Many business owners spend countless hours identifying the mission and vision for their companies, but spend very little time considering their personal brands. As a business owner, your persona underscores the mission and vision of your company—and, as your company grows, your personal brand is exactly what you need to stand out from your competitors.
So how do you create a personal brand? Start with your passion and your personality—that's what Heather Anne Carson did as co-founder and president at Onboardly, a firm that specializes in PR, content marketing and customer acquisition for early stage startups. Her company's vision emerged from her personal, deep passion for entrepreneurship.
"My parents both worked extremely hard—but in extremely traditional environments," Carson says. "That said, there was never a lot of wiggle room in our family budget for things like vacations or dinners out. I think as a result of growing up this way, I always wanted more. Onboardly, for me, is an opportunity to create a viable business while doing what I love most: telling a startup's story."
Recruit a Team Around Your Values
Integral to Carson's vision are her co-founder and team—individuals who help shape the direction of her company.
"I feel privileged to have had some early successes alongside my amazing co-founder Renee Warren and to have the opportunity to hire and build out our great team together," Carson says. "My personal mission and vision is to do whatever it takes to help startups succeed."
Carson's team fully embraces her vision, and help push that perspective in everything they do.
"I joined Onboardly because I am passionate about entrepreneurship," says Nicole Belanger, Onboardly's director of content marketing. "I truly believe that entrepreneurs are the future of our economy."
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Define Who You Want to Be
Your personal brand takes careful planning. Before jumping into your PR strategy, identify which of your personality traits you want to shine through.
"The best advice I've received around personal branding is to begin by asking yourself the question, 'what do I want to be known for?'" Belanger says. "Be strategic when choosing opportunities, and be sure they align with your ultimate goal."
To Carson, this process has involved listing the key attributes that align with her persona. "My personal brand has been consistent over the years," Carson says. "Most would associate me with a few key attributes: high energy, strong opinion, my get-it-done approach to decision making, and my red hair."
Be Highly Focused
Any initiative to build your brand should be a direct investment into your business and personal values.
"I don't spend much time or energy on tasks that don't help me accomplish my 'Big 3': growing Onboardly, building a strong personal brand, and creating a full and happy life for me and my husband," Carson says. "It's critical that business owners give themselves three major goals at any given time. When you can be honest with yourself as to what those are, it's very easy to see where you're investing time unnecessarily."
Whether you're exploring blogging opportunities, media interviews or social media growth, make sure you're investing in initiatives that align with your core business goals.
Be Opinionated, But Tactful
Let your perspectives shine, but don't get too personal. It's important to maintain a degree of separation between you and your business.
"Business owners who manage their corporate social media accounts need to be wary of over-personalizing their content," Belanger says. "While your business and your personal brand are intimately connected, it is important to keep your corporate social media presence neutral."
Always understand that your personal brand is a tool for building a rapport with the world around you.
"Don't equate sharing your opinion with being a jerk," Carson says. "Being opinionated is great and will help you differentiate your brand, especially if your opinion goes against the norm. Remember, however, that even the most rational of thought streams get muddled when poorly articulated or shared in the heat of the moment."
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Outsource What You Don't Have Time to Do
Don't have time to spend four hours writing a blog post? Consider investing in the expertise of others.
"I'm a big proponent for outsourcing the things you want to do, but don't have the time or the skill-set to do yourself," Carson says. "Hiring a publicist or writer is no different than hiring an accountant or bookkeeper. You could attempt to do it yourself, but experts will do it faster and to a greater degree of success."
Find experts to help you behind the scenes.
"One approach I've seen work quite successfully is hiring a ghostwriter," Carson says. "You'll still have to direct those people. The best approach is either in providing them a point form list of notes or asking that they interview you on a topic you're passionate about using a Q&A format. From there, the ghostwriter can flesh out a post from your point of view."
No matter what, take charge of the results you want to see. "It may take a while to get your tone 'right,' but with a bit of time invested on both sides to get to know one another, a capable writer will quickly get the hang of it," Carson says.
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