Episode 17: Finding Your Authenticity in Branding with Jamilah Corbitt
Jamilah Corbitt is an entrepreneur, brand strategist, and the founder of JaiWiz. Her company teaches people how to authentically communicate their value to the rest of the world.
Jamilah is a former Division-I athlete that transferred her skills from the hardwood to the boardroom — and was recognized as one of the top 30 under 30 people in the Washington, D.C. region in 2014. She is on the Board of Advisors for Jacob’s Promise — a company that specializes in helping children and families touched with Autism — and also sits as Chair of the Young Executive Society at the Tower Club in Tysons Corner, Va.
Her areas of expertise include digital marketing, influencer marketing, personal branding, brand voice, and leadership.
Karl Boehm: This episode has lessons wrapped up in the story of a journey to find one’s authentic voice. Authenticity came up during a previous episode with celebrity Podcaster John Lee Dumas, the Entrepreneur On Fire. As the most important part of marketing your brand, inversely, fear often comes up as one of the biggest obstacles for making the moves to take your business to the next level so I hope as you listen, you will find the strength to overcome any fear in voicing your authentic message.
Jamilah Corbitt is an entrepreneur, brand strategist and the founder of JaiWiz. Her company teaches people how to authentically communicate their value to the rest of the world. They provide workshops, e-course, and one on one consulting for individuals interested in learning how to leverage their expertise in authentic message.
Jamilah is a former Division 1 athlete. That transferred her skills from the hardwood to the boardroom and was recognized as one of the Top 30 under 30 in the Washington D.C. region in 2014 and also sits as chair of the young executive society at the Tower Club in Tysons Corner Virginia. Her areas of expertise include digital marketing, influencer marketing, personal branding, brand voice and leadership. So, authenticity in branding and messaging, you said that you’ve always been authentic in your branding and messaging, but I bet there’s a story there of when that started for you. Is there a story that you can recall of the first experience where you thought you know what, I’m going to take that risk.
Jamilah Corbitt: Yes, I remember exactly. It happened not too long ago. I was writing a blog post from a Huffington Post column and I was deciding on a topic to write about and I started the topic and I started writing and I was like, you know what? This isn’t me. Like I need more me in it. It was just cut and dry. A-B-C-D it didn’t really have a personality to it and I was like you know what? Let me add one of my experiences, let me open up to my readers and from that point forward I was like, this works because more people, a lot of people resonated with that message. I think the post was something about, I think, one of my biggest mistakes that I made in business. And one of my biggest mistakes—I’ll share with you guys on the air—one of my biggest mistakes that I made is, I think, I jumped off the diving board into the deep end too soon. I quit my job without having a plan, without knowing even how to run a business and ultimately, I failed within the first year.
I failed. My business failed. But out of that failure came a success because I met mentors, I met people who could show me the way and as a result, by meeting my mentors, I tripled my income over a six month period by just working with my mentors and improving my business as human. So I shared that on the Huffington Post and I was like, I lost you know over 20K that first year in business just making stupid mistakes and I shared that message and most people didn’t know that I was failing within the first year. That I actually was in the red in my business because of course, that you know, I show well. Like, you don’t allow people to see that side of you normally and by me opening up, it just resonated with a lot of people like–oh my gosh–I’m going through that right now but I was scared to share my story and you’ll be surprised how many entrepreneurs fail within that first year, fail within the first two years just by making stupid mistakes and me putting my story out there was an epiphany like a lot of people can relate to this.
And people buy from other people and companies that they know, like, and trust and by me sharing the story it built a little bit of trust, just a little bit more trust, with my audience and I think they appreciated that.
Karl Boehm: Thank you for sharing that. That’s cool, that the vulnerability is of course, endearing and you know it’s not something that people often share and I recall talking to you about vulnerability being something that you think is really important in branding so I think we should probably talk a little bit about that too. So, vulnerability and authenticity in your branding and messaging, how is this playing out in your current professional world?
Jamilah Corbitt: Well for one, I’m in the process of rebranding my own company so it fits with my new messaging of helping people authentically communicate their value to the rest of the world. Right now I’m in like, just construction mode trying to make sure my brain aligns with my message and I think it plays a huge role because people see that I’m being authentic and it allows other people to open up and be comfortable and be authentic in their message and I just want to be the example for my customers, for my clients and now we are in transition from servicing from the service field into building products so we can teach people how to share and leverage their authentic message through workshops, seminars, e-courses and things like transparency equals profitability. The more transparent you are the profitable you’ll be.
Karl Boehm: Awesome. Are there any case studies of a success using a more authentic self and vulnerability either within your own brand or maybe some of your client brands?
Jamilah Corbitt: Right now, I’m the biggest case study because I’m going through the transition. One of my clients, she mentioned how working with us helped her to become more transparent in her messaging because I was so young. One of my clients is, she’s a late Gen Xer so, she’s borderline baby boomers slash Gen Xer and she’s working with me who’s a millennial and so you’re working with someone who’s two times younger than you. You’re twice my age. But she said the experience helped her to become more transparent because she had to open up to me so I can help her reach her goals.
So, she’s another case study of how being transparent helped her to grow and share her authentic message because I’m being authentic and I’m being transparent with her and in return it’s giving her permission. I think people need that permission to be transparent and authentic and once you give somebody that permission that will help them grow and excel to new heights.
Karl Boehm: Love it. How about case studies that are not related to you or your clients at all, just, and it could just be brands that you’re observing that you think are just doing it right?
Jamilah Corbitt: You know who’s doing a great job right now? It’s T. Mobile C.E.O. T. Mobile C.E.O. is on periscope right now.
Karl Boehm: Wow.
Jamilah Corbitt: He uses the company and appears in broadcasts based on what the company is doing and he’s opening up. He’s opening up the company to the world and he’s allowing, us, the audience, people who aren’t part of T. Mobile, he’s allowing us to get a glimpse into the culture and it’s drawing more people to T. mobile because he himself as the C.E.O. is humanizing the brand being on periscope and I watch one of his periscopes, I think it was two weeks ago, it was a little while ago and he had a bunch of employees, he had just gotten off a plane or a bus or something, he just came back from a trip and his employees were outside cheering him on.
It was like a whole rally for this one guy and it had size, of course, I’m pretty sure they got paid for this or that was, it was own company’s time but it was just so cool and they had T-shirts saying ‘You rock’ and it was just, it was amazing. And the world was tuned in to him as the C.E.O. of T. Mobile, showing how great it is to be part of the T. Mobile family and I bet you, I can almost guarantee that he won a bunch of clients that day. Just by being transparent, authentic, and allowing people to see who he really is and how “awesome” he is.
Karl Boehm: Interesting. So it could have given him a boost.
Jamilah Corbitt: Yes, it definitely give it, it’s giving him a boost.
Karl Boehm: They’re probably not still using that slogan, you know what I’m talking about?
Jamilah Corbitt: Yeah, I do.
Karl Boehm: Boost T-Mobile.
Jamilah Corbitt: I’m pretty sure it’s helping the brand by him being on periscope and there are other brands bigger brands that are adopting periscope so they can share their authentic message.
Karl Boehm: Interesting. You’re a big fan of periscope, aren’t you?
Jamilah Corbitt: You know what? I’ve been on periscope. I’ve been broadcasting for about five weeks now. I’ve almost broke in that 1,000 followers mark. Not even five weeks and that’s by me being authentic and people loving my energy, I’m able to communicate. People are able to feel my energy, I’m able to communicate my energy through my message, through being on camera, through being like right in front of them, and they see my genuine spirit, they see much transparency and they want to buy from me based on what they’re seeing, based on my authentic message, so again, the key word today is authenticity. And I know I keep hammering, you know, that word but it’s very important to stay true to yourself and to be authentic in everything that you do, that your personal core values should permeate through your message, your branding, what you wear and everything in life.
Karl Boehm: Excellent. Okay, why don’t we talk about that, what does that process look like to you? Without giving away too much. Would love to hear some tips and tricks and maybe a process for somebody who might come to you and say okay look, I know that my persona is super fake but I can’t help it. I’m trained to do this you know, I’m conservative so I’m not sure how to be more authentic. What kind of tips and tricks to get to that person.
Jamilah Corbitt: That’s an interesting question. One I would start with. What are your goals for the future? Where do you see yourself? It’s all about the feeling. How do you feel right now and based on that feeling, what type of people would you want to be attracted to you so, you have to go through a process of self-discovery. You can’t develop core values without knowing who you are, so your core values should be aligned with the person that you’re trying to be or become in the future. So, one-way I develop my core values is, I had to sit back and look at who am I? What am I trying to do? What type of impact am I trying to make and based on those answers, I just developed a few words. A few words that described my life.
My core values are synergy because, I think, two people are greater than one person. The energy of two is greater than the energy of one and if we can combine that then we can make an impact together so it’s synergy. Another one is authenticity, which I don’t even have to explain because we kind of hammer that home. Another one is adding value. I want to always be a servant. I want to add value to the lives of others through my messaging, through giving back, through whatever I do, I have to add value. One of my other core values is deliver. I want to be able to deliver the message; I want to be able to deliver whatever you need, to you.
So based on where I see myself in my life going, I developed my core values, those are also my company core values as well, and so anybody that I bring into my company has to fit within those core values and so by developing these core values, it’s like, the blueprint. My moral compass for how I conduct business.
Karl Boehm: I like that. I like that you’ve defined who you are and you’re being purposeful in that direction. I remember a conversation, I mentioned this before, but I’m curious about it. I remember you were doing some research on vulnerability and I thought that was a pretty compelling topic but I noticed that you haven’t mentioned it much yet. Do you think that that’s because you’ve discovered vulnerabilities more of a by-product or what do you think about that? And where does that enter into to this arena?
Jamilah Corbitt: Being vulnerable is kind of a by-product of being authentic. I can be—but it’s not—I guess, mutually exclusive like, you can be authentic without being vulnerable but you can’t be vulnerable without being authentic. I think I said that correctly. And that means I can be authentic. I can be genuine but I don’t necessarily have to open up my entire life to you.
I can still give you glimpses and peeks into whatever I want you to see and still communicate my authentic message and still be genuine in the message that I deliver; however, being vulnerable is opening up the floodgates of whatever’s going on with me so I’m being vulnerable. I’m telling you my mistakes. I’m opening up my life to you. That’s being, well vulnerable. I pick and choose when to be vulnerable and I think transparency, which is synonymous to vulnerability, I think that’s important but it should be used sparingly. You shouldn’t always be transparent, you shouldn’t always be vulnerable, they can hurt your brain than help it. You should always be authentic but don’t always, like, don’t always be vulnerable.
Karl Boehm: That makes sense, I guess, we don’t want to walk into every situation that’s intense and say, I want to be honest and vulnerable with you right now. This is really intense and I’m nervous
Jamilah Corbitt: Exactly. That’s not the way to go.
Karl Boehm: It’s not productive.
Jamilah Corbitt: Exactly. You have to make sure, if you’re going to be vulnerable. If you can be transparent, you have to use that to your benefit, always.
Karl Boehm: Perfect. Very cool. You’ve got a new book coming out and the topic is right around authenticity, right?
Jamilah Corbitt: Yes.
Karl Boehm: Can you talk about that a little bit? Still not quite out the gate but if you wouldn’t mind.
Jamilah Corbitt: What I talk about in my book is how to communicate your authentic message to the rest of the world and I provide you steps with how to do that, what that looks like, and why digital marketing is important for you to communicate your authentic message and communicate that with your clients and partners so you can draw those people into your business and how does that help you grow.
I guide you on the steps you need to take to grow to the next level. By being authentic and being transparent at times so that you’re able to communicate that value to your audience and so your audience will be drawn to you. You can attract those partners. You can attract the clients that you want. You can attract publicity. All of that, I share all of that in my book and it’s like a step by step approach on why it’s important to be naked.
Karl Boehm: Does it have a title yet?
Jamilah Corbitt: Yes.
Karl Boehm: Yeah?
Jamilah Corbitt: Yes and No.
Karl Boehm: Yes and No?
Jamilah Corbitt: Yes, but I don’t want to share yet because it might change by the time this comes up.
Karl Boehm: Okay. Well, let me know and I’ll make sure to link and put the name in there so for now it’ll be a surprise.
Jamilah Corbitt: Yeah.
Karl Boehm: Do you have any unexpected insights from the research?
Jamilah Corbitt: Nothing unexpected but this process, this writing process, I’m going to be vulnerable right now and tell you how the writing process worked for me. Our last conversation, I told you I’m writing a book and I was going to write it in a month.
Karl Boehm: Right, this was just a couple of months ago.
Jamilah Corbitt: Yeah. This is probably a month and a half ago and I was like, I’m going to write it in August or something. I think we met in July.
Karl Boehm: Right, that’s right.
Jamilah Corbitt: So I struggled. I struggled starting. I didn’t know where to begin and so part of this book is my baby because I’m being vulnerable in this book as well. And I’m sharing my mistakes, my triumphs and hopefully the audience will go on the journey with me. And so the process was interesting because I’ve never written a book and I just decided on a whim–I’m going to write a book. So what I did was and maybe this will help someone that’s struggling to start their own book or struggling to share their message with the world. want to things that I did that helped me. Then I do this with my clients and so I decided to do this for myself.
I asked one of my friends and was like, can you interview me? And I’d like to talk this out because I’m better at speaking. It’s hard for me to just sit there and write everything I want because so many thoughts are going through my head. I just can’t type fast enough. So, I develop the outline. I knew the points that I wanted to hit on. And I had my friend, I shot it to my friend. I have my friend interview me over the phone. I recorded the interview and I had it transcribed.
Karl Boehm: Cool.
Jamilah Corbitt: And so, through the transcription I think we had around fourteen thousand words organized. I’m still organizing the different things based on the outline that I’ve created and adding stuff and subtracting stuff and then I’m going to send it to a copy editor, but this process, this process took as long as it did because I didn’t know where to start and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be vulnerable enough to ask for help. But I ended up asking for help and I took a non-traditional route which was just talking my book out and it worked. It works for me, so my point is it’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to be vulnerable as long as it works to your benefit.
Karl Boehm: Excellent. That’s so cool, thank you. Yeah, I think this is important for, of course, a lot of reasons. In the field of marketing overall, I think that you see a ton of blatantly disingenuine and transparently fake personas and across almost all spectrums and it’s obvious that they’re just trying to get money. They’re not really caring about the value, they’re not caring about being true to themselves, their customer, the brand, and in this changing environment where there’s more entrepreneurs and it’s easier to become an entrepreneur or even a part time entrepreneur, you know. For many people that listen, I think it’s really important for them not to think, it’s not a trick, that they’re pulling on someone to create a brand and put it out there in the world. You know?
Jamilah Corbitt: Yeah, a lot of people get duped into thinking that they shouldn’t package themselves as a brand when in actuality their brand is all encompassing. It means their character, personality, and style; everything is all packaged in this one thing that is their personal brand. You can be an entrepreneur, you can be a musician. You can be anything you want to be and still, you are a brand. I am a brand. I am the Jamilah Corbitt brand and under that Jamilah Corbitt brand, I can be a writer. I can be an entrepreneur, I can be a consultant, I could be anything I want to be and I think more people have to recognize that just because you are brand, it doesn’t mean you have to be disingenuous in your message. You can communicate your authentic message within your brand and only do things that align with that message and that align with the brand that you’re trying to create. I actually did a periscope on this very topic yesterday.
And is your behaviour and actions, are they align with your personal brand? And a lot of people, they don’t know that they are brand. So you have to recognize that fact first. Once you recognize that, then you can build your brand according to your life.
Karl Boehm: Love it. That’s great. In terms of a message to put out there, to people who are really interested in getting started on this, apart from checking out your book when it’s ready, what kind of instruction would you give them to start right now?
Jamilah Corbitt: Start from where you are. Start from right where you are, if you are a sanitation worker and you’re an aspiring entrepreneur but you’re still a sanitation worker–start from where you are–you can begin to shift your mindset. You change energy. You change your life. So if you want something different, you do something different. You be the change that you want to see. If you’re trying to launch an idea, if you’re trying to launch a product, start from where you are, figure out your target demographic, your messaging.
What is this product or service going to solve and you create the messaging around that and share it with the world. You take actionable steps each day. Break it down into digestible chunks. You reverse engineer your idea and you go for it. But say, you want to be entrepreneur. What does that look like? You give yourself a year. This is where I want to be in a year, I want to build the company in a year and quit my full time job. I want to moonlight on the side, still have my full time nine-to-five gig, and I want to be an entrepreneur within a year and quit my nine-to-five and work on my business full time. Okay, so that’s the end goal. What you do is, you take that end goal and you reverse engineer to see what steps you need to take daily in order to accomplish that goal a year from now.
Karl Boehm: Great. Any other resources for inspiration that you would recommend?
Jamilah Corbitt: Read. Just read.
Karl Boehm: Okay.
Jamilah Corbitt: There are a couple books that I’ve read that have helped me on my journey. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. He teaches you how to build systems and why systems and processes are important in business. You also want to read Built to Sell by John Warrillow. He taught me, he doesn’t even know this–never met the guy a day in my life–but just by reading his book, he taught me the importance of having those systems and processes in place day one. If you’re trying to scale your business and eventually sell it and I don’t know if I’m going to sell my business but it’s good to have that those processes in place so those two books for me go hand in hand and fictional reading. I would read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and that book open my eyes because if you’ve ever read that book–and if you haven’t, you need to–you’ll be on a journey with the main character. I was on that journey with the main character and I’m not going to give any spoilers but, have you read it?
Karl Boehm: Yeah, I love The Alchemist. It’s an awesome book.
Jamilah Corbitt: Oh my gosh, I was on that journey with Santiago. That’s the main character but that’s only thing I’ll give you, I was on that journey with him and so those three books I recommend, also a resources, you can look online for e-courses, there are many free courses that you can take if you want to be an entrepreneur.
You can go to of course, there’s pay courses, I like Udemy or Usefedora, but there’s also free ones like Coursera C-O-U-R-E-S-A, coursera.org. There is also NovoEd, I don’t know if it’s dot com.
Karl Boehm: I’ll get that all linked up, don’t worry about it.
Jamilah Corbitt: Okay, there are plenty of free sites for you to educate yourself. And the most important thing is continuously educate yourself even if you’re in college and you graduate–educate yourself. If you’re a doctor and you’re done with school–educate yourself. Even if you’re, like I said, a sanitation worker trying to be an entrepreneur–educate yourself. That’s the best thing you can do for your life is to continuously learning and to continuously grow through life and you know you just grow through the pain. Grow through the pain, so don’t go through the pain. Grow through the pain and then you have to eat the pain for taste of success so continue grinding and you’ll get there, you’ll get to wherever you want to be if you just stay on the path.
Karl Boehm: Nice. Let’s see that this becomes really widely adopted or doesn’t, but what do you think the future of this topic would look like as I guess I’m seeing. Maybe this is a little bit too abstract to but if the nine to five becomes a more of a rarity than becoming an entrepreneur either more widely adopted or in small circles, I wonder where that can go you know, if everybody’s just being authentic or if it’s going to become more segmented it’s just I’m curious what your thoughts are.
Jamilah Corbitt: Thank you for allowing me to predict the future.
Karl Boehm: Got your crystal ball?
Jamilah Corbitt: Right. So, what I see this going is, I think the workplace culture is changing in general especially with us millennials taking over the workforce and changing the game. We’re shaking up the game right now. And I think we’re going to move toward a culture where everyone is allowed to be themselves within the company culture. This is a culture that I was building within my company, is allowing my employees, allowing everyone in my circle to grow within my circle so allowing mistakes. Allowing you to be your genuine self and fitting within the company culture as long as you’re already carrying your authentic messaging you’re being authentic in your message while you’re in the company and I think, workplace culture is going to shift toward allowing employees that space of being themselves, being creative, working where they want to work so that they are more productive, they are more engaged, they are more happy.
Work is shifting that way anyway and even millennial companies, if you look at the millennial companies out there, millennial workplace culture is on the forefront of shifting in this change, they’re allowing remote employees, you know, we’re hiring people in London, people from our brothers and sisters across the seas, we’re hiring anywhere we see talent and allowing those employees to flourish in their own environment while still being part of something whole.
So I think the whole workplace culture is going to move towards allowing people to be an individual within the company environment and more entrepreneurs. So you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to make an impact, you can make an impact within the company that you’re in and you can have be share your authentic message and communicate your value to the rest of the world using the company’s platform. I think that’s where everything is shifting towards.
Karl Boehm: That’s interesting. I’m glad that you took it to the employee level as well.
Jamilah Corbitt: They’re important too.
Karl Boehm: They really are, yeah. We’re not just talking entrepreneurs here. Plenty of marketers, most marketers, work for someone and frankly, it’s all work.
Jamilah Corbitt: It’s okay to have a nine to five and to work for other people as long as you’re able to grow in that environment and if you’re not growing then it’s time to leave. You don’t want to become stagnant. So pick a culture that allows you to grow as an individual and that supports your personal development.
Karl Boehm: Excellent. Jamilah, where is the best place where people can learn more and to reach you?
Jamilah Corbitt: You can reach me directly on Twitter. I’m a very engaged Twitter. So you reach me @jamilahcorbitt, J-A-M-I-L-A-H-C-O-R-B-I-T-T. And also on periscope @jamilahcorbitt that is the same as my Twitter handle and you can reach the direct link by going to periscope.tv/JamilahCorbitt.
Karl Boehm: Great, and as always, we’ll have those links and all links referenced in the show notes on spiralmarketing.com so will be all set. Jamilah, thank you so much.
Jamilah Corbitt: Thank you so much for having me. I really do appreciate and I’ve enjoyed our conversation.
Karl Boehm: Likewise. I’ll try to be candid here in saying that I really don’t think it’s easy to be authentic in our marketing. I think it’s challenging for most people, most brands and that’s fascinating because certainly, we all resonate with authenticity and I think that when something is truly authentic, we can generally feel it and I also think that the connection between authenticity and vulnerability is fascinating because it’s a risk. And in branding most messaging, most marketing communications are rather thought through, often calculated and in order to be vulnerable we have to drop our defences and take a greater risk by giving of ourselves and the combination of that link between authenticity, vulnerability, and making a genuine connection while being true to ourselves really feels a lot like growth and a worthwhile consideration. It feels a bit strange to quote Shakespeare, but “To thine own self be true”.
As always thanks for listening and playing along with me folks. Would love to hear your feedback and look forward to connecting on spiralmarketing.com.