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According to Pew Research Center, 74% of Americans trust someone with a respected personal brand, and over half would recommend, do business with or seek advice from these individuals.
Many businesses and entrepreneurs outsource the job of building a personal brand to a PR agency. I’m convinced that in the case of personal branding, it’s always better when founders are deeply involved in building them and not just outsourcing it on the side as another campaign on social media.
1. The proof is in the people
Founders like Elon Musk, Gary Vaynerchuk and Sara Blakely have all successfully built companies entirely around their personal brands.
Gary Vaynerchuk, a.k.a. Gary Vee, not only built his personal brand into a force of nature but leveraged it into an entire enterprise centered around helping others. His belief is that your brand must be “relentless, authentic and powerful,” which is something you can’t outsource to an agency.
The founder of shapewear company SPANX, Sara Blakely, used her own struggles to create a brand that is not only beloved but relatable for people around the world. No PR agency could have captured her thoughts, feelings and convictions as honestly as she could herself. A self-made billionaire, it’s clear that Blakely made the right choice.
2. Your perspective is unique and valuable
Yes, PR firms have a portfolio of success stories and brand-building. However, it’s important to remember that these PR managers are writing and rewriting dozens of similar columns and thought pieces for their clients.
The media is ravenous for fresh angles, “hot takes” and genuine, expert knowledge. This gives you an advantage. You need to come up with a list of topics that fall under your expertise. After that, you can expand on those topics either by offering a unique perspective or even a “spicy,” controversial opinion that can be shared as a way to spark discussion in the media. You can talk about that with your assistant or friends who you trust and ask about the spiciest and interesting points of your talk.
Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect; you can hire an editor or collaborate with a copywriter to get the final form down just right. The important thing is to infuse your personality into the pieces and build your brand.
3. Remember that you can’t delegate your voice
As an entrepreneur, there are many things you can task others with doing. However, building your personal brand simply is not one of them. Nobody else in the world can replicate your voice, so you will always be presenting a watered-down version of yourself if you allow someone else to take the reins of developing your personal brand.
For example, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian has ensured from the beginning that his voice is loud, clear and all his own since day one. He is not afraid of speaking up about issues he’s passionate about, and he makes a point not to take himself too seriously. As a result, top tech companies want to collaborate with him.
When you think about your online presence, try to allow glimpses into all of the important aspects of your life, showing a relatable, human side that strikes a chord with people.
4. Journalists appreciate the personal touch
Journalists love when founders and entrepreneurs send them emails and article ideas directly rather than using a PR agency as the middleman. This signals that the founder is serious about their goals and willing to put the work in. It also helps to build trust and rapport more quickly. Plus, it’s always great to receive ideas and drafts from the source directly.
When pitching to journalists, remember that they get dozens or hundreds of these emails per week and, on average, only respond to about 3% of them. Take the time to understand the journalist and outlet before sending them a succinct and relevant pitch.
5. Research shows a personal brand can make or break your success
At least 65% of people use the internet as a primary source of information about people. In the same way that it’s normal to Google a potential date or new acquaintance to learn about their lives, clients, employers, media and peers will do the same to learn about the founder before taking the next steps.
Studies have proven that it only takes 50 milliseconds for someone to develop a first impression of you, and 94% of the time, this impression is based on design (a.k.a. feelings). The more you can showcase the things that make you stand out and prove you’re trustworthy, the more people will resonate with your personal brand and flock to you.
Big PR firms can’t give you the unique, authentic voice you need to succeed, so skip spending on an agency, and keep your personal brand, well, personal.