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Building Authority vs a Personal Brand with Karley Cunningham

January 15, 2024
The Recognized Authority Podcast Cover

The podcast that helps experts & consultants on the journey to becoming a recognized authority in your field, so you can increase your impact, command premium fees, work less hours, and never have to suffer a bad-fit client again!.

Are you struggling to differentiate your consulting business in a competitive market? Wondering how to turn your brand promise into reality so prospects see you as the authority? On this episode of The Recognized Authority podcast, host Alastair McDermott interviews branding expert Karley Cunningham from Big Bold Brand on the differences between building a personal brand and an identifiable brand for your business.

Tune in to learn:

  • The core components of crafting a compelling brand
  • Actionable strategies for creating your brand strategy
  • A system for integrating your brand values into decision-making
  • How to influence what clients and prospects say about you

If you want to learn how to build trust and authority so you attract more of your ideal clients, don’t miss this episode!

Show Notes

Key Insights:

  • Personal branding is about crafting your reputation and increasing your exposure
  • Building authority goes on top of personal branding by choosing your niche and becoming a thought leader
  • Your business brand should be built from the inside out, based on your purpose and values
  • Your brand exists in how you deliver your services and what experience you provide
  • Getting clear on your positioning and ideal client is key for differentiation
  • Activating your brand promise in your messaging and interactions is crucial


  • Consider the pros and cons of working with a solo consultant vs a large firm
  • Look at why you originally left to start your own business
  • Get clear on your purpose, values, vision and ideal client
  • Imagine your business as a person – how would it show up?


Guest Bio

Creative Strategist & Growth Accelerator Karley Cunningham takes businesses from overcrowded, competitive spaces into blue ocean territory where they can confidently stand out and thrive as brand leaders in their sector. The founder of BIG BOLD BRAND Inc., Karley and her team specialize in helping Agencies, Innovators and Change-Makers accelerate their businesses’ growth, impact, profit and stability. Her innovative Surefire Method™ provides business owners and their teams with the strategic toolkit they need to attract and retain right-fit clients, top talent and investors, develop a great company culture, and charge a premium.

Learn more about Karley here:


brand, business, building, consultants, talk, authority, branding, differentiation, create, great, personal brand, work, feel, surefire method, problems, marketing, niche, deliver, call, putting

Karley Cunningham, Voiceover, Alastair McDermott


Alastair McDermott  00:04

So I have an awesome interview for you today where we’re going to be talking to a branding expert about the difference between building a personal brand, building authority as an expert as consultants, and building your company brand. That’s what we’re going to be getting into today.


Voiceover  00:19

Till then The Recognized Authority, a podcast that helps specialized consultants and domain experts on your journey to become known as an authority in your field. Here’s your host, Alastair McDermott.


Alastair McDermott  00:30

Before we get into today’s episode, I just want to remind you that I’m now sending a daily email or a weak daily email to my list. And you can find a daily tip on building authority and personal brand, which is the topic we’re going to be getting into today. So you can find that at the recognized So now, I’m going to welcome my guest. Carly, welcome to the show. You have been highly recommended Carly Cunningham, from a big bowl brand. You were you were introduced to me by David Newman. And he said that you were good humans?


Karley Cunningham  01:04

Would that’s always a good start, you know, but highly recommended no pressure.


Alastair McDermott  01:10

Yeah, he said that you had a great conversation with him about Real Deal branding. Yeah, so we’re going to talk about branding. And we’re gonna get straight into it. I want to talk to you about building a personal brand versus building authority, and whether those are the same thing or if they’re different in your head. We’re talking about this in the context of people running expertise based professional services. Can you talk to me about how you think about if there’s a difference even between personal branding and building authority?


Karley Cunningham  01:38

I do think there’s a difference. And I do think they’re into but they’re also interrelated. And for me, it’s a lot about intentionality. So for me building a personal brand, it really is in context of what industry are you in, you know, we know personal brand of movie stars, we know personal brands of sporting, you know, professional sports players and those that stand out in their in their industry, in their sport, because they are at the top of their game. So when we look at it that way, everyone has a brand. Effectively, I think Jeff Bezos Love him or hate him, said it best your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. And so everybody has a brand that is the baseline foundation of it. The choice, or the application of intention, then is about when if you’re a consultant, if you’re a small business owner, is intentionally working on building that brand, to ensure that what people are saying about you is what you want them to say about you. Part of that is crafting the positioning of your brand. That gets into differentiation as well. How are we standing out from other consultants like us? How are we the right choice for our ideal clients, as well less than living your brand and putting that positioning those statements like your purpose statement, and your vision and your brand promise into action every day, and making sure that there is intentional build and intentional action. So that, in my opinion, is how you build a strong brand. For a long time, people when social media really came in and started to find its role and became easier for people to talk about you folks said, well, we can’t control our brand anymore. And I call BS on that. Because again, you pay attention and intentionality to it, you’re able to influence very strongly depending upon how intentional you are what people say about you when you’re not in the room. So then if we look at building authority, to me, that’s the next layer on top of it. And building authority is choosing what are you choosing your space, you know, putting your flag in that particular area of what am I going to be the authority in what am I going to be seen as the thought leader in it also can involve niching down? Because you’re not when you choose that place of authority. I don’t know why. Just you know, being the best dental surgeon for those who want to have a fantastic smile. You know, if you’re if you’re working in Hollywood, you’re going to need to niche down and really focus on if you want to be the expert on smiles in Hollywood, then you better be stating that and you better be marketing to that niche of people who are in front of the camera. making sense so far? Yeah, it does.


Alastair McDermott  04:45

So I hadn’t thought I thought about these as as kind of euphemisms for the same concept. But it’s interesting to say building authority is is goes on top of building a personal brand, that the personal brand comes first and And so let me let me ask this then. So are there people in our space who are building a personal brand but who are not building authority? Or would that make sense? I think,


Karley Cunningham  05:16

well, ever again, every consultant, whether they’re doing it accidentally, whether they’re doing it intentionally whether or not have any focus on it at all, which comes back to accidentally it kind of goes full circle, they’re building a brand. Because you cannot build a brand if you’re in contact with people. And it’s not just about your clients, it’s about your strategic partners. It’s about your folks that you’re interviewing on guest podcasts with, it’s about anybody that you’re touching, anybody that you are delivering an experience to, and it can even just be a touch point, it doesn’t have to be you physically personal, it could be a voicemail, it can be an email, it can be the videos that you’re putting out, if you have a YouTube channel, if you have a TikTok channel, you’re touching people, they have a reaction to what you’re putting out there. Typically, it’s an emotional reaction, did you? Do you resonate with them? Did you create a shift for them? Did you challenge their thinking? Did you offend them? And so they’re going to talk about that if you create enough of a emotional, visual, visceral reaction? Sorry, I kind of ran and then you’re gonna go back to your original question. I’m good at that.


Alastair McDermott  06:25

That’s okay. Yeah. So the, I guess, the differentiation? I mean, I’m fascinated by this whole topic, that the differentiation and the I don’t know if you use the word provocative in there at some point, but certainly, in terms of creating an emotional response. I’m interested in kind of digging into that a little bit more. Can you talk about how you think about that kind of differentiation? And is that directly directly linked to that emotional response? Or is there something else there?


Karley Cunningham  07:00

Where I’m where I went to, as you were asking you, that was understanding the problems that you’re solving for those that you are looking to attract, because we all have more than one ideal target audience. So for an example, as a podcast host, for me, you’re one of my ideal target audiences. So the problems I solve for you are going to be different than the problems I solve for our clients, who are folks that we work with on helping them build their brand, helping them niche down, helping them really round out? How are we different? And how do we show up in the world. So we’re attracting those ideal clients. So if we come back to the start of this podcast interview, my interview with David influenced how I came to know you, because he talked about me, without me even prompting him, you asked Who do you know who’s a great podcast guest. And he said, You have to talk to Carly, and he provided a raving review. So when we think about creating those emotional reactions, we have to think about what are the problems of the audience that I my ideal target audience. And so when you understand their problems, you understand their pain. And as consultants, as small business owners, our job is to solve those problems or those pains, or help them make the transformation that they can’t make on their own, that’s getting in their way of moving their business, or practice forward. So when you resonate with them on that level, when they feel like you are speaking one on one to them, that has a much different impact than trying to just sell someone on something and trying to influence someone on something than trying to do you know, if it’s not, some may think of a personal brand and or building authority is about the dog and pony show on stage. I don’t think that that it’s that at all, I think that’s another layer of it. And you’re really good at presenting on stage and making people feel like you’re speaking right to them. But when you can do that, and you can create that emotional connection of wow, that person, or that authority figure really gets me then there’s that sense of I want to trust that person. And then you’re going to seek more information to say, Can I trust this person to help me solve my problem? Can I help this person to help me make this transformation?


Alastair McDermott  09:24

Okay, so then, I’m thinking about these three connected ideas of building a personal brand, building authority in your field as an expert. So that I think that comes as much from the quality of the content or, you know, thought leadership type content that you’re creating. And then there is also this idea that many of us are running a business and that business may have a brand that’s separate, particularly if we want to have people working with us. Maybe we’ve got other consultants working with us. You know, some of the people listening this have three or four people who work with them. So under trying to create a, a brand for their business where the business becomes known, can you tell me about how to connect those dots between all of those different ideas? Okay,


Karley Cunningham  10:17

just trying to think of the best place to start to lay the foundation, obviously, you’re getting them all about foundations, right? So, if we think about a company brand, one, I’m going to, I’m going to say it this way, one mistake I often see people make is they treat a company brand like a product. I don’t believe that that is the case. Because companies are made up of people. People have belief systems, they have thoughts and perspectives, they have dreams and ambitions, they have feelings. So with a product, you can just take, you know, oh, I’m gonna make the next great lip balm. And I want it to appeal to, I don’t know, for pain, or let’s, you know, it’ll be easier for me to talk about women who are in my age who are, you know, between 45 and 55. And we’re gonna make it the best lip balm ever, because it helps mask wrinkles and makes their lips look more plump. I don’t know, it’s actually not even like thing, I’m really not a makeup person. But when you are, again, solving the problems of why, then you can wrap that product and you can create whatever narrative you want. Because this little bottle little container does not care, it doesn’t have feelings, it doesn’t have thoughts, it doesn’t have dreams and ambitions, you can just wrap it in whatever you want. Right? So that’s what I call branding from the outside, you know, it’s looking at the research, it’s looking at the facts and just wrapping it to appeal to the audience that you want it to appeal to. Coming back to people as the company, you can’t wrap them in something external, I call that itchy sweater, you know, you can sell them on it and say, Okay, so do you want to appeal to this audience? Then, do you want to appeal to construction men, and you’re going to need to build a burly brand that feels strong, and blood adding adjectives here, right, that that are gonna resonate with those with those men, you put that suit on, and you’re like, you get all excited about it first, because the thought of making sales and crew bringing that audience in is great. But putting that suit on. If that doesn’t resonate with who you are, if you’re a more compassionate, little softer around the edges, you’re not you know, bold and aggressive, wearing that suit is gonna get heavy, or it’s gonna get really uncomfortable. So that’s why I say itchy sweater, because after a while it gets it gets itchy and uncomfortable, right. And so when we’re building a company brand, it really is about building from the inside out building from that heart space, why our brain tells us we need to run a business we need to run it for for profit or a consultancy. But our heart says this is why I do what I do. This is what gets me out of bed every day and why I’m so passionate to do it. And because that’s my purpose. This is my mission. And this is where I want to take my business, when we start looking at the outside influences in the outside data, it can really pull us off that center, it can pull us away from that passion. So branding the company, especially when you have a few other consultants or even people who are helping you deliver, it’s about what are our shared agreements, now it can be very led by a strong leader. And that is how my business is built. I have some really strong opinions, some really strong beliefs about how I do things where I want to take the business. At the same time, then when I need to do is bring in the people who believe what I believe. Now going right back to Simon Sinek space work on this. He’s so nailed it. But it’s about building around. Why did I start this business? Where do I want to take this business? Now, what we can do to separate that from personal brand. And this is a bit of a kind of handcuffs that I see. Business owners get caught with as they feel like the brand is them and the businesses that Britain it gets that again gets heavy, it’s something that they carry with them. But what we can do is go okay, let’s take their thoughts, beliefs and separate them from us and give the business a character. How should the business show up in the world. And when I start to talk about the business as a living, breathing entity, and I get business owners thinking about? Let’s imagine it’s your 10 year anniversary, and you’re hosting a party and all your target audiences? Are there your ideal clients, are there your strategic partners who have sent you referrals and vice versa, they’re you know, your family is there if the business were to walk in as a person, how would it show up? How would it make people feel? How would it interact with the what would it be dressed like? And it’s interesting to see and I can I can almost see the penny drop or the light go on on that. And there’s this separation between the two. So that’s the company and the personal brand they can be again intertwined, but they can also be separate and to give the owner the consultants, the solopreneur the space between To, to feel like they can exist on their own. And I can see you thinking, so I’ll stop there.


Alastair McDermott  15:07

Yeah, so Okay. So then, in a way, so if it’s a solo business, then the overlap of personal brand and company brand or business brand is very tight, there’s this, there’s there’s almost no kind of differentiation, then if you bring in other people, then if they’re in alignment, they will be a good fit for the company brand. But it will start to it will start to kind of drift a little bit. I can see that drift more more and more as you bring in more people. That’d be fair.


Karley Cunningham  15:43

Depends on how much you let it drift. Yeah, I mean, for me, I’m, I’m very, I’m very intentional. I do like to have my hands on the reins, what, for good or for bad. And you want, again, to attract people who believe what you believe it becomes easier, and it might not drift. But it might that co creation, and having other people’s perspective, can really help strengthen and improve it. Well, you know, currently, did you think about this? Alastair? Did you see it from this perspective, because I’ve worked with this different type of client. And they see it this way. So when you open it up for collaboration, you almost expand it for something better if again, applying intention, but I love the word you hit on there was alignment. Because when there’s alignment, and people align by the same values, the same principles, they’re driven, whether they say it the same way or not, but they’re driven to in a lot of cases, consultants are really driven to help people succeed in their business or at their craft. So bring folks together who are committed to more than just running a business and making a profit. Again, it expands and it’s about its its energy, right, we put positive energy, and we put intention in, and it all comes together. So drift to me is more about when we get off and we start focusing on things like profit too much, or we start focusing on, well, what does our audience really want us to do? What do they keep telling you? You just that’s where drift is, it’s almost like when you walk away from your center, and you start walking towards someone else’s center. Does that make sense? Yeah,


Alastair McDermott  17:22

I think for me, it comes back to the word use before intentionality. And I think, well, part drift could be caused by not having that by by not keeping your intentional direction for the brand. And


Karley Cunningham  17:40

drift drift can just happen while you’re busy. And so I always encourage folks to check in on your brand, evaluate it, every six months or so it doesn’t mean you’re gonna have to go in and do any work on it. Or it might mean you need to tweak just a few things. And often the Tweak comes because the business has positively evolved. You might not have I mean, we grow but you may not have evolved in your thoughts and beliefs, and your vision. But the business may have evolved, your niche may have gotten tighter, you might have discovered uncovered another niche that sits right beside your business that you didn’t even see because you had a couple of referrals into another space, because they’re similar, but you just didn’t see it.


Alastair McDermott  18:20

I have several different questions that I’ve written down. All right, so I’m going to go back to the more basic one, which is you were talking at the start about crafting the positioning for your brand. Can you talk me through a little bit about how you think about that? Because positioning is something I think about a lot and talk to people about a lot in the show? Yeah, I think it’s


Karley Cunningham  18:42

crucial question. Positioning is really the foundation of your brand. Again, coming back to that metaphor of where are we going to plant our flag? In this case, we might say where are we going to plant our flag of authority. But before we plant our flag authority, we have to understand who we are as the leader of the business or as the thought leader. And so when we come back to positioning really for me, I’ve spent the last 12 1314 I feel like my whole career has led up to this through my body of work and being really touching on brand my whole career whether I was doing intentionally there’s that word again, or not. Hopefully we don’t burn that word out in the course of this conversation. But it’s getting clear on who you are. What you do, the value of what you do is for whom and what your promise of experiences and there’s some other layers in there as well. I tend to collide in my model which is called the surefire method. I collide business strategy and brand strategy. So I always say if if business strategy and brand strategy had a child it would be the surefire method. And so if we talk about what goes into positioning and what do you need to create? To purpose statement? Why does your business exist beyond making a profit? Why do you get out of bed every day to do this business on your worst days where you know, you’re feeling under the weather? The kids have kept you up all night because they’ve been sick, you know, and you’re still driven to go do what you do. So that’s always a good place to start. Then we get into what are your values? Or I call them guiding principles? What is what are your values that are going to drive the business forward? Another way to think about those are what are your deal breakers, especially when you’re building a team? What do we expect people to stand for? To stand by and to represent in their behaviors in our in our organization? And then we get into what is your vision? Now vision is an interesting one, because Neuroscience tells us that the brain can only wrap itself, it can only make real or understand a timeline of three to five years. So a moonshot is great. And so many people have these amazing moonshots are these amazing, big, hairy, audacious goals. The problem is, is it’s not really real to the brain and a timeline sense. So there’s no sense of urgency to get to work on doing it. So you can get caught on working in the business for 10 years. And all of a sudden, you know, you’re it sneaks up on you, and you’re like, oh, wow, this is what we meant to meant to do. We were so good at delivering what we did, we just kept doing it. But we didn’t make any progress towards our moonshot. So tightening it down and coming, working backwards and going, okay, so this is our mantra, what do we want to achieve? What do we need to achieve in the next three to five years, and being able to build a strategic plan or an execution plan to make sure that year over year you’re moving your way towards that? Then we get into the character? And this is where I describe that? What is the character of the business? And I mean, yes, what is the character of how I show up, if I’m a solo consultant, that’s great. But again, I really encourage people to think of yourself and your business as two entities, it really does go very far to taking pressure off. And feeling like you’re responsible for the world in many cases. So that those are what I call the intrinsic elements. Those are really driven by the thoughts and beliefs and opinions and where we want to take things who resonates with us our values, and then we start to move to the outside world, so to speak, then we get into, well, who do we want to serve? Who do we love serving? If you’re already in business, and you haven’t done a real deep dive on your target audience, ideal target audience profile, or your ideal customer, your ideal client, whatever term you choose to use, I really encourage it. Often folks think they have one, I guarantee you’ve probably got two. And the third one is almost always your strategic referral partners. Because who’s sending you referrals? Who should you be having conversations with on the on the business side, so that it’s helped filling your funnel, but doing a deep dive? And looking at picking two or three of folks, you would love to? I wish use the Gremlins analogy. But in a positive sense, if you could pour water on these folks, and they could duplicate and just fill up your business. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Great. So figure out who they are, figure out the problems you solve for them, or the transformation they’re seeking. And really get honed in on that messaging. So that’s the who we serve. And then we get into benefits and differentiators. How am I different from how you’re different if we were both building brands of authority, or helping people work in that space, which we are in a way, but we are different? Very much. So we work in just different aspects of it work on different levels of it. So what are the benefits and differentiators of working with me, you can tap in some of the unique value that you deliver. From there, you can build your unique value proposition. And then we get into brand promise brown story and pitch and brief intro. So there’s 11 components and it can sound super overwhelming. However, working piece by piece and going which one of these components which one of these brand elements or these elements of my strategy is getting in the way of me making progress right now?


Alastair McDermott  24:18

Okay, let me ask you this then because this I do have another question. That’s about marketing. But let me ask you about the the, the work that you do with people, yes, is in helping them to create a brand. Yes. But in reality, the brand is how other people think of you. So you’re not really helping them to create a brand. You’re helping them to set things up to create a brand. It’s kind of like one step removed, right? Yes. There’s like just like a layer of abstraction there because


Karley Cunningham  24:54

well, okay, so here’s the let me let me go where my head went to before I got really into the loop with you. So folks will come to me believing sometimes they don’t even know they have a branding problem. And here’s you said, you said the evil word for me, which is marketing? Because I’ll say people say what do you do, and I’ll say that. And there’s a whole other piece. But if I say, I’m a branding expert, I help small and midsize businesses build strong brands that they can attract the people they want and grow a thriving business. Off, some of them will come to me thinking or knowing they have a branding problem. Others will come to me and say things like, we’re not differentiated, and we’re tired of getting beat by our competition. We’re tired of being caught in the battle to the bottom on price, or, you know, we’re not able to charge a premium with this really great product or service, but we just don’t seem to be able to communicate the value it’s not selling. So then it gets into we have a sales problem. Why? Why is it not selling because we know how great it is. We people will come to me and say I have a marketing problem. I need to do some marketing, but I don’t know what marketing I need to do. Well, if you’re not clear on your brand, who you are, what you do, the value you deliver and who you serve, how are you ever going to develop a marketing plan? How are you ever going to effectively market? What are their problems they come to me with? When we get into a little bit larger businesses just for context, they’ll say, we’re not able to attract top talent. You know, we have really great systems, we can’t find the people to deliver what we have. And that’s a problem, nor can we keep them. Because we don’t have a great culture. Sorry, then we get into culture and culture is important. If you’ve got three or four consultants, culture needs to be tight. Right? And so what you’re saying is we create what people say about us. So therefore it comes back to that influence, it comes back to how are we living our brand? How are we demonstrating that we’re in alignment with our own brand? Every single day, so that it people just naturally say what we want them to say about us, or they come back and say things that are even better that we didn’t even think of I mean, that’s the gift.


Alastair McDermott  27:14

I think he got to where I was going with that because I was thinking about this abstract brand as something that we we want to create when we go through like you have your surefire process that you go through, you go through those steps. And now we’ve got on paper, we’ve got this abstraction of a brand. But how do we actually implement that? And have people have people actually take what what’s in our head about our brand, and turn that into reality? Okay,


Karley Cunningham  27:40

so you just hit on the point at which brands go to die. Good brands go to die. So you said how do we put it into action is, I think of it this way. And it takes a little bit for folks to wrap their heads around. But when we think about brand, or we think about the elements or components that make up our brand, when I talk about purpose statement, when I talk about values, when we talk about brand, promise, brand promise is probably one of the most ambiguous ones. But it’s so much more than words on a page. It’s so much more than the introduction in an RFP or on our website. Yes, you need to activate everything you’ve created, which is effectively clarity. Again, who am I? What do I stand for? Why does my business exist? Who is it here to help and serve getting clear on those things? So you can send out those signals to attract people back? Perfect. You need to activate those in all aspects of your company, then I use the term integrate, how are you integrating those elements or using them as a set of tools in your business? And there’s a couple different ways you can use them. So how are you using them to make decisions so that you are aligned with what you’re talking about. No better way to break trust, then set the foundation for this is who we are, and this is what we’re about. And then turn around and say something different, or not say it in a way that feels succinct, or have a couple of different of your consultants, say telling different stories about the business. You know, not using that language. So making sure that your consultants are are on the same script, they’re singing from the same song sheet. So they’re coming back to those elements and they’re reading through and they’re they’re remembering they get to the point of having them miss the term rote, you know, without having to look at what our brand promises without having to look at what our purpose is and what our what our mission or what we do every day is. Everyone should be saying it so tightly that it’s either right exactly the same or it sounds the same that people aren’t noticing. So using it in scripts, using it to make decisions, using it to help you brainstorm your target audience profile, if you go deep on it, you can look at that document and really easily figure out what content you should be developing to attract those audiences. One, start talking about the problems you solve, start talking about what builds trust, if you in our profiles we have, what are the barriers to engaging in working with you? Well, if you know the things that trip people up to prevent them from buying, you can talk about those really early in the sales cycle, or you can access testimonials and case studies to make sure that those don’t become barriers. Is that did I get to where you wanted me to go with that one? Yeah, I


Alastair McDermott  30:36

think so. So, and please correct me if I’m wrong here. I think of the evil word that we mentioned earlier marketing. I think of that I like thinking about marketing and branding, I think of marketing as how we use the brand. So marketing is is kind of it’s it’s the implementation based on display software. And maybe that’s an oversimplification. But that’s how I would think that that’s why I think that it’s so important. I mean, marketing is, is crucial, obviously. But, yeah, that’s so I don’t know if that’s summarizing what you said correctly, or if it’s an oversimplification, yeah,


Karley Cunningham  31:16

if we, if we come back to it, there’s a couple of different let me give a couple of different analogies or metaphors. I really love to think about brand as an equation. So your brand is your reputation. What people say about you, when you’re not in the room, that is your reputation. So you can have a great reputation. But if people aren’t talking about you, because you’re not having a big enough impact, then you’re missing the second piece of the equation, which is exposure. And so the better your reputation, the more likely people are to talk about you, the greater your exposure. So reputation multiplied by exposure equals brand. So that puts it to me in more concrete terms. If we think about brand, and marketing, I like to think them as yin and yang, you know, brand is the how do we show up in the world? What do we want to be known for? What do people say about us? Marketing is about harnessing that, and using it to reach our market. Right? So brand is a thing, market is a thing. Branding is a thing, marketing is a thing. branding and marketing start to emerge, because they’re both about putting something out to the world. But branding is really about everything that you do. And having that intentional action marketing is about using the branding tools, you know, our character, our promise, putting them out to the world to market, the services, products and services we offer. Yeah,


Alastair McDermott  32:45

we have about 15 minutes left, I think so I want to dig into one more topic in a little bit of depth. Before I ask you that. The last question like typically asked on the show, I want to just ask you about differentiation, because I noticed something that people who like maybe there’s somebody listening to this show who is a change management consultant. And I know one person who’s changed management consultants who left I think, was one of the big five or big four or whatever. So, so they’re going out on the road. And they’re having trouble with how do I differentiate myself now? Because now I might name I don’t have, I don’t have this massive logo that’s sitting behind me, you know, so now that I’m out on my own, how do I differentiate myself? Because I’m a change management consultant, like every other change management consultant. So how do you, you know, like, the fear is to be seen as a commodity,


Karley Cunningham  33:40

right? Yes. Oh, that’s such a dangerous place. You know, the sea of sameness? Well, I think one of the differentiators is they what makes them different is they’re now a solo consultant. So looking at the pros and cons is what are the pros of working with a solo consultant? What are the cons of working with a solo consultant, and it might seem a little negative to talk about your cons. But if someone you know a company that comes to them, as it really wants that big name, that big reputation, then let them run for it, because you’re never going to be able to do that, who you’re looking for, are the clients who would rather have that more personalized experience who would rather have I’m assuming they might have some niche experience that a big firm a generalist firm doesn’t have. They might want to hone in on a particular set of industries. And again, that takes takes their expertise deeper, which takes their position of authority higher. Differentiation is my question to them would be this. Why did you leave that big consultancy? What were the rubs for you? What were the things that drove you crazy? What were the things that they believed that you didn’t believe or where were they under delivering or under service? seeing and looking at those things can really uncover your own belief systems your own ability to maybe you didn’t like the way they did things for a particular audience. I’ve served in accounting firm who two of the junior partners left for that specific reason and built a thriving business because they wanted to do a better job of personally serving business owners. Right? So looking at, why the heck did you leave is a really great place to start.


Alastair McDermott  35:30

Yeah, I think that this is a really interesting topic. And I think that it is very differentiations, it’s very personal. Well, when you’re, when you’re a solo business owner, or independent consultants, that it’s very, it’s a very personal thing. And the way that I think about it is there are many different there are many different questions that you can ask. And it’s a combination of your answers to all of those questions, is what actually makes you unique? And maybe your answer to one or two of those things will still make you somebody who is, you know, you’re going to be still overlapping with a lot of other people. But the more questions, you’re gonna


Karley Cunningham  36:13

be as a change management zone, you’re going to be offering very, either the same or very similar services. But it’s how you deliver those services. It’s how you show up as a person, and understanding how you deliver, you know, are you someone who is very direct? And are you someone who doesn’t sugarcoat things? Or are you someone who is more inclined to handhold? And be very compassionate? And like, literally guide your clients through? Or are you someone who just delivers the tools? And away you go? And I’m using two extremes? But how do you deliver what you do? Why why do people, whether in some people would be like, Why don’t have any of my own clients? Okay, well go back to thinking about the clients that you had in that firm. Who were the ones that you loved, that loved you? Why was that relationship so special? What about those clients? What about them? Did you love? And what about you did they love. And so that gets into that personality piece that I talked about building. So one of the things that I do want to share is that if you get into building those elements or components of your brand, then what happens is if you’re if you go deep enough, and you’re honest enough, and you’re brave enough to be vulnerable, and show people who you are, because that can that can be intimidating. You know, sometimes it’s I think I should be this corporate person, because I’m in change management. And I need to show up all, you know, like, looking like everybody else, well, that’s just a trap. Everybody else has taken. You know, I encourage people to be yourself. So when you’re you do that, and you build those elements of your brand. And that foundation that positioning, the hammer said, the authenticity, which is true, the authenticity is built in, but the differentiation is built in, because nobody’s going to be you to stop trying to be like everybody else, and be like you because you left that company for a reason.


Alastair McDermott  38:10

I’m going to ask you something that’s as a little bit different, but kind of interrelated to this. How important do you feel? And I know the answer? How important do you feel is the branding of your own methodology, the way that you do things? So you’ve got a methodology that you call the Surefire branding methodology? How important is it to put a name on those things a label on those?


Karley Cunningham  38:36

How do I want to answer this? This is a great question and I’m trying I’m, I’m rewinding myself to before I had codified and systemized the surefire method. And I mean, it’s so important because it helps you differentiate yourself. It’s also so important from a client perspective. Because when you say I have a methodology that I can walk you through, that was funny in my brain, I could just see I can see people relax, they go, Okay, you have a method. It’s not just about, hey, we’re gonna throw some stuff at the wall, because I’ve done this 100 times and hope that it works. No, no, I’ve walked people through a process and when people are coming for help, they want to be guided. They want to be coached, they want to be supported. They want to know there is a next step. So at the beginning of our projects, we always do a project kickoff meeting, which is all about how do we what is most important to you in the process of a project that doesn’t have to do with the deliverables like how do you want us to interact with you? Do you want us to just mention deadlines, or do you want do you want us to send you a calendar that says this like a calendar invite and said this is due on this day? How does that work? work for you. And when I ask people what’s most important to them, they always say, I want to know what’s coming. Next, I want to know what the next step is. So I’m clear as to where I’m going. So giving yourself building your own methodology gives you the ability to say, I’m clear about where we’re going, I’m clear about how I’m going to solve your problem, I can walk you through it in the sales process. So you can be clear that one, we’re going to solve your problem. And two, you know where we’re going. Now, they might forget along the way, but when you have diagrams and it’s laid out, you can just send it to them and say, Hey, remember, our next step is this, or here’s our next step, please prepare these things for it. So it’s akin to imagine guiding someone up Everest and saying, Well, I can see the top. And I’ve done it before, but we’re just gonna, we’re just gonna, we’re just gonna have at her, that would be pretty scary. And that’s what it can feel like for business owners, especially with change management are coming back to that one topic. That’s a big one, building someone’s brand. That’s a big one that says, I’m putting my trust in you, Carly to help me show up in the world. Wow, that’s vulnerable.


Alastair McDermott  41:10

Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned the word trust there. Because I think that’s ultimately, all of all of what we do is to build trust. And, like, I think of trust as the currency of professional services. Because Because what we do is invisible and intangible. And that’s where I think that having names on methodologies and a clear methodology, because it makes it more tangible, it makes something that is an invisible service, which is usually quite like usually it’s quite expensive, quite time consuming, and very important, and potentially life changing. And so when you’ve got all of that there’s this huge requirement for trust. And so this is something that helps to build trust. So yeah, thank you. Okay. I’m gonna have some rapid fire questions. We got five minutes. So what is the number one tip that you’d give somebody who wants to build authority?


Karley Cunningham  42:14

Wow. Number one tip for someone who wants to build authority? The word that comes up for me is clarity. Get clear on what it is. You are the authority and, and who and how it’s serving them.


Alastair McDermott  42:35

Love it. Simple and clear. Awesome. Perfect. Can you tell us about a business mistake or failure that you made? What you learned from us?


Karley Cunningham  42:46

Why didn’t you send me these in advance? Okay, so here’s this business mistake. If anybody if anybody wants to see how I my biggest failure, I actually have a talk. And I hope it’s okay to say this is what the organization is called, I did a talk for FuckUp Nights. And it’s all about how we effed up. I made the mistake of it, you know, I knew this, I’d seen my colleagues do it. And yet I still did it is I got too wrapped up in working in the business and not working enough on the business and being out there and being publicly visible. So that is part and parcel about building my position of authority and making sure that I am always seen. So in the slide deck, I had this marketplace that initially was thriving. And then I just pulled all the people and stuff out and like, had a tumbleweed running through it. Because that’s what it felt like all of a sudden, I had done six months of really great work. But I hadn’t been out there being visible. And so my lead funnel had dried out there were no referrals coming in. And I was like, Oh crap, and the business slid backwards in a drastic format. And if you want to find out how devastating that was not just for my business, but for me and a mental health level, go listen to that f up night talk. I can always send you the link for that one. So yeah, I did a good job effing up on that one.


Alastair McDermott  44:13

Love is Louis. Is there a business book or resource that’s been important for you?


Karley Cunningham  44:17

Oh, wow. So this ties right to that F at night and the coach who I hired to help me fix what I had blown up, unintentionally. And full disclosure, I’m not mentioning the book because I am one of the three characters in the book. But it’s called the widest net by Pam Slim. She her author name is Pamela Slim. And the reason I recommend that book, whether you’re just starting out or whether you have had a business for a while and maybe it’s pivoting transitioning, you’re finding some of the things just aren’t working or you want to take it to the next level. It’s a fantastic book and I’ve walked the journey. I have walked pounds method that is in the book and it works. So that’s why I’m recommending it because it took me out of that negative place that I had landed myself in. And I am proof that it works. That’s,


Alastair McDermott  45:16

that’s awesome. I love the recommendation. This is not the same book. But I actually have another book here body of work, which I’m reading right now, because I’m going to be interviewing her in a couple of weeks. So there you go. Fantastic.


Karley Cunningham  45:28

She would have been one of the people that I would have referred to, or maybe I did refer to, I don’t know. But it’s interesting. I


Alastair McDermott  45:33

think David did actually Okay, there we go. We,


Karley Cunningham  45:36

I we when I say we, my wife and I, when my wife was pivoting her career, we use the body of work for her so Pam’s books have been very influential in our life for sure. Awesome.


Alastair McDermott  45:47

Okay, last question. This one’s a bit more fluffy. Do you read fiction? Is there anything that you love or recommend? Oh, historical


Karley Cunningham  45:54

fiction. I love historical fiction. It’s one of the things that I pretty much only read top recommendations. Pachenko is excellent. That is on the if I’m going to get this right. No, I’m not going to try and go there I because I’m going to overlay so many different ones over Pachenko was amazing. Also, what’s the other one? I think, Oh, this one is an absolute Heartbreaker, but I couldn’t put it down was the tattooist of Auschwitz. Again. So I think you’re getting a sense of who I need things that move me viscerally. I read a ton of business content. So when I read historical fiction, I really want something that’s going to move me for some reason I tend to be drawn to maybe it’s the algorithms that hit me on the internet, things that are around World War One World War Two right now, I seem to be down the rabbit hole of, you know, women’s buys and how women made a difference. Because that’s just starting to come out in historical fiction, which is really important. So yeah, that’s where I tend to keep go. Cool. Okay,


Alastair McDermott  46:57

well, Carly Cunningham, you run big bulk brand. Where can people find you if they want to learn more? The


Karley Cunningham  47:02

best place to find me is on LinkedIn. My first name is spelt with a K. So it’s k r l e y and then counting him as any good Scottish last name. And where else can they find me? Yeah, LinkedIn is the best is the best place I choose one channel I find it’s easier. But also, if what I can do, if you are okay with it, is I have a surefire audit. So if people were listening and trying to jot down what those tools were, I can send you the link to our surefire audit and it’ll tell them exactly where they’re at with building their brand, what tools they need to focus on, and hopefully that will help some of your audience build a big bold brand


Alastair McDermott  47:45

100%. I’ll have links to all of that in the show notes. And you can also get that on my email list at the recognized So that’s a nice segue to my CTA. Thank you. You’re welcome. Carly, thank you so much. It’s been great to chat today.


Karley Cunningham  48:00

My pleasure is such a great interview Alastair, and I hope your audience takes it and runs with it.


Alastair McDermott  48:05

Thank you

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