A personal brand is an essential business tool today. We work online, shop online, socialize online. Our profiles exist across a plethora of channels and each one is an opportunity to promote a professional and approachable brand.
The idea of personal branding has become synonymous with online marketing in particular; as a way for smaller businesses and entrepreneurs to quickly grow their brands and their businesses simultaneously.
However, personal branding takes time – a resource in itself. It may also require budget investment. Small businesses and independent consultants lack both. The old personal branding tactics of blogging or social media marketing may already be taking up all your spare time.
There are clever ways around this, though. Make the best use of the tight resources you have with these 7 best practice tips to PR your personal brand on a budget:
1. Get Media Coverage
You don’t need to hire an expensive PR firm to get some traction with this. The new online media is hungry for stories. You have a story to tell, somewhere within you and your business.
By taking what you do and finding a relevant news angle you can easily bag yourself some space in this online world for the mere price of some time spent writing emails. Twitter is a great place to search for media contacts, many of whom list their email addresses in their bios.
If you don’t have any news, you can create some. Gathering survey results, submitting a guest blog post or offering yourself as an expert for comment.
You can easily find journalists looking for such expert commentary on Twitter. They will use hashtags such as #JournoRequest in tweets. Searching this term will alert you not to media opportunities and journalists who are covering your industry.
Online coverage has the added benefit of providing you with content worth sharing on your own channels, complete with the social proof of a third party endorsement. If they give you a backlink, it may even help your website’s SEO efforts.
2. Invest In Photography
The tactic of imagery in branding has never been more critical than in a world where we are bombarded by a constant stream of messages. We tap or scroll passed most of it.
But a good image can stop us in our tracks. Whether you sell services or you have products to PR, imagery is one area worth investing in.
Now that we conduct so many of our initial interactions online, virtual personal branding has become as important as the handshake once was. So if you intend to spend time promoting yourself as the face of your business, then you will need a professional photographer.
This is also essential for your social media platforms, media mentions, guest blog bios and conference speaking agendas. Just find a photographer whose portfolio fits with your vision when it comes to “brand you.”
There are still ways to save money here, too. Contact photography clubs as many will host evenings of informal training for professionals simply looking to move into a new genre or to offer a new service in their business.
Local photography courses are another option, where posing for a session might be rewarded with some imagery.
3. Brand Your Tools
Many small businesses and entrepreneurs will start out with nothing more than a laptop, a smartphone and a notebook. The dream of a sign above the door may be a long way off. PR-ing your personal brand is part of how you get there.
Branding will eventually boost your bottom line.
Just because you don’t have a huge team yet doesn’t mean you can’t still portray a slick professional image. For example, you should still invest in a professionally-designed logo at this stage, using a small-scale graphic design freelancer, for example, to keep costs low.You can then use this to print a branded notebook, business cards, use it as the header across your social media channels and even print a bespoke laptop cover.
You can then use this to print a branded notebook, business cards, use it as the header across your social media channels and even print a bespoke laptop cover.
Remember that all of those business meetings are opportunities to impress and make your brand resonate. Not to mention the hours spent in public coffee shops working, as people walk past your open laptop case.
The most basic branding tool of all is actually the humble email signature – and it’s free! Don’t forget to set it up and include your logo professionally with your contact details and links.
4. Enter An Award
Awards are relatively inexpensive for the profile return they yield. They reach a highly targeted audience of industry peers and potential customers. Plus the subsequent credibility boosts your ability to speak as an expert in your field.
Of course, there can be large entry fees which put people off applying. But there are equally as many that are free to enter. They cost only your time.
The good news is that once you hone your answers, it’s only the figures and examples that need to be updated for future applications.
Most award providers will then do their own PR around the finalist announcements and results. This may include shortlists and winner case studies in the press and across social media.
Find suitable awards by searching online. Then check for awards run by your professional or chartered bodies. Also look to local business organizations like the Chamber of Commerce. Then see where competitors in your industry are trying to be recognized.
5. Host An Event
Hosting an event doesn’t have to be an elaborate or expensive affair. When starting to grow your personal brand, a conference or gala ball is not going to be cost-effective PR for you.
But small events, offered for free or at cost, sometimes in partnership with other local small businesses can be a great alternative. It could be as informal as a drop-in advice clinic at a local library or a panel session on a particular topic hosted at lunchtime in a local cafe.
Honing your presentation skills could prove very lucrative for your personal brand. Think about creating your own “talk” or short workshop on a useful topic that you could deliver to groups.
Initially, you might offer this for free to industry associations, non-profit organizations or your Chamber of Commerce.
When you’ve delivered a few, create a speaker profile with your topics and testimonials and make a point of sending it to program chairs, event planning people and the heads of industry associations who organization conferences.
Eventually, you might find yourself as a keynote speaker at a big industry conference and this will work wonders for amplifying your PR efforts.
6. Create Free Content
Blogging has been a key tool for people trying to PR their personal brands for much of the last decade. However, the online space is now crowded with similar information, making it hard to get noticed and grow your brand with written content.
One proven method is to you create something of value for your potential audience and then give it away for free on your website.
This could be anything from a substantial eBook to a small checklist or a downloadable template. It can be as simple as an article that takes someone step by step through a process.
If you can provide it in exchange for email addresses, you can grow an audience of people to whom you can deliver your most valuable content directly.
Those people can then refer you to friends or colleagues and ultimately end up doing your PR for you.
7. Start Live Streaming
If the now well-known personal branding tool of social media marketing isn’t working for you, then you can always look to the next big thing: live streaming. Video is now increasing in popularity among the public.
Live streaming on places like Facebook or even in short bursts on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram Stories can seem more manageable. Webinars are also very popular among B2B audiences.
The public expects live videos to be “unpolished” because it’s fast and raw. So there’s no pressure for expensive equipment or fancy editing skills.
These messages also tend to reach a lot more people. So if you can find the confidence and practice your skills, it could prove a great way to communicate to potential customers, for free.
All of these tactics mentioned are not only helpful to the promotion of your personal brand in their own right. Each one is also a content opportunity for your digital channels.
You could secure media coverage for winning an award, for example. You could post on LinkedIn about your new branded stationary for meetings. Or tweet a shout-out to the photographer as you change your Twitter profile picture to a professional one.
Always think about getting the maximum return for your spend and you’ll be sure that your PR budget is working hard for your personal brand!
About the Author
Bio: Leanne Ross is a digital consultant, creator of award-winning business and tech blog aCupOfLee.com and author of “Talk is Cheap: The Digital PR Your Startup Needs But Can’t Afford.” She has guest lectured on PR and Digital Marketing at both the University of Ulster, Ireland and the University of Otago, New Zealand.