on their own whether they are hired to do it or not by Brand Yourself. PR as a whole is also shifting online to the management of relationships in social networks. If a PR intern doesn’t understand the power of the web and isn’t already doing it, then they will have a lot of catching up to do and it is extra training on behalf of the company.
The interns should also take the proper steps to brand themselves accordingly in the social web. We see our interns as brand ambassadors. Once, a potential intern had a ridiculous Facebook photo and I thought “I don’t know if I want this person representing my brand.”
What are your absolute Branding “Dont’s”?
Your headshot is key- it should back up your brand
If you are a model then put up provocative pictures, but if you are a businessman then wear a suit
If you are a social media person and work in a specific niche, then brand towards that
For social media professionals, as long as I look at a photo of someone and I don’t feel immediately turned off, then it is OK
Advice for people new to the Personal Branding space?
First- know what your goals are- once you know what you want, do a little research, create a LinkedIN profile and have a few people look at it. Make sure it accurately represents you and then use it to see who you know and who can connect you at that company form your network. For Facebook, re-configure your privacy settings accordingly. You should create a process for tagged pictures; make sure you are getting email alerts when you are tagged and then immediately check to make sure they accurately represent your brand. As for Twitter, join in the conversation!
What is Personal Branding and how do you discover your brand?
Personal Branding ultimately means thinking of yourself as something that needs to be differentiated from everyone else.
It means really thinking of yourself as the CEO of You Inc (you as a business and what can you do to stand out to extract your core value proposition and then position that against what is already out there in the market)
You can discover your personal brand through the personal branding worksheet we created which walks you through this process. It begins with “what is your vision and purpose.” Your vision is your external view of what the world can be and your purpose is how you can get the world to become more like your vision. For example, my vision is a world where everyone does what he or she loves. My purpose and role is connecting talented and passionate people to reach other. To achieve my purpose, I started Brand Yourself which allows individuals to put their best foot forward and promote themselves to people that would be able to provide meaningful opportunities.
What is the 4 step Branding process you have created?
Build- Discover what is out there about you, what is your brand as of right now? Create positive content around that as well as on your own personal web site. Make sure that everything that is found is optimized- Rise up in Google rankings. Discover your brand, communicate it and it becomes visible- Proactively push yourself out to the people that can open doors for you.
How has social media impacted dating?
For every potential new relationship, I always look them up on Facebook without question! Red flags include wall posts of crazy friends, what other people are saying about them and their “about me section.” I like people that use their “about me” to talk about who they really are as a person as opposed to adding a list of books they like- the extra mile shows me they are self aware. Pictures are also red flags- recently tagged photos of ex boyfriends etc. I am a laid back and understanding person but when you see that it makes you wonder. They should have the respect to know that a new potential partner could see it- it should be untagged if they are ready to date again.
Twitter is also interesting- if someone is complaining on Twitter all day long it shows they may be a miserable person and you probably don’t want to get too close to them. As for LinkedIN- if they aren’t on there it doesn’t bother me- but if you are going to choose to be on a social media site and have a barely filled out profile and 2 connections- it might reveal something greater about their personality, such as poor follow through.
What is the future of Personal Branding?
The future is that personal branding will ideally become engrained in the educational system itself. Starting from a young age, teachers will help people understand what their core strengths are and what they love to do so they know where they excel, what they like and help them with goal setting. Making sure all the content is related to their brand and that their resume is in alignment with their goals will be a natural extension of the future of branding. We will have a whole generation of self-aware people and it will be easier to find other like-minded people.
The future will also be about trying new things, taking different classes and subjects that you would never take on your own from a topical level in the hopes of finding out what your true purpose in life is.
How do you measure success?
My measure of success is when I’m doing what I love with people I love and I am able to live the lifestyle I want to afford.
How do you measure success from a Personal Branding perspective?
Success in personal branding can be measured once you start getting random opportunities from across the world because you have created a brand touch point that made them want to reach out. Success is when your personal brand is working for you 24/7 while you are sleeping.
Pete has been nice enough to share 50 free trials for 14 days to RMG readers to the Brand Yourself platform with Ruby Media Group. Simply click here and type in the promo code“RubyMedia” to check it out!
About Pete Kistler
Pete Kistler is the CEO of Brand‐Yourself.com, a toolset to build your personal brand online and manage your reputation through social media. Brand Yourself has been named one of the Top 100 Most Innovative College Startups in the U.S. two years in a row. Pete is one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 5 College Entrepreneurs, cited as a leading Online Reputation Management expert, one of the Top 30 Definitive Personal Branding Experts on Twitter and he was a judge for the 2009 Personal Brand Awards. Pete writes the Wednesday column for the nationally acclaimed Personal Branding Blog, ranked the #1 job blog by CareerBuilder and a Top 50 Marketing Blog by AdAge and syndicated by Forbes, Reuters and Fox Business. Pete is also the co-author of the book “Career Launchpad” (Perry, 2009) and “From Tweet To Hired” (Brand-Yourself, 2010). Pete is passionate about using technology to bring people together and make life simpler, easier and happier.