Are You Using Your Personal Brand to Drive Innovation?
How Distinctive Are You? Do You Use Your Personal Brand to Drive Innovation?
Building a strong personal brand is becoming increasingly vital to startups and entrepreneurs. To gain a competitive edge in earning venture capitalists’ and buyer’s dollars, leaders are gradually using a personal brand platform to bring a unique voice to their business, earning them a respected place of thought leadership in their industry.
A personal brand is not about gathering a large twitter following; a great personal brand should actually move the conversation away from you, rather than toward you. To earn mindshare, the backbone of your platform should be, “What have I learned that can help others?” instead of, “Let me tell you about my products and services.”
Your Personal Brand: Are You Adding Value?
Personal branding is more about listening than it is about sharing your ideas. You’ll need intelligence, and intelligence is something that cannot be outsourced. Are you good at curating content? Editing what’s not relevant?
Right from you laptop or mobile phone, you already have access to a majority of the intelligence you need. Apps like Feedly make it easy for you to select news sources, and skim the top headlines. No, you won’t be able to read every day, but by skimming headlines of key publications, your perceptions about what’s happening will gather depth and momentum.
What are the key intelligence sources? At a minimum, your reading list should include:
- Your company’s website
- Your competitor’s website
- News: (Something like, Forbes, CEO.com, The Economist)
- Lifestyle/Culture: (Mashable, Tech Crunch, Huffington Post)
- Leadership (Select from, Hack Management 2.0, The Conference Board Review, Strategy & Business)
- Your Niche: What are you interested in? Surfing? Photography? Art History? Motorcycles?
- Research: Forrester, Corporate Executive Board
- Your Customer: This is the most important category. This one is vital, not optional and non-negotiable.
Customer information is a commodity that is so treasured that some brands have created their own customer forums to encourage customers to share. Look at AMEX’s OPEN Forum or LED Revolution’s interactive social website. More than likely, there’s a LinkedIn group, a Facebook page, a forum or maybe even a YouTube channel where your customers exchange ideas, pictures, solutions and even complaints about your market. You can set up a Google Alert to let you know when your company, or your name, or your industry is mentioned in tweets, articles and blogs.
Handled correctly, customer intelligence can be just as valuable, if not more so, than paying for a private focus group, a customer survey or market research.
A Dynamic Brand
Only when you are armed with intelligence, will you be in a position to create authentic and valuable content. Now you’re in a position where you can be creative and distinctive with your platform and your message. In a world of 140 character tweets and 6 second videos, condense your message. Blog posts and white papers will be relished for years if you succinctly add fresh insight.
A Responsive Brand
Cultivating a strong personal brand is just as much about being responsive to what is being said as it is about creating content. As you share your opinions, people will begin to respond to you. Be prepared to nurture and grow that response into a community.
Treat the negative comment as a gift. You’ve already created the platform that gives you the opportunity to address them, and you have a responsibility to do so. Take this opportunity to earn integrity by answering that customer complaint immediately and personally.
It was Jim Rohn, the rags to riches entrepreneur who said, “The difference between where you are today and where you’ll be five years from now will be found in the quality of books you’ve read.” Books too are vital to your ongoing education. And if Rohn were still alive today, he would have probably added online newsfeeds to those vital books. The last thing we need is more content. But what people do need are original solutions and ideas. What do you have to contribute?
Susan J. Owens is an personal and product branding specialist. You can find more here at Plumbline1.com.
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