NIgel Risner Cover Art

The Three Surprising Insights That Can Help You Build Your Personal Brand with Georgia Kirke and Special Guest Nigel Risner

A personal brand requires a personal touch and although we know traditional marketing methods work, moving away from them can create surprising results.

One of the strongest personal brands I’ve ever seen is that of author, coach, motivational speaker and communications expert Nigel Risner.

He’s become renowned for his zoo keeper analogy and online quiz helping you discover your inner animal (and the ones in your home and office!) so that you can adapt your communication style to better connect and inspire the people around you.

In this article we’re going to explore three insights from Nigel that will inspire you to think differently when it comes to building your personal brand including:

  1. Passion
  2. Simplicity
  3. Less can be more 

One of the first things I wanted to know was how his zoo idea had evolved.

Nigel: “I was doing a presentation for the chamber of commerce at a zoo. I saw the zookeeper on the bank with separate buckets of food for the monkeys, the lions, the elephants and the other animals. I had one of those moments where I thought ‘because the zookeeper knows which food to feed which animal they’ll get the best performance out of them, they’ll behave better, and their wellbeing will be better.’

I started thinking about how I could translate that into communication styles. How would the leader feed the animals in their team when each person has a different way of listening and learning. To keep it simple and easy to use I boiled it down to four communication types; elephants, monkeys, lions and dolphins.”

We’ve used Nigel’s Find Your Inner Animal quiz with our team at Write Business Results.  It was fantastic to be able to learn in a fun way that naturally inspired enthusiastic conversation within the team and helped us to think about each other’s preferred communication styles and how we might interact differently to suit their animal profile.

What started out as taking some inspiration from a real life event (the zoo) has now naturally become Nigel’s brand. It’s easy to overthink your brand. Nigel shared a great insight on what needs to be at the heart of it.


Nigel: “I’m sharing my truth rather than the truth and it’s important that you do what feels right for you. You need to have something that 90 per cent of the world can use, otherwise it’s too specific.

There are way too many people out there spending so much time with brand consultants trying to get the right colour for their website and so on. I’m not saying don’t get support, but you need to trust yourself a bit more. Your brand is your DNA. You can’t aim a duck to death. You have to do something you are passionate about. 

I wrote a book about networking and it didn’t really take off because I wasn’t passionate about it. If you love your idea, put it out there and watch the response. You will get it wrong sometimes; not everything I’ve ever done is perfect. What you need to do is see whether people are going to buy something or inquire about what you’re offering. When we put the animal quiz online we didn’t even ask people to share their contact details to get their result which is probably a shock to most people.

We do ask people to let us know their communication successes following the quiz and then we have their email addresses based on them approaching us first; we know they’re then more likely to want to work with us so we offer them support and direct them to another part of our website for further details.”

It’s become the norm to enter contact details in order to get something like this, so Nigel’s approach here is highly unusual. I really wanted to know the rationale behind his choice.


Nigel: “It’s not my brand to ask for an email address straight away. We do collect the data if we work with them but this way people know I’m not going to send them unsolicited emails trying to sell them something. I’m not saying you can’t do it but it doesn’t work for me. People who do my quiz will often email me to say I’ve shared it with my team, now can we buy some books. We have sold something like 20,000 books in two and a half years.”

The average self-published business book sells about 250 copies in its life-time because people don’t know how best to market them so it’s incredible that Nigel has sold 20,000 copies! I had to find out how he had achieved this level of success.

Nigel: “Having a book that only your parents read, or that’s sat in the boot of your car, is not going to help you. Your book is your business card. You need to be proud to give away copies of your book. I wanted to go one step further and have my book at dinner parties where people could have fun playing the game. We kept it light.

I wanted it to be simple so that if I sat next to someone on a plane I could offer them the book and they’d be able to start reading straight away and within 10 minutes be chatting to me about which animal they are and what they think their partner or colleague is. I want them to have insights about why they communicate with each other the way they do and how it would be better if they praised or acknowledged each other differently. It’s important.”

Nigel’s way of interacting directly with people, building a following and having them contact him first is really intriguing. Traditional methods teach us to nurture our leads and build email lists. I wondered if  Nigel always gave away his books for free.

Less is more

Nigel: “I’m going to share a secret. When I’m asked to speak at an event for 200 people I will offer 31 free books as part of the package. We are hoping that they will think about the other 169 people and buy books for them. We’ll offer a special deal if we can bring the books to the event on the day.

What we’re trying to do is not so much build a relationship with our clients but build a partnership where they want to share your core message. At least 10 of my clients have formed partnerships with me where I have a key fob to enter their office, and some of them have animal murals on the walls or above desks, on their screensavers. I’ve been to conferences where their whole theme is based on the jungle [Nigel’s zoo analogy].”

Nigel’s ability to make other people want to adopt his brand as their brand is incredibly powerful. If you’d love to know more about how I can help you build and nurture your personal brand head to our website, or email me at

To hear the full conversation with Nigel and myself tune into my weekly podcast Interviews With Experts.

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