In the age of social media, influencers and digital media as the ultimate platforms for building success, there’s never been a more critical time for building a personal brand. In short, YOU and anybody in business is a personal brand. You must have a powerful online presence and you must know how to leverage your presence to achieve your goals and grow your business. Whether you want to become known as an iconic entrepreneur, a celebrity influencer or you want to run for president, this is the formula for building a personal brand.
We’ve perfected our formula through our work with hundreds of successful entrepreneurs, politicians and executives. Every single one of them utilizes a combination of almost every element in this guide. Leverage them and combine it with hard work and results and you too could see those same results.
Building a Personal brand:
1. Decide on Your Identity:
Choose what your voice will be, what your style will be, what you stand for and who your target audience is. This is critical. You cannot successfully complete any of the other steps without completing this first. Who do you want to be remembered as?
2. Revamp your social media presence to align with your brand identity.
Delete your drinking selfies (unless that’s part of your brand), forget about your updates on what you’re eating for lunch that day, and definitely think twice about that chain letter you’re about to share on your status. Everything from your profile photo, your cover photos and all of your posts should reflect the identity of your personal brand. Do not deviate from it. This is not to say don’t be genuine or authentic. Those are critical ingredients to building a strong social community. But posting content that is off-brand simply makes you look unprofessional, inexperienced or lacking a strong sense of purpose or mission. If you want to be an icon, there is no room for bathroom selfies. Also, remember those Facebook Live streams where you’re in your PJ’s? Those need to end, too.
By the way, you can’t become an icon if you’re only active on one social network. At a minimum, you must have a strong image on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. You should likely be thinking about Snapchat as well.
3. You need a personal website.
Your company website is not enough. Yes this will require effort. Do not skirt this step. There’s more than one reason for doing this.
First, you obviously need a central place where people can learn about you. It’s an information source.
Second, it’s also a credibility source because what iconic celebrity, entrepreneur or politician who seeks to be a public figure does not have a website about themselves?
Third, having a strong personal brand is also about reputation management on search engines. The more online properties you create about yourself such as a personal website, social media profiles, blog posts, press articles, etc, the more search positions you’ll be able to control on the first page of search results when somebody searches your name. A good goal to strive for is to have at least the top ten search rankings for your name locked up with content about yourself. It adds to your credibility as a brand.
At the very least, you can develop a basic professional website on Wordpress or Squarespace that will help get you started.
4. Become a media contributor.
Now it’s time to up-level. You now have a clear brand identity and you’ve developed a strong presence on social media and with a personal website. The next step is showcasing your expertise as a thought leader by contributing in the media. This sounds intimidating, but it can be quite simple to begin. You aren’t going to become a CNN Contributor overnight. But what you can begin with is writing guest posts on blogs. Which blogs? Look for the blogs that your audience is reading. It might be blogs or news websites that cover your industry. How to start writing for them? Ask! Many blogs are continuously looking for new contributors and guest writers. Use their contact page (or if it exists, look for the “Guest Writers” page on their website) and reach out by introducing yourself, providing a link to your website and suggesting a topic for a guest post you would like to send them. Once they respond, make sure you follow through!
As you get better at doing this and you start to build a track record for yourself, you can start reaching out to larger and more prestigious news outlets. The sky is the limit. The key to doing this successfully is consistency. The more often readers see your name, the better.
Also, once a contributor post you have written is published, make sure you share it to your social media channels to help raise your credibility as a thought leader. This alone could lead to more opportunities. Which takes us to the next step.
5. Get PR.
Now this is the big leagues. You are now a brand. You have an online presence. And as a media contributor, you regularly share your expertise with your audience. The next step is to get the press talking about you. Sharing your own expertise in the form of contributor posts is great. But having reporters and journalists talking about you is even better. This is the pinnacle of credibility for branding. Whether it’s getting interviewed about your company or product or getting asked for your commentary on a topic you are an authority on, this is what will kick your personal brand into overdrive. So how do you do it?
A. Create a Story
First you need a story. The press isn’t going to write about you for no reason at all. You need to give them something that’s newsworthy. Keep in mind, the litmus test for what’s newsworthy varies depending on the media outlet and the niche you are in. Not everybody needs to find the cure for cancer or win a Nobel Prize (although these things would certainly cement the legacy of your brand). For example, if you are in the technology or software business, you may have valuable insight or advice related to the latest cybersecurity risk or data breach which you could share with a news outlet. Or perhaps you have a unique story about how you started your business or overcame a certain adversity in your life, people love success stories and the media loves to report on it. On the contrary, you may also warning story for other people to avoid mistakes that you have made earlier in life. These stories can do very well too. The key is developing a story that is newsworthy for particular news outlets. This takes us to the next step.
B. Choose a Target
Choose the right media outlets. You have a story. It may be about your life, your business or your product. Now you need to choose the right media outlets to pitch it to. It may be tempting to try to send your story to everybody. In PR, we call this “spray and pray”. But it is not advisable. If anything, you run the risk of burning relationships with the press before you even begin by inadvertently sending them stories that aren’t laser-targeted to what they are interested in covering. A better approach? Create a list of 10 media outlets who would be relevant for your story. Then identify the reporters at each of those outlets who would be most relevant to your topic. How? Reading! The best way is to find articles that are similar to yours and pay attention to the reporters who wrote them. Now you have a targeted media list and you can research the contact information for these reporters using LinkedIn and Twitter or paid tools such as Cision.
C. Make Your Pitch
Now it’s time to pitch. Writing a pitch email is both an art and science. It shouldn’t be too long, but it should also give reporters the information they need to make a decision on covering the story. Usually 1-1.5 paragraphs will suffice and get the best result. Start off your email with a friendly greeting, begin your first paragraph with a hook about what value your story will give to readers (remember, it’s about giving value to readers, not about promoting yourself), proceed to give the reporter details about the 5W’s of your story: who, what, when, where, and why. And then close the email with a snippet about your bio which shows the reporter why you have the credibility to give insight on this topic. This is your opportunity to sell yourself. In 2-4 sentences, tell them what you’ve done, your track record and any recognitions you’ve gotten as an expert (including other press you’ve been featured in!). That’s all there is to a pitch email. Lastly, make sure to personalize your pitch for each reporter. Nobody likes bulk email. And DO NOT send all ten pitches on the same email chain.
The Success is in the Follow Up
Once your pitch has been sent. It’s time to wait. At least for a little bit. Remember, reporters are busy people and they are almost always on a deadline. Sometimes you’ll hear back quickly. Sometimes it will take days. And sometimes it will take a little persistence. As a general rule, it can’t hurt to send a polite follow up two days after sending your initial pitch. If you don’t hear back within a week or two, it’s usually safe to assume the reporter wasn’t interested in your particular story. Don’t take it personally. They receive hundreds of pitches per day. Simply come up with a new story in a few weeks and try them again. If your focus is on creating value, you’ll eventually hit on a winner.
So what do you do if you do get a response back from a reporter? Congratulations! You just landed your first media interview. Reply back IMMEDIATELY as if you don’t, the reporter could move on to the next story if they are on a tight deadline. Seek to provide the reporter with anything information they need to write their story such as a phone interview or photos and then await for your first press clipping to go live.
6. Wikipedia Page
You now have a strong online brand presence, you’re a media contributor AND you are getting press coverage. Congrats, you have come a long way! Once this happens, many other opportunities start coming your way. One of them could be that Wikipedia creates a page about you. This is a major branding asset because it will appear when people search your name online and it will add major credibility to your brand. There’s no hard and fast rule but you generally become eligible for a Wikipedia page when you have AT LEAST 5-7 press articles written about you by third party sources. There’s no guarantee that Wiki will publish a page about you as soon as you reach 5 press clips. But keep striving towards generating as much PR as possible to reach this goal and it will have a major impact on your brand.
7. Get speaking engagements.
The last pillar of a powerful personal brand is speaking engagements. You can get massive exposure by delivering talks at industry conferences. It is also a great source of press interviews, potential business deals and new opportunities.
Ready for the Next Step?
Talk to our team about getting publicity for building your personal brand.