Current Events: Keeping Your Brand ahead of the Pack

I was speaking to a former personal branding client the other day and I realized that this woman, while worthy, had not taken to heart my advice about keeping her brand current.

This person had worked very hard over a period of more than two years to transform her very highly regarded work experience into a personal brand that could become a guiding force in her career. After defining the service she could deliver and building a brand that included a look, a feeling, and an acclaimed reputation, she put herself out in the traditional media and on the Internet to more widely broadcast her message.

It has been a while since we worked together to help her create her brand. Since that time, she has been literally bowled over with work. Money is flowing in, and consumers are flocking to her not only for her particular services, but also for advice about building similar business models.

It’s so easy to get sidetracked when things are going well. And for some people, building a brand for a brief time may result in a lifelong positive outcome that includes money, fame, and whatever it is that you hope to achieve.

Most of us, however, are not going to be that fortunate. Business today is a constantly evolving animal, and there’s no way that most fields will allow you to create a success and rest on that laurel for a period of years – or even months. With so much information available to consumers and audiences today, it is very easy for your customers to go and find the latest and greatest thing – and to leave you behind. Loyalties don’t exist as they once did, either for employees or products.

Your brand is not likely to be immune to this difficulty. Your competition will be out there day in and day out trying to oust you from your secure position. It’s not personal; it’s business, and if you want it to keep being your business, you’d better pay attention.

If you’ve made it to the point that your business is so important that you can’t take your eye off it for a minute – or that you’re so overwhelmed caring for your client base – it may be time to hire a publicist. Such a person is skilled in the techniques necessary to get your name out in the public; press releases, and more importantly, relationships with the traditional media that help get your name in print and broadcast either as a news story or as an expert; brand management, which includes focus groups that speak to the efficiency and attractiveness of your brand as well as continual updates; and, where applicable, customer outreach that works to give you the competitive edge over others in your field.

These people – and there are a lot that clam to be able to do it – get paid well based on their past experience in getting others recognized by the public. They know how to build a brand that packs a punch: a brand that delivers your message and makes you stand head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd, and eliminates the extraneous nonsense that will detract from your brand.

If you don’t know a publicist, one of the best ways to get a good price on a new publicist is to take bids from a number of different companies. Ask to see their “books;” these will have examples of stories these publicists have placed in the media – television spots, magazine articles, newspaper pieces, radio broadcasts.

No good publicist is going to promise you certain placements at certain times; the fact is that during your most newsworthy moment, a hurricane can hit New Orleans or a terrorist strike can hit America. No matter what you’re saying, it’s very unlikely that you are going to get any media time in the middle of an all-consuming news cycle.

A good publicist will work constantly to ensure that you do get coverage. Depending on your business, this may not be a constant certainty, but your publicist should be able to give you an idea up front about realistic results for you. In addition, the publicist will continuously develop a communications plan for your brand that constantly hammers out the rhythm of your strong points and gently overcomes any objections that might arise from gaps in your experience or services.

If you can’t afford a publicist for your personal brand, you need to serve as your own. Develop media relationships based on mutual benefits – you should not inundate the reporters with press releases about every little thing you do, and they shouldn’t use your information without crediting you unless you specifically ask for anonymity. How often you update really depends on your brand; some fields could require you to pay attention to brand publicity every day. In most arenas, however, it will be sufficient to spend a few hours per week updating your Web site and paying attention to public relations activities.

Don’t rest on your laurels. Brands must be carefully managed and nurtured. Keep this is mind and your brand will have the longevity it needs to flourish.

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