Ethical Marketing

Ethical Marketing and Personal Branding: Strategies for Success and Integrity

Ethical Marketing
Written by: Sophie Kessner
The Sophie Kessner Podcast
The Sophie Kessner Podcast
Ethical Marketing and Personal Branding: Strategies for Success and Integrity
Hello, hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Sophie Kessner podcast. I am your Sophie, i am your host. You can call me Sophie. I’m very excited to be diving into today’s episode. So what we’re going to be talking about today is the conversation of marketing. This is an interesting topic for a lot of reasons, but the biggest thing that I really want to unpack and explore is just getting curious about marketing and how to approach marketing from an ethical lens and what does an ethical marketing even mean? And so stick around if you’re curious about this. I’ll again preface by saying that there’s no hard right wrong answers here. This is me exploring this topic from my perspective, in my opinion, and by no means is that saying that this is the absolute truth or the only truth. We don’t do dogma here. So, that being said, i want to provide a little bit of background in insight into where my perspectives are coming from.
I have been in the online space since 2015 and I’ve spent a lot of time in a lot of big companies, working both on the front end and on the back end, doing sales calls, doing the marketing for those programs and for others, mentors and also coaching and working directly with the students And even, at some points, developing the curriculum for those programs and students, and we’re talking about companies that were doing seven figures or multi seven figures. On top of that, i’ve had a lot of my own success with my personal brand. We’ve had plenty of programs that we’ve launched in the course of the last five plus years since I started my brand back in 2018. And I have been creating tons and tons of sales pages and writing copy for other folks over the last few years, including copy for myself. So I know to a thing when it comes to writing copy and to creating content on social media. My professional background wise, i studied psychology in college and ended up dropping out my senior year of my bachelor’s degree to go full time in the entrepreneurial world because things were going so well at that point. So writing has always just been something that’s come natural to me, and I think that’s important to also hint at here. I’ve always had a knack for writing and for creating content, and not necessarily for the purpose of creating it, but for just the purpose of personal expression and emotional processing. So when we’re talking about marketing in the online space, the first thing that I want to look at here is what are the common things that are taught in the industry, and these are things, again, that that I have taught, that mentors have taught, that we have preached all about and around in the years that we’ve ran programs, and there’s typically a few pieces, a few core pieces of content that you’ll learn about, which have varying ways of being expressed in today’s internet world.
The first one is going to be content that is educational. Now, this podcast is a perfect example of that. We’re providing information and insight on topics and questions that we are aware our audience might have. Educational content, in whatever niche you’re in, would likely be very similar.
The next set of content that you’ll oftentimes hear or see is content that is personal content. That’s either telling a personal story, sharing something vulnerable, being somewhat emotional, or something that has to do with you. It’s an emotionally charged piece, right, there’s a sense of connecting to your personal story and your personal life. You can also know this as content that’s behind the scenes. Right, you’re sharing a little bit more about who you are behind the camera when the lights are off. Alternatively, this could also be seen as content where you’re just, in a way, like blogging or just sharing your backstory. So that’s the second type, and then the third type is content that tends to be more polarizing, and this is an interesting one because it’s the intentional act of trying to create opposition with certain standpoints that you have, in whatever niche or industry you’re in. What does that look like? That looks like saying, hey, i actually don’t believe this, or I think this is bananas, or I think that’s baloney, and looking for it to create friction with different folks in your audience. Why? Because it boosts engagement. Now, it’s interesting when we look at this. I think polarizing content tends to be a lot more popular, interestingly enough, on platforms like Facebook, because that platform tends to be a lot more about people sharing their opinions, whereas Instagram tends to be a lot more around folks either providing information and a lot of inspiration with their personal lives.
Now, the other piece of content that has become very, very popular over the last few years, especially with the release of TikTok, has been entertaining content, content that’s purely for the purpose of fun, of making people laugh, of making fun of things. So you can look at this like entertainment being the most satiety. You can look at it as being just general funny content that has nothing to do with anything, or you could look at it as being content that is taking an educational twist and making it funny. Now, there’s obviously a lot of overlap in this. There’s not going to be a hard fast rule with the type of content that you’re creating, but what’s interesting, when we start to get in the conversation of marketing for your program or your services or what you’re creating with your business, is, depending on the type of business that you’re building, the type of content you use will be drastically different.
So the piece that I want to tackle to start with is the conversation of personal brands. Now, again, i have been a personal brand for the last gosh, going on six years. Now six, seven years. I’ve worked with a lot of other brands that have been personal brands, and also those that are not personal brands, so no one know a lot about this, and one of the things that’s really prominent when we’re talking about personal brands who are selling products or services is a lot of leveraging of personal lifestyle, inspiration, emotion, experiences, et cetera. It’s basically taking who you are and leveraging what you do and how you’ve experienced the world and then commodifying that.
Now, it’s not inherently bad or wrong, and I want to emphasize that again, i don’t think that having a personal brand is not something that you should never do. I think that if you are a personal brand, there is an important piece to be aware of in how you go about teaching, marketing and selling. So the first thing that we want to be really present to is what are you actually selling? Because if you’re selling a product or a service, the most important part is that your product or service actually works, that it actually delivers results and that you are credentialed in whatever way whether that’s certified or whether that’s trained or whether that’s academically accredited If you do what it is that you’re saying you’re going to do, and that your clients do get results, and that you take responsibility for the experience that your clients have.
So I emphasize this because a lot of the times, you’ll see a lot of lifestyle bloggers or mommy bloggers and things like this, who are personal brands and they’re just sharing their life And all they’re really doing is just sharing affiliate programs and products that they enjoy and that they use, which is great. They use the products, they share it. The product delivers the service, but they’re not the person delivering the product per se. Right, it could be like a new type of body wash or a spray tan or a baby thing that they have a link for and because they have volume, they’re able to generate a lot of money. Now, this is a very different conversation than somebody who’s presenting as a trauma-informed coach to heal your sexual trauma and is portraying this life that you’re living on the beach and you’re so glamorous and you’re having all of these pieces and there tends to be a lot of very sexually oriented content.
And again, not that are wrong, but we want to look at where things can start to get into a very interesting murky gray area when we’re leveraging our personal lifestyle and our personal experience to then sell a service that’s promising a result to a type of client. So how does it start to get tricky? It gets tricky when one there’s not a clear outcome for what the product or service is actually delivering. It gets tricky when we’re selling this idea based off of solely emotional bias how you’re going to feel in the experience without providing more measurable outcomes. And the question that would normally come up here is well, how do you do that when you have something that is more intangible? And the answer to that is you look at what you’re measuring inside of how their life is changing because of the work that you’re doing.
So when we’re talking about this, the borderline of things becoming potentially dangerous is when we are bringing folks in and we’re not actually providing insider information about what it is that they’re buying into. It tends to be very vague, it tends to be very grandiose and very unclear, and this is a really big and popular thing in certain communities in the online space, where you promise this very the word that often comes to mind is like mysterious piece, and it feels like it’s this on the edge very exciting, life changing. You’re never going to be the same, you just have to feel it type of thing. And so folks are alert by it, right, they’re feeling a sense of arousal to it, and not in a sexual way, but in a sense of there’s activation in their system, if they’re feeling some sense of connection to it and there’s a sense of curiosity to what the content is alluding to, especially if it’s content that’s alluding to changing your life and healing all of these things. And so then folks will tend to make big decisions financially with very, very little information.
So then the question becomes OK, well, what happens if those folks who decided to buy something with very little insider information and then realize that it’s not actually what they need or what they want. Is it on the fault of the business owner for not providing information on it, or is it on the fault of the client who purchased it without the information? And my answer to that would be two part One I do think that both parties are semi-responsible, because there is an important component of what is the person actually promising and selling, and is there actual false advertising inside of the promise of whatever the product or service being sold was or is? Now again, the more that you start to get into really intangible spaces, there tends to be a desire to go really grandiose and really really. I’ll give you an example here You’re promising to become the most potent and powerful, magnetic version of yourself possible. Now, that’s a really big thing to promise, and what does that actually mean and how do you measure that And how do you actually track the success of that with your students and your program or in your services?
So I think one of the things that we have to really be aware of as business owners, as people who are selling services or products that are not necessarily just a self-tanner, that you’re going in, you’re putting on, you’re saying, look it actually works. Or like makeup products, where it’s like, look it works, it’s one of your favorite things that you use with your kiddos. When you’re selling a service and you’re promising a result, you’re saying this is going to help you do X, y, z or this is going to help you do A, b, c. We have to start to become more conservative and more brilliant and more realistic about what it is we’re actually delivering and what it is that we can actually deliver on. And what I mean when I say that is, instead of promising the world and the moon and having it being so vague and saying you’re going to change your life, it’s going to be so transformative, you’re going to heal all your money, bones, yada, yada, yada, you start to get into more of the actual practicalities of what it is that you’re teaching and what it is you’re going to be doing. And then you can educate around how those practical components are going to be supportive or how the potential to be supportive are impactful when they are implemented.
So the shift in this would be something along the lines of let’s take the sexual program, for instance. So let’s say you are somebody who has been trained in certain practices that have to do around sexuality and your sexual energy and things of this sort. How do you take something like that and market it from an ethical perspective that really supports the client and making an informed decision, where they have all of the information that they need to know whether or not this is going to be something that’s good for them? The first thing that we want to look at is does the client actually know what they’re going to be getting? Is there a clear description around what the deliverables actually are? The bare minimum is what comes with the program They get access to. What. What things are we for sure going to be measuring to say, ok, yes, the business delivered on X amount of calls, they delivered on X amount of support. So being very, very clear on what those things are, but also around the boundaries with them.
The second part of this is what’s actually being taught. What’s the philosophy or the methodology or the deliverables when it comes to the content, if it’s a type of educational-based program that are going to be delivered And not something that’s, again, very, very vague, but being a lot more clear and specific So an example of this would be something like mirror work is one of the main practices that we’ll be using, and part of this mirror work is to help you develop a better relationship with your body and start to work through pieces and parts of your own self image by working with the mirror, by looking at yourself in the mirror and looking at how you can start to shift the way that you see yourself through this daily practice, which will help you to feel a better sense of confidence within yourself over time. That is a lot more clear than saying this is going to be the most magnetic and powerful person you’ll ever be and you’ll have access to infinite energy or whatever it is. So it’s breaking down and it’s getting more clear and specific about the practicalities of what we’re teaching and doing And we can say, ok, great. Did the business deliver on the practice for the mirror work? Yes, they did. Great. Did the student implement the practice? No, they didn’t, or maybe they did a few times. So then you actually have something that you can tangibly measure up against to see the real progress and the real growth of what something’s doing.
So if you are on the business side of this, it’s really looking at what you’re marketing and what you’re selling and how are you actually clearly communicating but also creating your products and services? Because you do have an ethical responsibility to be clear about what it is that you are selling and what it is that you are having people pay for and what they’re getting involved in From the consumer perspective. It’s important not to just jump into things without having the information that you need to know that it’s going to be the right place for you. Now, an important piece for folks to bring into the conversation, especially when you’re selling any type of transformational services, is knowing what your boundaries are, what is in and what is outside of your scope of practice. What can you support with and where do you draw the line and saying, hey, i would love to be able to help you, but also, this is not within my scope, this is not within my field. I would need to refer you out or I would recommend working with this person first before coming and doing this work with me.
And this is where we start to get in the conversation of doing what’s in the best interest of the client, not what’s in the best interest of the business. Now, ironically, when you do do what’s in the best interest of the client, it is also what is in the best interest of the business. But if you solely do what is in the best interest of the business, which is always just going to be the money generation rate, then it may not always be in the best interest of the client Right. The idea of making sales and generating revenue is always, of course, is that’s the main goal of a business, but if a product or service is not necessarily going to be the best thing for somebody in this moment because they need to do other types of emotional work or whatever it is, then being clear about that and helping that person get the real support that they need is going to be absolutely crucial for them in their growth process. And so how do you discern that And how do you communicate that in your content?
Well, number one, you have to get clear about what your boundaries actually are, about what it is that you work with and what it is that you just aren’t trained for. And I think there can be a lot of shame around this conversation of feeling like we need to be able to be trained or like we need to be able to handle all And I’ll say this in a very loving way with it with the trend around being trauma-informed in the online space. Being trauma-informed does not mean that you can train, that you can work with people’s trauma and that you can help them heal their trauma. Being trauma-informed means you’re aware enough of what trauma signs might look like when there’s activation in the system and support somebody in down regulating and are up regulating to get back to a space of regulation and presence so that they can then go and do that work with a trained professional. So understanding again, like what are your scopes of practice? How are you actually making sure that people are in the right place for you and clarifying that within your content, within the way that you talk about what you do and the way that you present the information? Now, there’s a few ways that you can do this One.
You can have a really clear piece that indicates like this space is for doing this specific kind of work. Folks who have more severe symptoms of depression or bipolar disorder or other things are recommended to either work first with another professional whose license are trained, or to work in tandem with the licensed professional under supervision, so that they can get the most out of this, because this program does not have the training equipped to support in that level of depth, and I think this is where a lot of folks you know there’s there’s some fear around this because it’s like, well, if I start to get really, really specific about what I can and can’t do, then are less people going to be willing to buy? And the answer that is absolutely not. You’ll have the opposite effect, because people will feel a lot more clear about what it is that you’re doing, and clarity creates a sense of certainty. It creates a sense of trust. So the more clear that you can be about your boundaries, of what it is that you do and who it is that you work with and how it is that you do the work, then you’re providing opportunity for folks to feel a lot more certain and clear about what it is that they’re investing in. So a lot of the pieces I’m hitting on here are pieces that you would be wanting to address inside of the actual sales page if you have one for your program or service, and I think the biggest difference here is, you’ll notice it’s a lot of information that’s irrelevant to somebody making a big financial decision. Verse is something that’s just about taking them on a emotional journey of feeling like this is going to be the thing that’s going to change them and having them feeling into grandiose ideas and thoughts which might not actually be supportive, right? So how do we start to shift this in your content and your social media marketing? if you are somebody who is on social media Going back to pillars and pieces of content, right, you’ve got the educational component.
We’ve got personal pieces, whether that’s inspirational or emotional, vulnerable or behind the scenes, and then we’ve got entertainment In your content. You really want to be leaning heavy on educational content. Now, your educational content doesn’t have to be stale And I think this is the thing that a lot of folks have some interesting pieces with is. You can be an incredibly what is the word? gregarious type of person. You can have a lot of personality, you can share from a very unique voice and tone and still be somebody who is sharing really valuable and palpable information. There are plenty of folks who are incredible educators but who educate through comedy. They use comedy as the medium right entertaining content to educate their audience on important matters that are relevant to what it is that they teach and what it is that they do.
So I think the first thing here is to recognize that if you are somebody who is wanting to sell a service or a certain type of product that you’ve created, leaning more heavily on the educational component because you are essentially building an educational type of business and it’s a transformational type of business A personal brand that is selling coaching services, should be presenting more so about the coaching process, the method, the approach, the beliefs, the philosophies, the pieces in which you’ll be navigating throughout the experience, versus only sharing about you and the abundance of your life, because, again, though those pieces might have some impact, it shouldn’t be the thing that people are buying into, because what people are buying into is not being you, it’s investing in the services of working with you. And so there’s an interesting line here where we wanna be clear about what we’re selling versus who we are, and who you are as an individual might be this really incredible person, and absolutely you can share these things, but you’re not sharing these things through the lens of trying to sell through what you share, and this is something that I find to be really, really, really important in the conversation of marketing and how we can start to lean more towards creating safe marketing that feels good for both the consumer and for the business. One of the really interesting pieces over the years had been this piece of leveraging vulnerability and taking something really personal and using that to sell. And what’s interesting about that is you take people on an emotional journey and you talk to them about your transformation and what you just did and how you’re moving through that, with no real relevance about what they’re actually going to be learning or doing or understanding with you, but that’s the passion behind what it is that you’re doing now, and then inviting them to purchase this thing, and so folks are coming on an emotional roller coaster and saying, okay, yes, this is the thing that I wanna buy, this is the thing that I need, because I wanna be able to do that too, or I resonate with this story.
So the alternative way to approach a conversation like that would be more so around the lines of, yes, sharing something personal and vulnerable if you want to, yes, absolutely, and you don’t need to be selling on the back end of it every single time. Then I think this is where it can be tricky when you are a personal brand, because it can feel like you have to commodify everything inside of your life, but the reality is you don’t. So the first piece, when we’re talking about ethical marketing and we’re talking about how you show up online, is being clear about what it is you’re selling. What it is you’re selling and how you want to be presenting that and what it is that you’re building for the long term. Are you trying to be in a type of personal lifestyle blogging influencer who’s making money off of the products that they use? Great, again, i’m not knocking it. I think it works really well for some folks.
Are you trying to be a content creator who just gets paid for views And so you wanna create a ton of funny content and entertaining content that has a ton of people wanting to work with you or not work with you, sorry wanting to just watch and binge whatever you have to share because it helps them feel better? Are you somebody who is wanting to be educational and impactful, in the sense of creating information that provides opportunity for folks to make changes in their life, or is it a bit of a hybrid? And, if so, which one is the one that you’re primarily leaning on? What’s the actual business model? Because if you don’t know the business model, it’s easy to get lost inside of the chaos that is the online marketing world. So I hope that this episode has been helpful for you to start to discern and tease apart a little bit of the discrepancies when it comes to marketing and when it comes to how you wanna present online. And hopefully, for those of you who are wanting to lean more towards providing educational value, you’re starting to see how you can do that in a way that’s less about who you are and all of the things in your personal life And instead it’s more about what it is that you’re providing that’s creating real change and real impact for the folks that you’re working with.
So thank you so much for tuning into today’s episode. If you enjoyed this, please leave a review. It means the absolute world to me and it makes such a big difference. So, if you can, we would appreciate that. If you know somebody who would love to hear this, share it out with them. And if you are enjoying this on social, feel free to tag me at imsofiKessner And I will see you all on the next episode.


Ever wondered what it takes to navigate the world of ethical marketing? Join me as we traverse this fascinating landscape and discuss the four key components to creating content that not only sells, but also leaves a positive impact. Drawing from my own experiences since 2015, we’ll explore the nuances of educational content, personal content, polarizing content, and entertaining content, and how these can vary depending on your unique business.

But that’s not all, folks! We’re also diving into the world of personal branding and the delicate balance of selling products and services without compromising your integrity. We’ll discuss the importance of ensuring that your product or service actually works, as well as the potential dangers of leveraging personal lifestyles to sell a service that promises a result to a client. So, strap in and get ready for an eye-opening journey into ethical marketing strategies, personal brand marketing, and the power of education in marketing.

Chapters & Key Points

Exploring Ethical Marketing Strategies (6 Minutes)

Today, we explore marketing from an ethical lens and what it means to approach marketing ethically. Drawing from my own experiences since 2015 in the online space, I provide a background to my perspectives and share the core pieces of content taught in the industry. These include educational content, personal content, polarizing content, and entertaining content. We discuss the nuances of each type of content and how the type of content used will vary depending on the type of business you’re building. Tune in to gain insight into marketing from an ethical lens.

Ethical Personal Brand Marketing and Sales (14 Minutes)

We into the nuances of personal branding and selling products and services that you are not necessarily delivering yourself. We discuss the importance of making sure your product or service actually works and that you are credentialed in whatever way. We also explore the potential dangers of leveraging personal lifestyles to sell a service that promises a result to a client. We touch on the need to measure tangible outcomes and the potential consequences when someone makes a decision to purchase something without having all the information.

Education in Marketing (6 Minutes)

Today, we explore the different types of content and the importance of educational content when it comes to marketing. We discuss how you can be an entertaining educator and how to use comedy as a medium to share valuable information. We also look at how to differentiate what you’re selling from who you are, and how to create ethical marketing that feels good for both the consumer and the business. Finally, we examine how to share something personal and vulnerable without commodifying your life, and how to be clear about the business model when approaching the online marketing world.

Episode Keywords

Ethical Marketing, Personal Branding, Content Types, Educational Content, Personal Content, Polarizing Content, Entertaining Content, Selling Products, Services, Credentialing, Tangible Outcomes, Measuring Results, Leveraging Lifestyles, Differentiating Selling, Ethical Marketing, Entertaining Educator, Comedy, Vulnerable Content, Business Model, Online Marketing

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Meet The Host

Hey I’m Soph! I’m a mama and online digital marketer who’s been in the game since 2015. I LOVE building businesses that support creating real time freedom which is why I choose to specialize in email marketing, blogging and podcasting and teach others to do the same.

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I'm Sophie Kessner
Ethical Marketing

First generation Mexican American mama that’s gone from hood to strategic hustle. I’ve spent the last 10+ years inside the personal development space supporting 100’s of coaches in scaling 6 figure businesses online & supported 4 different companies in surpassing the 7 figure mark. Today, I focus on making scaling more sustainable by integrating the lenses of business, systems, automation and CEO Development through an Equity centered and Trauma informed lens.

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Sophie is the founder of The Sacred CEO™ Agency and has been in the service based coaching industry since 2015. She’s created and scaled 4 different multi 6 figure coaching programs including their latest course, The Online Business Automator.

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