Many entrepreneurs and business owners focus exclusively on building their business brands. If you look closely at their business branding and marketing, it’s pitch perfect. The look and feel has been carefully coordinated. The messaging refined until it’s within an inch of its ideal customer profile. Platforms are chosen with the utmost care. Google Alerts conscientiously monitor every company mention.
But when you take a closer look at what’s being done to help the leaders of the business manage their personal brands… silence. It’s a common mistake, but there are many reasons, both personal and professional, that business leaders need to incorporate their own personal brands into their company’s broader branding and content marketing efforts. Here’s a closer look at why it matters, and some simple steps you can take to easily build your personal brand and manage your reputation.
Why We Don’t Focus on Ourselves
There’s a common misconception in business that it’s the company’s brand alone that matters. In certain areas, this is true. For example, when considering small ticket items that are consumer goods such as toothbrushes or toilet paper, the vast majority of buyers are not interested in the company’s CEO. But for smaller businesses, service oriented firms, B2B companies, and artisan B2C companies, the owner’s brand is absolutely critical.
There are many reasons that this may be true, in whole or in part, from the customer’s point of view:
· The name behind the company is part of the value proposition.
· You’re buying the expertise of the company’s principal, and/or the weight of their brand.
· You’re buying the creative inspiration or artistic vision of the company’s principal, as embedded in a product or service.
· Your purchase is in the hands of a sole proprietor.
· You’re making a purchase in an impersonal industry, and a personal face behind the business helps increase your know/like/trust factor.
· You’re making a purchase in a highly personal industry (for example, think personal training or life coaching) and chemistry with the person behind the business is vital.
And so on. The key here for business owners is to understand that there are many contexts in which your personal brand is as important, or even more so, than the corporate brand you’ve built for your company.
Why Your Personal Brand Really Does Matter
There are numerous reasons that having your own brand strengthened by your content strategy benefits your business. I’ve covered how a personal brand relates to your content strategy in my article, “How to Grow Your Personal Brand With Your Content Strategy,” which is worth a read if you’re already employing a content strategy. But it’s also important to think of your own bigger goals. Do you hope to start future companies, where customers and investors are likely to be attracted to a strong brand? Do you hope to publish, appear in media, or in other ways expand your own platform?
Have you ever considered consulting or going after an executive position at a company, where a strong platform will help you command high rates? Building your personal brand now helps your business, but it also helps lay the foundation for your future success — whatever direction that might take.
How to Build Your Personal Brand While Building Your Company Brand
Many people are intimidated by the idea of building their personal brand while also trying to build their company’s brand. But with a bit of planning, this goal can be integrated into your current content strategy with little extra effort. It can also actually benefit your business for the reasons discussed above.
Make the most of author bios: Whether you’re contributing articles, guest posting, or simply being active on social media, always make the most of author bios. Where possible, showcase your name, along with the name of your firm. For example, “Sarah Smith is CEO of Happy Things Marketing, a company dedicated to helping non-profits thrive in the digital space.” It gets your name out there, establishes authority with your title, and yet still manages to put the focus on your company’s brand and what they do.
Use your headshot: When you’re asked for an image, use your own professional quality headshot. Studies have shown that social media accounts that feature the logos of businesses tend to perform poorly compared to those that feature a friendly face. In addition to building your face recognition, you’ll be setting your accounts up for better performance.
Go for bylines: Wherever possible, request that articles or guest posts that you contribute attribute you a byline. Many publications don’t, but are happy to do so if you ask. Still others will do so if you forego payment in lieu of a byline which can be a good strategy depending on your specific goals with each publishing effort.
Focus on speaking opportunities: Taking advantage of speaking opportunities is a smart way to raise your business’ profile and it also puts you front and center. Consider: speaking at a conference about a topic that’s related to your business can help you meet clients, network with colleagues, and increase your firm’s visibility. It does this by using you as the conduit to achieve these goals, which can make it an effective way to approach marketing and sales. Good speaking opportunities might include both in-person and online opportunities such as webinars. The happy byproduct of this approach is that people who see you speak get to know you personally as an expert in a certain topic or a resource in a given area.
Bigger Branding and Content Considerations
As you’ve seen by now, the process of building your personal brand in concert with your company’s brand can be done simply and easily. But there are arguments that can be made for taking bigger, bolder branding steps. The following recommendations do a bit more for your personal brand, but still fall squarely within the wheelhouse of benefitting your company.
Write a column: Contributing to a publication such as Forbes, The Huffington Post, or Entrepreneur.com on a topic in your field can achieve multiple goals. It quickly helps rocket you to expert status while also showcasing your expertise in a specific area. It also benefits your company, by being mentioned occasionally in your writing, your bio, and with links back to your website. It’s important that you focus on creating value first and foremost to get access to quality platforms, but you can also use this strategically in your own marketing and in building your company’s name. One common and effective way is by showcasing logos on your website of the publications where your materials have appeared. See the image below for an example.
Write and publish an eBook: Writing a book is a much bigger commitment than contributing regularly to various publications, but it carries a different level of prestige and brand benefits. The rules have changed significantly with the rise of independent publishing, eBooks, and changing expectations of length.
Not long ago, in order to publish a book in your space, you needed to land a contract with a company like Wiley or Wharton Business School Publishing, and then commit the time to develop a 60,000 to 100,000 word tome. While this approach still plays a role in certain strategies, it’s now possible to produce a high quality, short book that can dramatically improve your credibility.
Furthermore, eBooks allow you to collect email addresses from your readers, which allows you to build your email newsletter list, which is an extremely valuable way to build your brand and revenue. For more on that, see my article, “How to Grow Your Business With Email List Building.”
Create a personal website: There are many reasons for wanting to focus your branding efforts on a single site. Specifically, it’s twice as hard to get leverage for two websites. However, a single site that’s dedicated to your personal brand (something like firstnamelastname.com) can be a wise investment. You end up creating a virtual home that straddles the professional and personal, and can be a place where your brand lives on beyond companies where you work.
It can also be useful when you’re a serial entrepreneur or an in-demand freelancer that works on multiple projects or companies at the same time. People always know where to find you and you can archive your best and latest work for your own and public reference. If nothing else, grabbing the domain name that corresponds to your name prevents someone else from doing so, and using it to impersonate you or say bad things about you.
Monitor your own mentions: It’s important to be on top of your own mentions, in the same way that you apply these measurement strategies to tracking brand mentions of your business.
Employing simple tools like Hootsuite and Sendible for social listening, and Google Alerts for web mentions will help you stay in tune with discussions where a quick comment can keep you in control of discussions that affect your brand. Moz’s recently-launched Fresh Web Explorer is an excellent tool for monitoring web mentions as well, and seems to do a better job than Google Alerts.
Building your personal and professional brands are activities that will move all of your business goals forward. It’s possible to create a content strategy plan that encompasses both objectives, without compromising your bottom line objectives. Do you have experience finding creative strategies to build your brand while building your business? Let me know your best tips in the comments below.