Have you heard that you are your brand wherever you go? 

It’s a fact, especially if you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur looking to market your business, increase visibility and make more money!

Your brand story tells it all.  So, be sure you know it inside and out. What makes you different? How did you get to where you are now? Why should someone want to do business with you?

Create a compelling brand story and share it wherever you go online and offline.

  • Make your story compelling.  Moving. And, include your why to make it personal and meaningful.
  • Be sure it’s clear, consistent and that you’re constantly improving your story.  As you share more often, watch that your brand personality and values are always aligned.
  • Practice sharing your story with feeling – and whether you pretend to or not, tell it with meaning.  A phony can be spotted a mile away!
  • Use your brand story as part of a daily PR and marketing practice to grow your small business, build a base of raving fans so you can sell more products and services. You’re in business to make money, right?

The core of your brand story will always be the same, because it’s who you are.

Include your brand story as an important part of your elevator pitch, in person at networking events, in an author resource box at the bottom of articles, on Amazon Author Central when you upload your blog. And always, when you write copy for your website, sales page, speaker page or any material where you want to let people know who you are and why you rock.

If you’re a small business marketer learning the best practices of PR — or even if you’re a marketing expert, be sure of this:

Make your brand story right on, brand on – and always on 24/7. Be sure that it’s compelling and in your voice.  Remember, you are your brand wherever you go, so make it the best brand you possibly can!

Want to hear from other experts on building a brand story?  Check out these articles:

The Secret of Story Telling from Entrepreneur.com

Richard Branson on Storytelling that Sparks Ideas and Builds Brands via Forbes.com

Branding Bosses: Mastercard on Storytelling, Social Media and ‘Selfies’ via HuffingtonPost.com

Set an intention to market your small business – even without a PR budget. Learn the tricks, tools and promotional know-how to tell your story.

There’s a certain ring to the ka-ching.

Have the Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media changed about sharing your political views? I guess it depends on how you heated up you are personally (or not) over the current state of affairs—and if you want to share that publicly as a business or brand.

Brands have a core message and stand tall for what they believe in. They can also influence, motivate, alienate or outrage prospects, customers and audiences. We see that in a big way today with swings to the left and to the right in Washington, and all over the country.

As a PR Mentor, I suggest to my clients that they keep their brand or company comments on target to their core message and core values. If your brand is a political one, that’s a completely different story.

In the past, there were 5 Subjects we never talked about on Social Media:

  1. Sex
  2. Politics
  3. Money
  4. Sports
  5. Religion

Today, each of us is the media.

We can share our opinions openly and for free. I honor that and am grateful for that right. But, how will your message affect your brand if you are the spokesperson – or you are the brand?

  • Do comments about sex, partying and boozing it up online affect a job search?
  • In a divided society with emotions high, do political comments help or hinder your ability to be a leader, get a promotion or win a prize client?
  • Does talking about having lots of money alienate you in a world where many are struggling?
  • Are you infuriating fans of one sports team (and possible customers) when you are obnoxious about a recent win of your rival?
  • In a world of many religions, faiths and beliefs are we helping or hurting our brand with off the cuff or insensitive comments?

Ultimately, it’s up to you how to position your brand, and what to say or not say on social media.

Before you post ask yourself two questions. What’s my intention? What’s my end goal?

Whatever message you share, be sensitive to how it will be perceived.

It does matter.

This morning there was zero time to prepare for a Facebook Live interview, but isn’t that the point? Ana, my client from the Spanish Immersion School in Rincon, texted me that she was coming over in 10 minutes because she told her class she was going live in 30 minutes.

She not only told her class, she also posted it on one of the biggest Facebook groups in Rincon, PR. And live we went, despite landscaper noise, a dose of unstable internet and accompanying pixels, and the time crunch of having to produce!

The interview on Facebook Live accomplished 5 things:

1) It showcased Ana’s brand in the moment, savvy, on-the-go, with interesting content

2) She translated the interview in Spanish, or at least parts of it to make it relevant to her audience

3) Ana featured me, and the four (4) events I will be having at her school in February, in great detail

4) Viewers I hadn’t met yet got to see the video, like it, comment and, most importantly, share

5) Whether I liked it or not, it featured me up close and personal for my new community to meet; plus, it started the LKT (like, know, trust) process

No surprise that this wasn’t a video where you prepped, and staged for makeup and wardrobe — at least where I am. The sun wasn’t out much yesterday, so I had a cool shower and didn’t wash my hair. But it really didn’t matter. Taking advantage of the moment did.

I was impressed with Ana’s knowledge of Facebook Live – but more importantly what she wants to do with it, and what we are envisioning together. I wish you could see her smiling ear to ear.

Here’s the Facebook Live video we posted.

Carpe Diem.

PR and marketing power doesn’t have to cost you a fortune, but it does cost you some time and effort. There are no magic wands to wave over your head or chants to the PR and Media gods. Just focus, clarity, intention and strategy – and understanding the ins and outs of what you’re doing and being able to change on a dime. You know of course, that you can’t quit three feet from gold, but you don’t want to waste your time where your target market isn’t hanging out either, or quite possibly, never intends to go.

Here’s a graphic I love to use as an example of marketing and the four types of media to get PR Power on a budget, compliments of Gini Dietrich of Spinsucks.com.

Copyright Spinsucks.com

Personally, I tend to focus on earned, owned and shared media.  Writing, free publicity, speaking and a host of other tactics fall into these categories.  But, I recommend without hesitation, paid media, including social media advertising (particularly Facebook for niche audiences) as well as super targeted industry publications which have worked out tremendously well for some of my clients. Sometimes you have to pay to play, but it’s not always 100% spot on, and there is some trial and error you’ll have to endure. That’s where knowing your target audience and the many places they hang out is important.

Getting noticed in all four media clovers, scheduled and ongoing, builds your reputation and credibility, which eventually leads to sales.

One of the questions I’m frequently asked is, “How do I market my blog?” There are hundreds of ways to promote a blog via PR and publicity, but I decided to ask Google the same question.  In less than 30 seconds, I found this article, How to Work with a Virtual Assistant to Market Your Blog. Hint: You don’t need a VA to do the work.  You can do it yourself or share the task. Heck, you can even ask your savvy teenager to help out!

In the post, Chris Ducker shares a list of almost 200 blog directories that you can submit your blog to. The list is a few years old, so I wanted to share a more recent resource by Harsh Agrawal who promises an epic collection of 131 verified blog directories. I’ll be curious to see what works and what doesn’t.  Information changes in a moment’s notice, so sometimes good enough is good enough. It’s the action that creates marketing momentum.

Lastly, I’d like to share HubSpot’s Guide to 50 Online Local Business Directories. You may find something new here to increase your visibility, brand awareness and exposure.

Oh, and sales.

One of my clients, Lidia Kenig Scher is a transformational artist who heals through vibrational painting. Last month, a student and major collector of her art, offered to host a holiday party and silent auction in her honor to help Delibreen, an 18-month old boy who was badly burned in Iraq and flown to Shriner’s Hospital.

Lidia’s intention all along was to give a portion of the proceeds to help the little boy – but we added another layer. We decided to start a crowdfunding campaign to raise money, feature the cause and offer Lidia’s artwork as incentive for donors to give.

I’ve never created a GoFundMe campaign before, but I announced it at a presentation last week. Within minutes, Phill Naylor, a videographer from XtraLargeMedia offered to shoot the 2-minute introduction and Diane Debs from Arbonne made a pledge to donate healing baby products. I was touched and not surprised, at the same time.

What will this accomplish for Lidia, Shriners Hospital for Children, Baby Delibreen and all of the benefactors supporting the cause? Lots.

Lidia will paint from the heart and give away her artwork in return for donations to help Baby Delibreen. Shriners Hospital will benefit from the goodwill and publicity. Baby Delibreen and his family will receive funds, kindness and the generosity from others. Phill will have produced a meaningful video, Diane will have given healing products to a boy in need, and Lidia’s art collector and devoted student will know that her efforts to help were valued in contributions — far greater than her own circle, from strangers around the world.  Who knew this baby and why was he here in Boston?

You see, things happen and when faced with what we don’t know – the right people show up to help us.

There is a path to gratitude and goodness. Teach your children and the young that this is the way to heal the world.

If you’re in the market to buy promotional products to increase your company’s brand awareness at a trade show, event or conference, it’s important to know the most common mistakes people make – so you can avoid them like the plague.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen the simplest jobs go wrong because of a mix up of facts, colors, formats and more.

Take a few minutes and read what the mistakes are so your order comes out exactly as you expect, at the price you want and on time!

Lack of purpose

With millions of promotional products to choose from it’s important to know the purpose of your promotional product campaign. Do you want to increase traffic to your website, landing page or promote a special offer? Based on your answer, you may be surprised that a different product, design or distribution plan may be a better idea. Without a clear goal and purpose, your marketing campaign could be doomed to fail before it really begins.

Not tailored to your audience

A custom beer koozie is a great premium for a bar or brewery, but not necessarily on target with a hospital’s image. I’ve seen buyers select premiums that are cool in their eyes, but just don’t fit. When this happens, marketers are appealing to their own taste rather than their audience’s. Take time to research the interest and hobbies of your target demographic and find a product that will appeal to them. Not sure?  Create an informal focus group!

Bland or generic design

Does your freebie or premium have visual interest? Whether it’s colorful, has a catchy slogan or pattern, you want to be sure your product gets attention and a positive reaction. If you create a giveaway that’s boring and uninteresting, chances are you’ve wasted a timely marketing opportunity. Remember, one of the goals of giving a promotional product is to create interest – in the product, service and the item itself!

What’s your distribution plan?

Before you even order promotional products, determine what you’re going to do with them. Will you give them out at a trade show or will reps hand them out to customers in the field? Are you trying to increase your customer’s loyalty by sending a product in the mail or attract a new prospect, in a totally new target market? No matter how you answer these questions, you can be select in your distribution. And, remember to keep at least a few samples in your file cabinet with important facts like where you gave them out, when and feedback. (You can use an excel spreadsheet too).

Ordering cheap items

Most promo products are fairly inexpensive and cost effective as compared to other types of marketing. I know it’s tempting to save as much money as possible and buy the cheapest products available, but sacrificing quality for quantity can actually cost you more in the long run. Be mindful that what you give out is a reflection of your brand, so going cheap isn’t always the way to go. I’m not asking you to break the bank or your budget, but here’s the deal: Your product needs to be effective, before it can be cost effective.

Printing ineffective information

This sounds like a no brainer, but don’t forget to include your website and contact information on the promotional item. The best product at the best price will be wasted if people can’t reach you. Granted, you have limited printing space to work with, so make every word count to reach your goal. A call to action isn’t a marketing maybe, it’s a marketing must! Premiums and promotional items included.

Not proofing carefully

How carefully are you reviewing the proof your promotional company is sending you? Take it from me, you may want to enlist others in your company to take a look too. Triple check the ink and PMS colors as well the actual imprint position. Once you’ve signed off on a proof and the job is in progress, additional changes will mean tossing out the old, and beginning from scratch. And, you know you’ll have to pay extra unless it’s not your fault.

Being stingy on quantities

Don’t be afraid to order a few extra premiums to have on hand for future events and surprise trade shows or meetings. Most vendors offer quantity price breaks where the price per piece decreases as the quantity increases. A company can often save 10 to 15 percent on an order by just adding more product. Plan out your event calendar and product purchases ahead of time and you can save big time.

Pay rush charges

This is one of the biggest mistakes marketers make and one of the easiest ways to reduce costs. Think and plan ahead! A typical production facility schedules weeks in advance so when a rush order comes in changes must be made immediately at the plant. A standard rush order can result in charges of 25% or more. A next day change for your million-dollar client can be – well, you don’t want to know. I’ve done it and saved the day and you could too. When you’re not in panic mode, ship by ground to avoid high freight charges. If you’re going to fly premiums overnight, why not save the money and travel yourself?

The bottom line is this.  Don’t rush through the planning stages of your promotional products campaign. Effective event purchasing can give you the results you’re looking if you use these tips on your checklist before you buy.

About the Author

Rachel Leone is a client and President of Leone Marketing.  Her firm specializes in finding perfect promotional products for trade shows and events to increase brand awareness, loyalty and recognition.  Rachel works with Fortune 500 brands as well as small business owners to engage, without a diamond ring. Her brainstorming sessions are noteworthy and complimentary. Contact Rachel at [email protected].

I’ve had the pleasure of working with several clients who are accomplished in their fields, but less sophisticated about social media and PR – and how to promote their brands in the digital marketing world. I’m working with four experts right now, in completely different industries and my mission is to take them from more of an offline world to an online world – and combine the two for maximum exposure, credibility and revenue generating opportunities.

Here are 5 Tips to Make the Transition from Offline to Digital Marketing Easier

  1. Be grateful for and take advantage of the wide network of supporters you’ve had in the past. If you’ve been helpful to them, chances are they’ll be helpful to you. What do you need to get you to the next step? An introduction?  Referral? Recommendation? 15 minutes to discuss an idea? “Don’t ask, don’t get.”
  2. Don’t be someone you’re not. Sometimes when we’re afraid, we pretend to be more advanced than we are – to not feel stupid or left out.  Experience has taught me that it’s better to be transparent and in learning mode, then to find yourself out of integrity and not on brand with your core values. You won’t get far spotted as a phony. Just be you.
  3. It’s ok to not know everything.  Give yourself permission to accept where you are and decide where you want to go. If you think it’s boring to hang around a know-it-all, it’s far worse to be a pretend one! I’m not a rocket scientist and I have no intention to learn about the Theory of Aerospace Propulsion.  I am more inclined to learn about PR secrets to get what you want, help others share their gifts and live a freedom based life traveling, teaching and speaking around the world. Note: We are all experts in training – the point is to learn how to share your expertise to a digitally “with it” market of your ideal clients.
  4. Pick one social media platform you like (and will use) and perfect it. I’m lucky that my clients like to write, have a voice and tone to their brand and can express their knowledge fluently.  They’re also willing to “write to be heard.” Though each client is different, they can all benefit from email marketing, blogging, LinkedIn Pulse or Facebook – depending on where their target market is and how they like to engage.
  5. Find someone you like, know and trust who will help you get where you want to go. They don’t need to be your best friend, they should be your advisor. Be sure that they listen, understand what you’re looking for and outline a path. They can’t tell you how it will be done, step by step.  It’s never one thing anyway, it’s always a combination. Sometimes it involves tweaking a website, creating expert reports, speaking to a niche market, teaching advanced classes, launching a JV, getting scholarship clients for testimonials, being interviewed, writing a book for credibility.  These tactics are just a few of the possible hundred to take you from an offline brand to an online brand.

“Oh, the things you can find, if you don’t stay behind.” – Dr. Seuss

There’s certain visual branding you can’t fool around with – and that includes the colors and fonts of your logo. Let’s face it, your logo represents you or your company all the time – and online, you’re always on.

When we were just a print world, it was fairly easy to identify colors with the Pantone® matching system color chart or PMS colors.  Red might be a fire engine red, warm red or cool red.  And, the finished product and color from any press might look different.

Today, every designer worth their weight in gold, should provide you with a color brief, which outlines your exact colors, fonts and symbols so you’ll never go wrong – or forget what you’re using.

It’s important to know for PR and marketing, because you always need to be consistent in your branding and messaging, including your visual presence. And how you look is critical to your success.

Let’s take a look at the color brief Colleen Davis from Intentional Branding provided me when she designed my new logo.  Click here to see what the RobinSamora.com color brief looks like.

You can see it’s very specific and there’s no question ever on my colors, fonts and what my symbols of tagline looks like.

If you’re thinking of rebranding or designing a new logo, be sure to get a color brief. It’s the only way to go, and be sure to share it with your team.

An extraordinary personal brand is a set of messages, attitudes and behaviors that come together synergistically to help you enjoy better opportunities, make more money, command more influence, and help more people. What’s more, it helps establish you as a role model and leader in your field, which elevates you to a whole new level.

Of course, those are the benefits of an extraordinary personal brand. Most people don’t have one at that level yet; and some might not even have a personal brand at all (or at least not one that they’ve ever noticed). However, if you fall anywhere on this spectrum, then don’t worry. When it comes to improving – or possibly re-inventing – your personal brand so that it’s extraordinary, there’s no need to go searching for clues on where to start. You can simply borrow the playbook from the corporate world.

Indeed, have you noticed that the most trusted, valuable and beloved corporate brands share certain key characteristics? It doesn’t matter whether they’re established in the consumer retail space, the medical field, the IT industry, or anywhere else – when you set aside all of the differences, the best brands are always: unique, expressive, authentic, consistent and confident.

1. Unique

A “generic personal brand” is a contradiction in terms; yet this doesn’t stop many professionals from having one that is virtually identical to many others. This is a mistake of profound proportions! Your personal brand is your “professional DNA.” It should be all about you, and only you. Don’t be afraid to be different; on the contrary, leverage your differences to stand out from the crowd for all of the right reasons.

2. Expressive

Your personal brand should convey key messages that express who you are, where you’ve been – and most importantly — where you’re headed tomorrow. Be willing to communicate your personal brand in a variety of ways, and to a variety of audiences. If Shakespeare was right and “all the world’s a stage,” then your personal brand is a microphone. What will YOU express?

3. Authentic

Make your personal brand attractive. Make it engaging. Make it interesting, unforgettable and bold. But no matter what, make it authentic! And you achieve this by embracing and expressing your values and principles. What do you stand for? What do you care about? What do you consider essential about you, and about the contribution you aim to make? Let authenticity shine through your personal brand, and you’ll be amazed at the impact you have on like-minded people who want to be part of your story.

4. Consistent

Whether you’re presenting at a conference, enjoying a casual lunch with clients, creating your LinkedIn profile, or doing anything else where your personal brand makes an appearance, ensure that you’re consistent. This doesn’t mean that you must choose the exact same words and repeat them mechanically. Rather, it means the core, underlying message should be consistent in look, tone and style, and that your visual should match your verbal. Here’s the litmus test: connect with 10 different people in 10 different settings. If all of them share the same impression of your personal brand – not the exact words, but they feeling, the impact and the key takeaways – then you’re being consistent.

5. Confident

As a corporate A-player, you’re certainly “in it to win it.” But is your personal brand in alignment with that ambition; or, could it be undermining your aspirations? Ensure that your personal brand is confident and self-assured. Clearly convey that you believe in yourself and in your potential. After all, if you don’t, how can you expect anyone else to?

The Bottom Line

Provided that the quality of your work is excellent, and that you’re committed to adding value to everything you do and everyone you meet, an extraordinary personal brand can take your career to unimagined new heights. But it can only start with you. So ask yourself: are you ready, willing and able to be extraordinary?