Having a strong, clearly articulated brand where the values it embodies are easy to understand and are lived throughout the organisation, is one of the most important factors in building connection and trust with customers. There are many companies who understand and execute this really well, like Patagonia or Timberland. There are plenty of social enterprises and charities that really invest in their brands. But there is another strategy that is increasingly used by organisations to bolster trust and that is developing the personal brands of their directors or leaders.
People trust other people which is why a recognised, visible leader who embodies the values of the organisation can go a long way towards earning additional trust. Building a personal brand requires the same process and effort as building a corporate brand: establish your beliefs and values, ensure they are aligned with your organisation’s mission, develop a voice and language which reflect those values, and find appropriate platforms on which you can share your knowledge and engage with your audience. Do all this consistently and you will certainly enhance the value of the organisation you work for.
Here are a few clues to help you if you don’t have the support of your organisation in developing your personal brand.
Work out your brand space
We live in a world of experts and personal brand advisors, so you need a stand-out strategy. The most effective way to achieve this is to work out exactly what ‘space’ you need to own in the minds your audience to best enhance yourself and your brand. It’s not enough to just be the spokesperson for all things ‘urban planning’ for example. You need to dig deeper and find a key area of focus behind which you put all your communications efforts. That might be ‘the impact on community building of including nature in urban planning’. Bit of a mouthful but hopefully illustrates how specific you need to be to find your ‘space. Another example; it’s not enough to chose ‘child education’ but it might be to choose ‘ pre-school child education in areas of urban neglect’.
Sometimes it helps to look at a very simple commercial example. A good example is mattress company Eve. They have one product only, the best mattress they could make. They’ve called the company Eve but their ‘space’ is going to be ‘morning’. As a brand they will aim to own the ‘morning experience’ space. This gives them a platform to engage with their audience about all things waking up, how you feel, making your first coffee, choosing clothes for the day, and a thousand others topics. It’s also counter-intuitive and clever to then call your brand Eve..
2. Build your visibility through great content
There are lots of different ways you can do this. Become a publisher for example or choose public speaking.
As a publisher, you can write blogs, vlogs, articles, white-papers, even write a book. Develop a content strategy which uses the platform subject of your chosen Brand Space and start sharing your ideas and thoughts. Choose the medium carefully; it must be easy for you to do and relevant to your audience. There is no point producing podcasts for an audience that is unlikely to use iTunes. Similarly there’s no point in writing blogs for a fast visual audience that consumes information through video. It is a question of finding a combination of what reaches your audience and what you do well.
If you are lucky enough to be in a medium sized organisation, the PR department can be very helpful here as this is what they are trained to do. PR executives can usually write well, and understand the use of video and social media to distribute your content. If your organisation is too small to have a dedicated PR team, there are many freelance writers that can help you. But make sure they are able to capture your voice accurately because people really do want to engage with the authentic person.
The most important thing about content is quality of quantity. It’s better to produce one really insightful article which is backed up by research and knowledge, than 100 short pieces that no-one reads.
You can then extend your content to a carefully planned series of keynote talks. When you start out, you don’t need more than one or two topics. There are so many conferences in the UK, you are bound to find opportunities for visibility. There are also great organisations like iwantaspeaker.com where you can upload your profile and keynote topics to help you get found.
3. Check your brand is aligned on social media
It’s an easy mistake to make, so check that your brand is telling the same story on all your social media platforms. I have seen the odd CEO of a social enterprise have a very professional LinkedIn and Twitter profile, only to have a Facebook personal page with images of mad revelry splashed across them! Which might work if you’re representing a drinks brand, but can conflict with the sense of responsibility that’s expected of a CEO. There’s no place to hide on the internet these days so you do have to be consistent. Make sure your profile text and profile picture tells the same story on all platforms. If you really need to have Facebook as a private communication platform for Friends only, then keep your settings private and check regularly because Facebook has a habit of changing settings.
4. Become a media spokesperson
If you are a CEO of a social enterprise, this role will almost automatically fall to you. However it’s worth making sure you are prepared and trained. Again, if you don’t have the luxury of an in-house PR team or PR agency, there are plenty of freelance media relations trainers who can help you practice the basics of media interview techniques. Then draw up a list of key media in which you would like to appear – don’t start with a profile in the FT because they are reserved for FTSE 100 CEOs only! Pick media that is relevant and influential to your sector, and start small to build your confidence.
Media campaigns takes planning and practice, but here are a couple of key tips:
- Read the media you want to appear in; know their angles and pet topics so that you can put forward relevant comments or suggestions for interviews and articles.
- Read everything a specific target journalist writes so that you can refer back to their articles
- Start by commenting on articles they write to raise your visibility
- Use the content you have produced in your media relations campaign, especially research and reports, as an opportunity to get an interview.
- Once you get used to speaking to regional/vertical journalists, you will feel more confident tackling broadcast and national media.
5. Never neglect networking
If you want to have a strong personal brand, all of the above activities are hugely supported by a planned networking programme. You don’t have to turn up to the opening of every and any envelopes, just find where your peers are, where the media are that are relevant to you, and plan a series of engagements into your diary. People buy from people they know – whether it’s products or stories, speeches or articles. We have to show up and participate.
A personal brand is the work of a lifetime. We are our history and we are our own futures. It needs constant attention and can be hard work, but the added value to the enterprise you represent can be invaluable.
If you would like independent help creating a focused personal brand strategy, or feel you need a refresher on media training, please book a free consultation with me here. I keep Thursday afternoons free every week to speak to new clients. If Thursday’s don’t work for you, please email me at Jenny@jenandersson.com. I would love to help you.