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Soph Reads Stuff – Platform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding 

Written by: Sophie Colclough | Feb 3, 2023

Hello and welcome to our first ever book review! 

I’m Soph, Search Stack’s resident copywriter, and I read things. Since starting here I’ve been working on building my personal brand, so the big boss bought me a copy of Cynthia Johnson’s Platform to read over the Christmas break. Without giving too much away, I’m going to tell you why I loved it and why you will too. 

Personal branding often feels like the realm of influencers and innovative geniuses, but this book makes it feel accessible to anyone. Platform is an in-depth, anecdotal guide to building your brand online, which takes you from the basics of curating your online presence to building an engaged community through effective networking. Packed with entertaining case studies, engaging copy (like a section called “A Three-Way With A Robot”) and witty anecdotes, this book is helpful and hilarious. 

Platform follows Johnson’s journey, from her origins as The Social Media Girl to her status as a respected authority on personal branding. One of the pervasive themes of the book is learning to control your perception, whether that’s by exclusively sharing work-related content on your social media channels or scrubbing those unfortunate tweets you posted in 2008 from the internet. Johnson’s case for taking control of your personal brand stems from the fact that everybody has one, whether it’s been intentionally created or not. Being in charge of which information and images get shared allows you to curate your presence in a positive way, and opens you up to new opportunities. 

The idea of authenticity isn’t unique to personal branding, but Johnson articulates it in a thought-provoking way. Her introduction has a ‘will the real experts please stand up?’ feel, which illustrates why responsibility is important while building a brand. She talks about being offered opportunities that weren’t relevant to her expertise, purely because of her sizable following. Through this experience, Johnson highlights the impact of picking the right platform, whether that’s the social media channels that you post on or the brands that you choose to promote on them. Everything you create should align with your personal values and branding, as well as genuine expertise. 

The use of personal anecdotes as case studies gives Platform a personal and engaging feel. Johnson weaves in psychological theories such as the prisoner’s dilemma to deepen your understanding of why certain strategies work, all supported through her own experiences. Her stories weave humanity and personality into the text, making it an avidly consumable book that somehow gets you to root for the LA Dodgers and think a little better of Elon Musk. 

Platform is a perfect blend of knowledge of humour that communicates Johnson’s own brand, giving it a form of credibility that is unique to its subject area. Not only does the book provide useful how-tos and handy strategies, it consistently demonstrates the benefits of using them. It’s an ideal starting point for anyone interested in building their personal brand. 

One draw-back is that Platform was published in 2019, so social media platforms have already moved on from some of the algorithms that Johnson wrote about. Despite that, the overarching themes are still as relevant today as they were four years ago. Our social media platforms still act as third parties to our interactions, and connecting with real people remains the best way to grow your networks. Publishing texts based on social media is always going to limit their applicability in some ways, but Johnson’s work has enough timeless advice that it remains a valuable resource in this rapidly changing space. 

Platform is a helpful reminder to combat our impostor syndrome and publicise our success. As Johnson says, “We can’t assume that our work is so good that it will stand out in the crowd and be discovered by people who may not understand what we do.” Sharing your experiences will build your reputation online and open new opportunities to do what you love, which is ultimately the goal of a personal brand. 

Johnson’s perspective is one of success, which some could read as privilege. She does, however, consistently acknowledge the huge amount of work that went into her own personal brand, and isn’t shy about telling the readers how much effort would have to go into emulating it. My only conclusion is that Platform is a well-crafted, thoughtful and useful text. 

Cynthia Johnson’s engaging prose and illustrative anecdotes make for a great read. Platform is one of those brilliant books where reading it doesn’t feel like work, because each piece of information is deftly woven into a wider narrative that you can genuinely buy into. It’s a great pick for anyone who is interested in personal branding, and even those who aren’t. As Johnson says, “Having a personal brand is inescapable.” 

Rating: 💜💜💜💜💜


This is a great book. It’s an easy read that’s full of fun anecdotes, lots of useful information and cool case studies. If you want to know more about personal branding, Platform is the book for you. 

Want to chat about books? Find me on LinkedIn –> Sophie Colclough 🥰