123: Why Every Blogger Needs to Own Their Brand with Phil Pallen

Welcome to episode 123 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork talks with Phil Pallen about refining your brand, strengthening your social media presence, and considering your audience’s needs.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork interviewed Lauren Gray from Once Coupled about mobile-first considerations, site speed recommendations, and theme frameworks. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Why Every Blogger Needs to Own Their Brand

While his title is Celebrity Brand Expert, Phil says that he’s in the business of crafting first impressions.

And that’s exactly what your brand is: a reader’s first impression of you and your business.

Phil knows exactly how important a solid understanding of your brand is for your blog, and he has helped dozens of people and businesses refine their brand, create goals, and spruce up their social profiles. He’ll give you ideas about how you can fine-tune your brand so that you’re noticed and remembered.

In this episode, Phil shares:

  • What it’s like behind-the-scenes of TV interviews
  • How to write a solid social media bio
  • Why others’ needs are more important than what you want
  • Why photography is key
  • His tips for Bjork’s personal brand

Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or check it out on iTunes or Google Play Music:


If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

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If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.

Bjork Ostrom: In this interview, we talk to Phil Pallen about what it’s like to go on Access Hollywood and talk about the Kardashians, the most important type of media for building your brand, and we also do an unscripted personal branding session.

Hey, everybody. This is Bjork Ostrom. You’re listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. Today, we are talking to Phil Pallen about branding. As you know, branding is such an important thing when you’re building not only your personal brand but the brand of your blog. For a lot of people that listen to the podcast, those things overlap kind of like the brand of this podcast. This podcast has a brand in and of itself but a lot of it is me, the podcast host, Bjork, being the brand of the podcast. It’s a personal brand as well as a brand for the business similar to Pinch of Yum. Pinch of Yum is a brand in and of itself but it’s also a personal brand with Lindsay behind it.

Phil is going to be talking about how you can be building your personal brand. He’s a celebrity brand expert. Not only has he worked with some really influential celebrities like one of the sharks on the Shark Tank. He can’t say which one but he’s a brand expert or the brand consultant for them and their personal brand, as well as some really influential business brands in the food niche. He really understands this space and we’ll have a lot of advice for people that are looking to solidify and strengthen their brands. Let’s go ahead and jump into the interview. Phil, welcome to the podcast.

Phil Pallen: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so happy to be here.

Bjork Ostrom: I have a cup of coffee by my side and right before we pressed record, you were like, “Actually, let me pause real quick, get a glass of wine.” It’s 11:00 here but 6:00 where you are. Can you tell me real quick and the audience where are you? You’re traveling around right now. I’d love to hear a little bit about your trip.

Phil Pallen: That’s the question on everyone’s mind. Where is Phil like where is Waldo? But I’m not wearing the striped shirt. I love to travel. It’s actually not something that at the beginning was ever part of my business, but the beauty of branding is you can make it become part of something, pairing a passion with your business. You are correct. I am sipping a delicious white wine. It is 6:00 p.m. and I’m in Barcelona and I’m here for a few days. I don’t even know why. I think I just haven’t been here in about a decade and I thought it’ll be fun in between two other European destinations to come back and visit. I’ve just had a few client calls today and I’m thankful for Skype and Zoom and all these tools we use so that people that I’m on the phone with, they don’t care where I am and that’s the beauty of all of this.

Bjork Ostrom: The other thing that you said and mentioned this a little bit, not only are you traveling, able to do work, but then for you personally, then you can build these incredible photos that you post to Instagram and your feed. Not only is it a wonderful experience but the world that we live in, everything is content as well which is really nice.

Phil Pallen: Exactly, exactly. I think there’s something to be said about … You mentioned this before we click record. The fact that you went to Europe about a year ago and you guys still talk about that. You’re ready for your next European adventure. I’d say to you don’t wait a year to do it. Do it every month. I do it almost every week. It sounds ridiculous but I’ve crossed the Atlantic Ocean six times this summer. Well, actually that would be 12 times because you have to go there and then you have to go back.

Bjork Ostrom: There and back.

Phil Pallen: Quite literally. This is my life. We’re in a day and age where someone like me who, believe it or not, is based in LA … I don’t have a car. The money I’d spend on a car, I spend on flights, inexpensive flights that I can find and look for on a daily basis because I have the freedom to set my own schedule. I can sleep in if I want. I can party like a maniac if I want. I can sit here and do work for a day. I get to make those decisions and I feel very privilege and humbled that I am one of the lucky ones that gets to call the shots in their own lifetime. Much of my work is focused on that to help others do it as well.

Bjork Ostrom: I would love to hear a little bit about what that journey has been like for you, how you got into brand building and brand strategy. But before we do, I want to hear what it’s like before you go on a TV show like Access Hollywood. That’s something that I always am interested in hearing. What is the behind the scenes of something like that? What is the operation like? How does it work if somebody … Do they call you up that day? Are you scheduled a week in advance? Then what do you talk about on those shows when you make those appearances? Would love to hear you talk about that just a little bit.

Phil Pallen: Sure. It’s a really good question. Yesterday, I was doing a podcast interview and within two minutes of starting, it was live so I couldn’t exactly say, “Just give me five minutes. Can we pick up?” It was live. I got a media request from the Daily Mail in the UK asking me to give a comment on a prominent celebrity’s brand. The article isn’t published. I can’t name them yet but she’s big. This is what happens day-to-day and I know from doing this many times that if you don’t respond to that journalist within about 10 minutes, they’re going to move on and find someone else.

When you start to build media appearances, TV, this was for print and for web, you learn the nuances of this. I’ve missed out. In fact, I’ve missed out on stories about really cool people like Beyonce because I wasn’t physically in LA which is now often to give interviews. Some TV shows prefer to have you in person. Sometimes they’ll Skype you in. I’m always very grateful for that if they can’t get someone else. It’s wild the preparation before, well, lack of preparation. You never get a warning.

I dream of the day when Access Hollywood says, “Phil,” on a Monday, “we’d love to have you come in tomorrow. We’d love to have you come in this week.” It doesn’t work that way. I’d get a frantic email at 6:30 a.m. that says, “Do you know about,” insert story here, “Kylie Jenner’s lip injections?” That was the first one and I didn’t but of course I replied to her saying, “Yes, I know all about it. It’s outrageous, isn’t it?” She said, “Great. I need you to hop,” she knows I don’t drive, “hop into an Uber and head to Studio City. We’re going to put you in the lead story of Access Hollywood tonight. We need you to comment on how this affects the Kardashian brand.”

Then I have a whole car ride to research it because more often than not I don’t know the specifics around this celebrity of the story, but I’ve got to do some quick research. Sometimes I call my friends that I now are fans of those people and get their opinions, look at four or five articles and develop an opinion and that opinion gets published on Access Hollywood, CNN, Daily Mail. I’ve done all, maybe not all, but I’ve done a lot of the really big ones and I get called as a celebrity brand expert. There’s just a lot of people that they could call but because I’d carve out a very specific niche in personal branding, I love that I’m the one that they call.

One thing I know to make sure that they keep calling me is that I speak in soundbites so one idea per sentence for those people that are listening that are hoping to get in the media. Keep it simple. Keep it able to edit so if you talk really fast and you mumble, then they can’t actually cut you into the story. All this stuff you learn the more you do it and it gets really fun once you’ve got that confidence.

Bjork Ostrom: What was the impact of Kylie or Kendall, was it? Kylie or Kendall Jenner’s lip injections on the Kardashian family? Not that this is the Kardashian podcast but I’m curious.

Phil Pallen: Listen, I had no idea the difference between Kendall and Kylie and there I was going into comment on whichever one. It was Kendall or Kylie in this case, to comment on her brand. I don’t even remember. I’d have to watch the news story again. This was a few years ago. To your point, they’ll call you in about topics you might not be an expert on and they’ve got to get an opinion quick.

What I like to remind people is they’ll ask you whatever they want and sometimes the questions are not nice. I love Access Hollywood and I’m friends with all of the people over there. But I’ve done other news shows where they’ve asked me very, very scandalous questions hoping to solicit a very scandalous response because we know Kendall increases conversion and click bait and all this stuff. You’re not in control of what they ask you but you’re always in control of how you answer it. You become a little bit of a politician but you need to remember that every word coming out of your mouth represents you and your opinion and your stance. Not to say you have to play it safe.

I didn’t interview with CNN about … This was about Kendall and Kylie. They had a scandal involving T-shirts that they were selling and I quote, said in the CNN interview, “Kylie needs to put her big girl pants on and realize it’s not all about her.” They published that. I couldn’t believe it. Again, stay true to who you are. Know your brand. Know your brand voice. If you’re building a brand and a blog and all of this wonderful stuff, then you are already developing that. Never be afraid to have a stance, an opinion. Your opinion is your personality and that’s what you need to just remember. It will help you stand out from everyone else that’s doing exactly the same thing.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. I’m excited to jump into that, some of the specifics. But, before we do, I wanted to hear a little bit about your story, Phil. Obviously, this is one of those positions, or jobs, or careers that when you’re starting out as a kid growing up you don’t think necessarily brand strategy expert, especially not in the online space. Social media is this thing that develops and becomes so significant. But here you are, you’re doing it. You’re successful. You have some really significant clients, one of the sharks on Shark Tank, not one of the people that presented, one of the people that decides whether they’re going to invest millions of dollars, work with some really,

Phil Pallen: Correct.

Bjork Ostrom: … Food brand names and those are under NDA so we can’t talk about those but you’re working with really significant clients at a really high level. Take us back to when you’re first getting into this and bring us up to the point now where you started to develop this expertise and insight. I would love to hear how you got started.

Phil Pallen: Sure, sure. It’s a long story that I’m going to keep super short so that we can get into more of the strategy that will help your listeners. 2011, I graduated from Full Sail University in Central Florida, applied for jobs, had an opportunity to submit a tweet as a job application to become Charlie Sheen’s social media intern at the peak of his craziness in the media. Yup, you remember. Out of 90,000 people, I made it to the top 50 in that competition. At the same time, had a connection through my school to a friend of a friend of a friend at Ryan Seacrest Productions and they offered me an internship.

One week before I was set to move out, I got a call from Ryan Seacrest’s executive, CEO actually. He was the CEO and he said, “Phil, are you sitting down? I have some bad news.” I was like, “No. I’m at the Universal Studios celebrating the fact that I’m about to get my master’s degree.” He said, “We have to fire you before you even start because you’ve connected Charlie Sheen and Ryan Seacrest through you in hundreds of media articles this week.” In this competition that I was vying to become Charlie Sheen’s intern, I figured out what it was to have a social media campaign. I figured out what it meant to actually stir things up and get some buzz. Get some media coverage.

The three weeks of that, I learned more about media relations and marketing than I learned in five years of school because I was doing it. I was like, “How do I stand out from all these people?” It was a double-edged sword. It was great. I got lots of attention but I also lost my dream internship because of that. I moved to LA still and I was like, “Okay. I don’t have a job. I don’t have any friends.” I applied for other jobs, didn’t hear back on anything and I thought, “Okay. Well, I guess maybe I’ll pursue TV hosting or something like that which is what I’ve done as my first job in Canada.” I did a workshop where I came out that weekend with three new clients: a jewelry designer, makeup artist and real estate agent who all said, “Phil, I need a website. Can you help?” I was like, “Yes, I can, I think.” I’ll learn this. I didn’t go to school for design but ended up designing logos, websites and I, without even doing it intentionally, started my own business.

Now, my office is based in LA. We all work remotely. I have plans to open up another international office, and I travel the world speaking at conferences. My colleague manages operations and all of our clients round the world in many, many different industries. My favorite part about my job is that it’s exactly that. I get to work and interact with some of the coolest, nicest people on the planet and it’s awesome. It’s an amazing industry to be in.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the things that you say on, I don’t know if this was your Twitter profile or website, maybe both, but you have this phrase and it says, “If your baby is ugly, it’s my job to tell you.” Can you talk a little bit about why that is and why you place an emphasis on that quote for people that you’re working with?

Phil Pallen: I’d love to. I love that you noticed that because, and as the reward for noticing that I’m going to share a little tidbit, that will be the title of my next book. The first one is called Shut Up and Tweet, which I launched 2014 at the California Women’s Conference, and I can talk about Twitter. That’s maybe a conversation for a whole other day. But the next one is all about personal branding and the book is called Is Your Baby Ugly? inspired by my Twitter bio that everyone remembered.

When I teach people how to write their Twitter bio or any social media bio for that matter, it could be Instagram, it could be Facebook, you tell us who you are and why people should care in one sentence. Then give us a sentence of your personality. I would say brand strategist for people and companies. If your baby is ugly, it’s my job to tell you. That’s the sentence that everyone has associated with me. What I mean by ugly, I don’t necessarily mean visually unappealing or unattractive. I mean it in a lot of different ways. It’s ugly if it’s not working for you. It’s ugly if your brand is a hobby. The difference between a hobby and a brand, a hobby is something you do for yourself.

A brand is something you do for others. When someone says I’m starting a blog because I love to cook, I’m a home cook and I want to share all of my favorite recipes because I really enjoy them, there are far too many Is in that sentence. Having worked on many, many different brands in many countries and sitting through many pitches on Shark Tank, I’ve learned this. What matters more than what you want is what others need, not just want. People don’t spend money on a want. They spend money on a need. What I would rather someone say to me is not so much about what you want but I want to hear from you, “I want to launch a blog that does this. It functions in this way. It’s something brand new. It’s something that is needed in the market.” That is given proper consideration. It’s pairing what you love with something others need based on research.

If you can find that balance, if you can fill in the variables to that formula, then you will spend a lot less effort than others on advertising, on marketing, on all of these things to try and get people to pay attention to us. If you can satisfy a need like every good business does, then that is the positioning for success.

Bjork Ostrom: The idea being that it’s … The work to be done with branding is finding out where your passion, interest, desire to create content or the area that you want to live combined with something of need in the market, whatever that market might be. It might be a really small niche. Then creating a brand around those things. I think people get the idea of the need. I think people get the idea of passion and interest. But, then once you have those things and you have an idea in words what those represent, how do you then take that and translate it into something that is an Instagram feed or a website?

Phil Pallen: Well, that’s the fun part. Once we figured out the plot of land, we position where the house is going to go and where we know it can be sold after we’re done with it. Then we have to build something to show for it. We have to build something to show for this idea. I have a very, very specific process for this because this branding world is pretty ambiguous. I see that as a challenge to make sure nothing about it is ambiguous so instead of just trying to understand where we belong or what we do, we know exactly step by step how this works.

For me, once we’ve successfully positioned the brand, we build something to show for it. Photography is something that I probably emphasize more than any other self-proclaimed branding expert, or consultant, or strategist. Photography is key. It’s how we can differentiate you from the wannabes. If your photography looks good, we pay attention to you. It’s your opportunity to show the cohesion, to show the visual brand because the visuals are what sell. When a client comes to me and they could be an insurance, they could be a lawyer, they could be in the most boring possible industry, no offense, I would say to them, “Great. Let’s go do a photo shoot.” By this time, I have a sense of their personality.

A lot of people are confused by that. They’re like, “Well, don’t I need a website and a logo? I don’t need photos because I just sell insurance for a living.” You do need photos because guess what? Online when we are doing branding in the proper way, we are recreating the in person experience. Unless you’re a ghost, unless you don’t exist in real life, you need photos. That’s how this works.

Think about if you and I were sitting down having coffee. We talk about random things. I’d get a sense of your personality. I’d get a sense of your content, and personality is the unique way that you deliver it. We need to recreate that on the web. Otherwise, what’s the purpose? What’s the point? When someone has an online impression, first impression that’s not authentic to who they are right now, we feel gypped and jaded by that. It’s like online dating. If you’re swiping through Tinder and you find someone that’s going to be your next date and they’ve created a profile that does not accurately represent who they are in real life, that is never a positive experience. Whereas when someone, for example, has, I’ll use myself because I work very hard at this, has read my book and read all the little, sassy sentences in there and then meets me in real life and goes, “Oh, my god. I read the book and then I listen to you talk and it’s the same thing.” That means that we’re doing something right and it’s the same thing for you guys.

Think about the incredible content that you create. I’m such a fan of you guys and everything that always features you guys. You guys, you do it right like the content, the visuals, the consistency. That is brand building. Photography, brand identity, your logo but not just your logo, your colors, your typography, your multiple logo composition. Don’t just show me one logo. But I want to see it used in stationery. I want to see how you would put it as a sign in your office. Is it a simplified version for the navigation of your website? You should have four or five different variations of it depending on how it’s going to be used, email signature, all of that.

Photography, brand identity, website and your social profiles should also incorporate all of your branding. To me, those are the four steps of building your brand before you move on to promoting, selling the house that you’ve worked hard to build and stage.

Bjork Ostrom: When you say “selling the house,” you’re talking about promoting … You build this thing. You have this beautiful house. It’s not like then you’re selling the business literally but you’re selling people on the business the experience, what it’s like to walk up the sidewalk and open the door and go into the living room. How does it feel? Everything is staged correctly. Is that what you talk about when you’re selling the house, the idea of the house?

Phil Pallen: Even simpler than that. I’m talking about selling your product if you’re a product business or selling your service to others if that’s what you do. In the context of blogging or food blogging, it’s to make you’re that people come back to your site instead of someone else’s because we can never sell people on content alone. If you think that people are just going to come to your website because you’ve got a really great recipe for risotto, forget it. You’re competing against powerhouses on the web. Google what they decide to show all kinds of … Think of the biggest food blogs, corporations with recipes and all these kinds of things, restaurants. You can’t compete against them. You need to use personality as your secret weapon because your audience will never be people who want content alone. They’re people who want a mix of your content with your personality, the way that you deliver that. The visuals, the written word, the brand voice, those are the two elements that work together to create that unique experience and to build that brand loyalty.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s really interesting to hear you talk about that. It’s something that I’ve thought a lot with what we do and what we teach and talk to other people about is integrating your personality into the brand that you’re building. It brings up a question that I wanted to ask you which is we have this idea of a personal brand and we have this idea of a brand like the blog, or website, or social media presence. What would your recommendation be for how people or should people establish a personal brand? In the case of Pinch of Yum, that would be Lindsay Ostrom personal brand. Here’s her typography and photos and fonts. Then Pinch of Yum, separate brand with obviously Lindsay being a really big part of that.

Phil Pallen: Well, there’s no blanket answer for every single situation. It’s going to depend solely on one thing, what your audience wants. I think that you guys are a very good example of this and I don’t know necessarily the specifics of the history of what came first and when you decided to make that change. But here’s what I do know without knowing those specifics. You, like any other brand, walk before you run, crawl before you walk. A brand like Starbucks wasn’t selling Frappuccinos when they launched. They did one thing very well. Well, arguably. I don’t think they do it well but they have a brand and that’s-

Bjork Ostrom: Another conversation.

Phil Pallen: … Coffee. Another conversation. They do coffee well. Focus, find your niche, build your audience and satisfy the need as you start to earn the ability to expand. The biggest mistake people make is they try to do everything under the sun at launch and no one cares what you’re doing, not a single person, not even your parents, no one cares, no one wants all of these things. I want to launch a blog and an artist and an influencer marketing company. Then I’ll want to have an agency. Then I want to have all this. No, no, no. Do one thing really well. Satisfy one need, build your audience and when they become loyal, they’re going to want more from you and that’s when you give them more. That’s one thought on that.

The second thought is we as people crave human interaction. It’s a blanket statement. It’s common sense but it’s not so common sense when you think about the application on the web. Technology, computers, Instagram, mobile phones, all of this is technology that serves as a barrier in a certain sense between you and me. Think about this conversation had we had it in person. We’d have coffee or I’d probably convince you to drink wine instead of coffee.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.

Phil Pallen: We’d sit here. You’d see me. I’d see you and it will be great. Online, we don’t have that privilege so we have to recreate it. The idea of attaching a face to the brand is almost always the right thing to do because we’re recreating that in person experience. It always come back to that. People want more of you. I love that you guys have your own personal Instagram profiles independent of Pinch of Yum because guess what? I know it’s kind of weird but people want to know what you’re doing. People want to see you playing with your dog and seeing you having a normal life because we feel like we know you. You guys are our friends. We’re the audience. We read you. We make those recipes. Even if we don’t make them, we drool over them. That’s the relationship we have even if we’ve never met in real life and that’s a really powerful thing.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that I know there will be a subset of people that are listening to this that will fall on the category that I feel like in some ways I fall into which is I for a podcast conversation love doing this. This is a really good medium for me. When I think of being really active on Twitter, or Instagram, or Facebook, for some reason I feel resistance to that I think due to my, I don’t know what to describe it as, social media shyness.

I heard somebody else say this and I would love to hear if you would agree with this. They said the best social media influencers, celebrities, whatever you would want to call them have narcicisstic tendencies. They love to share about what they are doing. I don’t know if that’s true across the board but I know that people that don’t have the tendency to want to share what they’re doing will feel more resistance when thinking about building a personal brand. Do you have any advice for people that maybe tend to be a little bit more shy about sharing who they are and doing a Instagram story that talks about their Friday night?

Phil Pallen: I love that you’re asking this question and a lot of my clients fall into this category and it’s why they hire me because they need help talking about themselves. Guess what? I’m an A type personality. I love to talk. I love to speak on stage but I also fall into this category because when I doubt, my brain goes to why the heck does anyone care what I’m eating for lunch, where I’m traveling today? It’s so absurd to me. But, it’s not because you have to think of it. Even as you’re building your brand, you have to remember again … I sound like a broken record talking about the in person experience, but you really need to think about your audience.

I hate that word “audience” and I’m going to change it right now. I’m going to change it to viewer, listener, user because audience is plural and we have a tendency to think about a big group of people that are staring at us. It’s not that. Your user is someone who knows you and they know you through the content you’re sharing. It is your responsibility to maintain that friendship in the way that you would with someone in real life. Welcome to this year, 2017, when we all juggle two versions of ourselves whether we like it or not. We have the in person experience and we have the online version of ourselves.

When you update that Instagram story, while it feels narcissistic, it’s really just the online version of the casual conversation you’d have with a friend over coffee, over wine, after work, on the phone when you’re catching up with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. The key, my advice, is to think about an individual, not a group. As soon as we start thinking about a group, we think, “Oh, my god. I’m a performer. I’m a celebrity. I’m all these things that I’m not.” We’re not those people.

You want to know something funny? The people that are celebrities are masters at thinking about individuals. When they go out on stage to perform at the Grammys, they don’t think about the millions of people that are watching them. Otherwise, they would croak. They couldn’t sing. They think about one individual person.

I got my start working with TV hosts. Before I did anything else, I worked with hosts. The one common thing I notice with every good host is that they knew exactly who their audience was and they could name the person, where they’re sitting, what they did that day. That’s how specific. When I say, “Tell me who your audience is or tell me who your user is. Tell me their name. Speak to someone specifically.” I speak to Valerie, my barber who cuts my hair and a lot of other people but would really rather be creating art for a living. That’s what she loves and that’s her passion. When I create content, I want to win over Val because she can take the strategies that I’m sharing and turn her hobby into a brand, into a career and I have her in my mind. Sometimes I type out her name when I’m writing an email blast or a social media post and go back and delete it. That’s how we want to think about this.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s great. One of the things … Lindsay and I talk about this whenever somebody comes up to us and says, “Hey, I follow along with what you do and love the content that you share so much.” And maybe mention something that Lindsay posted on Instagram. It’s always such a good reminder to us of who those people are and it’s been a slow shift but it’s been really beneficial for me to think about that for this podcast to not think about who is the audience, plural, multiple people, but to think about who’s the person specifically right now that is, I’m going to name a specific situation, if this is you, I want you to email me [email protected], that is running on a treadmill at 6:00 in the morning while listening to this podcast. It changes how I think about it and I love that.

The one thing that I think is interesting that is a small nuance to that is these conversations on a individual basis also pass through this filter of the brand that you have built that you want to communicate to that individual. Obviously we’re not going to share everything or we’re not going to share as much as we would with our friends if we’re having drinks on a Friday night. How do people know what to share and how to frame that and brand that stuff that they are sharing? Do you recommend that people create this filter where they say, “I will share my lunch but I won’t share my dinner.” Or, “I will share pictures of my kids as long as they’re not looking at the camera.” How do people figure out what they do share and what they don’t share as it relates to their personal brand and social media?

Phil Pallen: To me, that’s just a matter of building a system. That’s all it is. I love all of those decisions that are being made because they are parameters that will help you make decisions easily, that will most importantly help you execute instead of just come up with ideas that stay in your brain. I think that filter is great. I think any of those parameters or rules, if you will, those are fantastic because they help you make decisions from posting, what to post on Instagram, from what not to share on social media. All of those little decisions, parameters, rules, without you realizing it are actually helping you build your brand voice. If you’re posting on Instagram with all these different random filters, then when we come there and you give us your first impression, it’s not going to be anything that tells us who you are and why people should care. The fact is when you make those decisions, it’s like a retailer deciding what to put in their store and what not to put in their store.

You go to a specific store, you like a specific brand because of what they give you and 9 times out of 10, it’s not going to be everything under the sun. It’s going to be the really good at this. That’s how we have to think about ourselves. We’re not really in the marketplace where we can be the Walmart of food blogs because, again, there are big corporate brands that have already mastered that space and are years and millions of dollars ahead of you. How do we get specific? We get specific by setting parameters and making decisions on what we do and what we don’t do. I love those kinds of rules because it gets us one step closer to actually executing which so many people fail to do.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I remember Lindsay talking about this with her Instagram profile. She’s really going back and forth on sharing food related content as well as personal content and eventually made the decision, except for rare instances that she would only share food related content on her Instagram and that was an example of one of those parameters where she was able to put that up and it made the decision making process so much easier. I think for at least any time you can remove a decision, it gets easier to get to that final destination which, in this case, it’s creating content, it’s putting content out and to do that consistently.

As I think about myself, I think that’s one of the things that would help me figure out what would my social media presence be as I look at building a personal brand which is actually the topic that I want to transition into. This will be a very short consultation but I’d be interested to hear you talk about for me specifically … I’ll describe myself and then people can, from us talking about this, maybe apply to what they’re doing. We have a couple of different brands that we’ve built Food Blogger Pros and members site and community where people are in food and recipe space. I feel like that’s going and that has a general look and feel to it. Then we also have Pinch of Yum. We have a couple other sites that we work with.

For me personally I’ve never really gotten into building a personal brand or at least I haven’t given it much attention. If somebody is new to brand building around their personality, what would be the first step that they should take in getting that started, getting the ball rolling with that?

Phil Pallen: Well, you want to find out where you belong in the world. You want to take inventory of what you’ve already created as a brand, as a human and you want to be self-aware. I think the key is being self-aware and even asking yourself a series a questions that will help you increase your self-awareness. I have a feeling that you put a lot of other brands before you and when we think about this, it’s much easier for you to make decisions, create content as Pinch of Yum and as a lot of the properties you have. But the moment the spotlight is turned on you, you go, “Oh, boy.” Stage fright.

Here are a few questions for you and everyone else who’s listening that have the same thing. Something as simple as what is it you … Maybe I’ll ask you like three questions that would help me as a brand strategist arrive at what your brand might possibly be even as a starting point. Let me just add an asterisk to that. We can start somewhere. It doesn’t mean we’re going to end there. It shouldn’t be we’ll end there. Have you asked me what my brand was in, I’m really embarrassed to say this, in 2011 and ’12, I would have said, “I’m a social media designer.” That was literally the title I used. It doesn’t make sense. Now, I’m a brand strategist. I found that job title because I saw it on LinkedIn. I was like, “Oh, that sounds fancy.” Now I go on TV as a celebrity brand strategist or a brand expert.

Here’s a few questions for you that I want you to answer and I want everyone who’s listening to answer. What is it you love to do? What do you love to do? Do you know the answer to that question?

Bjork Ostrom: Can we do it in real time?

Phil Pallen: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: I think it would be interesting. Okay, great.

Phil Pallen: We’re doing it. We’re doing it. We’re doing it.

Bjork Ostrom: For me, I am really interested in, well, conversations like this that we’re having right now, brands, website, startups. I love finance and investing. I’m super interested in that. But I also am really interested in the personal side of that so how people are building their own things that they’re passionate about and how now we live in a world where we can do that. Both the really specific real life example or the specific reality of finance, startups, things like that but also the personal side of it which is more of the emotional side of it. People that listen to this podcast would may be familiar with that and get that.

Phil Pallen: Great. The next question has two parts. Part one most people can answer which will lead me to part two. Let’s see if you can answer part one. What is your brand in one sentence?

Bjork Ostrom: I could try for it but I would-

Phil Pallen: Yeah, go for it. Try.

Bjork Ostrom: My brand in one sentence is approachable business and personal development.

Phil Pallen: Great. I think that’s a good start. We’re not done with it but I think it’s a very good start. Now, for those people who freak out when I ask them that question, I follow up with another question. You’re going to answer this one, too. I’ve never met anyone … I met lots of people who can’t answer “what is your brand?” in one sentence. Even I ask that question and go, “Oh, god.” I lock up a little bit. It’s like, “Oh, god. What would I say?” This next question I’ve never met anyone who cannot this answer this question. Here we go. If you won the lottery today, let’s daydream for a second, if you won the lottery today and you never had to work another day in your life, what is it you would do with your time tomorrow? What would you do with your time?

Bjork Ostrom: I would in a lot of ways, it’d look similar to what we’re doing right now. I think that one of the things that I would maybe do a little bit differently is I would take more time to read and learn and consume content as opposed to create it. I think we do a decent amount of content creation. There’s a decent amount of business management that I’m doing. I think I would do a little bit less of that and I would do more of consuming of content so reading, maybe taking classes or courses. I think a lot of it would actually look similar to what I’m doing today.

Phil Pallen: Isn’t that awesome?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it is.

Phil Pallen: I always love whenever I ask that question, I’m at a conference and people say, “I’d do what I do right now.” Honestly, I would, too. I would, too. If you’re not doing what you would do if you won the lottery, then we want to take some of the things we’ve been talking about to heart.

Third question is a fun one. What are the three things I wouldn’t know just by looking at you?

Bjork Ostrom: I think you wouldn’t know that I am … I think people who listen to this podcast would maybe know this but I think that just looking at me I think I’m a more probably emotional person, not like in always breaking down but really like to talk about heart and soul things so that would be one. I think number two would be I think that I am both really confident in who I am but also am always questioning what that looks like so I think it’s this duality where I’m always pondering my relationships and how interactions go and things like that. These are so hard. I’m sweating. Then three-

Phil Pallen: No, it’s great.

Bjork Ostrom: Then three would be I think people would maybe not know how much I love to play because I talk a lot about work. I think that would be something that people wouldn’t know if they were to look at me from the outside. I talk a lot about business. We talk about blogs and creating an income from what you do online but I actually really love to play and I don’t think people would know that about me.

Phil Pallen: You answer those questions like a champ. Good job. Especially since you didn’t get those questions before. I didn’t even plan them. I just pulled them from my head. Now, I get to work. Now you get to be in brand spa and sit back and relax and I’ll tell you what I gathered just from literally less than five minutes.

Bjork Ostrom: I could go pour wine now that it’s almost noon. It’s past noon.

Phil Pallen: You deserve it. You deserve it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I know. I’ll finish this coffee.

Phil Pallen: Here’s what I hear that is really cool and exciting. You said a soundbite in the first three sentences of what you answered. People who listen to this, they can go back and listen. You’ve said it without even realizing you said it but you said something to the effect of turning a passion into a business. I talk a lot about this. But what I love about what you guys have done is that you are proof of this.

The opening sentence on your personal brand website if I was going to write it, it would be something to the effect of I am living proof that you can turn your passion into a business. That is how we sum up every touch point of what you do, inspiring others. There’s an education component to what you do. There’s a heavy research component to what you do and what you believe. I’d love that you would spend less time creating content, more time consuming it. Or, in my opinion, in this case, it would be curating great content. I’d love to see that be an element of your personal brand. Maybe with every one blog post that you write, you can curate another that you think is really high quality. Those are just a few things that I’ve gathered. You’re living proof that your passion can become your business.

What I love about that is so many people want that or talk about that but can’t show it and you guys have proof, proof 500,000 Instagram followers. Hola. You’ve got proof that you’ve been able to do this and that is what reels people in. Those few little seeds I would plant as part of your personal brand. Then with the last question I asked you, “what are three things I wouldn’t know by looking at you?”, those three things should go straight to your about page or wherever you describe yourself. Yeah, we know. Pinch of Yum. We know all of these brands that you’ve created. Can we not talk about work for a second? I almost want you to put in italics, “Can we not talk about work for a second?” I love to work but I also love to play. I love my dog. I love my wife. Not in that order. Whatever. Be conversational.

The biggest mistake people make is that they sit at their computer at a Word document and try and plunk out whatever it is you’re trying to say. All you need to do is have a friend or a colleague or a stranger like us. We’ve never had conversation our entire lives. All you need to do is have that conversation and you need to take inventory of it. You should transcribe this podcast. Go back and pull those sentences that you said effortlessly in conversation without even being conscious of it. That’s where we get the best copy and wording and that’s the beauty of my job. I just listen. I get to sit here and listen and shoot back what I hear, sometimes simplify it, and be that mirror to clients.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great.

Phil Pallen: It’s really cool.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting. A few of the different podcast interviews that I’ve done over the past week here have really honed in on the significance of branding. I think I’ve interviewed Gaby from What’s Gaby Cooking. She has a great food blog. She’s in the Los Angeles area and she talks about going through a branding process where she came away with the reality that she is the California girl, the everyday California girl. That’s framed all of the conversations that she has on her blog how she communicates content. It’s exactly like your process that we just went through except I assume a little bit more extended. Even for me in that short little snippet, it was beneficial and I would assume for other people listening would be beneficial as well.

Phil Pallen: Exactly. The other thing to remember is that this is somewhat subjective. I’ll have an opinion on it because I have an opinion on everything but so will others. It doesn’t mean I’m more right or less right than someone else. I think that goes with any research. You want to just take inventory of it. Work with someone you trust. Listen to what others say and how other people describe you and then to take inventory. That is what you need to do.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. Phil, for people that … We’re at the end of the podcast interview here. A lot of actionable things and I think it would be eyeopening for a lot of people. I know that you also have a lot of different platforms or avenues where people can take the next step with this whether it’s working with you to do some personal brand consulting. I know that you also have an academy or a place where people can go through and learn this stuff on their own and in a more self-guided way. Can you talk a little bit about where those are and where people can follow along with you online?

Phil Pallen: I would love to. I have lots of ways that people can get in touch with me but I’ll share my favorites. I love to work with clients one-on-one. I do basically a very extended version of what we just did on the phone with my business partner Lauren. She’s a content strategist and a copywriter, and I’m a brand strategist where I handle maybe more of the visual side of things. She handles the wording and the copy and the creative and we put our brains together and work with clients to essentially position them with a roadmap to go and execute on all of this and for clients that want to work with us we help build brand identity. We build websites, social profiles, content creation, content production, editorial placements. There’s all kinds of ways that we can use tools that align with whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. That’s Phil Pallen Collective.

Then Phil Pallen Academy is my online solution that is do it yourself. Currently, it’s a membership community for members that have already signed up but it will evolve actually into courses that are offered individually. That evolution is happening the next few months that we’re really excited about and I’m doing those on Udemy and we’re launching each module or each focus as we call it as a course. That way you can dive deep into how to find inspiration for your brand, how to learn how to take the best photography for your brand, how to build your website, all kinds of stuff, even travel related stuff, all kinds of stuff that we’ve assembled over the year of having the membership community.

Then of course if people have a question or they want to say hello, I’m only one tweet away. That’s my favorite platform, Instagram and Twitter @philpallen on both of those and I look forward to meeting people. If you listen to this, then say hello to both of us.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, absolutely. Great. Phil, thanks so much for coming on the podcast and hope you get to enjoy that bottle of wine here as you end your night. Thanks for making that happen.

Phil Pallen: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s a wrap for this episode. Another big thank you to Phil for coming on and be sure to check out his site. I’ll be sure to link to that in the show notes as well. If you’re using the little widget within the blog post on Food Blogger Pro to listen to this podcast, I’d really encourage you to actually subscribe to the podcast itself. You can do that through a lot of different apps. If you have an iPhone, you can just use the podcast app or if you have an Android phone, you can go to your favorite podcast app. A lot of people use Stitcher as an example and subscribe to the Food Blogger Pro podcast by just searching Food Blogger Pro and you’ll see that and it’ll come up. That way, all the new episodes will automatically be streamed and downloaded to your device which makes it really easy.

Another big thank you to Phil for coming on the podcast and thank you to you for listening to this podcast. If it wasn’t for you tuning in every week, we wouldn’t do it. It’s been really fun to see this community of podcast listeners continue to grow over the past two plus years. We’ve been doing this for two years now over a hundred episodes, well over a hundred now, and we’re going to keep going strong. With that in mind, we will be back here same time same place just seven days from now. Until then. Make it a great week.

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