What role does personal branding play in the corporate world today? For whom is it particularly suitable? In an interview with FLEX managing partner Peter Waleczek, Oliver Kohl, an expert in personal branding, reveals what it means to him and how it can function as an efficient tool.
Peter Waleczek: Thank you for taking the time for the interview, Oliver. This interview series is about personal branding.
Oliver Kohl: I'd be happy to tell you about that. My path began with Johannes Kliesch, whom I have known for 12 years. In 2016, he founded SNOCKS, a D2C brand that specialises in socks. In 2019, Johannes approached me because he wanted to focus on using LinkedIn for his company.
Since he hardly had time for social media in his everyday business life, he asked me to take over this work. I started by replying to comments on his behalf on LinkedIn. Since I knew Johannes for a long time, I had an advantage because I understood his writing style and his way of expression. So I managed to maintain the authenticity which is very important.
Oliver Kohl: I think it's suitable for everyone if you are clear about its use. I usually suggest that founders and managing directors show their personality on LinkedIn and present the brand to be as approachable as possible—give it a face.
I think this strategy is also important for employees. For example, you can use the company’s reach for yourself. My advice: always post what moves you personally. Ultimately, it's about building a network on social media. Once you've done that, it's easier to change jobs, for example.
Oliver Kohl: In order to assess the length of the process, I should first know my goal with personal branding. If I take Johannes Kliesch as an example, I can exactly pinpoint the time it took to get 50,000 followers on LinkedIn: 2.5 years and about 700 posts along with answering countless comments. However, I do not define a personal brand in terms of quantity.
Personal branding is a long-term game. It is difficult to give a general timeline for this process and takes at least 6 months to analyse achievements—such as important contacts that have been made.
Oliver Kohl: The most important thing is consistency. Starting small makes more sense to me than uploading a post every single day. I could never keep up with the latter. My advice for people who are in the early stages of personal branding is: comments. They are less time-consuming than posts. For example, you can block your calendar for 15 minutes every day for 2 weeks, search your LinkedIn feed, and respond to interesting posts. With a well thought-out comment, you become part of the post and sometimes you get more likes than the original post itself.
Oliver Kohl: In order to upload a good post, you must know what you stand for and what your views are. Let's take Johannes again as an example: he is a young founder, a doer, and he supports others who inspire him.
Next it's about the frame of the post. After the 5th anniversary of SNOCKS, we wrote on LinkedIn that it was a very successful event. We also thanked the community for their support and emphasised that we wanted to continue learning new things.
Finally, it's always about trying things out. I analyse how posts are received by followers and move on to those topics. You should also think about how often you want to post per week or month and consider those posts which are more complex to design.
Oliver Kohl: That depends on how you define your personal branding goals. The surveys on LinkedIn are definitely getting the most reach at the moment. But they are not about qualitative reach—followers don't increase as much as they would if a similar post had been published.
I always recommend posting pictures. They underline the core message of the text and get a significantly higher number of views.
Slideshows are another good way to present a lot of content graphically and clearly, besides being concise. For example, financial key figures can be presented neatly with slideshows and the expert status of the company can be emphasised.
Oliver Kohl: If I had to pick one thing, it would be the comments. Their importance is definitely underestimated. It is so important to respond with a meaningful message to a company’s post that has a vast reach. This is the only way others can see that you have expertise in this area and notice you. You can increase your own reach insanely with a comment. This is not about just praising the post in your comment. Constructive criticism is also useful if you have a clear opinion on something.
Peter Waleczek: Thank you for the exciting conversation and for sharing your expertise.
Oliver Kohl: Thank you for the chance to do the interview!