Who doesn’t want to be recognized for his achievements, enjoy popularity and acceptance? Raise your hand, if you never dreamed of becoming a top-notch professional, whose opinion counts? Just imagine: companies are competing to hire you, chief executives of business behemoths are consulting with you, conferences are queuing to have you as a speaker. Does it sound like a fable? To most people it does. But for some it is a reality. The best part of being “a brand” in the corporate world is your freedom. You no longer look for jobs – they come to you as proposals. Days when you had to withstand injustice, rudeness or belittlement at the workplace are long gone. Now you choose who is worth your time, which compensation package better reflects your expertise and talent. The thing is, we all want this. But when it comes to making it happen, enthusiasm is slowly fading away… You have to work hard to establish a reputation for yourself. You manage projects during business days to gain knowledge, practical experience in your niche. But professionalism does not end there. If you want to be known beyond your organization (which is crucial for advancement), you have to take extra steps in your free time. I see professional development (both in the office and outside of it) as a liberation from constraints, a way to greater independence and self-sufficiency. A happier career will lead to a happier life. So, what exactly should you do to raise your profile?
Understand who you are and who you want to be
So you have a job or a business. How did you make it to your current position? Why did you choose this occupation over so many others? What innate talents and personality traits helped you survive in this profession? Think about it. All public relations executives have some things in common: impeccable writing skills, sociable nature, curiosity. If it takes you hours to write a captivating post for the social media – then you probably aren’t cut out for PR.
You are walking this path because you do what you do much better than anyone else. Define your key competences, distinguishing qualities and inclinations to get a portrait of yourself. What are your hobbies? How do they complement your image? Many people intentionally build personal brands around favorite pastimes. This is how it works: you are an ordinary software engineer during the business day, but on Saturday night you play Romeo at the local amateur theater. You do it, because you like it, because it is your passion. At these magical moments, when you perform on stage, people can’t take their eyes off you. Acting is a secret sauce to your personal brand. Use it to your advantage!
Once you have analyzed yourself, move on to the next step – set a goal. Why do you need a strong personal brand? To get a promotion, a pay raise? To win new customers for your business? Pick activities and channels for promotion, keeping target audience in mind.
Build crucial online assets
Type in your name in Google search. What does the Internet know about you? Do this little research to evaluate your current state of web presence. If you want to be an expert in your field, having a Facebook/Google+ accounts simply isn’t enough. Think wider: may be it’s time to start blogging or create a personal website? These are brilliant ideas, and they still work. My blog PR Wiz is an effort to support my brand as a high-caliber pro. I am not trying to compete with the worldwide media, such as PR Daily, for instance. Nor am I doing it for profit. The sole purpose of this online activity is to provide interesting, useful content for my readers. As they say, to get you have to give. I am sharing my knowledge/expertise to build following and strengthen credibility. Blog is a powerful online asset. Even if you don’t promote it. Even if you add new posts occasionally. First of all, a blog shows that you have certain interests in life (or that you are a big fan of what you do). Secondly, it is a living breathing proof that you can communicate your ideas effectively in the written form. Last but not least, owning a blog means that you move with the times, are a true digital citizen.
As I said earlier, another great option to build your reputation is to launch a personal website. Let it have a big picture of you and your motto on the front page. People associate names with appearances, so pick professional photo where you look friendly and put it out there – don’t miss a perfect chance to boost recognizability. Personal website’s address should contain your name/surname – this way anyone interested will have the chance to find it online. Create a short bio page, publish your CV and links to the best samples of your work. Setting up a website is easy nowadays. Yet, many professionals ignore this opportunity. Single website without “a hook” or consistent promotion won’t guarantee you success, but it will surely set you apart from other “faceless” candidates who applied for the same job. It shows you are serious about your reputation and career.
Now let’s move on to your profiles in social media. I mentioned that having a Facebook or Google + accounts isn’t enough and was 100% right. You need to be present there. I am not saying that publishing pictures of your legs or meals is a good idea. But you can share the most curious facts about yourself with followers: a few pictures from a recent trip to an exotic country, some shots of your office, captivating descriptions of the events you attended, family photos. This type of content makes a good impression. Tell people who you are and what you do via micro-blogging on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Express interest in others and celebrate small victories with them – this is a surefire way to win friends and influence people. Start building your web reach through social media platforms. Add new people to your network. Having audience is essential when you promote products/services or are looking for new customers. Just like PR pros are often hired for their contacts in the media, inbound marketing specialists are recognized for their web reach.
Are all of the above assets up and running? Now it’s time to look around and find relevant online communities, where you can socialize, expand professional network and advertise your website/blog. Identify forums, sections of the Q&A sites that pertain to your field. Get involved. Listen to other smarties and share your expertise. Once you gain some trust, provide links to your profiles in social media and stellar blog posts. It also makes sense to write guest posts for famous sites in your niche. It gives you two benefits: 1) traffic to owned media resources 2) strengthened professional reputation. Popular websites will not publish musings of an average Joe. So the fact that you are there is a solid proof of your competence.
Lead an active lifestyle
Building and maintaining online presence is important. But meeting people like you in real life, discussing the latest professional news with them, speaking at the conferences might be even more gratifying. Career success often comes down to whom, rather than what, you know. This is not to say, expertise is useless. To catch people’s attention, you have to be smart. Read the most quoted books in your niche, and, when the opportunity presents itself, share brilliant ideas with interlocutor.
Make a calendar of professional events you would like to attend during the next year. Try to land a few speaking engagements. You will be surprised how quickly your network grows. Direct face-to-face communication will inevitably lead to a greater web reach. These two worlds – online and offline – are greatly interconnected.
Apply for memberships at specialized organizations. The mere fact of you joining these communities adds credibility to your name. It means that you are recognized in professional circles.
Don’t limit yourself to business events only. As they say, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy! Become a part of some other group: join a dancing club or take a few cooking classes. Remain agile and active. Read and socialize. Do it for your career and overall happiness.
Embrace the unconventional
Need more tips on how to skyrocket popularity? There are a few more tactics that would definitely work.
Have you ever thought about starting your own organization? A real one, with meetings, discussion tables, public lectures? As a founder of a professional community, you will have the chance to speak in front of the big audience each time you hold an event. You will quickly build a network, where everyone from aspiring interns to industry’s best minds are your acquaintances. You will have their phone numbers and e-mails at hand. What a nice way to exhibit deep interest in a particular area, show off leadership qualities and expand future career horizons!
In reality, founding an organization like this requires complete dedication, lots of time and financial resources. If you are not yet ready for this venture, start an online community instead. Professional LinkedIn group with a memorable name and appropriate targeting will go a long way. As a moderator, you will constantly be in the spotlight. Let people start discussions, encourage active conversations, run contests with attractive prizes. When the moment is right, share a few promotional pieces. You will notice that people actually listen to what you say.
Giving a lecture in the local university is another great way to affirm professionalism. Share your story of breaking into the industry with the students, name your favorite educational resources, present some case studies. If you have vacant positions, advertise them. Universities are looking for practitioners to supplement theoretical courses, so you should be welcome.
Always dreamed of writing/co-authoring a book? Jump on the opportunity right away! In fact, nothing screams expert status more than a bestseller in your niche. While this is a real commitment and will take months, if not years, of life, I generally think it is worth it. Especially if your ideas are groundbreaking and can help millions of people out there.
Another great way to build credibility for your name is to comment on the hot current events. Make a list of industry publications, where you would like to appear as an expert. Identify key journalists and start commenting on their articles, connect with them in social media, – in other words, let them know you exist. In a few weeks, write journalists a letter. Introduce yourself, explain why you are an expert (list educational credentials, professional achievements, give a link to your blog and authored guest posts). Express your readiness and eagerness to provide comments in a timely fashion (journalists would appreciate this). Be concise, respect their time. Chances are that you’ll get a few responses. Take it from there and be sure not to miss publicity opportunities. Alternatively, you may use specialized software HARO (“Help a reporter out”). Subscribe to the relevant sections and journalistic queries will flood your inbox. Make sure you send them a short bio – most journalists won’t quote just anyone – they want superstars!
Finally, you may resort to online advertising: Google Adwords, Facebook or LinkedIn ads. Although this is not the cheapest way to become visible, it’s certainly worth a shot. First of all, because the idea is fresh. Almost no one uses ads for personal promotion – you’ll stand out. Secondly, advertising allows you to target specific people in a very creative way. Think of Google recruiters. How much CVs do you think they get per day? What is your chance of being noticed? With ads, you can do just that – show up in front of these guys. The rest is up to you!
Of course, not everyone will become a world brand. But nothing keeps you from becoming a local one! Be a star in your university, hometown or even among your friends. This is entirely possible. Remember, the difference between ordinary and extraordinary lies in that little “extra”. Take a leap of faith and draft your first article. Or attend a local networking party. Even the smallest step in the right direction will make you very different from the majority of people, who are always tired or busy with other things. So, go over this post one more time, pick activities that you would enjoy and start acting!