Lessons in Personal Branding from Canada’s @CocktailDeeva

We all know the story of Gary Vaynerchuck (@GaryVee on Twitter), and how he grew his parents’ wine business by sharing his dynamic personality with the world through social media and his WineLibrary TV video website.

(And if you don’t, check out the Social Mix 2012 conference web site for more information).

But Gary is not the only person to use the power of social media and our generation’s love of booze to grow an incredible personal brand.

Canada’s very own Dee Brun (@CocktailDeeva on Twitter) is an award-winning author, TV personality, celebrity event planner, Cocktail’ista, food & drink stylist, home entertaining maven, writer, humorist, wife, mother of 4, TV junkie, shoe-aholic, borderline George Clooney stalker and so much more.

She’s also a sucker for a good Mojito cocktail.

How do we know all of this about Dee? Because she lives those personal brand characteristics on her social media profiles, blog and TV appearances, every day.

We caught up with Dee to get the scoop on how she built her personal brand and what advice she has for others who are trying to craft a persona for themselves online.

Q – Why did you decide to become a Cocktail Deeva?

A – Before becoming the Cocktail Deeva, I was working in sales and marketing in the consumer packaged goods space for companies like Coke and Mars.

When I fell in love with my husband, he convinced me to go after my dreams. So, I quit my job in 2005 to write my first book, Libations of Life – a Girl’s Guide to Cocktails.

It was actually on my book tour in 2006 that a Breakfast Television host in Calgary gave me the idea for my personal brand name. I was breastfeeding my six-week-old child at the time and wanted to look good for the camera. So, I got all glammed up for the interview – wearing diva’d up bold earrings and makeup.

The host said “wow, look at you. You’re a cocktail diva.” The name stuck. I went home that day and bought the URL and signed up for all of the social media profiles with that name that I could get.

Q- Can you describe the process of how you built your brand?

A- Changing the name of “diva” to “deeva” was a really big part of personalizing my brand – because it represents my name.

A lot of business people actually told me not to change the spelling because it would make it hard for people to find me. But I ignored their advice because I believe that as long as your name says what you do, you can make it work.

I also really wanted to live the brand that I’d created for myself within my book.

In 2005, the Sex and the City TV show was really popular and I was inspired by how Carrie Bradshaw had built her brand as a writer.

I really saw myself in her. I built my persona around three things that I love: booze, shoes (just like Carrie) and George Clooney. People know that’s what I like because I talk about it all the time.

It’s amazing how people now want to share links to stories on my Facebook page about those topics. So, I’ve learned that it’s really important that people know everything about you in one to two clicks. Society has no attention span.

Q – What social media tools and platforms do you use to share your brand story and attract new followers/fans?

A- There are so many new tools coming out. But I don’t think you need to be on everything. I say, pick your three favourites and give 100 per cent to what you choose to use.

Twitter is huge for me because I can say what I want and be myself.

Whatever products that I Tweet about are 100 per cent what I use. It’s important to be honest in social media, and I don’t work with anyone except great brands that I love. I’m also a big fan of Facebook and YouTube for sharing my videos and videos from others.

Pinterest is also a great tool for sharing home entertainment tips and ideas.

Q – What are some simple steps or best practices for anyone who is just getting started in building a personal brand?

A- You get one shot to make a first impression and you need to stand tall on your stilettos from the start.

I recommend putting together a uniform package (i.e. your logo, your website and your social media profiles and bios) and launch everything all at once. Get everything uniform and always speak with the same voice.

Also, don’t pay someone to write your bio/social media profiles because it has to come from you and sound like you to give it the full effect. In addition, make sure that the URL that you’re linking to from your Twitter or Facebook page is your website.

I want to know what you do and what you’re all about. Send me there directly. Don’t waste the clicks.

Q- What lessons or mistakes have you learned from along the way?

A – Ha! I often say that the reason I wear fabulous shoes is because I always have my foot in my mouth. So, I’ve learned a lot of lessons.

I guess my biggest challenge when I got started was that I didn’t reach out for resources or ask other people about building my brand. I just didn’t know who the right people to ask were at the time. Now, I use social media resources and connections every day.

I say that if you really like what someone is doing, ask them how they did it. Get as many tips as you can. Again, don’t pay someone to write or Tweet for you. Just get feedback from the people in your social network to help you refine your story.

A version of this post was originally published on the Jugnoo blog in June 2012 and has been republished with permission..
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