If you’re an entrepreneur, chances are you already know the value of personal branding. When people are familiar with your personal brand, they are more likely to hire you and pay more for your time. Plus, having a respected personal brand opens doors for opportunities like speaking engagements, book deals, media coverage, and more.
One of the biggest parts of building an influential personal brand is to establish yourself as an expert. Many entrepreneurs are experts in their own right, but being an expert is different from being seen as an expert. Consequently, you might be losing would-be clients to someone who isn’t actually as knowledgeable or successful but has really great personal branding. It’s unfortunate, but in an economy where time is money, prospects who haven’t worked with you before see great personal branding as the first (and quickest) indicator of trust. So today, I want to offer some suggestions on how to think about building your personal brand.
Personal Branding Basics
First off, here are some very basic things to keep in mind as you construct a brand strategy.
1. To get attention, you’ve got to get out there regularly.
This one’s pretty simple. If you get in front of people a lot of times and are reliably informative each time, you’ll be deemed reputable. Whether you’re sitting on panels, guest-lecturing in college classes, speaking at conferences, giving press interviews, or offering insights on Twitter, you’ve got to put yourself out there enough that people begin to recognize your name and what you have to offer.
2. The press doesn’t equal authority. You’re only as useful as your audience deems you to be.
Most people tend to think about personal branding as a function of being in the news cycle or speaking on as many stages as possible. Visibility and cultural relevance definitely help, but they aren’t the most important aspects of personal branding. That’s because, as counterintuitive as it may seem, personal branding shouldn’t actually be about you — it should be about your audience. After all, you don’t get to decide if you’re an authority. That’s your audience’s job. When you hear publicists talk about how important it is to be active in the media and contribute insights, most entrepreneurs think press appearances equal authority. But really, being in the press only gives an impression of authority. The right kind of press, in which you offer truly interesting ideas to an engaged audience, is what delivers genuine authority.
3. Private interactions matter as much as public relations.
Personal branding has a lot to do with your public persona, and how much an expert people perceive you to be. But it’s also about how good you are with working with clients on a daily basis, and how well you retain your business. Getting press is only one part of the overarching personal brand process.
4 Steps to Building Your Personal Brand
Keeping in mind those fundamentals, here are four actionable personal branding suggestions.
1. Maintain a solid personal website.
Though entrepreneurs typically look to PR, guest posting, and more to improve their personal brands, they often forget about one of the only digital assets they truly own: their own websites!
Sure, it can be awesome to have a feature you’ve written show up as the first link on Google when someone searches your name, but what’s even better is a link to your page with all of your press features, services, work, testimonials, and more. By having a personal site, you can turn your digital presence into more than just eye candy; you’re giving people a chance to actually work with you. Plus, if you don’t already write for a business publication, you can set up a blog right on your personal site! With tools like WordPress, you can have it ready in no time, and with the right kind of blog content and strategy, you can do a number of things:
Gain followers by communicating interesting insights.
Leverage the blog as a lead generation mechanism to get you more exposure online and close more clients.
Build credibility as a thought leader over time.
It definitely takes time to make a personal site work in your favor (especially if you’ve got a common name!), but it pays dividends over time if used correctly.
2. Twitter! Use it to interact with the press.
While it’s true that journalists and contributors receive hundreds of pitch emails from publicists and founders, they certainly take the time to read every interesting pitch. Plus, writers love working with the same folks over and over again, meaning if you suggested a great story once or connected the writer to a source she needed, then that can help you time and time again. Here’s how I would recommend starting that relationship.
First, note that you don’t have unlimited opportunities to pitch — so make everyone count. Email certainly works as a channel for pitching, but I recommend getting on Twitter and following the writers who cover your space. Often, writers put out «source requests,» which are calls to chat with people who fit the stories they’re looking to write. Assuming you’ve been interacting with their posts, this is a great way to get your story in front of writers. And even if your story isn’t a fit, asking if making an introduction to someone you know who might be a better fit can help the journalist save valuable time.
Provide value first and it’ll all come back to you when you need something.
3. Put your stories out there
Though it is important to leverage assets you truly own (like personal sites and email lists), it can often be even more helpful to leverage existing platforms with built-in audiences. One great example of that is contributing to reputable business publications or even smaller business blogs.
You might think that you have to run an exceptionally successful company to even be considered to write for these publications. That’s actually not the case. It all comes down to storytelling; if you have an interesting and value-packed story to tell, chances are, you have a shot at writing for these publications.
Your personal blog might not already have a lot of subscribers, but some of these other publications certainly do. Naturally, people who enjoy your writing will be more likely to do seek you out or hire you to help them with a topic you’ve written about.
4. Personal branding is 80 percent about how you work with clients (not marketing).
When you think about personal branding, you’re trying to spread the message that you’re trustworthy … at scale. But before you do anything at scale, you need to be able to do it well in moderation.
Too many entrepreneurs ignore their own client base in search of acquiring new customers. That’s no way to do business because, for one thing, your existing customers are an awesome source of testimonials and referrals to new clients. It’s no surprise that 80 percent of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers, according to Gartner.
Altogether, maintaining focus on customer retention will help build a strong reputation for you and your company. By doing so, you’ll be known as a credible service provider as opposed to a publicity-seeking opportunist.