Marshall McLuhan—thinker, writer, and prescient thought leader on the topic of Media theory coined the phrase “the medium is the message” in the early 60’s as a way of interrogating the distinction between content—what we want to say—and medium—how we want to say it. For McLuhan, and for researchers, there’s an inherent, affecting quality of the modalities we use when expressing ourselves; we’ve all seen a Powerpoint that would have been a better email, a speaker that moved us to our core, or a demonstration that doesn’t quite hit the mark. In my last post, I gave you some tips to determine when to expand your personal brand, as well as some “key outlets” to swim around in when determining the medium of your brand. In this post, I want to go in depth to define how the mediums or outlets we choose to communicate within impact or influence the brand we’re hoping to project. In so doing, I hope to inspire you to find a medium that rings true to your authentic voice and enhances the person/company/project at the center of your brand. While I’m only covering some general mediums here, I think most of you will find that your ideal outlet “niche” lies somewhere between mediums. Some writers are gifted speakers, and some shirk at the limelight; this is the difference between a great emcee and an incredible podcast host. At the same time, some apt and able event panelists have trouble getting their accomplishments down on paper, keeping them from potential opportunities that better play to their strengths. Knowing what you are good at is one thing but knowing the mediums you’ll run into on your way and navigating ways to improve your own skill (or outsource the skills of others) has the power to take your personal branding goal from aspiration to action.
“Knowing what you are good at is one thing but knowing the mediums you’ll run into on your way and navigating ways to improve your own skill (or outsource the skills of others) has the power to take your personal branding goal from aspiration to action.”
So you want to be a Writer/Blogger:
Writing is a timeless, accessible medium for getting your content to your audience and there are so many different ways to use blogging or writing as a platform for your personal brand in our industry. Publishing (even online) cements your words in time. Weeks, months and even years from now, your written word is searchable and can bring prospects and connections to your digital doorstep. Voice and video are becoming increasingly popular, but the written word will never die – and is the perfect basis for pursuing multi-platform exposure. For example, a blog post can be turned into audio by recording yourself reading it aloud and putting it up as a streamable audio file. Similarly, you could turn the key points into video snippets or quotes, or even gifs, with a little tech savvy.
While many choose to start their own blog, expanding your writing onto more public channels as a means of increasing brand visibility is the best way to go from private poster to rockstar writer. An easy way to take your personal writing to the next level is to post original, long-form content on LinkedIn, a channel perfectly suited to engaging with people in the industry directly. If you’ve begun to build up your own content but are looking for opportunities to expand your brand, seek guest-blog opportunities or collaborate on content with industry contacts or clients. Similarly, Medium.com is a viable alternative (or addition) to creating your own blog. The basic editor utility allows anyone to write about anything and, according to Medium, “It’s simple to use, free from ads, and connects you to curious, avid readers, so you can focus on what matters: putting your best work out there.”
Here are some more ways to expand beyond your personal writing channel:
- If you work for a company whose website hosts a blog, I would venture that, in most cases, their marketing teams would welcome a well written, thought out and strategically aligned internal guest post. This has the added benefit of enhancing the professional aspects of your brand while reflecting staff expertise at your company; win-win!
- Industry publications are often looking for new voices and perspectives on our industry—keep an eye out for “calls for content.” See Greenbook (yes, this post is from 8 years ago, but Lenny mentioned on our Personal Branding webinar that the same is true today).
Blogger beware: sometimes, writing opportunities can be “pay to play,” meaning that outlets are soliciting expert thought pieces but also require payment in order to run them. You’ll often see these in magazines or online content with a disclosure that it is “sponsored content.” Depending on your (or your company) goals, you may be able to afford these opportunities, or you may not. You may also choose not to pursue them in order to build your readership in a more authentic way. In my experience, if your content is good (and not just a pitch) you’ll likely find opportunities to get published that do not require payment.
Even if you are a truly gifted writer, at some point you might be asked to vocalize your ideas. For this reason, bloggers and writers should be sure that what they write is capable of being communicated orally as well. Some writers who are attracted to the medium for its solitude might balk at the idea of a public self. For this reason, writers/bloggers could also find ways to collaborate with more visually-inclined mediums/workers as a way of expanding their brand outside of their comfort zone and into a new audience.
“While many choose to start their own blog, expanding your writing onto more public channels as a means of increasing brand visibility is the best way to go from private poster to rockstar writer.”
So you want to be a Speaker/Public personality:
Speaking is a great way to get yourself truly seen and heard in the industry. This can be a big leap from simply typing words on a computer screen, but done well, there is nothing more impactful than a well-delivered live-session. Do you have great presence and energy? There’s no better way to get this across than showing up in person. Can you engage an audience from the stage? Insert a wry sense of humor? Command a room? Get up there and lead! One downside of live events is that if your audience wasn’t in the room, they missed it. Check with organizers to see whether the talk will be recorded and shared later. More and more conferences are sharing their speaker’s presentations on YouTube or the conference website within weeks after the event. Even if the organizers aren’t doing it, can you get someone to record it? Even if it’s a cell phone recording, you can revisit what was said and translate key points and quotes into multi-channel content. Maximize the return on your talk by continuing to get the message out there in different arenas.
There’s plenty of opportunities for speaking in or adjacent to our industry; check out resources like the New Research Speakers Club, the New Speakers track at IIEX and for women, the 50/50 Initiative database through WIRe for great examples. Local events are a great place to start— local WIRe events, PSRF luncheons—these intimate gatherings allow you to speak to a highly targeted and localized audience. Reach out to the organizers and ask if they need help with content for this or upcoming events. Another point to remember is that speaking doesn’t always have to be external facing—are there opportunities to get involved in training days, client presentations or internal corporate culture initiatives? Explore opportunities to be seen and heard internally at your company as well.
Speaking at an industry conference commonly looks like submitting a paper and presenting for a full 30 minutes. If writing isn’t your strong suit, this is a great opportunity to collaborate with a co-worker/client/collogue either in collecting your own ideas for submission or in utilizing your public speaking superpower to shine a light on great work. Make a list of the big annual conferences as well as the smaller regional events and make sure you subscribe to their mailing lists—there’s almost always a call for speakers 6 or so months in advance of the event. Start submitting now! Similarly, virtual conferences boast many of the benefits of conference speaking, but you don’t have to leave the comfort of your desk chair, and dress pants are optional! Check out the Festival of NewMRif this sounds like it would be up your alley.
P.S. Before you speak, make sure you read Betty Adamou’s post on “10 tips for speakers: things to ask, think about and do when invited to speak at an event.” Betty is an expert in the gamification of research, avid speaker, recently published her first book Games and Gamification in Market Research and was voted “1 of 7 women shaping the future of research” by Quirks.
Want to give back to the industry while enhancing your personal brand? Pursue Board Seats with industry organizations! Big or small, global or regional, ypersonal brand grows exponentially with this type of exposure and influence. Not only will you be helping yourself, but the industry as a whole. Get involved in planning local conferences, adding your expertise to standards and regulations in our industry, and amplify other voices in our field as well. Giving back is a great way to earn credibility and be seen by others as an expert.
“Virtual conferences boast many of the benefits of conference speaking, but you don’t have to leave the comfort of your desk chair, and dress pants are optional!”
So you want to be a Video/Podcaster:
Videos and podcasting have crossed over from being accessories to one’s personal brand or campaign to fully-fledged Media in their own right. This is a job for those who wear many hats; director, editor, producer, and personality all in one. Priscilla McKinney and the Little Bird Marketing team’s podcasts are a great example of the myriad ways to adopt a subject into a compelling repertoire of shows that keep folks coming back for more while expanding and complimenting your own personal brand. Her newest miniseries, “Flock Stars,” is part “Rockstars of MRX” interview show, part an inside scoop into WIRexec membership—a perfect niche for host and CEO Priscilla to showcase her own personal brand while bringing those adjacent to her interests (literally!) into the conversation. Unlike speaking at conferences or writing for your company, those who want to express themselves via video/podcast will need to (often) be self-starters or work with a team and this is something to think about when considering a deep dive into the medium. Fortunately, there are lots of low-bandwidth options for starting off:
- Create and publish your own – set up a YouTube channel, or post videos to your LinkedIn feed.
- Participate in collaborative Vlogs like Perspectives
- Create a video Webinar series – I mentioned webinars already, but I think it’s worth mentioning that webinar technology is evolving and the combination of video to show yourself as you speak + presentation can 10x the engagement factor. (Note – not a validated ROI statistic, but believe me, it’s better).
Whatever medium you decide to focus on, live and breath it. Immerse yourself in any and all relevant content being shared there which may help frame your entre to the platform. That said, make sure you’re optimizing across platforms as and when possible. Wrote a great post? Make sure you share it on LinkedIn, Twitter and to an email list (if you have one). Spoke at a recent conference? Share the link to the recording on your blog and write out the main points for those who can’t (or won’t) take the time to watch it.
As expressed in previous posts, the most important part of starting to build your brand is simply to start. We want to hear from YOU! If I can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out—find me on Twitter at @baillieforgood or shoot me an email at email@example.com. I’d especially love to hear about your experience using the blog series as a structure for building your personal brand or about other resources we may have missed!
Baillie Buchanan is a Co-Founder of Research For Good, an online sample, research services, and technology company. Since 2012, RFG has lead the industry in connecting market researchers with real people while using a portion of the revenue on every completed survey to support charitable causes. A sample industry veteran, Baillie oversees sales, marketing, and product development, including the recent launch of The Sampling Place, a do-it-yourself sample buying portal. Baillie is a wife, mother of 2, fierce seeker of work-life balance, traveler and a recent transplant from Seattle to Fort Worth, TX.