For a budding entrepreneur or a small business owner, it’s essential to create a personal brand that will help your business to truly bloom.
Jeff Bezos sums it up nicely with this quote. We want people to speak highly of us, to include what we want to be known for. Creating a strong personal brand can help you elevate your message, strengthen your organization, broaden your network, become the status quo, and unveil new clients, customers, partners, and avenues for monetization.
When you think about branding, consider Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, and Dolly Parton.
Oprah is a daughter and a sister and a best friend, but she’s also a brand of her own–when someone mentions Oprah, you immediately know exactly who they’re talking about and you know what she’s about. It didn’t just happen by accident.
Richard Branson is a brand in how he operates, how he runs his businesses, how he lends his perspective to the unique world of entrepreneurship, and how he gives back to the community.
The iconic Dolly Parton is another example. Not only is she known for her music, but her larger-than-life personality, sense of humor, and squeaky-clean persona carry through to everything she’s associated with from her Dollywood theme park to her new line of perfumes.
While these three people are very different, what they have in common is a unique and differentiated brand, which aligns against the focal point of what of they’re so passionate about.
They’re everywhere–you can see Oprah’s face on TV and videos, on magazine covers, on apps, on home decor items, and so on. Richard Branson has become known as the face of entrepreneurship as it relates to big business and doing things that most people are afraid to do, especially within the airline industry.
Dolly has a massive following with fans outside of the country music world, showing up on talk shows and in prime time TV cameos as herself. She’s not only known for her style, personality, and wit, but also for her dedication to philanthropy.
People look to these individuals for information and advice, and that’s because they have a very strong, influential, and respectable brand. They’re reputable, dependable, and sought after because they’re viewed as subject matter experts in their fields.
So let’s jump in–how do you physically build your brand as an entrepreneur or as an individual? There are three big factors to consider: image, audience, and action.
Image, in this case, doesn’t mean what you see in when you look in the mirror, but rather your persona.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What messages do you want to convey?
- What do you want people to know you for?
- How do you want others to view you?
- What tone, personality, and persona do you want to be identified with?
- What are you looking to get out of your personal brand?
- What are the drivers behind your brand?
At Flourish, we’re professional, but we’re also not afraid to show our fun side. We’re happy with that, and that’s the way we want our brand to be felt and received in the community. It allows us to be more approachable, and we come off as more agile and flexible in the way that we do things.
We don’t have the mindset of a corporate, stuffy, process-driven company (don’t worry – great processes do exist!). It might work in a lot of places, but it’s not who we are as a company. That all boils down to our brand and the thought that we put into it. When someone gets an email from a member of the team, sees the company logo in the community or gets a notification about a company-sponsored workshop, what will they automatically think about and what can they expect?
Ask yourself what your end game is with your own personal brand. Whether you’re a writer trying to get on the New York Times bestseller list or a car dealership trying to reach a certain sales goal for the year, consider how your brand will help you to ultimately achieve those goals.
What are the drivers behind your brand? Why do you do what you do, and why should people care about what you’re doing? It can’t reside around financial gain, but rather something much bigger.
Knowing your audience is critical! Things to ask yourself:
- Who is your target audience?
- What are their pain points/challenges?
- What matters to them most?
- Where do they go to get information?
- What social platforms do they reside on?
- How do they like to communicate?
- Are they willing to pay for your expertise?
Let’s take another look at Oprah. If you went to one of her show tapings back in the day, you would have entered the studio with the expectation that you’d go home with something amazing. That was purely intentional: that expectation was there because she was very purposeful about communicating it.
That’s something to keep in mind with your own audience. If you’re in any kind of business, you have an audience that you serve. Therefore, you need to think about who that target audience is, what their pain points and challenges are, and what matters to them most.
If we’re going to communicate that we have really unique and innovative marketing tactics at Flourish that will help drive sales and revenue, we need to understand who that message is actually going to matter to and how we can deliver that message appropriately.
If we sit down with a company CEO with a presentation about Google analytics and conversion rates for the past month, they might not understand what that means. But if we go into that same conversation with a mindful discussion of the CEO’s strategic vision, their growth goals for the company, major milestones on the company’s radar, and some of the challenges the company overcame to make it what it is today, it’ll be a much smoother conversation because the message is personally meaningful and mutually beneficial to both parties.
In short, you really have to make sure that you understand who your audience is before you put equity into promoting your personal brand.
Something else to keep in mind: where does your audience consume their information?
If we’re trying to get our message across to business and leaders about how they can grow their business using strategic marketing, we’re not going to find them scrolling through TikTok after midnight.
While you might personally enjoy spending hours on TikTok or Facebook, your core audience may primarily be on LinkedIn or at industry-specific networking events. It’s essential to figure out where your audience actually consumes their information. It’s also important to tailor that information to those specific platforms–how a business communicates on TikTok should be very different from how it communicates on LinkedIn or Facebook. How does your audience like to communicate?
Another factor to keep in mind is whether your audience is actually willing to pay for your expertise.
Don’t go into an engagement with a prospective client talking about cost. Instead, focus on the value added and the skills and solutions you’re able to bring to that particular business. Maintaining mindfulness of that when you’re actually communicating with that audience is key.
The final step of the process is action. It’s time to roll up your public relations sleeves! Some things to consider:
- Develop content that resonates
- Develop a media pitch
- Create a press kit
- Research relevant organizations that are aligned with your message/goal and pitch yourself as a subject matter expert
- Be consistent
- Engage, engage, engage
- Don’t sell–educate!
It’s important to develop the actual plan that will allow you to get in front of the right audience. When you think about action, you need to develop content that really resonates.
A lot of people don’t take advantage of the fact that they have something great to talk about! If you can offer a unique perspective that others can’t, there’s great value that, when provided effectively, can be very powerful. Offering your insight – when not done in a sales-focused way – can strengthen your repuation while positioning yourself as a subject matter expert.. Focusing on public relations and engaging relevant media/influencers are great ways to get the word out and let you communicate your brand and what you represent.
Whether you’re a financial planner or a software developer, you have something really unique to offer. Putting some structure around that and promoting it to the right audience that can help tell that story is key. This is where researching relevant organizations aligned with your message or goal comes into play. It wouldn’t make sense for us, as a marketing organization, to be at a Python users’ conference when we’re talking about promoting marketing, but it makes a lot of sense for us to be at the public relations council luncheon or at a Chamber networking event.
Also, be consistent with your messaging! Regular emails and social media posts, as well as frequent engagement with individuals ensure that you remain visible and to maintain a top-of-mind relationship with your audience.
When sending out communications, it’s important to remember rule #1 of content strategy: don’t sell.
Instead of selling, educate. Four out of five posts or pieces of content should be focused around adding value and information, not the actual selling. It’s a good rule of thumb that 80% of everything you do should not be about you. It should be about your customer or your perspective customer.
Now that you’ve figured out your image, audience, and action, here are some tips to make sure that you can actually get your message out:
Set yourself up for success
- Make sure you’re on social media and people can find you. Does this mean you have to be on every social media platform to promote your brand? Absolutely not! Determine where your audience is, where they spend the most time, and where you can achieve the highest quality engagements.
- Consider where your audience expects you to be. If they expect you to be a member of your local chamber of commerce because you’re doing business in the local community, then you should be there. If it’s standard practice for your organization to be a member of the Better Business Bureau, you should be a part of that too.
- Your email signature can be a great way to promote your brand and draw attention to your value offering or even things like recent promotions, events, or contract wins. Your signature doesn’t need to be long or overly dynamic, but if you email people regularly, take advantage of the signature space to link to your website/bio or include recent news. You can even include a Calendly link to allow recipients to schedule meetings with you.
- Make sure that you’re easy to contact (and easy to remember) by creating and sharing a mobile contact card. Instead of just your name and number, why not also include your professional headshot, company logo, LinkedIn profile URL, address, etc. An added benefit: when they share your info with others, they’ll have more than just a name and number–they’ll have a contact card fully branded with information that you control and that points people back to the level of expertise that you’re trying to create.
Simple things such as these don’t cost you anything and take very little effort, but they can make a big impact in the overarching approach to building your brand.
Another important resource to keep in mind: the media. Whether your efforts are hyperlocal, regional, national, or international, you need to become comfortable with engaging them. You want them to call you when they need a quote, contribution, or unique perspective to your industry.
Regardless of an actual pitch you may have, it’s important to nurture the relationship often and always lead with what they are interested in, and how you can help them versus them help you. If you’re a business owner just starting out, build a relationship with local news outlets so they know who you are and what value you can provide them. If you identify yourself as a subject matter expert (SME) in a particular area (with credibility to back it up, of course), they’ll be more likely to come to you for relevant quotes.
A caveat: when you establish that relationship, it’s important that you have validation to back up your level of expertise. Anyone can say they’re an expert, but evidence in the form of public presentations, awards, publications, and so on can go a long way in legitimizing your claim of expertise and getting your business and brand out there.
As briefly mentioned above, as an SME it’s important to align yourself with organizations that match your area of expertise. If you want to be the go-to person for insurance in your community, for instance, you need to talk about that consistently and give that information out for free wherever possible – publish an e-book and get it out on social media or throw your name in the hat to speak at different events. Reach out to the local Chamber of Commerce and get on their programming calendar to host a workshop on unique topics that will resonate with the local community.
Another important note: when you’re reaching out to media, don’t BCC 2,000 reporters and journalists at the same time. It’s obvious and they’ll be much more likely to delete your email without even reading it (unless the spam filter gets to it first!).
So how do you master the media pitch? Here are some quick tips for you:
- Start with the lead. This is your news peg of why your story is newsworthy.
- Follow with your call to action. This is what you want your target journalist/outlet to do–write a product review, conduct an interview, or mention your company in an industry story or interview for article inclusion.
- Define your value proposition. This is the section that focuses on the WHY. Why should they care? Why are YOU the one they should care about? Why should their readers/followers care about what you have to say? Remember, nobody will care until you make them realize why it matters.
- Conclude your outreach with a big thanks and recap your call to action. Also, include links to any relevant articles or content you’ve published, relevant awards, recent press coverage, or an online press kit.
The journalism world is always changing, so how do you engage the media? Think about articles you’ve read on Buzzfeed, for example, such as ‘21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity’ or ‘32 Extremely Specific Things Every Single Millenial Hasn’t Thought About in YEARS.’ Random topics like these are intriguing to people and really pique their interest.
Topics that resonate personally are engaging and add a special touch to your pitch that can draw your reader in and bring them back to the why and who you are. A few topics to consider:
- The biggest lesson you learned in the past year
- The question you wished you’d asked but didn’t
- Your favorite productivity tip(s)
- The assumptions people make about you
- What made you change your mind about something
- Your favorite quote–what is it, and why it’s meaningful to you
Tying these topics back to what resonates with your business opens up an opportunity for people to engage with you on a deeper level.
Creating a strong brand can be challenging. While it may seem overwhelming, there are a lot of different tools that can help you achieve your goals more easily, whether it’s customized bulk email or creating an attractive website. The important thing to remember is to make your messaging specific and tailored to the audience that you’re going after.
In short, your brand is how others will identify with you on both a personal and a professional basis. Creating a strong, memorable brand – and promoting it- provides another means for your business to grow and thrive. A little effort up front can make a huge difference and allow you to better position your business for success down the road.