In today's world, entrepreneurs and companies are seeking, more than ever, to find branding and marketing experts who can help them build an identifiable brand, increase their social media presence, and expand their digital footprint.
Cynthia Johnson is a branding and marketing professional, business advisor, columnist and speaker, who stands out from the rest. She shared her story with me, along with tips on branding and business growth. I have to confess, the tips weren't all about marketing, but they offered great insight into how following one's truth can lead to success, bliss and more than 1 million Twitter followers.
MK: Who is Cynthia Johnson?
CJ: I'm an adventurer and a helper. I am always looking for new people to meet and projects to work on. I have learned from some of the best minds in our industry, and I give back as much as I can. In my personal life, there is nothing I love more than watching movies with my love, T.J., and my dog.
MK: How did you become a branding and digital marketing expert?
CJ: I'd been working in the social media field. My boss told me that if I learned SEO, I would be at the forefront of digital marketing. The more I learned the more I wanted to share. I started speaking, doing webinars, and blogging. I spoke at my first conference in October 2014. Since then I have spoken at nearly 70 events nationwide. In 2015, I became a partner at RankLab. My success is a mix of mentorship, opportunity, and passion.
MK: What inspired you to go into this line of work?
CJ: When I was 25 years old, I sold everything I owned, to backpack around the world with my best friend, Tonje. While traveling, we started trading marketing, doing digital media and branding, in exchange for food, lodging, and money. I realized that everyone needed help with storytelling, marketing, and reaching a bigger audience. The economic stability of countries depend on the country's ability to create jobs, and jobs are created through businesses. Once I realized the freedom this line of work granted me, I was in.
MK: What challenges have you faced?
CJ: First, differentiating myself and learning to say no. I was under the impression that "experts" were doing things the right way and that was the only way. That is not true. Marketing and entrepreneurship are a science and an art. There are many ways to accomplish your goals, and while it is important to know of the traditional ways, it is also good to experiment. I also felt like I had to accept every opportunity or client. I learned that saying no was just as valuable and opportunistic as saying yes.
MK: What's in the future for you?
CJ: I want to build a technology company, write a book, get an MBA, and start a global fund for women's education, travel, and work training. I know that the future can hold surprises, so I take everything one day at a time, stay happy, humble, and kind. Everything else is up to the Universe.
MK: What are 15 tips to building, sustaining and growing a brand?
CJ: I'm happy to share.
1. Believe in your brand. The hardest thing to do is to convince other people of something you don't believe in or understand yourself.
2. Pursue your passion. Branding starts with understanding and having a passion for a purpose.
3. Know How to Tell Your Story. Once you have the first two components, everything else is storytelling and convincing an audience.
4. Focus on Your Most Important Audience First. Your most important audience is your employees. Too many brands focus so much on customers that they lose sight of their greatest asset, their people.
5. Create Conversation. Interact with your followers and be a valuable resource for information.
6. Assume that everyone can help you. Always respond to people, have an opinion, ask questions and follow people back.
7. Intern First. In order to become a social media influencer, you have to prove yourself. Attend Twitter chats, do webinars, join communities, speak, write, blog, make yourself known.
8. Know Your Competitors. Know who your competitors are...and engage their fans.
9. Amplify Your Success. Social media has little to do with what we say about ourselves, and everything to do with what people say about us.
10. Create Targeted Content. Targeting and influence your network and they will share you with their network.
11. Stick out. Differentiate yourself. Don't try to fit in.
12. Don't sacrifice your integrity. There will always be another deal.
13. Ask questions, say no (and often).
14. Have fun. If we aren't having fun, then we might as well get a day job.
15. Treat everyone like they matter, because they do.
MK: How do you "live bliss"?
CJ: I surround myself with positive people, who remind me of how lucky I am, I work to learn not to live, and I put little stake in material things. That is my recipe for bliss!
Cynthia Johnson is an entrepreneur, marketing professional, author and keynote speaker. She is Founder and CEO at Ipseity Media. Previously, she was Partner & Director of Marketing for RankLab, a digital marketing agency listed in Inc. Magazine's Fastest Growing Private Companies in 2015. In July of 2015 RankLab was acquired by American Addiction Centers where she worked as their Director of Brand Development. She is an advisor to a social good company, NAIAD, as well as nGage.social, alongside former Apple executive Bill Cleary. Cynthia is on the Forbes Agency Council, a member of the Young Entrepreneurs Council, and on the Board of Directors for UN Women LA. Cynthia was listed as top social media people to follow by Inc. Magazine, top 50 marketers on SnapChat by Mashable, top 12 Female Entrepreneurs that Inspire by Darling Magazine, and top 20 people in SEO by Guardian. She has been interviewed in Forbes, Huffington Post, and Chicago Planner Magazine. She is also a social media influencer on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.