Build Your Personality Brand with Danielle Hughes

In our 25th episode, Sofie is joined by Danielle Hughes, the Chief Personality Officer of More Than Words Marketing, a copywriter and professional speaker, to discuss showing up authentically and building a personality brand. Danielle is committed to helping others genuinely express themselves in the workplace as this positively impacts our professional and personal lives. Throughout the episode, she delves into the differences between a personal brand and a personality brand and addresses the misconceptions surrounding showing personality in a corporate space.

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About the Guest

Danielle Hughes

As the Chief Personality Officer of More Than Words Marketing, and the creator of the Personality Brand, Danielle Hughes teaches clients how to bring more of themselves into their message so they feel comfortable expressing it and can convey what makes them different from their competition, attracting the right audience and repelling the wrong one.

Often referred to as a magician with words, while Danielle can’t pull a rabbit out of her hat, she can hone your brand message and deadlift you or your employees, but not at the same time. That’s just irresponsible.

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Sofie: Hello everyone and welcome back to Claim Your Potential, the empowerment podcast. I’m your host, Sofie, and for this episode, we are joined by Danielle Hughes to discuss building a personality brand.   

As the Chief Personality Officer of More Than Words Marketing and the creator of the Personality Brand, Danielle teaches clients how to bring more of themselves into their message so they feel comfortable expressing it. This process helps individuals convey what makes them different from their competition, attracting the right audience and repelling the wrong one. Often referred to as the magician with words, while Danielle can’t pull a rabbit out of her hat, she can hone your brand message and deadlift you or your employees but not at the same time. That’s just irresponsible.  

Please welcome Danielle Hughes. Thank you so much for being with us today, Danielle.

Danielle: Thank you so much Sofie. I always love when people read my bio because everybody reads it in such a different way. But it made me smile. So thank you so much.

Sofie: I’m so happy to hear that. I loved your bio, I thought it was very engaging and, you know, I feel like it really does add that level of personality there and of course it should because you’re the master of the personality brand. And I would love to start our episode with hearing about what inspired you to want to help others develop their personality brand?

Danielle: Um, oh my God that’s a really good question. I wish I could say that I kind of always knew or I had this sort of higher purpose. It just was an evolution of my business and I think my career. So I’ve spent the majority of my career in copywriting and branding and as I went out on my own as a freelance copywriter, I was like most people when they freelance and I just was very generic and I wanted to do all the things and help all the people. And that was fine for a while and then like most people who are very generic, I started to really struggle with getting clients, I didn’t have a message, I wasn’t clear, and I ended up working with a creative coach who, in the process of working with her, recognized my voice and said, “You know you should put a little bit more of yourself into your message. I feel like you’re holding back. This doesn’t sound like you.” And so I felt like she kind of gave me permission to be more myself which is not something that I was ever told coming up in the corporate space where you had to sort of fit in and toe the party line. So I – I took some baby steps and I started to like be more me and write things – excuse me write things that were more – more in my tone.

And then it started resonating with people and then I wrote a blog post about the difference between personal brand and personality brand, which to me was just going to be like a one off thing about personals, privates and why are we sharing everything with the world but our personality is who we are. And then I wrote about it again and then I wrote about it again and people started responding and a couple years in, I was like, “I feel like other people could use this outside of my company clients.” And I started having individuals come to me and say, “I love your bio. Can you help me with my bio.” And it just sort of snowballed from there and then I started doing workshops on creating an about page that attracts. I started working with people one on one. I started going into companies and helping employees and it’s just become my passion to help people be more themselves and be much more comfortable expressing that in the workplace and it just makes me so happy to see people completely transform when they change their bio to something that feels very genuine to them.

Sofie: Yeah, and thank you so much for sharing your journey and I – you know, I think about at least a lot of the women that we work with and we actually have a Build Your Elevator Pitch workshop coming up and the reason that we decided to do that workshop was for a very similar reasoning. With a lot of the time, we don’t know how to market ourselves and especially we do not know how to market ourselves in a way that, you know, isn’t corporate, that isn’t like a robot because people want to see that the – the genuineness in in our brand and in how we, you know, come across to the world.  

And so I think that, you know, what you’re doing and the way that you’re doing, it is so incredible and making sure that especially, you know, women are able to get there and are able to have that, you know, that personality brand, that bio, that – that statement about themselves that reflects not just what they do in their expertise, but who they are as a person, their tone. And I know that you mentioned that you have done writing on the difference between a personal brand and a personality brand. But for context for our listeners. What is the difference between a personal brand and a personality brand?

Danielle: So to me personal brand is an all or nothing game. Right? You’re sharing everything about you with everyone. There’s no boundaries and there’s no limitations. But with personality brand, you know, your personality is who you are. It’s always on display but we dial it up and we dial it down depending on who we’re interacting with. So, you know, your friends and family are going to get tons of your personality if you go to the coffee shop or you’re talking to the person that delivers your mail. You know, they might get a little bit less of it. But every time we open our mouths, we’re expressing some part of our personality. And so to me personality brand puts you in the driver’s seat of what you want to show to the world in order to make that connection and then what stays private. So usually, I focus on, “What are your hobbies, like what are the things that you love to do? What are the things that light you up. What is something that you could talk to anybody about if you had to, if you’re stuck in an elevator. What is that thing that to you feels natural as breathing to talk about.” And it could be, you know, your workout, it could be your culture, it could be food you love, it could be movies, music. It does not matter. It’s how do you start.  

The conversation on that human level and we’re trying to showcase a bit of that to potential employers or to potential clients because that’s how we connect with other people. We don’t connect over skills. We connect over relatability and that to me is the biggest piece that’s missing right now, especially with virtual work. Is that everything is about the work and we are missing that opportunity to just kind of go into a coworker’s office and learn about them or have lunch or go to happy hour and we are not creating these necessary connections anymore to get to know people on that human level.

Sofie: Yeah. And, you know, I love your point on remote work. Especially with, you know, organizational culture took a massive hit with the introduction of remote work. And especially because no one really knows, you know, how do we engage employees if we’re all remote. How do we get that level of – of camaraderie if, you know, we’re in completely different time zones and you know we’re separated by a screen and so, you know, I think that that’s something that will be very interesting to see especially over the next few years is remote work has pretty much dominated the, you know, the workplace. You know, how that develops. How can we, you know, build that personality brand, connect with others, be able to showcase ourselves in a way that you know comes across virtually that comes across through a screen and-

Danielle: Yeah.

Sofie: I think a lot of it, you know, might come down to people that are naturally more extroverted. It might be a little bit easier to get that to come across and I was thinking about, as you were talking, you know, what does it look like for introverts. What does personality branding look like for those that aren’t as talkative or aren’t as, you know, willing to step outside their comfort zone and meet new people. What does that look like for our introverts?

Danielle: So that’s the beauty of it is that it’s the in control of the person. So if you’re an introvert, if you’re an extrovert, it doesn’t really matter. You’re still figuring out the thing that you’re willing to share and I have a ton of clients that are self-described introverts or are shy but there is that thing that they will love and love to talk about and are so happy to share that with anybody they meet. So it’s figuring out what is that thing, is it, you know, that you’re a big voracious reader and you like to read certain books? Are you really into like comics? Are you a Star Wars person, you know, are you a knitter? Do you do yoga? It does not matter. It’s what is that thing that you’re willing to share and some people are like, “Oh my God I have 900 things and I could talk about all of them.” And other people are like, “You know, I never really thought about it but I actually really love blank and that is the thing that I’m willing to share.” And, you know, with virtual work, if you don’t blur a background, and there’s something in your background that could be useful to start a conversation. A lot of this for me and for my clients is how do you start the conversation on something that isn’t just about work. And how do we get comfortable because if you’re just kind of like shooting the breeze with someone that you meet because you can get into like, “Oh I see you have this photo behind you or this flag or I see this pendant of this sports team.” And now we can just kind of talk like people then you’re super comfortable by the time you get into the work stuff you almost forgot that it’s a work-related call and everybody’s relaxed and you’re feeling more confident and more comfortable and you’ve now just connected on a different level. And you’re going to just be more memorable to that person and more fleshed out as a human and not just a worker or your job title.

Sofie: Yeah and I used to have this – this zoom background and it was a – a pretty large library as the background and I always did it as a conversation starter because I would go into every meeting and people would always ask me, “Wait Sophia are you at a library right now. That’s a beautiful library, why are you at a library during work, I’m so confused.” And we would just have this, you know, this funny, you know, back and forth and then I go, “No, No, No, it’s a Zoom background”. And then, you know, very same thing there where as soon as we started talking about work it was already a relaxed environment.  

We already had a little bit of a laugh together and it’s something as simple as doing that – that really can, you know, build that – that rapport and have that opportunity to showcase who you are whether it’s a Zoom background or it’s, you know, the coffee mug you’re drinking from during the meeting and maybe it has the school you went to on it. The University you went to on it. Or, you know, maybe as you said there’s something in the background or you know your cat walks into the – into the backdrop and, you know, things like that I think we – we often neglect the power that – that has when, you know, you’re able to have a conversation on something beyond just, “Hey did you get the project done.” So, you know, thank you for sharing that and I think that especially for introverts those that might not want to, you know, always – you know those that might not want to get the conversation started. I think that’s another tool that they can use is just to have something that someone can ask them about in the background or, you know, or just have that thing that you’re like, “Oh I would just love to talk about this and if it comes up, I’ll totally say something and so thank you so much for sharing that.

Danielle: Sure.

Sofie: We’re talking about, you know, personality brands and for those that might already have a general sense of what this looks like for them, do you have any tips for someone wanting to further develop their brand and really take it to the next level?

Danielle: Yeah. I mean so and – I’d love to just quickly like clarify and remind people because I get the question all the time like about you know, “I want to be professional and so I can’t put anything of myself into my bio because that’s not professional.” And I think so many of us confuse the word professional for formal or conservative or traditional when really professional just means being a good worker. Right? Delivering the work that you say you’re going to deliver, coming to meetings on time, being respectful to the people that you work with. And that personality piece is really the friendliness and the humanity in asking people about their weekend and just getting to know them. So there is a way to be more warm in the context and still be professional. So I just wanted to put that out there because that is almost the number one question that I get from people. Because they’re afraid. They’re afraid that if they show a little bit of themselves that they’ll be seen as not professional and really, you’re just seen as friendly and human. But as far as steps for developing your brand, you know, what’s interesting to me that I have found out is that so many people, how you practice this hobby or this thing that you love is almost always super similar to how you perform your job.  

So I’ll give you an example. I had a client who is a healthcare copywriter and she’s also a birdwatcher. So when we think about what goes into bird watching, you know, you have to be super patient because you could be sitting there for hours waiting for the birds to show up or waiting for them to do anything. You have to do a lot of research because you have to know where they’re going to be or what you’re looking for and you have to be really detail-oriented because the littlest things on their wings or on their beak or whatever could mean the difference between one bird and another bird. And so if you are someone who works in the healthcare space, you have to be very detail-oriented because you have to be really careful not to misrepresent something, you have to be super patient because you’re probably combing through very technical or jargony language. And you need to do your research because again, you need to understand what you’re saying and make sure that you’re portraying that in the correct way to your audience. So it’s 100% the same thing and so marrying those two things and talking about how I see my job as a writer, very similar to how I practice bird watching. It’s an interesting way to give a glimpse into somebody’s brain. It makes them more memorable and it makes them more interesting. So for people out there, maybe start thinking about how the hobby or the passion that you have, how do you kind of perform that? Or how do you go about that? Or what is your mindset about that? And does that in any way relate to how you perform or think about your job?

Sofie: Yeah. And I think that, you know, a lot of the time when we talk about even resume building, you know, we think that we need to focus on those professional experiences when really, you know, of course focus on those but also have space to put down – maybe there is a association that you’re a part of. Or a, you know, an organization, a club. Anything like that – that, you know, might relate to what you do even if it’s not the general subject area. But even if it’s, you know, something like, oh, well, bird watching and if you can connect that to what you do professionally, I think that’s really powerful and also, you know, if I was a recruiter and I got an application and someone had put that on their resume as, you know, maybe in the additional information section or extracurricular or something like that or volunteering I would go, “Oh that’s so interesting. Oh I love how they just connected it to this role. Oh that’s fascinating to me, I want to meet this person” and – 

Danielle: Exactly. 

Sofie: Exactly. I love that you said that because I think that a lot of the time and especially what you said earlier with being professional, we confuse that for being formal and we confuse it for being boring and it’s, you know, as someone that recruits people as part of my organization, I never want to hire anyone that is so formal I can’t tell who they are as a person because you’re not just hiring their expertise. You’re hiring the person.

Danielle: Exactly. Because skills can be taught but culture fit can’t be taught and that’s the more important piece is like, does this person fit in with the company’s values? Will they fit in with the team? Do they have that missing piece that you’re looking for? And finding the right person who’s going to fit, you can always teach them the skills and the tasks that you need them to do but it almost can never happen the opposite way around.

Sofie: Exactly. And just to, you know, tie everything together, I know that you mentioned earlier some of those challenges that we face as we’re, you know, trying to get ourselves out there, trying to get that personality brand out there, you know, we’ve mentioned being too formal. We’ve mentioned, you know, thinking that, you know, it’s ok to have those moments of, “Hey, you know, here’s what’s going on or here’s something in my background.” And, you know, we’ve also mentioned the difference between personality and personal brand. And I’d love to know what are some other common branding challenges or personality branding challenges that you see your clients face and what are some ways that we can help overcome them?

Danielle: Sure. So I think a lot of people feel like they don’t want to put a lot of their accomplishments on their resume or in their bio because it feels like bragging. So I like to say that our bio is about us. But it’s for them, meaning it’s for your audience. So if you are job hunting and you’re not putting some of your accomplishments in your bio, you are then basically saying – you’re not letting someone know what you’ve achieved meaning that they won’t know that you can achieve that for them. So this is not about boasting for the sake of boasting this is saying, I have gotten these proven results before. I will do it again for you.” So it’s almost like proof points. So that is one and then the other thing that I think is a great tool for a lot of people is thinking about your why and this doesn’t have to be some sort of like highfalutin like I was born to do XYZ. But for a lot of people, they can go back to childhood and sort of recognize maybe when the germ of an idea got stimulated in their brain which now makes them do what they want to be doing. 

For example, I have a client who does user experience design and she remembers at nine years old going into a store. And her and her mom had such horrific customer service that she was like, “I’m never coming back here again because their customer service is atrocious.” And she didn’t know it at the time but, you know, twenty years later being a user experience designer she now is all about making a great experience for people online. And she thinks about that experience in the store as like her north star for what she never wants people to have digitally.

Sofie: Yeah. I think that’s amazing and, you know, I love that you said that it doesn’t have to be this, you know, big, “this is my purpose for living why”. But just that where that seed was planted where that moment was where you were like, “yeah, I want to do something that can, you know, maybe fix this problem.” Maybe, you know, you had an annoyance with customer service or maybe you had you know something that happened at that level – at that more you know micro level that you were like, “hey, I don’t want people to deal with this. It’s just annoying wasn’t fun. What can I do.” And I think a lot of the time when we, you know, craft our personality brand or at least, you know, going back to personal brand but we’re putting everything out there; A lot of the time we think that we need this, you know, this big existential, “Why. I’m, you know, on this planet to help people. That’s all I want to do with my job, all I want to do with my life”.

And while that’s great I think it’s a lot easier to communicate where you are at, you know, headspace wise, to communicate why, you know, you apply to a certain position or why you’re in a certain position when you have that more tangible, you know, childhood experience or that, you know, that smaller experience of, you know, “I remember when I was eight and I went to summer camp and I just loved the way that the councilors interacted with me and I really grew from that and so, you know, now I want to work at the YMCA. Things like that. And I think we often neglect those and we focus on the bigger – the bigger picture and we don’t, you know, look at the importance of the smaller picture and how that can really make us more human to people.

Danielle: Agreed. And I think your why can be your why right now you know. Especially for younger women – or yeah or like young girls. Like coming out of school or in your first few years of a job, you don’t know where you’re going to go in five, ten, fifteen, twenty years. Like it’s not, you know, the jobs that I have now didn’t even exist when I graduated college. So the world is changing so fast. It’s okay to say “like this is my why right now or this is what interests me right now”, and just kind of follow it because you never know where it’s going to lead. You know I don’t – I don’t know what my why is but like right now the thing that I love to do is this – is helping people be more themselves. That is my why. I don’t know but it’s certainly something that makes me get up in the morning and be excited about going to work. And that could change in a few years and my why might be something else and I have to leave myself open to that because it’s going to be organic.

Sofie: Absolutely. And to wrap everything up, I’d love to know what is one thing that our listeners should take away from this episode?

Danielle: I want them to take away the fact that I realize that this seems scary for a lot of people but that it is actually the most freeing thing if you can just share a little bit of yourself in the professional space. It is beyond transformative. It’s not just about your bio on the page. I have seen the way people sit up more or smile more when they introduce themselves because what they have feels so much more them than what they had. And so I just hope that they’re willing to take the baby step of just including a little something and then they can kind of see how it goes from there. And if they feel like they want to add more and then add more and add more, that’s great for some people. They’re like, “this is going to be it for me”, and that’s also great. But give the – give people something to grab onto that is not just, all about you professionally.

Sofie: Yes. thank you so much for sharing that Danielle I think that’s such a fantastic, you know, piece of advice to leave everyone with. And I’d love to know where can our listeners connect with you?

Danielle: Sure. So they can come to my website, which is more than words copy dot com. I have a newsletter that goes out every other week and I promise you it will never give you five things or three ways or ten anything. It is much more just sort of my view on message and different ways to interpret message and marketing and bringing more of your personality into yourself and in a really fun way.

Sofie: Amazing! All right you hear that everyone go check out Danielle’s website and again thank you so much for coming onto the podcast Danielle, it’s been such an amazing pleasure.

Danielle: Thank you so much Sofie. Same.

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