There are many facets of PR and a wide variety of strategies to increase visibility for a product, service, organization, or for an individual. For those focused on building exposure for themselves as a thought leader or subject matter expert, we’ve discussed tips and tricks for contributed article strategies as well as guest blogging. But prior to building a content strategy, we always recommend clients begin with the foundation of a solid personal brand strategy.
For some folks, like Oprah, name recognition is no problem. Say the name Oprah and everyone knows her face, her voice, and can speak, at some level, to what she stands for. Oprah has of course been working for decades on her personal brand and has had the unique opportunity of a high profile career on TV. Now think of someone like Michael Hancock. In Denver, most people would (hopefully) recognize him as our Mayor. But does his name recognition carry outside of Denver to other geographic regions of Colorado? Would anyone living in Nebraska recognize him as a Mayor? Maybe, maybe not. But if one were to Google him they’d find quite a bit of information and would have a good idea of his belief system. Now think of the CEO of your favorite brand or company. Would you know that person’s name off the top of your head? If you Googled them, could you find anything more than their bio on a corporate website? Would you be able to find any links to material that would shed light on their voice or thought leadership? If not, and this is the case for many CEOs, then that individual has not curated a personal brand.
Creating a personal brand is a bit of a chicken and the egg scenario. Contributed content such as guest blogs and byline articles create high levels of visibility and ultimately can lead to more opportunities for higher-profile publications and speaking opportunities. But what if you are having trouble getting those articles accepted because, well, no one has heard of you? Then this is the time to go back to the drawing board and make sure those Google searches turn up some results. Here are a few tips to build the foundation for your personal brand.
- Define your personal brand statement. In order to develop a personal brand, the first step is to define, in clear terms, exactly who you are and what you stand for. What is your personal “why?” What is your unique point of view? What do you have to say that no one else is saying? Why should people care? Otherwise said, your personal brand statement is your unique selling proposition. Telling the world “I am a digital marketing strategist” won’t cut it. You are one of a million. What makes you the unicorn in a room full of horses?
- Create your own personal website and blog. A bio and occasional blog post on a corporate website are not enough. When people search for your name, they should be able to find an extensive library of blog posts written by you, in your voice, on areas of your specific expertise. Editors want to get a sense of your style and voice before they publish you. They want to see that you have an audience and following already. Ultimately, if they publish you, they want your followers to read their publication and increase traffic to their website.
- Establish yourself on social media networks. Social media presence is a must as it is a direct measure of your personal audience and how many people look to you and take note. If you are an interior designer, you should be on Instagram posting design inspiration, color palette ideas, and mood boards. If you are the executive director of a nonprofit, you should be on Twitter sharing information about the issue or platform which your organization addresses. If an editor is looking for you online and they can’t find your personal social media handles, you are missing a huge opportunity to share your voice and grow your personal brand.
- Look for speaking opportunities. No one is selected to be the keynote for SXSW without prior speaking experience. Start small, start local, start within your own industry. Begin building your speaker’s resume with appearances at business chamber luncheons, industry roundtables, and community groups. Record your speaking appearances, add those videos to a landing page on your personal website and provide the general public opportunities to hear your voice and message. With experience, connections, and a robust speaker’s resume, you’ll eventually start to see opportunities to get in front of larger audiences at higher caliber events.
- Write a book or personal manifesto. Perhaps the fastest way to launch a personal brand is to write a book. Do you know all there is to know about sports nutrition or baby psychology? Write a book, earn instant street cred. If authoring a book feels like a stretch, start with an online manifesto. Organize and share your in-depth thoughts, research, and expertise on a specific subject and publish your manifesto on your personal website. This publication allows those who are interested to do a deep dive with you and learn who you are, your expertise, and what makes you tick.
Remember, personal brand building is a long game. Think of Oprah, she’s been at it since the early 90s! Once you create your foundation, your personal brand growth will likely start gaining incremental traction. Perhaps you’ll see a few new Twitter followers after each blog post. Or publishing your manifesto will lead to a speaking gig. Over time, these efforts will snowball and start to gain momentum. We always encourage clients to stick with it in the early stages, even if the results seem small compared to the effort. Remember, Rome was not built in a day; it’s a marathon, not a sprint; and the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is today.