The famous artist Salvador Dali spent most of his life promoting himself and trying to shock the world — he loved creating a sensation as well as courting the masses and not being remotely interested in art, I first heard about his self-publicizing antics through a creative director of one of the worlds leading advertising agencies who was now helping me put my company on the map…as well as myself.
We were talking about the value of building a personal brand in business and I don’t know if this part of the Dali conversation was true, but he told me that Dali would wake up, weigh the amount of publicity written about him and if it was not sufficient, he would go out and do something outrageous!
Maybe that’s what inspired Sir Richard Branson to pull some of his crazy PR stunts and whether you are Branson, Dali, or anyone looking to capture the attention of the public, doing something outrageous, daring, or simply getting yourself in the media can never do you much harm…or can it?
Some people say that there is no such thing as bad publicity and for me, it depends on the definition of “bad.”
You will have to make your own minds up about what determines good or bad publicity, but let’s concentrate on building your personal brand in relation to your business.
Building your personal brand in business today is easier than ever, thanks to the Internet and associated technologies and of course, the platforms that you will need to do it.
I’m going to share with you my own story of how I built my personal and business brand before the widespread adoption of the Internet…and the process is the same today, but the reach you can gain compared to when I did it, is insane.
Why personal branding is important
Today, we are firmly entrenched into a buying culture and we are running businesses in a hypercompetitive world.
We are also far more visible online and if we are not, then for some, it can create a sense of concern, especially in the online business world where some people never come out from their websites and slick marketing messages.
People want to know who they’re dealing with, who is behind the company they are about to spend money with and they look beyond the value proposition — they want more.
Here’s another thought:
So many businessmen and entrepreneurs agonize over the creating of a unique selling point (USP) and fail to realize that it is always sitting right under their noses.
The only unique selling point in a business is YOU.
You are one of a kind, you have your own way of thinking, your own beliefs and standards and all of this is the key driver of your business, because it wouldn’t have happened without YOU.
So tell your story to the world.
And if you are lucky enough to have a product or service that is truly unique then you have hit the jackpot.
And even if you are not running a business, then you should equally consider building your personal brand because it will set you apart from other individuals, especially if you are looking for a new job opportunity, for example, and you have the added benefit that your brand may just bring you a few opportunities.
You never know!
Your personal brand is everything…it’s who you are, it’s what you believe in…and it’s your life-long reputation.
My personal branding strategy
“You need to go out and date a celebrity…someone who is climbing the celebrity ladder and who the press are interested in,” was the next point of the discussion from the creative director after our Dali conversation.
I explained that it was a good idea providing I could:
- Find a celebrity who might be remotely interested
- Convince my girlfriend that this was all in the interests of building a secure future for us both
After throwing some ideas around for the next 30 seconds, we settled on looking for a PR company and after talking with a few, we settled on the one that offered us a guarantee that I would have coverage in the media within 3 months, or the fees would be refunded.
Since I was not a “name” in any sense of the word, I had to build my personal brand on the back of my business, which at the time had grown from a living room in South London, to a global and profitable concern…but in my head, we were just getting started.
I want to point out to you that I was not in this business purely for the money…I had made that mistake once before and outside of my lack of business acumen at this time, I believe that making money the focus of the business was one of the reasons why it failed and you can read that story here.
With my new found PR company ready to go, It was now about having a clear message to send to the market.
I had put in a ton of hard work and effort and I made sure that as the business owner, I was at the forefront of the business and I made sure that potential customers saw me right from the start — in that way, I could ensure that standards would be met, maintained and overseen personally by me.
I also had a tremendous vision for my industry, had formed strong opinions, and operated my business in a different way to most.
And I had a drum kit in my office!
I had talked extensively to the PR company that I never regarded what I did as “work,” it was a passion and along with martial arts, music, and a host of others, I simply lived my life around my passions, prioritizing those that needed priority, which was of course business, as I was aggressively building it.
Starting with a few trade publications, we worked our way into the National press, TV, and radio, both in the UK and the USA.
This was a huge milestone for me, as well as the industry — most of my competitors were focused on the trade magazines and the best they could hope for was a feature.
Clients saw photos in magazines with me playing my electronic drum kit in the office and in various martial arts poses, but all underpinned with a serious business message and a vision.
I had many compliments and I am sure a few haters…it goes with the territory I’m afraid.
But now, when it came to looking at my company and for whatever reason, they were also aware of the person behind it and through my numerous press interviews, I was able to talk about various business issues that ordinarily, would have just been acknowledged, but when you put those in magazines such as Time and Forbes, they add serious credibility.
I had managed to get across to the world that I was passionate about business and entrepreneurship, passionate about technology (I operated in telecommunications), and passionate about life itself.
The technology recession of the late 1990s/early 2000s brought our industry to its knees and that meant cutting expenditure and investing in personal branding was not at the top of the spending agenda, although looking back, it should have been.
I had gone straight out and attacked the market, thanks to the wonderful hard work from Niki Wheeler, my PR contact, and the entire process being started by a creative director with a little inspiration from Salvador Dali!
Now if I had the vehicles around me such as social media and the ability to get a functional website up and running for a very small investment like you can today (I had spent 40K on my website back at that time), then there is no telling what could have been achieved.
Personal branding tips
Here are some tips for you to get you started and I want to talk first about the option of getting a PR company on board to help you.
Because personal branding is a hot topic these days, many people are setting themselves up as branding experts, consultants, and gurus — there is nothing wrong with doing this as anyone is free to start a business and the Internet plus social media, means that you can easily put up a nice website, create a load of content and position yourself as an expert in many things.
Getting results is the key…but not just any results.
Beware of quick wins and I can tell you from experience that success in business (however you want to define it), means playing the long game.
And building a personal brand in business is no exception.
The right PR companies offer you a fast-track to the top editors and producers in the media and today, just like it was twenty years ago for me, there is a huge amount of credibility to be gained from having you/your business featured in the mainstream media.
And today, unlike twenty years ago, you can push that content through many multiple channels to gain a huge amount of reach.
But having the right PR agency does come at a cost and you may not be ready to make that investment.
You can still do a massive amount of brand-building without an agency and whether you use a traditional PR agency, branding consultant or take the plunge and start the process yourself (my recommendation), there some key points to consider:
- Make sure you have conducted a full “audit” of yourself and your business to identify the key points you wish to put out to your clients and the world. I had a clear message of the value of my business to potential clients and supported that with my own thinking, vision, and surrounded it with my passions and lifestyle.
- Start a personal blog/website — you will use social media extensively, but you have no control over the platforms and the rules can change overnight. Think of your website as your own piece of Internet “real estate” and showcase your message to the world and your blog as a means of creating original content that you will keep in your Internet “home” and channel elsewhere. Do this independently from your business website if you have one — businesses come and go, you will still be here for the long term.
- Learn about content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), and Internet marketing in general.
- Start to build/refine your social media presence and make sure it is in line with your key message — it is important to pick the right platform for you and your business. The trick here is to find out where your clients are and connect with them. I love to write, so my blog is the primary place where I place my content…but I also write on other blogs and accept posts from guest blogs, as long as they are in line with my own values.
- Consume as much content from your industry, your clients, and about business as a whole. If you have passions as I do, then you will be able to introduce these in the context of your business content — I frequently talk about how martial arts and music have inspired my business and entrepreneurial thinking. Consuming content will give you inspiration and help you create your own.
- Make sure to join online forums, groups and to be interactive on your social media channels…but please don’t try to sell anything…even yourself. Just help people and don’t worry about giving information away for free, as it all comes down to how to execute on that information and that is where you will come in.
- Start to create content and publish on your blog, then your other channels.
If you do this consistently and let me tell you that being consistent is the key, then you will start to gain some traction…but don’t get disheartened as the process takes time, with the best results coming from the building of a solid foundation.
These are just a few tips and ideas to get you started and trust me when you get deeper into the process, you will be hooked!
Building your personal brand in business is more important than ever and it is the real USP behind any business, but like everything, it needs much thought and careful consideration.
As the world becomes more and more competitive, companies and people will become more cautious as to where they spend their hard-earned cash — your personal brand might provide a competitive advantage and if you are an executive, for example, your brand may give you the edge over other candidates if you are searching for a job, or it might bring you other opportunities.
There are many self-appointed “brand experts” out there and you need to be careful if you choose someone or a company and look at the consistency of results over the long term and not a series of quick wins.
Traditional PR agencies are far from dead and they offer you a fast-track to the right people in the media, but they come at a cost.
I think it is best to start the process yourself so that you can understand the mechanics of marketing yourself online in today’s digital economy and this will also help you work with experts if you choose to hire any.
Your personal brand is everything, so build it solidly and wisely.
If you want to talk to me in more detail about the process then please connect with me:
Last modified: October 7, 2020