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PR 101

How to register your personal trademark


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The way you are perceived by the public plays an integral role in your organization's success. A solid reputation does more than simply boost revenue. It positions your company to take on top competitors.

As a business leader, you spend countless hours thinking about your company's brand, but what about your own?

Though a good reputation takes you a long way, a strong brand puts you over the top.

Think of some of the most successful companies. Many leverage the power of their CEO to become the top spokesperson and brand icon. Microsoft equals Bill Gates. Virgin Group equals Virgin Group. Harpo Productions equals Oprah. A personal brand is the way you package and market yourself. These known-by-millions men and women earn their paychecks by positioning themselves as go-to experts on key topics.

"The most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart - if people believe they share values with company, they will stay loyal to a brand." Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO, Starbucks Coffee Company.

When you shop, do you ever buy a product because of your good feelings about the person selling it or a truly exceptional experience at the store? If we're honest, "yes" is the answer to both questions. People naturally relate to people selling products or services if there is a bond or an emotional tie-in that connects.

 

To define your brand, be honest, selective and pay attention to Donald Trump.

Consumers need and want to feel confident about where they spend their money, even more so during these tough economic times. Shoppers seek out companies that care about them and relate to their needs. One of the best ways to send that message is to put a face on the business - literally.

The way you are perceived by the public plays an integral role in your organization's success. A solid reputation does more than simply boost revenue. It generates employee loyalty (in turn reducing turnover) and positions your company to take on top competitors.

Sounds smart, right? Want to start building your own brand? If so, you need to know the answer to several key questions.

  •  What makes you different?
  •  What do you want people to know about you?
  •  Why do you want a stronger brand? To gain respect in your industry? To attract a certain customer? To intrigue a stronger caliber of prospective employees?

Answering these questions helps you define your position and set goals before your promotional efforts commence. Your answers make a huge difference. For example, if you decide your first priority is to build an industry reputation, B2B and trade relations are the way to go. But, if you want to attract new customers, local community outreach is the right choice.

Publicity matters when it comes to building your brand. And contrary to what some believe, all publicity is not good publicity. There are dos and don'ts to effectively build your personal brand.

Follow a few simple rules as you define your brand:

Be honest. The most important thing about personal branding is transparency. You need to build a solid and trustworthy reputation.

Don't go around telling people how great you are. By establishing yourself as a thought leader and expert, people come to their own positive judgment about your credentials.

Don't jump at every media opportunity. There is no need to over-sell or become a publicity hound. Be selective. Pick and choose the opportunities that are right for you, your goals, and your franchise.

Whether you like him or not, there are some lessons we can learn from Donald Trump. The Donald is a master when it comes to creating a consistent personal brand. When you think of Donald Trump, (after you get past his hair) you think of his reputation as an opportunity maker. Whether it is his commercial real estate business, his luxury resorts, or his TV personality, Trump knows how to reach the right variety of audiences to meet his needs. As Trump discovered long ago, you need to define your own brand and your own position. And then, stick with it. Be consistently you.

Once you define your brand, it is time to communicate it - broadly and consistently. Here are some strategies to consider to help you tell your story and share your brand.

Social networking is powerful. A small network of friends, family, and colleagues is all you need to get a word-of-month campaign going. Sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are easy ways to start marketing yourself. Update your network to include new trends and successes. Nurture your personal online community. Get to know reporters and also potential new customers and opportunities. As your networks continue to grow, so will your messages and your brand.

Speaking engagements are great opportunities to elevate your brand in the industry. By selecting the right venues, you place yourself in the center of your target audience and you control the message. Figure out what the right forum is for you and what you can contribute to benefit others and stand out from the crowd. Even if you're not the keynote speaker, participating in sessions and networking are good ways for people to get to know you and remember you. Give out personal business cards, meet with as many people as possible, and ask thought-provoking questions.

 

Gini Dietrich is chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich Public Relations in Chicago.

Gini can be reached at gdietrich@armentdietrich.com or 312-787-7249.

Do some personal media outreach with letters to the editor and contributed columns. Working with local community papers and industry newsletters helps to get you on a great track for establishing yourself as a subject matter expert. There's no need to go after the top media outlets at the beginning. You want your thoughts and stories to appear in the publications your customers are reading. Be realistic and know that your local community and industry peers often are among the most influential people you really want to reach with your brand.

If you're really dedicated, blogs are great way to connect with your customers, employees, and new business prospects. Keep in mind that blogs are not a one-time thing. They take daily commitment and require frequent engagement. It is important to make sure your blog is not a one-way street. Evolve and improve your blog as your viewers respond and participate.

Develop an online thought-leader response campaign. Sounds complicated, but it's not. Think about your audience and find out what they're reading. Is it BusinessWeek online or Joe's Franchise Blog? Once you figure that out, make your daily reading list mirror your target audience. Get to know the writers and start commenting on their articles. Engage in the conversation and always disclose who you are and your company. This not only puts you in front of other audiences, and helps improve the volume of traffic to your Web site, but good editors read the comments people leave on their articles and sometimes lean on them for story ideas, maybe even for sources.

Most importantly, lead by example. Do what you preach. Walk the talk. Live your brand. Nothing can ruin your reputation faster than saying one thing then doing another. If you're out there saying that internal communication is a priority, and there's not been a staff meeting since 2008, then I bet your employees don't trust you anymore.

Move over, Donald! With the Internet, social media tools, and smart phones, powerful word-of-mouth tools are leveling the ground for all of us to build and broaden the reach of our own brands. Yes, while you still need to compete on quality and price, how you define, differentiate and communicate your brand can put you over the top.

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