Personal branding = what goes in + what comes out

One of the focus areas in my corporate workshops on personal branding is content consumption.

Most people mistake personal branding to be only about content sharing, but content consumption is even more important than sharing.

Let me explain this with a simple analogy.

What do you think the No. 1 new year resolution usually is?

Yes, you are right – gym, workout, exercise, lose weight… and along those lines. In fact, people decide to pay the gym for a full year in advance only to guilt-trip them to head there so as to not waste the membership fee.

But being healthy is not just about burning calories and hitting the gym. That’s just the ‘what comes out’ part.

The ‘what goes in’ part is equally important. That’s about eating right, and in the right quantities so that together (what goes in + what comes out), you feel a healthier you. Both need to be done together for it to work.

Your effort towards your personal brand is no different.

‘What comes out’ is the content sharing part that needs to be done meaningfully, in a way that it showcases your style of thinking for your readers to be able to form a perception about you.

But ‘what goes in’ is the engine that can power the ‘what comes out’, and this is about your own content consumption.

So, think about it – what are the sources of information that you depend on, to be updated on your chosen work area/industry?

For example – if you work in the human resources space, or the legal space, how do you update yourself on a daily/weekly/fortnightly/monthly basis on what is happening in the world of HR or Legal?

Which websites do you visit often to know the updates on your industry?

Who are the individuals with a voice that you follow on social platforms that relate to your industry? How do you track what they say, consistently?

How do you track news on your industry?

The problem is that most people leave these decisions to algorithms. Or to serendipity.

Because you viewed a video on something to do with your industry, Google/YouTube would remember that as a signal and feed you more so-called related videos.

Or, because you searched about your industry on Google, Google would assume your interest and put more news updates on your Android phone’s home screen, if you have enabled that option.

These are ways to let the algorithm decide what’s important for you.

Or, you stumble on something relevant to your industry and work from a colleague’s post on LinkedIn while scrolling your timeline on the platform. This is letting serendipity decide what’s new in your industry.

Both these are unpredictable and inconsistent.

Going back to the health analogy, would you let the kind of food you eat to the grocer? Or just hope that you may just find healthy food in your kitchen by chance? No. You make a plan, figure the kind of healthy food that you’d like to consume, and go after those as a process.

Similarly, you’d need to consciously build content pipelines to fit your personal branding needs based on your work/interest area(s).

Some of the tools that help do this consistently:

1. RSS feeds:
This is my No. 1 source of purposeful content consumption and is a daily habit that rivals only newspaper reading. When I stumble on a source/website/blog that focuses on the areas that I’m interested in (communications, advertising, PR, marketing, digital marketing, social media etc.), I add them via their RSS feeds on my feed reader (I use Feedly).

Browser bookmarks used to be one popular method. That involved bookmarking relevant websites and manually/consciously visiting them. RSS feeds take the effort out of manual visits.

2. Google alerts:
This is a useful service from Google where you can set alerts to come via email (daily or weekly). The key is to fine-tune the keywords so that you reduce the noise/junk as much as possible.

3. Newspapers:
Newspapers are a seriously under-rated source of information. I had written about this earlier. See: Cultivating ‘creativity’ and attracting ‘luck’

4. Twitter lists:
Twitter could be overwhelming for most normal people given the anything-goes nature of the platform and its constant noise. A better way to consume Twitter meaningfully is to avoid the direct firehose and use it via Lists. Make a list of people who you admire in your industry and work area. Search for them if you are not able to recall them immediately. Then search those people on Twitter, if they are available there. Add them to a Twitter List. Whenever you go to Twitter, look at this list only, and not a larger timeline. Of course, these people may also talk about things that are outside the purview of their work, but that’s part of the nature of social media.

It’s unfortunate that LinkedIn does not have a Twitter List equivalent where you can create a group of people to follow and be exposed to every piece of content they share on the platform. Even if you follow the right people (as per your industry), you still need to depend on the LinkedIn algorithm to show you their content. Or, you need to visit someone’s profile manually and find out their last/recent post.

5. Email/newsletters:
Newsletters are the rage right now, and there are several for many, many industry sectors/topics. Subscribe to some that fit your interest area to be on top of what’s happening in them.


The point of building content pipelines to avoid wondering where and how to know what’s happening in your chosen area of interest/work.

There’s a quote in Scott ‘Dilbert’ Adams’ book, “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” – “The more you know, the more you can know”. I truly believe in that – unless you equip yourself with the right information on a subject area, you would not be able to form new opinions, perspectives, or thoughts in that space. Building content pipelines help you educate yourself on a chosen area so that you have the raw material to assimilate them and come up with your own views… which becomes fodder for your content creation and sharing. So, a judicious mix of ‘what goes in’ and ‘what comes out’.

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