Speak to any group of investors and they will say the same thing: we back people over ideas.
It might sound cliché, but this idea is reflected in wider purchasing habits too. According to a survey from data and measurement company, Nielson, only 33 per cent of buyers trust messages from a brand, while 90 per cent trust messages from an individual they know.
Developing an effective personal brand can help bridge this gap. It’s why when we hear of a new Apple product launch we think of Steve Jobs’ turtleneck; and why the billion-dollar, The Walt Disney Company, uses the personal signature of its founder as a logo.
But this works just as well, if not more effectively, for small and medium-sized businesses. SMEs are more likely to rely on personal referrals and recommendations when trading which each other.
A well-developed induvial brand can attract employees searching for similar values and put you on the radar of investment houses looking to back a winning management team.
Venture capital firms, private equity houses or even boards of potential acquirers, want to see someone with vision and charisma, but who’s not let early success go to their head. Potential talent running the rule over your company will want to see likely want to see the same. Most people want to work for leaders with ideas, drive and who’ll ultimately treat them well.
Founders and CEOs will want their personal brand to evolve with their business. But how do you begin to build one?
Below are five tips to get you started:
ACT WITH AUTHENTICITY AND INTEGRITY
A personal brand can take a long time to build and is far harder to salvage than a corporate one. Should the worst happen, a company can rebrand, clear out the management team, or merge with a competitor.
Those comparatively simple options don’t exist for individuals. Repairing a personal reputation can require much more work and may ultimately be impossible. Anyone undertaking due-diligence, be they would-be employee, or investor, can quickly find out about past transgressions.
The simple advice is to ensure that your professional behaviour is beyond reproach and that you act with integrity.
Likewise, it’s important that your personal brand away from work is consistent with your market-facing image. If you do live a lifestyle outside of the office that runs contrary to accepted norms in your industry, be mindful of the content you publish on personal social channels. Tighten up your privacy settings on personal accounts where appropriate.
BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE MEDIA
Just like investors, journalists are frequently more interested in the people behind the company than product or service. Take the time to meet the media covering your industry or region.
Handled incorrectly, a media 1-1 can be a bruising experience. But with the right approach, the resulting coverage will trump a simple press release.
Be mindful that what you say may be published – unless you have prior confirmation the conversation is off the record – but don’t think solely of short term coverage. Journalists prize industry sources for tips and the inside track on unfolding sector issues.
Establishing a long-term two-way relationship can be invaluable; you can benefit from sympathetic coverage of your news – whether good or bad, along with gaining a well-connected advocate in the market.
ATTEND THE RIGHT EVENTS
While social channels and rich content have made it easier to build a personal brand virtually, there’s still something to be said for pressing the flesh. Pre-existing relationships with journalists can and do lead to invitations to take part in panel debates, and private media roundtables.
These events are often sponsored and well-attended by the advisory and investment community. The fact that these occasions come with guaranteed coverage strengthens the case for you to invest your time, but trade shows without a media partner are worthwhile too. Check with representative bodies and trade organisations; many are grateful for panel guests or individual speakers putting themselves forward.
If you can establish yourself as a willing and engaging speaker, the invitations tend to come thick and fast.
But don’t limit yourself to corporate events. Reconnecting with a school or university about speaker opportunities can be a rewarding experience on multiple levels and may help with attracting the talent your business needs.
JOIN APPROPRIATE CONVERSATIONS
In the first episode in this series, we discussed the expectation for companies to engage with relevant industry agendas. That extends to business leaders too. If you don’t establish what your values or stance on sector issues, others may infer them for you.
It’s important that once you start publishing content, you keep the momentum going. Unless you entrust your individual professional social accounts to a ghost-writer or colleague in the social media team, it can make sense to focus on one.
For many B2B companies, LinkedIn is the obvious choice. But if your company works in an industry where visuals are all important, Instagram may be a better fit.
In deciding what to comment on, think back to authenticity, integrity and consistency. If your sole business is in developing luxury private rented apartments, you may be best staying out of discussions about social housing design.
SHARE THE LIMELIGHT
If a company is too heavily reliant on an individual’s brand, investors’ alarm bells can ring. If you plan to grow the business and sell it, you need to allow your management team to share the limelight. Encourage them to build their personal brands too and enter them for appropriate awards.
An equitable approach can not only pay off in the eyes of would-be investors, it can also help you to attract talent who’ll see their contributions will be valued.
For more information about how we can help you can leverage a personal brand to support your growing business, please get in touch below.
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