The 85% Rule of Personal Branding

by Ryan Rancatore

A common misconception is that personal branding involves “all broadcasting, all the time”.  In actuality, to build a strong personal brand, the near opposite must be true.  You need to spend a much greater percentage of time bettering and refining your brand than actually showcasing it.  Thus, I’d like to offer the following “85% Rule of Personal Branding”:

While building your personal brand, allocate 85% of your time to behind-the-scenes work and allow 15% for public-facing activities.

The infographic below serves as a visual representation of the rule above.  As seen, the personal branding process can be compared metaphorically to an oceanic iceberg.  Only a small percentage of an iceberg is above water – the bulk of the structure remains hidden, under water.  The same principle applies to your personal branding efforts.  That which is public facing will only make up a small percentage of your actual body of work.


This “rule” need not be adhered to strictly, the percentages are merely a rough guide.  My hope is that it will serve as a reminder that the sometimes monotonous behind-the-scenes work is just as essential as your killer articles and well-timed blog comments.  A constant intake of information is what will inform and educate your brand, and a meaningful conversation behind closed doors can be more beneficial than 100 tweets.

What about you?  What percentage of your branding efforts are behind-the-scenes?

Update: After stellar feedback from Melissa Cooley and Angelique of AFMarCom, I’ve revised the visual to include “in-person networking” in the public view section, and “observe presentations” in the behind-the-scenes category.  An important distinction!

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason Wietholter August 10, 2010 at 3:35 pm

That’s a great point. A lot of stuff happens behind the scenes that actually forms the basis for what is public.

Personally, my percentage is probably a little higher, maybe 90/10. I’m building a lot of foundations though. :)

Do you find that the 85/15 rule fluctuates depending on the status of projects?

Jake LaCaze August 10, 2010 at 8:57 am

Ryan, I’ve wondered about topics similar to this. Some of the “social media gurus” are constantly on Twitter and tweeting the day away, and I wonder what they’re truly doing to build their brands and their businesses. I suppose that, if they continue to be successful, I don’t have much of a leg to stand on. But I often wonder if there’s actually anything going on behind the scenes.

Ryan Rancatore August 10, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Jason – 90/10 sounds like a great percentage to me. As you suggest, at
times the breakdown can vary wildly from day-to-day (and can even be 100/0
when the important “behind the scenes” stuff requires full attention.)

Thanks for commenting, appreciate the feedback.

Cassie Wallace August 10, 2010 at 6:17 pm

This is oh-so-very true, and many people AND companies neglect this. They just blast, blast, blast, without taking time to get to know the landscape first. Bayer’s Wear Your Baby video is a good example of this.

Ryan Rancatore August 10, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Thanks Cassie. I’m not familiar with the video you reference, and I struck
out Googling. Do you have a link you can share?

TimsStrategy August 10, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Hey Ryan – Great reminder for us all to be constant creators of our brands. And we even got an “infographic” too. :-) Lucky for me, I actually love the behind the scenes aspects of creating content and managing the development of a site. I love to see even the small things come to life. Keep up the great work!

Melissa August 11, 2010 at 5:09 am

The company was actually Motrin. Here’s the link:

The thing is, I was a sling-wearing mom when both of my kids were babies, and I was not offended in the least by that commercial. I found it funny.

Melissa August 11, 2010 at 5:23 am

You’re totally right, Ryan — broadcasting is not synonymous with building a personal brand. It is a small part of it, but by no means is it the whole thing. Very important to keep in mind.

I found it interesting how you chose to break down the various activities. I would suggest that, at least some of the time, attending industry events is a very public-view activity. Some of them may be events where you want to “see and be seen.” In those cases, it’s not about your growth as a person, but about rubbing elbows with the right people. And there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just good to fully understand the true purpose behind activities.

One activity that I would add to the behind-the-scenes work would be the synthesis of content. Absorbing it, as I see it, is simply taking it in. Synthesizing it, on the other hand, is working with the content on a deeper level — figuring out what it means and how that can be incorporated into your everyday life, how it will actually shape your personal brand.

Ryan Rancatore August 11, 2010 at 5:36 am

You know, Melissa, you are totally right! (What else is new?) I think my
listing of “attend industry events” under the behind-the-scenes category
speaks to my relative shyness at such events. I tend to focus on the
presenter and content and furiously scribble notes as I get lost in
thought. Maybe if I rubbed elbows a bit more I’d think of it differently. I
always love your take on things…thanks for sharing.

Ryan Rancatore August 11, 2010 at 5:38 am

Thank you Tim. It sure is the little stuff that makes the difference. The
stuff that nobody sees, or even realizes…something I know you pay great
attention to. And yes, an infographic…fun, huh? 10 minutes clumsily
stumbling around Powerpoint. :-)

Jake LaCaze August 11, 2010 at 6:19 am

Ryan, I’ve wondered about topics similar to this. Some of the “social media gurus” are constantly on Twitter and tweeting the day away, and I wonder what they’re truly doing to build their brands and their businesses. I suppose that, if they continue to be successful, I don’t have much of a leg to stand on. But I often wonder if there’s actually anything going on behind the scenes.

Ryan Rancatore August 11, 2010 at 6:44 am

Jake – Totally agree. New and social media have made it so difficult to
focus on the “meat and potatoes” that needs to go on behind the scenes. Why
read a book when I could be tweeting? Why read 10 blog posts when I could
write my own in that time? This type of thinking is a major trap though,
and it leads to a lot of fluff being put out there in lieu of quality
stuff. Quality over quantity, I’d say.

Cassie Wallace August 11, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Whoops, yeah, Motrin. Internet overload.

Melissa, the Wear Your Baby Day was created by Moms like you who love the idea of wearing their baby and being close. And I’m with you, I felt pretty neutral about it. But I think a lot of the issue Mom Bloggers had was the attitude Motrin seemed to take about it, as more of a fashion statement than a mommy thing.

But then again, I’m not a mommy, so I don’t know how much I can comment. All I know is that there was an uproar, haha.

maryhruth August 11, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Excellent reminder! Thank you. That 85% can make us nervous, chomping at the bit to close the sale, to bank the check. What comes before is what really matters, though.

Ryan Rancatore August 12, 2010 at 1:01 am

You’ve hit the nail right on the head, Mary. That 85% does feel like wasted
time and energy…but it sure isn’t!

Melissa August 12, 2010 at 5:30 am

I can see your point (saying that a mom wearing a baby is “in fashion,” looking like an “official mom,” etc.) And considering that they were purposefully targeting moms who take baby wearing seriously, they were being rather flip. I still think it was funny :D

Geno Prussakov August 12, 2010 at 9:03 am

Love the comparison with an iceberg, and the breakdowns of public-view vs behind-the-scenes activities. I agree 100%. Thank you for a good post/reminder, Ryan.

Angelique August 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Attending industry events isn’t behind-the-scenes! Neither are one-on-one meetings, unless they are with friends and have nothing to do with your persona. Nevertheless, I think you’re right that more work does happen behind the scenes.

Ryan Rancatore August 12, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I agree, Angelique. You and Melissa Cooley have convinced me – and I’ve updated the visual and given you credit where it is due. Thank you!

Ryan Rancatore August 12, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Glad you liked it Geno. Appreciate the comment and the RT!

Anne - August 21, 2010 at 2:04 pm

In my career in marketing and sales, and now as a self-employed business owner, I have been a proponent of SWOT analysis to gauge my strategy with others playing in the same space, and also to then develop my unique differentiators from the rest of the pack. It has been extremely effective! I revisit every six months or so.

Suzanne Vara August 26, 2010 at 3:32 am


I agree with you on the behind the scenes but I really think that commenting elsewhere and being out in your local community (yes leaving the computer) needs to be a higher percentage. It builds your personal brand but to me it is indirectly as you are sharing giving back your thoughts to the author and not saying directly HI, I am here, be my friend, etc.

Communicating with people off your blog, profiles, etc is so incredibly important to build your network of trusted friends and colleagues. It is not only for your own brand but to be able to give referrals for others. The 85/15 as it relates to 85% sharing others and 15% yourself I am a big supporter of. Sharing content of others should be a high priority (not just to share, but things that you feel your network would find useful). Of course in doing this, people are finding out more about you and what you have to offer and share that. That should not be an incentive to share but more of an added bonus I guess.

A lot of behind the scenes work is done as all bloggers know. Constantly educating yourself as to new tools that are available and ways of thinking from the thought leaders is what sets people apart from others. It is very easy to fall behind in the world of social media.

Interesting thoughts here Ryan. Thanks so much for writing this and sharing your thoughts with us readers.

Ryan Rancatore August 26, 2010 at 5:16 am

Thanks for this, Suzanne – as a somewhat shy guy in person, it might be easy
for me to dismiss the importance of “getting out there”. Comments from you
and multiple others have really caused me to rethink how I view the
importance of public interactions. (But, keep in mind that my somewhat
different view on “public” requires more than just one-on-one
communication. To me, if you and I have an email convo or coffee shop
meeting, I still consider that “behind the scenes” because it is out of the
public eye.)

Thanks as always for your VERY intelligent insights, Suzanne!

Omar Uddin May 25, 2012 at 7:20 pm

How important and frequently do you consider self reflection or 360 reviews to your personal brand?

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