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Small business: Entrepreneurs can profit from the personal touch

Hilary Topper, president of HJMT Public Relations in

Hilary Topper, president of HJMT Public Relations in Long Beach, says part of her personal branding strategy involves sharing her blogs. "Those blogs have nothing to do with business," she says, but have brought her new clients.   Credit: HJMT Public Relations Inc.

Many large companies have a public face attached to their business.

Just think Jeff Bezos and Amazon, or Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

For smaller entrepreneurs, building a personal brand can also pay off, experts say.

“I think it’s very important for entrepreneurs to have a personal presence connected to their business,” says Denise Wakeman, a Los Angeles-based digital marketing consultant. “It helps your audience and clients get to know the person behind the business.”

And that helps create a connection that will have clients thinking of your company first, she says.

Social media has provided a wide forum for entrepreneurs to grow their personal brands, so if you haven’t already beefed up your online presence, 2020 is a good time to start, she says.

As a first step, Google your name and see what comes up, says Wakeman. You can get an idea of where your name/business appears in search results, where you already have a presence and what might need updating, she says.

It’s best to examine all your online profiles and bios  and your own website, says Bill Corbett Jr., president of Corbett Public Relations in Floral Park, a PR and personal branding firm.

Ask yourself: Do your online bios and summaries convey your personal brand message and your "why?”

Many entrepreneurs mistakenly believe that an online bio or profile should only be a resume, says Corbett.

Instead, he said,  it should answer the question, why should somebody want to work with you?, says Corbett.

Ask yourself if your profile looks like everyone else's in the industry, he says. How can you differentiate yourself from others?

When conveying who you are, “it needs to be brief, repeatable and consistent,” says Arthur Germain, principal of Communication Strategy Group, a Huntington brand storytelling agency.

The same is true for relaying how you help others, he says. “I’m really happy to be known as the guy that helps people tell their brand story.”

That can be a consistent message across your various digital platforms, Germain says, noting you don’t need to write different profiles for each of your social accounts.

When reviewing your profiles, make sure your photo is current, says Beth Granger, a Port Washington-based LinkedIn and social media trainer, consultant and speaker.

“If someone met you in person, would they recognize you?” she says.

For LinkedIn, also consider the headline (the describer text under your name). For example, Granger’s headline includes “accelerating your social prospecting and social media learning curve."

“I describe the LinkedIn headline as your 120-character elevator pitch,” says Granger.

If your headline’s your elevator pitch, she describes the About section of LinkedIn as “what you’d say if someone says 'that’s interesting. Tell me more.' ”

You don’t want to ramble on. People have limited attention spans and some sites impose tight word limits.

For example, you can only put 160 characters in your Instagram bio, says Wakeman.

But there are third party tools such as Shorby and Linktree you can use to create a separate landing page with links to additional content, says Wakeman.

Check to be sure your graphics, logos and listed skills are up to date, Corbett says. Do you have new content to add to your social media sites, such as videos, blogs or news coverage?  

Using video and images to promote your brand can help people get to know you, he says.

For instance, this past spring through fall, Corbett posted more than a dozen photos of himself on Instagram during bike riding visits to Long Beach and other scenic places, which garnered good response from clients and business contacts with likes and comments on Instagram. "What really caught my attention was that many business people mentioned this to me at networking events" and meetings, he said.

Beyond imagery, look at reviews and what’s being said about you, says Hilary Topper, president of HJMT Public Relations in Long Beach and author of "Branding in a Digital World" (iUniverse; $20.99).

Negative reviews can be a “turnoff,” says Topper, who Googles her name every six months to a year to see what comes up.  If you are concerned with bad reviews, set up a Google Alert and try Googling your name, business name and brand frequently. If you have a small business that isn’t retail based, six months would suffice. This will help you see what, if anything, others are saying, she says.

If you get a negative review and if the person leaves his or her name, it is important to respond in a positive way, says Topper. Don’t get defensive. Offer something to them or try to see if you can have an offline conversation. Ultimately, try to turn the negative to a positive, she says. Then, get some of your satisfied customers to leave positive reviews to push down the negative review, she said.

Part of her personal branding strategy involves sharing her blogs, which include NYLifestyleBlog.com and ATriathletesDiary.com.

“Those blogs have nothing to do with business,” she said, noting she does have a separate business blog for HJMT.

It’s more about connecting with people on a personal level, which can ultimately benefit your bottom line, says Topper, noting doing so has brought her business.

Topper said as a result of her ATriathletesDiary blog, she has worked with a few endurance coaches who have written books and needed publicity. She's working with a travel company that she met through her triathlon blog. And, as a result of her NYLifestyleBlog, she's doing business with an elder law firm because a lot of her content focuses on being part of the Sandwich Generation, she says.

Fast Fact:

When updating your personal brand pay attention to what’s being said about you and your company. Consider that 91% of consumers say that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business, according to BrightLocal.

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