July 5, 2013
Personal Branding for Small Business Owners, Part 2: The Nitty-Gritty
BY Shirley Robinson IN Small Business 0 Comment
On Wednesday, we tried to convince you that building your personal brand is time well spent if you’re a small business owner. Today we’ll give you some specific actions you can take to begin and nurture this process. If you think we’ve left something out, please let us know by adding a comment–we’d love to get your insight! Please also check out the resources listed at the end of this article. All of them were invaluable in the creation of this post, and some tackle specific aspects of brand building you might be particularly interested in.
Now, without further ado: Personal branding, part 2.
First, know thyself
The first, and perhaps most broadly useful, step is to know who you are as a person and as a business owner. This business is yours, and you’re putting a great deal of time and energy into it. What it does and how you interact with it should ultimately be fulfilling for you, not frustrating. That will happen if you know generally what kind of person you are: what brings you energy, what kind of learning style you have, and what you stand for. If you think this is something you’re still trying to figure out, consider taking a reputable personality test (some options listed in the references for this post. You may learn that you’ve been trying to project a very high-energy, goofy, creative image; but it’s been taking its toll on you because you’re actually a more introverted and analytical person. Only once you know how you operate and what you’re after can you begin to promote that to other people.
Plan for a sustainable branding strategy
This is a long-term investment, and you don’t want to 1. alienate your audience by shrinking away once you realize you’ve bitten off more than you can chew; or 2. commit to activities that you end up hating. Take some time to determine how much time you have to cultivate your brand and maintain good records. Consider the fact that content generation (which we’ll touch on next) is a big part of brand building. How long does it take you to write blog posts? Do you need a lot of time and help proofreading? Does it take you a while to build the courage to get out and network? Factor your natural pace into any type of schedule you create, and strive for balance. Remember that being a business owner is not just a large part of your brand, it’s a large part of your identity. If you routinely need to spend 30+ hours a week on brand building, maybe it’s time to hire a publicist.
Clean up your social media presence
What sites make the most sense for you to focus on, given the audiences your business is likely to attract? Concentrate on those. Make sure your head shot looks good and your info is up to date, and that you post a minimum of a couple of times a week (and not just about what you ate for breakfast/how much you love the latest Bieber track). The question that should always be at the back of your mind is “Why should people care about this?”
Create your own website, even if it’s just a blog
Create a standalone site. Add some customization so that visitors can see how you choose to tell your story visually, and make sure that you don’t just copy your company’s website–prove that you have had at least two original ideas. Think about what you would find interesting, and add that kind of content. Add your social media feeds to your website, and link to your website on social media.
Comment on posts by industry writers you admire; don’t just say “I agree”! Help their personal brands out by developing thought-provoking conversations on their spaces, and they’re more likely to return the favor and give you some credibility in the process. Best of all, you’ll both learn something.
Learn about your industry, your local area, and your business
This step is neverending. The more informed you are in general, the more valuable and interesting your content will be. You also want to make sure you’re building goodwill in your local community by attending events and promoting the area on your website and social networks. It will help you build your network, and give your business a sense of place. Also, don’t take your business itself for granted when you’re learning all these interesting new things. Insights from your business plan, mission statement, and vision statement (all of which you should update regularly) should creep into the content you produce because you’re thinking about these things often.
Get meaningful face time
Select a few groups on sites like meetup.com, and check out your local chamber of commerce. Go for quality over quantity, and make a commitment to participate regularly–as with other aspects of brand building, you want to stretch but not overextend yourself. Consider leadership roles in some of these groups once you know them well enough. Again, don’t become so busy networking that you don’t have time for the people you’re ostensibly trying to network with.
Understand that there will be gaffes
You are a human being. This means that you will make mistakes, and even non-mistakes will sometimes be misconstrued. You are deliberately sharing yourself with–if things go well–many thousands of people who don’t know you. This means that you will at least once embarrass yourself in public. You have to prepare for this emotionally and logistically. Give yourself a little time to think when you’re answering questions–shooting off at the mouth gets good people into trouble. When it comes to the company you keep, “trust, but verify”. Think ahead of time how you will respond to negative press (which is far more viral than the lovely, clever stuff you spend so much time creating). Be aware of how you handle stress and conflict, and how that will look to others.
Finally, be a real person
People are very good at sniffing out a lack of authenticity. The hard truth is that there are lots of interesting people out there who are working hard to get your possible readers’ attention. So give your audience something compelling and genuine. If on Facebook, for example, you only ever post highly prepared industry-related observations, you will not seem like a human being. Take the risk of doing some things off the cuff, and have a good balance of personal- and business-related content. Asking questions can be a great way of getting people to engage with you, and the more effective your brand is, the more people will want to participate with it. You’re the expression of the lifestyle of your brand, so give people a good idea of what that looks like. (Just don’t entertain your audience too much with drunken vacation pictures.)
Check out these excellent posts and resources on building your personal brand, then tell us about your take on all of this!
- Rich Hein, 9 Steps to Build Your Personal Brand (and Your Career)
- Annie Fisher, Why you should bother to build a personal brand
- Geoffrey James, Create Your Personal Brand: 8 Steps
- Salma Jafri, How to Focus & Amplify Your Personal Brand
- Myers Briggs Personality Test
- HEXACO Personality Inventory
- SAPA Personality Test & Data Project