10 Things to Know About Your Brand

top10Branding – the idea of creating an image, sound, word, that conveys an instantaneous message – is both and art and a science.  The art is in the creativity, finding just the right image and word and sound combination to trigger an emotional response in your customers.  The science is understanding what triggers certain behaviors, tracking your progress, measuring your success.

As an entrepreneur, consultant or what I call an “independent professional” there is so much to learn about branding that it is sometimes hard to know where to start.  When embarking on any branding activity ask yourself these 10 questions.

  1. Who is your target audience? You can solve a customer problem if you don’t know who the customers are.  Focus on them and they will help you answer the rest of these questions.
  2. What is your brand promise? What does the company stands for?  What is the single most important thing that the organization promises to deliver to its customers? What do you want customers, employees, and partners to expect from EVERY interaction with you.
  3. What is your unique value proposition? What do you offer that no one else does?  How do you want customers to FEEL about your organization after interacting with you?
  4. What are your key messages? Customer messages are divided into core ideas which are made relevant by including supporting statements that reinforce the idea (data, benefits, features, etc.)  These are the ideas that your customers think are important – not the one you think they think are important.
  5. What is your brand personality? Illustrate what the organization wants its brand to be known for. Think about specific personality traits you want prospects, clients, employees, and partners to use to describe your organization. You should have 4-6 traits (5 is ideal), each being a single term (usually an adjective).
  6. What is the tone of your brand communications? Think of the voice, tone and language used to communicate your brand?  Does it relate to your customers?  Does it relate to your personality?  does it support your promise?
  7. What is the ONE thing that you want people to take away from your brand? If you can only communicate one thing to you customers what would it be? What is the single most important thing to them (not to you).
  8. How do you describe your brand? Your description should include Aa brief explanation of how you solve their problem using important details of the offering that reinforce the key messages and differentiation.
  9. Do you have a tagline? A tagline is a brief statement that captures the essence of your brand in a few words.
  10. How do you personally feel about the answers to these questions? If your gut tells you that this isn’t authentic, or that this is the same stuff you’ve been saying for years, then you should listen.


Publicity-InsiderPR doesn’t mean press releases.  This is actually Rule # 27 in my book “42 Rules of Marketing”.   PR usually stands for “public relations” or “press relations.” And it is an unfortunate coincidence that it also stands for one of the more visible elements of many marketing campaigns—a press release.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who instinctively think that PR means “press release.” They couldn’t be more wrong.  Press releases are great but they aren’t the only kind of publicity you can get.  Publicity means getting public visibility for your name, company or cause.

Here are three ways to get publicity:

1.  Get quoted in the media: The media – journalists, bloggers – are constantly looking for experts to comment on their stories.  It can hard for them to find sources.  Enter a few entrepreneurs who have stepped in to help them out.  There are two publicity tools I recommend for getting quoted:  First, is HARO, which stands for Help A Report Out. This is a free service run by a guy named Peter Shankman – really smart guy.  He compiles media inquiries and sends them out to his opt-in email list of people who want to respond to media requests.  It is a direct connection between the media and the source.  And it’s free.  Second, is PRLeads – this one isn’t free, but is a great option similar to HARO, but with more filtering capabilities so you can have emails that fit your interests sent directly to you each day.  Guess what, I’ll send you these links as well.

2.  Pitch ideas to the media: If you have a unique story idea, let the media know about it.  Identify your Top 10 media outlets (magazines, newspapers, blogs, whatever) and research to find a journalist or editor.  Write up your story idea and send it to them.  You will have to do this several times, but if the idea is creative and timely you are very likely to get a positive response.

3. Last, but not least, you can issue a press release. PR has not been left out of the Internet revolution. In fact, the number of press releases has increased exponentially with the advent of online news distribution services like PRWeb. The combination of online news distribution and search engine optimization has expanded the role of traditional PR.  Press releases used to be the way to get your news to journalists.  Today, press releases are delivered via RSS feeds to your customers’ desktops.   If you want to get a message out to customers and the market – press releases are a great tool.  However, be aware…they are general purpose tools that work well if you’re trying to make people aware that you exist. Press releases aren’t particularly helpful if you need to generate leads.  They can drive some traffic, and they will definitely increase awareness of who you are. But by themselves, they are not the most effective marketing tools. As I’ve said over and over – the most effective approach is a combination of a variety of marketing activities to deliver your message to your target audience.

Create a Video

youtubeVideo is becoming more and more popular because it is fast, entertaining and engages our eyes and ears.  However, a video on it’s own isn’t going to get you the results you want.  Your video needs to be an integrated part of your overall marketing strategy. Social media, email marketing, video marketing, articles…all of this integrated together in the right way will help you build your brand and our business.

Here are the basic steps to creating and marketing your video.

1.  Script it – figure out what you want to say, write it down, make sure you repeat key phrases so the viewer remembers them. Practice it.  Say it out loud.

2.  Record it – Now there are several ways to record a video. The easiest and cheapest way is to use a video camera that is built in to you computer.  OR to use a video camera you already have.  Test the lighting, background, and look for shadows.  Do a couple of tests – get comfortable with the camera and practice your script.  Practice until your delivery is smooth and comfortable.  

3.  Edit it – There is a ton of editing software available and much of it is free or comes with your computer. These are the key elements of a great video:
•    Visual look & feel – use your existing brand colors or theme to help integrate the video into your marketing activities.  You can certainly add other images, but don’t create something that is visually disconnected from other things on your website.
•    Timing – It must be under 2 minutes.  2 minutes of online video can seem like forever if the content is dull and the presentation is slow.  Keep it fast, change the graphics every 5-10 seconds.
•    Music – you need a soundtrack for your video. Don’t use popular music  or songs from well known artists as you can get in trouble.  But there are some resources for copyright free music that are really great.  Again, I’ll include this in my email.
•    Graphics – create graphics in your editing program that use key words and phrases. Time them to coincide with the script to reinforce the points you are making in the voice over.

4.  Promote it – The most obvious place to promote your video is on your web page or blog.  So clearly you want to do this.  The easiest way to get your video out to as many people as possible is to post it to YouTube.  YouTube is one of the most visited sites on the internet, worldwide.  So leverage it’s power. Create an account if you don’t have one. Upload your video and use their capabilities to post, share and promote your video.  Here are a few ideas:
•    Embed it on your webpage or blog – YouTube provides a simple embed link that you just paste into your webpage.
•    Email the “share” link to your opt-in email list and email them the link to the video OR direct them back to your webpage or blog to view it.
•    Post it to your social media accounts – LinkedIn, FaceBook and Twitter are obvious.  But you may also want to consider posting it to StumbleUpon or Digg or other sites.

Publish Articles

articlesPublishing articles is very similar to blogging.  The advantage to articles for some people is that while the effort required to create the content is very similar, the time requirement is very different.  What I mean is that a standard article runs between 400-1000 words, the same for standard blog posts.  So, writing a blog or an article is basically about the same amount of work.  What’s different about articles is that they don’t have to happen regularly.  Blogs need to happen regularly – several times a week, or weekly at a minimum.  Articles can happen whenever the mood strikes you, or whenever you have something you want to write about.  The pressure is definitely less.

The disadvantage to articles is that a there is no way of capturing subscribers or followers, like you have with a blog.  Articles do generate traffic to your site as there is always a “promo box” at the bottom of the article where you put your bio and a link back to your site.  But at that point, your site has to be working for you to turn the click from a published article into a registered user either through a subscription or an opt-in email.  You will get the traffic, and it is up to you to capture it.

Like blogs, articles are well liked by search engines.  The content of the article will be indexed by the search engines allowing people to find your article linked with your name.  But there won’t be an immediate link to your site – rather back to where the article was published.
To get started here are 4 steps to marketing yourself with articles:

1. Identify your topic. Choose topics related to your area of expertise.  If you have content already developed, leverage it for your articles. Look for connections to current events and take existing content and “spin” it into something new and exciting for your audience.

2. Write your article. You want to shoot for between 400-1000 words.  There are many different ways to structure your articles, but some of the more popular are Top 10 Lists, How To Guides, Tips and Tricks, Seasonal or Holiday tie-ins.  Make sure to include your short bio and a link to a webpage in the “promo box” usually at the end of the article.  The link can be to your business web page, blog, or social media profile. Use whichever one is most up to date and relevant to the article topic.

3. Publish your article: There are 4 major articles distribution databases.  You can submit your articles to all four services.  Each one of them has a reporting mechanism where you can see how many views your articles have received.

4. Promote your article: Now that you have your article published, tell people about it.  When answering customer questions, or talking to prospective clients, it adds a degree of credibility to include a link to an article you’ve written.  Don’t forget to post them to your social media accounts.  Use these as a way of establishing your credibility. Having your articles published on a 3rd party site is validation of your expertise.  It’s like a great reference for you.

Start a Blog

blog boardBlogging, like social media, seems to be the hot topic right now.  A blog is a type of a website, with regular entries usually posted in reverse-chronological order – meaning the newest stuff is on top. Blog topics range from  commentaries, to descriptions of events, and uses media like graphics or video.

Some blogs function as personal online diaries – this isn’t the type of blog you want to start if you’re using a blog to build your business.  Most business blogs are topic specific – real estate, photography, gardening, small business marketing.  These blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject.  A typical blog combines text, graphics, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to the topic. One of the key features of a blog is the ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive way.  Readers comments and the blog owner responds.  Everyone can see the comments and the responses so a natural conversation develops.

But how do you know if blogging is for you?  If you like to write, then you should immediately start a blog for your business.  If you don’t like to write – think long and hard about whether a blog is right for you.  Most blogs are primarily text – which means you will have to write it.  However, depending on your business and your style there are still options that involve less writing.  You could create a photoblog, a Video blog, a music blog, or an audio blog – like a podcast.    For example if you wanted to create a video blog, you could record 5 minute segments 1-2 times each week and post them.  This is still a blog in concept, but you’re not writing.

There are a few reasons blogs have become so popular:

1. They are really easy to setup and maintain – unlike traditional websites which required a PhD in computer science.  Blogs are dead easy and most blogging platforms are free.  Check out WordPress or Blogger if you are just starting.

2.  They are completely searchable by Google.  Because blogs are primarily text – they are completely indexed by the search engines making them great at organic search.  There are some tricks to this of course.  Keyword usage is critical – meaning you need use keywords in your content so that the search engines find it and put you in the right category in their search results.  Be careful not to overdo it.  The content has to read naturally and sound like a person actually wrote it. Otherwise, Google can tell you’re trying to stock up on keywords and they don’t like it.

3.  Blogs can scale really well.  Blogs can be 1 page of pure text and very simple functionality. Blogs can be comprehensive websites with amazing features and functionality.  My two primary websites are both created as blogs using WordPress.  Lauralowell.com is a pretty standard blog with 2-3 entries each week, categories of content, specific pages with fixed content, readers can subscribe to my newsletter, offer comments, etc.  One the other hand, 42rules.com is a whole different thing.  It is a complete website with multiple page owners, a backend database, user-based security and tons of other stuff.  The point is – blogs can grow and expand without much effort.