“Personal brand” is a fairly new term, but the concept of building a media presence and social profile has been incredibly important in maintaining a successful career before social media came along and provided even more platforms from which to extend your profile.
When people hear the word ‘branding’ they instantly think of the logo, the colours; how a brand looks. But personal branding is, if you like, the heartbeat behind this. It’s about the messaging, the values; your expertise shining through.
When clients ask me what personal branding is, I tend to reference Jeff Bezos who said: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. Personal branding is your tone of voice, your authoritative voice within the media alongside your personal style and social media.
Whether you’re the owner of a spa, an inventor of a product or a medical professional, people – and indeed businesses – seen as authorities trusted by the media – tend to get the lion’s share when it comes to sales and profit.
However, creating a personal brand can be a daunting, mythical task. And one of the easiest ways to get lost in the process is to not actually know where to start.
Even Oprah Winfrey began by going through several style iterations on a small local show before defining her voice into one of the most influential personal brands in the world.
Here are my 8 top tips for building a successful profile within the media.
1. Have a focus
Carve a niche, and then carve a niche within your niche. The best personal brands are very specific. Too many people are unfocused when it comes to press and coverage, trying to be “everything to everyone.” Keeping your message focused for your target demographic will make it that much easier to both create content around your personal brand and importantly, have others define you.
2. Find your ‘why’
Whenever I take on a client, I find myself forcing them to ask this question a lot. They will often say, “I want to be in the national press as a leading fertility expert.” And when I ask “why” I often receive a look of bemusement. But, after a little digging, the ‘why’ would transpire to be “I want to break the stigma surrounding recurrent miscarriage”. Something that’s incredibly newsworthy. Think about what you’ve been through, your experiences and what you want to help people with and connect with that.
3. Be available at short notice
Once you send that pitch out, consider yourself on-call—especially when pitching yourself to broadcast outlets or working with a PR consultancy to do so. One way to not make friends with the booking department? Pitch yourself as an expert on a story, like a global pandemic, and then not make yourself available for interviews when the pandemic actually happens.
It’s not always easy, but the more adaptable you are, the more likely to be approached again. Journalists invariably work to incredibly tight deadlines and studio schedules offer little flexibility, so be prepared to interrupt your routine. As a PR I can say that this is the most frustrating thing to deal with and clients who are able to juggle opportunities invariably achieve more press coverage than those who expect the media to bend for their needs instead.
4. Create a story, not a message
So many people make the mistake of creating a single person monologue and then shouting this again and again into the social media void. Create a story around your brand that your audience can actually engage with instead.
5. Social media is vital, but it doesn’t need to take over your life
Journalists want to see what you look like (current stills and video, if possible) get a sense of your expertise, personality, style and ability to respond and interact. A website can rarely do all this. There’s no need to be active on every platform, but actively engaging with others online will help you get noticed.
6. Be consistent
You’ve landed some great pieces relatively early on – be that an interview with the BBC, the Evening Standard or The Times. Fantastic. But one piece – even a brilliant piece in a top tier publication like this – does not make a profile. Having a profile is about momentum and consistency with new ideas that are relevant for the news. Make sure that your PR team knows about any new launches you have in the pipeline, new ideas, and potential talking points that the broadcast media may be interested in. But remember, keep circling back to the ‘why’ and don’t chase coverage for the sake of it. You have to demonstrate consistency across your communication, gravitas, and appearance. Don’t underestimate how tiny inconsistencies can derail personal brand effectiveness.
7. Advertorials won’t create an authentic profile
Advertising is not in any way, shape or form the same as having an earned profile within the media. There’s an old saying: “if advertising is what you pay for, then PR is what you pray for.” PR is the most authentic way to ensure a solid foundation for your personal brand. You are, in essence having a trusted media platform suggest that you, out of everyone else in the world, are the voice of authority on a certain topic. No advertisement can summon this level of trust with your consumer.
8. Place the consumer as the main character – not yourself
When we think of ourselves as personal brands, it’s easy to think of ourselves as the main character of the story. But, by complete contrast, it’s actually vital to flip that on its head and think about your ideal community member, audience, customer, client or indeed employer as that main character and use them as a guide. Consider what stage of life they are at, what they are interested in, what keeps them up at night, what kind of things they are googling. Your personal brand is often based on your own experience, so connecting with your audience is very important as it allows you to really get into their minds and understand what they want to hear from you.