When you think of the tech sector, you think of Elon Musk. He’s created such a powerful personal brand that it overshadows his own companies. Here’s what you can learn from the methods (and mistakes) in Musk’s brand-building quest.
In Elon Musk, you have an entrepreneur who’s bigger than his companies. Musk founded the likes of Tesla and SpaceX with a vision of catapulting the human race forward. And in doing so, he’s created a powerful personal brand.
He’s the man you think of when you hear those company’s names. In fact, his brand eclipses those of his companies. Musk is one of the go-to guys when you think about modern entrepreneurs.
The point is that he’s done an amazing job of crafting his own brand that’s completely separate from those of his companies.
That’s something that you should aspire to as a speaker. While you want to build a business, you also want your audience to connect to you. You want people to care about your story.
Musk’s achieved just that. Here, we look at how he managed it, as well as examining some of the missteps he’s made along the way.
Tip #1 – Show Your Story With Your Brand
What do you think Musk aims to do with Tesla?
He’s looking to completely transform the automotive industry. With this company, he wants to move us away from the fossil fuel-driven vehicles of today. Through vehicles powered by electricity, he aims to create a brighter future.
That’s all part of his story as much as it is Tesla’s vision. Musk’s great ambition is to move humanity forward in new directions. Tesla is essentially one of the vehicles that he’s using to achieve that goal.
As a result, he’s showing you his personal story through his company brand. The vision of his company is a direct result of the personal goals that he has.
There’s an amazing by-product to this technique. It creates an instant connection between the business brand and Musk’s personal brand. When you hear about Tesla, you instantly understand Musk’s story.
Better yet, he commits to building his brand through Tesla. Musk has a reputation for being a visionary, but he’s also known for his accountability.
When a Tesla car caught fire in 2013, Musk didn’t hide away from the issue. He responded with a blog post that immediately tackled it.
In doing that, he showed people that he’s accountable for what his companies do. In fact, he’s so accountable that he takes the time to respond to such issues personally.
That’s all part of his story too. While he wants to pull humanity forward, he also knows that he needs checks and balances. Such direct responses show that he’s engaging his audience. In doing so, he makes his personal brand more powerful. His commitment to accountability gives people a reason to trust him even when things do go wrong.
That trust creates a strong connection between Musk and his audience. It’s a crucial part of the brand he’s built and the story that he’s showing.
Tip #2 – Make Your Audience a Part of Your Story
With all that Musk has achieved, you’d expect him to cast himself as the hero of his story. He’s the visionary that’s dragging the rest of us forward. Follow him to the Promised Land.
If he represented himself that way, his personal brand would go up in flames. People don’t connect to those who lord over them. They grow to resent them, which means they don’t buy into the person.
Musk’s a visionary, but he knows how important it is that his audience participates in that vision. That’s why he makes them a part of his story.
Think about what happens when someone buys a Tesla vehicle. They’re attracted to the story behind the brand. Musk’s probably played a large part in influencing the purchasing decision.
When that purchase gets made, the customer instantly becomes a part of Musk’s story. They’re taking on all of these amazing qualities, such as being future-focused and environmentally conscious. They’re joining Musk on his quest to move humanity forward. And in doing so, they become the heroes of their own stories.
Musk’s just the guide on the journey. It’s the customer who’s the hero. They get to show people their own values and story through the action that Musk inspires them to take.
A personal brand isn’t about making sales. It’s about connecting with people and getting them to engage with your vision. Your story becomes a part of their story, and vice versa. And when that happens, your personal brand becomes even more powerful.
Tip #3 – Commit to Your Brand as You do to Your Work
Musk’s work ethic borders on legendary. He’s known for regularly working 80+ hours per work to ensure all of his businesses succeed.
Incidentally, that work ethic plays into his personal branding. People see how hard he works to achieve his vision and instantly connect. He’s not a faceless CEO. He’s in the trenches with his people.
But that’s not what this point focuses on. Instead, it’s about making your personal brand as much of a focus of your work as your business.
Musk has two massive businesses. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if he split his working hours between them and didn’t do anything else.
But that’s not the case, he’s active all over social media and interacting with people on a regular basis. He’s creating amazing content and attending events. Musk gets himself out there and shows people what he’s doing.
These efforts may benefit his business brands. But they’re more important for building his personal brand. He’s putting information out there and actively working on how he wants people to perceive him.
Take his direct interactions with Tesla customers as an example. Those aren’t about building the Tesla brand. These interactions help him to build trust and engage his audience. In doing that, he’s improving people’s perception of him and guiding it to where he wants it to be.
Here’s the point.
Your brand isn’t something that just appears as a result of your work in your business. It’s something that you have to actively craft and maintain.
That means you have to put the hours into building it.
Elon Musk’s Big Mistakes
For all of the success that Musk has enjoyed while building his personal brand, he’s also an example of how mistakes can derail things.
In 2018, a team of young Thai footballers got trapped in a labyrinthine cave system in Thailand. Water blocked their escape route and the rescue effort gained international publicity.
Musk offered his services in the form of a submarine that he believed could save the children. Unfortunately, the practicalities of the situation made the sub unusable. Instead, a team of divers rescued the children without Musk’s help.
Musk’s response did massive damage to his personal brand. He used Twitter to make serious allegations against one of the divers.
He’ll need to recover from that situation. But here’s what you can learn from Musk’s big mistake.
Tip #1 – Don’t Attack Others
Your personal brand is all about you. It’s not about your competitors or people that you may have a dislike for.
As soon as you start attacking other people, you’re showing a side to your personality that people haven’t seen before. In Musk’s case, it was a side that a lot of people didn’t like.
Focus on you instead of other people.
Tip #2 – Accept When You’re Not the Hero
Ironically, Musk’s biggest mistake in this situation was his desire to cast himself as the hero.
That’s something he’d avoided well up until this point. But his attack on the divers smacked of jealousy that they’d received the plaudits instead of him.
Musk tried to make himself the hero of a story and it backfired. A better response would have been to congratulate the divers on their efforts and move on. He’d have done no damage to his brand if he’d just overcome his desire to be the hero.
Tip #3 – Remember That Emotions Count
When you have a personal brand, you become an influencer. People connect to you on an emotional level. That means your emotions can influence theirs.
Musk was clearly upset about the way things played out with the Thai rescue operation. Unfortunately, his response was to vent those emotions all over social media.
In those moments, he made the situation all about him in a negative way. He also stirred up negative emotions among his audience. Some rebuked him whereas others joined in the unwarranted criticism he levied against the diver.
Building a personal brand is all about creating emotional connections between you and your audience. Always consider the emotional impact of your message before you show it to the world.
The Final Word
By and large, Elon Musk offers a stellar example of how to build an amazing personal brand.
But his actions in 2018 highlight some of the mistakes that you can make along the way. Learn from the good and the bad and you’ll have a better chance of creating an amazing personal brand.
Speakers Institute can help you to put all of this into practice. We recommend that you do the following:
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