If someone had asked during my college years what I was doing to build my network or develop a brand, the response would have likely resembled that of deer pondering the proverbial headlights.
Looking back at that intersection of higher learning and launch of a new career, it’s clear that – regardless of the terminology – those initial grassroots networking and brand-building efforts ultimately established for me a path from cubicle-dweller, to business reporter, to business owner and entrepreneur.
Every business has a story. And at the heart of our brand building lies a unique opportunity to drive awareness of people, products, services and value propositions in the communities we serve.
In recent years, traditional lines among marketing, advertising and public relations have blurred out amid a proliferation of shiny new digital platforms, an army of self-publishers, and fast access to blazing Internet connection speeds.
Social networking – in person or on the web – isn't about standing around in a suit with an elevator speech and business card in hand. It’s about understanding the needs of your market, and uncovering ways to continue the conversation in lieu of making a pitch at each and every turn.
Social media, for example, is a function of public relations. Public relations is a fancy name for customer service. In the digital age, customer service is about asking yourself two essential questions: Am I everywhere my customers expect me to be? When they find me, do I have something relevant to say?
Smart decision-makers work hard to develop real-world references, testimonials and easy-ways-to-reach-me widgets. The question revolves around how this real-world collateral - from contact lists to marketing brochures - can be repurposed to drive brand awareness and reinforce existing business relationships online.
Sales professionals focused on the next cold call or transaction instead of harnessing the power of online publishing to capture warm leads and uncover word-of-mouth referrals may also want to consider a longer-term view of brand building in the digital age.
Stay tuned for more during a March 13 IASourceLink business webinar and catch my thoughts on how personal branding can open new doors to reach clients and prospective customers hungry for opportunities to make a buying consideration or do business in near real time.