Entrepreneurs have always been focused on building the brand names of their companies, and for good reason. How else would people know they exist, what they offer and even where they're located. Some entrepreneurs invest in expensive PR companies, hoping for publicity in mainstream news outlets. Others, such as bootstrapper entrepreneurs, use guerilla marketing tactics to generate interest with almost no budget. We're living in a world where consumers and journalists alike are looking to connect directly with entrepreneurs and hear their stories. It's not just about what your company does, but why you started it, its purpose and your vision. Social technologies, such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter, have enabled entrepreneurs to become known, connect directly with their audience and build relationships on a global scale. As an entrepreneur, you need to become the brand.
1. Become an expert on something that relates to your business.
Entrepreneurs looking to garner media attention, attract new clients and build their businesses should focus on becoming an expert in their field. For instance, Alexa von Tobel, CEO of Learnvest.com, has branded herself as a personal finance expert for young people. As a result, Fox Business, The New York Times, and other media outlets have interviewed Alexa, which provides exposure for her company. Avoid establishing an expertise that's irrelevant to your corporate mission, goals, and vision because you'll be wasting your time. If you own a record label, it's probably not wise to brand yourself as a nutrition expert.
2. Establish a website or blog under your full name.
The media and your customers both use search engines to research you, connect with you and potentially either do business with you or interview you. That's why you need to purchase your full name as a domain name (yourfullname.com). By developing either a static website or a blog under your domain name, you will own the first result for your name in Google and other search engines. This should be a separate site than your company's website. After purchasing your domain name, add your picture, a bio, your e-mail address and links to the rest of your online presence (i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter). This way, people can get in touch with you in their medium of choice. Claim your name before someone else does.
3. Learn how to be a good source.
Find out which media sources your audience reads, listens to or watches, research the types of content they provide and locate the exact gatekeeper to pitch. You or your publicist can also e-mail journalists and editors in response to one of their articles, with a note that you are available to comment on future articles. If and when a journalist e-mails or calls you for an interview, respond with haste because they are typically on deadline for their stories. Answer their questions thoroughly, while making sure that you get your message across.
When you're interviewed by the media, you will always be able to promote your company through your byline, which will help build both yours and your company's brand. Once the interview is complete, send a follow-up e-mail asking if they have any more questions, and make sure you include your bio and your picture.
4. Generate brand awareness through networking.
You should be connecting with other entrepreneurs in your industry using social networks, such as Sprouter.com, and commenting on their blogs. Networking is one of the best ways to become known in your industry. By forming relationships with people in your audience you can grow your business and your brand long-term.
The four rules of networking that you should keep in mind are mutualism, giving, targeting and reconnecting.
- Mutualism: You have to create win-win relationships in business, making sure that you don't benefit more than the other party.
- Giving: Help someone out, before asking for anything in return. This makes people want to support you.
- Targeting: You want to be very specific with the types of people you network with, in order to save time and to attract the right people to your brand.
- Reconnecting: Never lose touch, that way networking contacts remember you when new opportunities surface.
These days, branding your company isn't enough. The world wants to hear what you have to say, If you aren't building your own brand, your company will suffer. If you want your company to succeed, become an expert in your field, claim a website under your own domain name, connect with the media, and build relationships with your audience.
Dan Schawbel is a Gen Y career and workplace expert, the founder of Millennial Branding and author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin's Press, 2013).