How to choose a personal branding theme when you have diverse interests

By Mark Schaefer

Since my book KNOWN came out, many readers have reached out to me expressing how it has changed their lives and their businesses.

However, one area where some are getting stuck on their journey is choosing an ideal personal branding theme (I call this your sustainable interest). Most people have many wonderful ideas, hobbies, and passions. Today I want to provide advice on how to sort through all the options and define what is right for you.

First I want to re-state why it’s important to focus on one core theme. The idea is that over time you will create content in a way that attracts an audience that can make your dreams come true — whether that is finding a job, starting a speaking career, writing a book, promoting a charity, or whatever your heart is driving you to do.

To accomplish that, you must remain relevant to that audience, so you can’t be jumping around from topic to topic. You need to stick with a certain theme and be prepared to explore it for years.

In my book and Workbook, I have lots of exercises to help you focus on that theme. But if you still can’t choose, here are three ideas to help you:

1. Bring in the stories

But my topic is digital marketing. I think there are three special angles to my writing:

  • I have extensive experience to draw on
  • I love exploring the human angle of marketing and strategy
  • I am unafraid to speak the truth and offer unique and entertaining views

I’ve written more than 2,000 posts now and one of the ways I keep it interesting is by bringing in all of my interests to tell stories and teach lessons.

For example,

  • I told a story about an observation from a London museum that led me to believe that the internet would ultimately be used as a weapon of war (this was before the widespread cybercrimes we see today).
  • I wrote about how a mistake I saw on a basketball court provided a valuable leadership lesson.
  • I used a personal experience of grief to explain how to stay strong in a business setting when your mind is experiencing panic.

The key idea is that you can stick to one theme but bring in many of your life experiences to keep your content fresh and fun. You should have a consistent theme but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon other aspects of your life. Bring that into your content!

2. The core is inside you

For example, I was helping a young HR professional who told me “I have so many diverse interests, I can’t possibly decide what to write about.”

She was a martial arts instructor, a grief counselor, management consultant, and an extreme sports enthusiast.

I asked her to describe a time in her life that made her come alive. She told me some examples and said “I love it when I help people face their moment of courage.”

“That’s it,” I said. “You help people find their moment of courage.”

This was a breakthrough for her — a key personality trait that was right before her eyes. Sometimes it might take talking through your interests with somebody to help you find your one core sustainable interest.

3. Maybe YOU are the difference

I am in a very crowded content space but I can stand out to my audience because of my unique perspectives, lessons, and writing style.

There is nobody like me … and there is nobody like you, either.

Yes, it is hard to stand out in a crowded world. But don’t be afraid to jump in because you just might find an audience who appreciates your unique perspective.

The important word here is “unique.” I stand out because I write about things nobody else is covering. You simply can’t blog about what everybody else is talking about and get away with it. Add your own story.

Any way, I hope that helps. I want to leave you with this piece of advice … If you’re struggling to define what you want to be known for, stop obsessing and just start. Chances are you’re not going to get it perfectly right the first time any way so just go for it and see what happens.

Creating an effective personal brand isn’t about being perfect, it’s about the journey and a willingness to adapt, adopt, and adjust as the world tells you what it loves about you most.

Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for {grow}, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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Originally published at on June 11, 2018.

Keynote speaker, strategy consultant, Rutgers University marketing faculty and author of 9 books including KNOWN, Marketing Rebellion, and Cumulative Advantage.