What a 23-year-old Top Model Can Teach You about Personal Branding

At an age when most people are just starting their careers, top fashion model Coco Rocha, 23, is beginning to age out of hers.

But instead of a second career in acting, photography or fashion design, the size 0 redhead is reinventing herself as an outspoken advocate for changes in the fashion model industry. Simultaneously, she is getting ready for a second career as the host of a new reality TV show called The Face.

That alone wouldn’t make her a bellwether for change. It’s her use of social media to define her personal brand, inspiring the next generation of fashion models to do the same and setting her apart in the eyes of industry leaders like Anna Wintour. On her social media channels and in workshops, Ms. Rocha tells young model wannabes that to keep from becoming just another pretty face, they must start defining their personal brand from the moment they step out on the runway.

You may be well beyond age 16 and not at all interested in a fashion modeling career, but you can learn a thing or two from Ms. Rocha’s approach to marketing and branding. For example:

Carefully consider your personal brand. A strong identity will help differentiate you and your company, and help you reach your goals. If you’re a business owner, that may include increasing your sales and profits. Read these brand-building tips from Business Insider.

Be outspoken. In the past, the model’s mantra was be gorgeous and pleasant but not outspoken. Ms. Rocha has turned that mantra on its heels, speaking out on her blog and social media channels about her grievances with the fashion industry. As a business owner, consider the editorial pages of the newspapers and high-traffic blogs like the Huffington Post as your friend. Use them to effectively communicate about the causes and issues you hold dear.

Use social media channels. Ms. Rocha tells her followers to write Tumblr blogs and use social media channels as a way to define how they’re different. Business owners need to do the same, remembering all the while that these channels are primarily for “conversation,” not hard-selling.

Have a lot of fans, followers and connections. This is important if you’re a major or even minor celebrity looking to get work. For example, Ms. Rocha has 400,000 Twitter followers and 1 million-plus Google+ connections. Comedian Dan Nainan’s YouTube views are in the millions, and he brags about his 100,000 Twitter followers, even though he may have purchased them to benefit from having a large social footprint. In the B2B world, more isn’t necessarily better; it depends on your marketing objectives. The numbers may not mean as much as the quality of your connections.

Get on charity boards or committees. Ms. Rocha’s outspokenness, a tactic which may have deep-sixed her second career in the past, has not only set her apart but brought invitations to serve on high-profile boards like Model Alliance. In business, getting on boards may not only help you make a difference in the world, it enables you to make great contacts that can open doors to new business.

Get publicity. Ms. Rocha was featured in last Sunday’s New York Times, in a feature, “Expanding Her Efforts to Be a Role Model.” She posted a link to the story across her social media channels. Think all that won’t further impact her career? Some people may say the power of traditional media is dead. I beg to differ.

In amplifying your personal brand, it helps to have a successful-in-his-own-right spouse who supports your career. James Conran, 31, who put his own career as a successful muralist on hold to help Ms Rocha with hers, was the first to tell her in 2009 that a greater presence on social media could impact her career. Today, he, along with several agents, manages her social media updates.

The point is, even without that type of spousal support, you can assemble a team of experts to elevate your brand. It takes guts, stamina, time, know-how and a burning desire to succeed. What is your experience defining your personal brand? How have you used the mediums available to convey your messages?


About Chris Ruys

Chris Ruys is founder and president of Chris Ruys Communications, Inc., a marketing/public relations firm that specializes in high visibility campaigns using both traditional and social media strategies. Her blog, originally called "Getting Social," was launched in October 2010 as a way to share her progress as a "student" of social media. While she's still learning, Ms. Ruys has broadened the scope to include other aspects of marketing communications and PR, including blogging, email, traditional media and advertising in the blog she now calls "Proactive PR."