Just an Ole Trout In a Medium Sized Pond: Practical Advice for Personal Branding

A few months ago, I was walking down the street in St. John’s and someone excitedly stopped me and said “HEY CHELS!!!” and I panicked I didn’t recognize the person (Did I meet them on a beer filled night on George St. and forget?) But, then they let me know they watched my weekly video series Chats With Chels. *Instant Relief* Since then I’ve run into strangers telling me that they love the series or love my Instagram presence. After I got over my feeling like a Kardashian, I realized how powerful of a tool personal branding has been in driving my business, especially in a smaller city like St. John’s. I've decided to share some of my tactics and strategies for personal branding!

Stop Trying to Make Fetch Happen

My first delve into personal branding was starting a travel blogging Instagram account. I wanted to be that traveller who has 284 bazillion followers and gets free places to stay, so I took the time to meticulously shoot photos of my adventures. What I realized was 1) it really took away from enjoying my vacation time 2) it came off as inauthentic. So, you may have figured it out already, but I am not an Instagram travel celebrity right now. When interviewing Samantha Phelan, a digital media thought leader who works with influencers world wide, she expressed it perfectly, if your goal is to become an influencer, chances are you are not going to be an influencer. For me this meant realizing that people enjoyed my story of getting thrown off a camel in Morocco or getting a drunk tattoo in Thailand much more than they liked my perfect shot of Big Ben. Instead of asking “how can I get more followers?” ask yourself “why should people follow me?”. What value do you offer that other accounts just aren’t bringing to the table right now and can you make that engaging? You don’t want to be as boring as watching paint dry. Coincidentally, the other week, I was on the edge of my seat wondering if beckiandchris would ever get their freshly painted wall to go from lilac to white.

Building My Business Brand


The shot above was the first version of my website I released out into the world last year. It didn’t feel *me* If I were a colour, I’m pretty sure I would be yellow. I like brightness and my business branding didn’t reflect that, again in trying to exhibit a “thought leader” professional image, it wasn’t authentic. So, I redid my brand palette to match what I actually wanted to portray (bright colours, feminine but clean / organized) and also honed in on exactly what it was I was best at. That translated into CREATING AWESOME — quality interactions between people plus content their audience would love. This is today’s version of my site:



The point in sharing that little story? It’s okay to be still growing and figuring it all out!

Content x Consistency

Your audience on Instagram isn’t going to be the same as your audience on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter; so why are you pushing out the same content across all channels? (And to insert a personal pet peeve, there are few things that annoy me more than people who post a screenshot of their tweet / fb status onto Instagram. To me this screams lazy.) If your channels are homogenized there is no incentive for me to follow you on multiple channels. Even when sharing my podcast, I make different posts across different channels. Ie: On LinkedIn I would highlight professional development aspects wherein on Instagram I may highlight the funner aspects of the show.

I’ve recently been reading “Crushing It” by Gary Vee (which partially inspired this article). He suggests posting everything from your lunch to your walk to your client meeting and creating live videos multiple times a day. Personally, I would unfollow an account oversaturated me with content. I’m a quality over quantity kind of person. I aim for 5–7 posts a week on Instagram / Facebook plus at least one or two Facebook live videos. If you are new to video , my podcasts with Krystal Hobbs Jason Piercey have some great advice for this. To summarize what I learned from them (and my own experience); have an outline of what you want to say (NOT a script), practice recording a few times not live before hand just to get comfortable and don’t over-scrutinize yourself, chances are you’re the only one who notices that zit on your face.

If you’re not using Instagram stories yet, you need to get on that! For example, St. John’s business Whink often shares new inventory or people wearing their products; this eventually convinced me to go buy one of their Newfoundland bangles. Stories remain at the top of the feed and are a great way to have people follow along in your day without the pressure Facebook Live can give (because they go away in 24 hours!)

On Instagram, I try to stick to three main themes: what I’m working on / excited about, supporting local businesses and practical advice for small business owners. If I am following a pizza shop chances are I don’t want to see a shot of your cat on your couch (unless that cat is making pizza). I tend to add anecdotes / relatable stories; for example, last week I shared my struggle of having the flu but still having to get work done, a struggle most small business owners can relate to.

On a further *quality control* note: it’s 2018, it’s time to say goodbye to consistently blurry photos in the dark of your salad. I’m not saying go out and purchase a DSLR, but employ some basic techniques to improve your shots. The first one I would reccommend is wiping off your cameras before shooting. Here is some other great advice for shooting from your Iphone.

When managing my Instagram account and clients’ I make sure to use the same filter. Not only does this make my content more recognizable, but creates a cleaner overall viewing experience if someone looks at my profile.



Get Engaged

The old saying goes “It’s better to give than to receive” and that is true for social media as well. Part of the reason I have built up my Instagram following / recognizability has been following local accounts, asking them genuine questions and liking their content. When people leave you comments, respond, create more conversation; it makes you feel more like a friend than someone who is marketing to them. Following accounts to get more followers is a huge no for me; I consider that to be petty and self-serving and I will always unfollow accounts that do this.

For me this has also meant sharing photos when I am enjoying the services of a local business. As your following grows, you may be approached to wear a particular brand’s T-Shirt or share your experience at a restaurant. If that T-Shirt itches or their food arrives cold, they’re going to lose their trust in your opinion. Only choose to work with brands you are actually passionate about to maintain your authenticity.


There’s a quote along the lines of “Don’t be the smartest person in the room, be the stupidest because then you will have the most to learn”. While I like to think at this point I’m well versed in social media, I know there is an infinite amount of knowledge I’ve yet to learn. In the fall of last year, I started a podcast to awesome local entrepreneurs and innovators to gain their insight and advice. I’ve interviewed a yoga instructor, a butcher and a real estate agent just to name a few and have gone on to develop beneficial working relationships with many of my guests. I also reduced my Netflix intake in favour of reading and podcasts[in particular anything produced by Tim Ferris] which has not only improved my sleep quality but also improved my understanding of business techniques.


Ready to create awesome on your social media channels?