You've got a strong business brand, but how well does your personal brand support it?

We asked Gini Dietrich, founder and CEO of Spin Sucks, a Forbes top 10 PR blog, Cision number three PR blog, and InkyBee number one PR blog. Dietrich is also the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, which provides an alternative to traditional integrated marketing communications.

Here, Gini Dietrich shares her advice for creating a personal brand.

SCORE: What is a personal brand?

Gini Dietrich: A personal brand is creating authority and expertise around the way you think. This concept is really good for subject matter experts, executives, and business owners. If you have a unique perspective in your industry, you can build a personal brand.

SCORE: Why is a personal brand so important for small business owners?

Dietrich: It used to be you could hire a celebrity spokesperson, train them on your key messages, and send them out to build your brand. You still see some of that — Lisa Rinna for incontinence and Brian Urlacher for hair growth, for instance — but today's consumer wants authenticity and transparency. Do we believe Lisa Rinna is incontinent, or do we think she's shilling for the company for a dollar? Either way, it's not a great way to build brand awareness.

With the right training and message development, every small business owner can — and should — be their own spokesperson. People buy from people, particularly people they like. If your personal brand is top-of-mind for your target audience and your competitor's is not, whom do you think they'll buy from?

SCORE: What’s an example of how a business owner’s personal brand could support their business brand?

Dietrich: It's really hard to be a small business owner and think, "I can reach that" when you look at people such as Richard Branson, Simon Sinek, Amy Cuddy or Susan Cain. But every single one of those people started with an idea and a Twitter account. Amy Cuddy was virtually unknown when she nailed her body language TED talk. She's used virtually every digital platform on earth to hammer home the body language message. [Her message isn’t] convoluted, [and you know exactly] what she does. 

The same approach works for small business owners. When we launched Spin Sucks (my business blog that has turned into its own business), it was kind of a disaster. We were afraid to take a stance on anything, and it was apparent. I went to a conference that I paid thousands of dollars to attend and was confounded that the keynote speaker came onto the stage in blue jeans. I wrote a blog post about how disrespectful that was and, if I were going to pay to see someone speak, I deserved the respect of the speaker at least looking like he took a shower that morning. (I've since softened my view on that.) 

That blog post published, and the entire world debated it (OK, that's a slight embellishment). It was the point of no return with my personal brand. Though I wrote that nearly 10 years ago, people still bring it up and tease me if I wear any denim. 

Every single one of us has a unique take on our [industries]. Use that to build your personal brand—and don't be afraid of making people angry. You'll attract the people you want to work with and not waste any time with those you don't.

SCORE: What steps should you take in creating your personal brand?

Dietrich: First, figure out your unique perspective on something in your industry. Your personal brand has to be unique to you — something no one else can copy. It could be something that makes you angry, something you think more people should do, shoddy ways of doing business or best practices. Create a list of things that fire you up and things that make you happy. 

Then figure out where you want to participate online. Do you want to blog? Do Facebook Live? Create YouTube videos? Build an Instagram following? Don’t try to be in all of those places until later. Figure out where your prospective customers hang out online — and what medium is most comfortable for you — and start there.

SCORE: What common mistakes do business owners make with their personal brands?

Dietrich: These are the mistakes almost everyone makes:

  • They try to be everywhere and are doing all of it just “sort of” well.
  • They start and then stop, start and then stop.
  • They are really excited to start, and do it all really well for about 60 days. Then life takes over and [the brand] begins to suffer.

SCORE: Your best tip for building a personal brand?

Dietrich: Be patient. Building relationships with human beings takes time. Just like your best friend has been around for 20 years and knows all your secrets, your customers will stick around a long time if you have some patience.

you are your own brand