As public relations professionals, we are always looking for ways to build awareness about our companies’ brands, promote their products and services, and position senior executives as “thought leaders” within their industries. But what about building your personal brand?
Whether you are an independent practitioner or employed by an agency or company, it is important to market your skills and qualifications to your internal and external clients, as well as your peers. I learned this very early as a young entrepreneur wanting to grow my company, but I didn’t stop there. Even as an employed practitioner, I followed the same rules within my current company. Why?
As Matrix Group’s only communications specialist, it is important that I market my skills and knowledge to help market the company’s communications services to our prospects and clients. And, with the project managers in daily contact with our client base, it is important that I educate them on my expertise. Even more, I need to position myself as a resource for staff.
So, as a public relations practitioner, what can you do to build your personal brand?
- Volunteer your skills and knowledge with a local nonprofit organization. The best way to share your expertise is through volunteering. These opportunities can also serve as great testing grounds for trying out new ideas and strategies. I do recommend volunteering with organizations that you are strongly connected with because your work will shine even more.
- Put yourself out there as a thought leader. Get published. Share your insight in print publications and professional blogs. PRSA’s comPRehension blog serves as a perfect platform for sharing your perspectives and networking with your peers.
- Seek out speaking opportunities. At Matrix Group, I co-present with my CEO on many important topics, such as “how to create a social networking strategy” to “how to integrate new media with your company’s overall communications plan.” As a practitioner (young or experienced), look for public speaking opportunities within your local community, i.e., library programs, networking organizations, community organizations, etc., and BOOK them! Don’t be shy.
- Get involved with your local PRSA Chapter. When I lived in Charleston, S.C., I became involved with my local PRSA Chapter very early on in my career. And I am glad I did. I served as a co-chair for the PR Power Lunch program, a program created by PRSA where PR practitioners work provide one hour of free counseling to local nonprofit organizations, and as co-chair for the programming committee, which brings me to my point. Your peers can help you leverage your personal brand by becoming your referral network. So, contact your local Chapter about getting involved today.
What are your thoughts? What are you doing to build your personal brand?
Sherrie Bakshi, communications maven, Matrix Group, and co-founder, Stylee PR & Marketing, which is now run and managed by its co-founder, Vladia Jurcova Spencer. Bakshi has more than 10 years’ experience in the field, working with a variety of clients. She specializes in everything from traditional PR to now working with clients on effective social networking and online strategies. Follow Sherrie on twitter @Sher_32 or connect on LinkedIn.
Join Sherrie along with other members of the PRSA National Capital Chapter (PRSA-NCC) at the PRSA 2010 International Conference: Powering PRogress, October 16–19 in Washington, D.C.!
Thank you so much for your comment. You are right, part of building yourself as a thought leader and/or expert, is how to market yourself via traditional and social media.
Sherrie, I see these suggestions as networking activities and reputation-extending activities that PR professionals at every level should pursue. More as tools for you would employ to build your brand. But I think more work comes first…
Building a brand for yourself isn’t that different from building a brand for a product or service. You must hone down the benefits of the services or products you offer targeted audiences, and then create a message that you disseminate in a way that makes sense for them and for your goals. Then you package that message so that it is instantly recognizable — in words, activities, images, and video.
I raised myself from complete obscurity to “semi-well-known” using these tips! 🙂 The Capitol Communicator asked me to talk about how PR professionals could build their personal brands, the video is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPuQYsGU14M
It can help to associate a personality with your personal brand — how would you like to be perceived? And more importantly, how are you perceived, by your colleagues and clients? As friendly, fun, and accessible? Well-connected and influential? Creative and innovative? Hardworking and helpful? Strong, confident, and a leader? Stylish, sociable, and trend-setting? Experienced, accomplished, and knowledgeable? When you do this in a consistent way, you (your personal brand) and your brand message achieve recognition wherever you appear — offline or online.
Survey your LinkedIn recommendations. What are the words you see most frequently when people describe you? I was surprised to discover that almost every person who wrote a recommendation for me said I was “fun” to work with. I was glad, because I had worked hard to cultivate a “friendly and accessible” brand for myself and my company.
Since I have my own business, it is slightly easier for me to tell my personal brand story since it is closely aligned (or maybe even indistinguishable) from my business. From the topics you blog about, to the clothing you wear (honestly, I wore my brand hue of green to most events the first couple of years in business!), to the logo on your business card, to your LinkedIn bio, to your Facebook Page. Everything you put online about you and your business should consistently support that brand look & message.
I cannot over-emphasize the importance to your personal brand of making sure you have many images and videos of yourself online — which is where many PR pros drop the ball. If you’re speaking to a group, make sure someone takes at least five photos of you, for example. Then post them online that day. Also, your name is everything. Every PR professional should decide on the name that they are presenting to the world. Just like M&M’s is never “M and M’s,” for your personal brand’s sake, if you are Mary Fletcher Jones, you are never Mary Jones or Mary F. Jones, professionally. Purchase the URL for your name, create a personal website, and stake your claim in social media for your name (and the name of your business, if you own one).
I like your first example of sharing. This has always been an area where most people tend to shy away from, not wanting to give away pertinent information prematurely.
The flip side of this is, of course, awareness, which can be turned into revenue.
Thanks so much for both your comments. I am glad that you found the information very valuable.