7 Way to Build Your Brand
Dec 17, 2015
by Chris Hill.
I have a marketing background, so the following paragraphs make a lot of sense to me. Making sense of them is the easy part though — the execution, that’s the hard part.
I’m here to help — with both.
The window of opportunity has swung wide open for all of us. It’s there, if we choose to seize it. If the goal is to move paintings, books, or albums, it’s essential to create a connection and a reason for the marketplace to care about, invest in and appreciate one’s work. Create this connection, and you’ll put yourself in a better position to close the deal, land the job, and book the deal.
That’s what it means to build a personal brand. Talking in theory about it is obviously easier than the actual execution of it, which we’ll dive into shortly, but before going there, it’s important to recognize a few things — a few integral pieces of the puzzle that help you to standout in today’s world.
Self-Awareness: You need to have an honest conversation with yourself to understand who exactly it is that you are — your strengths, your weaknesses and how they play a role in the work you put out to the world. You also need to have a firm grasp on what it is you stand for, and are against. The way in which we communicate these ideals to the world lays the groundwork for how prospective clients and potential business associates begin to perceive us. The first step towards building a personal brand is opening yourself up in a way that invites people to connect with you — the real you.
Doing the Work: The more energy you put into getting your work out in front of the world, the more it will be out there. Sounds obvious, I know. The work doesn’t stop once it’s created. Once it’s out there, you need to then build a conversation around it/yourself in a way that draws people in to it. Give them a reason to buy into you and your mission — it’s a lot easier to see when you’re out there hustling your face off, because there is more of who you are with whom they can connect.
Momentum: The more you create content and put it out into the world, the more you are able to connect with the people out there that are looking for what you have to offer. As long as you put your heart and soul into it, creating ten pieces of good content is far more useful as a way of honing your craft, versus continually refining one piece, hoping to make it ’just right’. Truth be told, that one piece will never be 'just right’. The process of creating and shipping art out to the world helps you move closer to that ideal you are looking for, because you get more practice as an artist, and start to understand what your audience is looking for and hoping to connect with. Any traction is better than no traction, so just keep moving the needle.
With momentum comes ridicule, haters and trolls — just tell yourself that as long as they show up, it means you’re doing something right. Be ready, and know that when you feel like you’re doing your best work, that’s with they like to come crash the party.
Feedback: Most of us are horrible at using feedback, because we take it personal, but in the right light, it can help us get ahead. It’s what we need, in order to learn from our mistakes, and from the things that don’t work. Unfortunately, the bigger the sample size, the more useful the feedback becomes — it shows us the work we’re good at, how we can create the work that we actually want to do, and, helps gauge what might be valued in the marketplace.
Patience: The culture we live in makes it so damn hard to be patient — ‘lose 30 pounds in 30 days’, or ‘get your first 10k followers by next week, by following these 3, easy steps’, and the list goes on. We’re made to believe there’s always a shortcut. The truth is, though, nothing sustainable happens overnight, even when it looks that way. The ‘Overnight Success’, who’s up for an Academy Award, Startup of the Year, or made the All Star team in their first year in the league, make it look easy, at least from the surface, though beneath that is a story of struggle, the grind, and years of sacrifice that were committed to the goal at hand, long before any accolades start rolling in. Please, don’t buy into the myth that you can build anything in a short period of time - it just doesn’t happen, it’s an unrealistic expectation, and it leads to a lot of unnecessary suffering.
With that being said, please understand these ideas, keeping them close to your heart, as you Build Your Brand. Let’s begin.
1. Produce Valuable Content: The single best way to create and strengthen a brand is by providing content that your target audience will appreciate and connect with. This gets the conversation started around you, builds credibility and shows the world what you’re about. When producing content, circle it back to you. For instance, don’t let the communication stop with their consumption. Instead, do your best to turn it into an ongoing conversation — invite people to join your 'tribe' on social media, subscribe to your newsletter, or email you. One by one, growing your tribe, is the best way to get your work into the right people’s hands, because if it’s good, the right people will share it with the right people, who’ll share it with the right people — the cycle feeds itself.
2. Curate Content: Most of us don’t have the time nor the resources to churn out enough content to keep our audiences regularly engaged, and this is where content curation comes into play — finding articles, videos and other types of content that your audience will find valuable, and then sharing that with them. This is a great way to provide value to your audience, plus it keeps you from always having to provide something novel and interesting. It also extends your reach when shared, for instance, share an article straight onto your Facebook or Twitter page, and as more people share, comment and include friends, the more it comes back to you. I’ve gotten hundreds and thousands of new followers using this tactic. You can also create original content based on curation - we see it on Medium all the time. For instance below, these were all 'Top Stories' from September (somewhere in the top 25 on Medium, but not consecutive — I photoshopped them together):
These are all curated lists, and they are all valuable, because they make the reader’s job a lot easier. In fact, notice, I just curated that list to prove my point.
3. Leverage The Tools: We’ve been gifted some pretty amazing tools to use that help us to connect with people — like-minded individuals and potential customers who might appreciate what we have to say. Sure, you can use the, 'build it and they will come’, model, which works, and using social media ad targeting to discover new audiences can be huge, but on top of that is digging and creating the grassroots conversation with people by discovering them in places like places like LinkedIn, Twitter search, Instagram, Facebook, and yes, of course Medium (tags, etc.), among others. BUT, connect with people, not with intentions of making a sale, or even hoping to persuade to check out your work, but rather, in order to lay the groundwork for a relationship. Then, when the time is right, they’ll come across your work organically, or if they don’t, you can ‘ask’ with confidence, because you’ve created a relationship, not just a sales transaction. versus one that is predicated on a sales pitch. The only way to get to this place though, is to put in the time and the effort, and to actually care — not just pretend.
4. Network: Yes, through the various online tools mentioned above, but far greater than that, is networking face-to-face, in a very human way. Yes, it’s easier to tweet back and forth or chat over email, but nothing replaces connecting with someone face-to-face — a hand shake, looking someone in the eye. Find industry events and other ways that allow you to connect with individuals and build actual relationships with like-minded individuals. If you’re asking yourself, ‘how do I actually get some face-time with this individual who can potentially help me?’ — keep reading, that’s next.
5. Help Others Get What They Want: It seems that on our ‘way up’, we are able to benefit far more from those ‘above’ us, versus the other way around. It feels like we need them a lot more than they need us, which might be true, but ask yourself, 'what can I do to help them first?’. As Zig Ziglar famously said,
Great examples of this are through podcasts, helping with events/charities of which they are a part, by becoming part of an author’ book launch team, or by offering to promote an up and coming band’s concert coming up in your home town. Once you put in the gesture of good faith and establish a relationship, you can then learn how to be of service to them, and then leverage that relationship to your advantage — if you’re good, people might even associate you with them, bringing more attention to yourself and what you’re about.
6. Become a Connector: There is much to be said for someone who connects people with what they are looking for. This is why staffing companies exist, because an organization finds value in hiring another entity or person who they’ve grown to trust, who can then connect them with someone they need. This is what brokers do, but it’s also what online sites like OpenTable do, by connecting diners with restaurants, or what Kayak does by connecting travelers with cheap flights. Value is created, when a relationship forms between two entities that are mutually benefitted. Sometimes a transaction or transfer of money is involved, and other times it’s much more human, which is what I’m really talking about here. A great way to build one’s credibility, within their niche and the marketplace, is to be this person — the connector. Maybe you know the exact candidate for a friend’s company to hire. Or you have a friend with a blog who needs good writers, and you happen to know a great writer who can fill that void. Or, you know a local TV producer who needs interesting guests for an upcoming segment, and you have the perfect person to add to the list. The number of examples goes on forever, however, the lesson always remains the same — as a connector, you create value for two different entities through bringing them together. As people see the value you create, trust is built, as is your personal brand equity with people. This provides you with future leverage in the relationship, so that the next time this person asks for a favor, and you’re able to deliver on it, you’ve put yourself in a position where you can essentially guilt them into returning the favor.
7. Be the Most Unique Version of Yourself: What a cliché, but it’s true — figure out how you can best leverage who you are, your strengths and your story, in order to create content or an angle that’ll resonate with your ideal audience. This invites them to be a part of who you are and what you have to offer the world. So instead of doing just what the other guys do, but you’re able to offer it just a little cheaper, discover what it is that makes you stand out - your product, your work, your humanity. We are sick of seeing the same exact thing over and over again. Find what it is that will make people want to connect with you and your perspective and stick to your guns. Ride that to the bank, and invite the world to come along for the ride.
By now, you’ve probably discovered that there aren’t any real hacks, nor any shortcuts. In fact if you go back through, you’ll see that it’s just the opposite- it’s all about suiting up, and buckling up for the long haul, by creating value for people upfront.