Not everyone has the courage and humility to ask how they’re perceived by those who know them best. That’s why I was intrigued when I received an anonymous personal branding survey in my inbox from a respected serial digital entrepreneur with long years of executive experience.
Surveys don’t usually excite me, but I was curious about this one. I’d never filled out a personal branding survey before and didn’t even know such a thing existed.
The survey won me over right off the bat. I was expecting the typical questions I usually see in surveys. But this one was different, both in content and format.
It included a multiple-choice question about how I’d describe the sender’s personality. A question about their greatest weakness. A question about which car brand and kitchen appliance best represent them. And some other creative questions thoughtfully designed to be fun for the reader and insightful for the sender.
I liked it so much that I’m thinking about sending out one myself, taking inspiration from the person who ran that survey for the sender and opened my eyes to the world of personal branding, Claudia Miclaus.
Claudia, in her own words, is a “multi-passionate entrepreneur”. A native of Romania who lives in Chamonix, France, she’s a personal brand architect, host, and trainer.
She founded Brand Capital Advisors, a personal branding agency for crypto founders, and is also director of personal branding and strategic partnerships at Arcbound.
Claudia has worked with global investors and CEOs, best-selling authors, and government officials, including presidents, and is fluent in five languages.
She believes she’s meant to help inspire and empower more people to discover their inner strength and pursue their vision, and she doesn’t just do that through personal branding. She also sings about it.
“It took me so long to see there is nothing wrong with me,” she sings in “Nothing Wrong,” her debut single produced by Doriinn and released under her artist name, Shellä, The Soul.
Its catchy chorus sends shivers up my spine every time I listen to the song, which is a call to look deep inside yourself and connect with your vision.
Claudia generously shared her knowledge and experience, especially about personal branding, in her answers to my 70 questions, which can serve as a valuable mini-course on how to create a successful, authentic personal brand.
Read on to learn what she has to say about the most common personal branding myths, the best way to get a testimonial, overcoming a personal branding crisis, Will Smith, the Kardashians, music, mental health, a horse named “Piri”, climbing Kilimanjaro, and her Chamonix Crypto project, an NGO with a vision to create a more sustainable world by leveraging Web3 for environmental good.
1- What’s personal branding, Claudia?
You, but better. Authentic and with a great story behind it. Here’s my official definition: Personal branding is a strategic process that involves creating a series of positive experiences.
2- What personal branding IS NOT?
Personal branding is not self-promotion without giving something back. The reason I unearth personal brands is to give them a voice that can reach more people to make the world a better place.
3- Who needs personal branding?
Everyone. It should be taught in schools. You need to know what you stand for, what your vision is, what your mission is, and what sets your soul on fire.
4- Some people assume personal branding is only for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and executives. How can employees benefit from it?
Personal branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. You can be “the annoying guy from the 5th floor who always leaves his empty Starbucks cans on his desk and is always late” or “the “innovative guy who volunteers in his spare time”. People decide whether they want to interact with you based on your personal brand.
5- When is the best time to start personal branding?
6- When isn’t a good time to start personal branding?
Tomorrow won’t be easier.
7- How would you describe your own personal brand?
I’d like to say “inspirational”. I hope it makes people do things. It’s definitely always in transition. I’m a multi-passionate entrepreneur so there’s a lot going on in my world.
8- Is personal branding “expensive”?
Yes, it is. Especially until you become the brand. It takes a while to find the courage to incorporate your true self into the brand. It takes time, bravery, and money.
9- The most common myth about personal branding?
That it’s for famous people. If it were for famous people, how would they get there in the first place?
10- The three most common mistakes in personal branding?
I can name one. THE one. Not to develop an authentic personal brand. Every single technical aspect is doomed to fail if the brand isn’t authentic.
11- Are resumes/CVs still relevant?
They’ve never been part of my job. I don’t particularly like them, but they’re definitely needed.
12- The Kardashians and personal branding?
They got where they are fast. They “rule” the world, and I don’t blame them. They’ve a strong business mindset and strong personal brands. No wonder they’ve made it big. I’d just like to see more philanthropic projects from their side.
13- Two terms in personal branding that everyone should know?
“Vision.” Nothing can be done without vision. And “goal”. If you don’t have a goal, you don’t have a direction. Your goal is your map to get where you want to go, and your vision is how it makes the world a better place.
14- The five most important elements of a successful personal brand?
Values, Vision, Mission, Goal, and FREAK FACTORS.
15- How do you overcome a personal branding crisis and get back on your feet?
With communication. You have to admit it, get out there, and talk about what happened. You can push the results down in the Google index, but if you have millions of people following you, there will always be people searching for something negative about you on page 1,000. You better own up to it. Reputation management is one of the things we do at Arcbound. Sometimes people come to us because they became famous for the wrong reasons.
16- Will Smith and personal branding?
He apologized. I don’t dislike the guy. I’m sure he has a good heart. Everybody loses it every now and then. Someone I do dislike is R. Kelly. I recently saw a documentary about him and was shocked at how many lives he destroyed. The damage to his personal brand is irreparable, no matter what he ever says or does.
Phuuu. I should do it more often.
18- How can introverts succeed in personal branding?
By talking about their values and being in integrity with themselves. Personal branding isn’t about “exposure”. It’s about how you live your life.
19- What role does color play in personal branding?
Easy recognition. Important.
20- What color represents you? And why?
Blue. Light colors. Light. Doing good. God.
21- What should you look for in a personal branding coach?
EQ. If they don’t understand you emotionally, it’s hard to get anything unique out of you.
22- A big red flag to look out for when choosing a personal branding coach?
That they do it just for the money. Work with passionate people.
23- On your website, you refer to yourself as a “personal branding architect.” Why the word “architect”?
Because I bring all areas of your life into the game. You can’t just live your brand from 9 to 5. You live your brand while you sleep and eat. You can’t say you care about sustainability and fly to work by helicopter every day.
24- Do you have a favorite personal brand?
Oprah. Outspoken. Bold. Wild. And she’s doing good in the world.
25- You love zebras. What do you find fascinating about them?
Oh, zebras. They have each other’s back like no other.
26- What’s special about the way you help your clients with personal branding?
I start from where they are. I cannot start from where they are not. For that, I have to ask people around them for data. No data, no fun.
27- A good quote about personal branding?
“There is no one alive who is youer than you.” – Dr. Seuss
I used to love it. Now I love music more. I recently released my first single under my artist name, Shellä. The song is called “Nothing Wrong”, and I’m working on organizing a mental health campaign around it. I’m a mental health advocate.
29- Why are you advocating for mental health?
I’ve struggled a lot, and, for a long time, I wasn’t aware of how much trauma was ruling my life. Now that I act out of love and not out of fear, I can create anything I want.
30- Is that why you said personal branding should be taught in schools?
Absolutely. Personal branding should be part of every school’s curriculum. I’m going to keep fighting for it until I make it happen. I know it’ll change the world. School students need to know their values, principles, vision, and mission. They’ll determine how they behave, what they participate in, and how they live.
31- A tip for personal branding photography?
32- Something new you’ve learned about yourself since getting into the personal branding business?
Personal branding has brought me back to life and helped me get, build, and be something I didn’t have or was before. It feels good. I’ve never worked on anything as authentic as this.
33- Your favorite personal branding trend?
To be authentic and stand in your power.
34- Millennials, Gen Z, and personal branding?
Gen Z’s personal branding tends to be more hectic and much more open to exposure. But their mental health may be more impacted. The education system isn’t keeping up with technology. There’s a big gap between the two. Millennials are more afraid to put themselves out there and create a personal brand, but they’re willing to do it if they know it’ll bring them real benefits. In short, Gen Z’s personal branding is “hectic” while Millennials’ is more “intentional”.
35- What’s the best way to ask for a recommendation or a testimonial?
You ask your clients what they fear about working with you. Then you get testimonials from different clients who talk about those specific fears in a very authentic way. A good testimonial addresses the fears and provides assurance that the service is exactly what they need.
36- A good TED Talk or YouTube video about personal branding?
I’m sure there are many, but I’ll soon give one myself.
37- The secret to a useful personal branding survey?
Send the survey to as many people as possible. More data, more fun.
38- Can you do personal branding without a website?
Sure! Personal branding is how you show up in your life, what conversations you have, and how you carry yourself in the world. It’s not just a digital process.
39- A fun fact about personal branding?
It brings you home!
40- The first questions everyone should ask themselves before starting the personal branding process?
What’s my vision of an ideal world? And what role do I play in the creation of this world?
41- A simple exercise for those who want to start their personal branding journey?
Start gathering information about how you envision an ideal world. Or write on a piece of paper how you’d spend $100 million today. And you can’t invest. You have to spend that money today. Then start talking about it.
42- What do you focus on for the development of your own personal brand?
For now, I’m putting positive messages out there. I’m planning a TED talk, a book, a new digital program, a new series of NFTs, and a speech at Davos 2023. I’m busy with many other things. As long as I’m contributing to a better world, I’m happy.
43- How will your personal brand have evolved in five years?
I’ll certainly be an author who touches millions. And I’ll be the person who managed to get a bill passed on education. I’ll be very happy.
44- A book on personal branding that you should definitely read?
There aren’t that many out there. But Dot Lung sells a great personal branding course on Domestika. It’s around $10 and is pretty transformative.
45- Personal Branding Incubator (PBI)?
My personal branding program. It’s designed to help more people at the same time create connections around the world. It’s a live program, not a digital course. At our last PBI, we had participants from 13 countries. Some of them ended up working together afterwards. It was great. You should join us next time.
46- You’re a Web3 enthusiast. What do you find particularly interesting about it?
The future. By the way, Brand Capital Advisors combines Web3 and personal branding. It’s a personal branding agency for crypto founders.
47- At Chamonix Crypto, you’re “cultivating Web3 innovation for environmental good”. What does that mean?
This means that we’re using Web3 to create products (only NFTs for now) that give back to our valley and its environment. We’re committed to addressing climate change in Chamonix, as we see our glaciers melting more and more each year. Since we’re an NGO, we donate all the money we make to the valley. Every year, Chamonix Crypto organizes a high-level educational conference with great networking opportunities. Next year, it’ll be held in Chamonix from March 3-5. With a view of Mont Blanc, of course, and with outdoor sessions.
48- Where does your love of cryptocurrencies come from?
I’m more interested in Web3 than cryptocurrencies. Blockchain is much broader. Cryptocurrencies are just a Web3 product. In the next few years, we’ll all have a crypto wallet. It’s just a matter of time before we fully embrace it. Remember how you used to call your friends from a landline phone? And now we have free WhatsApp conversations! There will be more of that.
49- A lesson you could transfer from personal branding to Chamonix Crypto?
The conversations about values in general. Without values, you get lost in life. Or in business.
50- What’s “regenerative finance” in simple terms?
It uses money as a tool to solve systemic problems, especially in the natural environment. My colleague and partner Siobhan Moret recently wrote a blog post on this topic. It’s a good read.
51- I think you have a horse named “Piri“. What do you love about your horse and horse riding?
Oh, as much as I’d like to, Piri isn’t my horse. I worked from Portugal for several weeks and Piri was the horse that showed me the “physical wilderness”.
52- How have your international travels influenced your personal branding?
I’ve now lived in eight countries and left a part of my heart in each of them. This has made me what I am.
53- I like your website tagline: Where branding gets personal. What’s your best advice for not taking things personally?
The sentence itself, word for word. Don’t take things personally. Everyone lives in their own head and is dealing with their own “demons”. In 99% of cases, it’s not about you.
54- The best lesson you learned at Toastmasters sessions?
To stay on time!
The team of my life. They’re all the best. I work very closely with Bryan Wish (CEO) and Carson Morell (COO), and I admire how they carry themselves through life. The entire team is emotionally and professionally developed to the point that you feel you’re safe and constantly growing. The company is growing so fast. The best place to start your thought leadership journey.
56- The most heartwarming feedback you’ve ever received from someone you worked with as a personal branding coach?
Denisa Filcea, an influencer from Romania, said that it was only through working with me that she understood who she was and that it was a life-changing experience. It made my heart melt. In general, I get very good feedback, but in the end it always depends on how open my client is. I can do so little with a closed heart, but so much when you bring your whole self to the table.
57- Digital wilderness?
An interview I filmed with Bianca Grip. A must-watch.
58- One of your Instagram posts says, “If you try to be liked by everyone, you’ll appeal to no one.” That’s one of my favorite quotes now. Your thoughts?
Yeah, that’s a great quote. Be yourself. Easier said than done. But you want your target audience to be the people that vibe with you, right? You don’t want to create a brand that appeals to the wrong people.
59- You’ve never…?
Eaten cheese. And yes, I live in France. I don’t like cheese.
60- The most important social media or networking platforms for personal branding?
First and foremost: your own newsletter. No matter how the algorithms change, you still have your network. Then LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.
61- How did it feel to have a snake on your head once?
62- How can we stop selling ourselves short?
Work on yourself. Find a mentor. I’m in therapy and have mentors. It’s a process. You have to start believing that you can achieve more and that you’re worthy. Then positive affirmations. And definitely letting go of people and situations that hold you back. If you surround yourself with people who don’t sell themselves short, you won’t be doing that either.
63- A person you find inspiring?
Louise Hay changed my life.
64- You climbed to the top of Kilimanjaro in 2019. What was the experience like?
The summit night was hard. It took forever. But as they say in Swahili, “Pole, pole.” “Slowly, slowly.” I’m glad I made it. I plan to climb Mont Blanc in 2023.
65- Is it still “the hardest thing” you’ve ever done?
No. Starting and running two businesses is much harder.
66- You believe that “The future of business is personal” and “A brand cannot exist in isolation”. How can we strike a balance between these two ideas?
Personal connection. Exposure. And consistency.
67- You once stood up to a microphone on a street in New York City and shared part of your life journey with some strangers. Why? And what did you take away from that experience?
I was attending a self-expression and leadership program and stood up to speak during the program. A few years ago, I was very afraid to speak in public. There I learned that everyone should use their voice. You never know who your contribution might be useful to. You can change lives just by speaking up.
68- The first photo you posted on Instagram was of your skydiving experience? Why that photo in particular?
It was random. It was never planned that way. But the photo is actually representative of me. I’m a risk taker. And skydiving is great!
69- Something you’re very proud of?
I was born in a communist country and grew up with the limited belief that being expressive won’t pay the bills, and now I teach people how to be expressive to make millions, sometimes billions of dollars. Anything is possible.
70- Any parting thoughts, Claudia?
I loved sharing my thoughts with you. And of course, you can get in touch with me on social media! Just search my name and you’ll find me everywhere.
Author bio: Elham P.Mohammadi is a journalist and the founder of ElhamX Media.