Years ago, you could get away without a personal brand. There were fewer conference speakers, industry authors, reputable online publications, and brand blogs — and less competition among the ones that existed.
Well, the world has completely changed, and even my mom is thinking about a personal blog to air all the crap her kids put her through. I’m joking, but honestly, it’s becoming more common to see your peers and competitors building their brands and earning exposure.
Simply put, companies are looking for any way to differentiate themselves. Competing on price can be messy, and quality of service and product are really important. But people also want to work with companies they trust. If you can make a human-to-human connection with your audience through your brand, that can differentiate you from another resource.
Here are the seven trends you have to pay attention to and remember. Actually, you could probably get on with your life if you ignore them, but I promise it will be helpful if you don’t.
- Is all about education
A key factor in building a successful brand is being truly educational.
With challenges like fake news and a general lack of trust in information, genuine education has never been more important. People investing in their brands in 2018 must keep that in mind, as it will be a year where people are searching for sources they can truly trust.
When you’re looking at investing in your brand, consider how you’re going to distribute content to reach and engage new people.
Media platforms that have already built these audiences (e.g., social media) are great to tap into to start forming a tribe that will help you distribute your content. Take it a step further, and think about who has built followings on existing channels that members of your audience trust. That’s why there’s been so much growth in influencer marketing: People value channels of trust.
- Personal branding investments are becoming a company benefit.
I recently saw a job description that listed a $3,000 per month investment in personal branding for the advertised role. I remember thinking how awesome that was and how rare a benefit like that would have been even five years ago. In a competitive environment for getting top talent, this company communicated from the start, “We will invest in you.” That’s a pretty supportive statement to send early on in the relationship.
- Different tools will help you accomplish different goals.
If people are hiring you for your expertise, then content with your byline published in online publications is a great tool. However, let’s say your goal is to get your product or service to stand out in your industry. In that case, it might make more sense to do an influencer or contributor campaign to get the right people talking about you.
You can consider other tools, too, such as being a guest on a podcast, hosting your own, investing in video content, and so on. There are tons of different tools you can use to build your brand; which ones you choose will depend on the goals you’re trying to achieve.
- In-person engagement can make a big difference, so get out the office.
Your brand is easier to develop and scale via digital content, but there’s a real opportunity to differentiate yourself by also engaging people in person. This year, I spoke at more than 20 events and was able to meet and talk with a lot of people who read my content.
When people who read and share your content meet you in person, it makes a difference. Look for chances to engage face-to-face and appreciate the people you meet; they’re the reason you’re able to build a brand and reach others.
You don’t even have to be a keynote speaker — just try to attend industry events and conferences that bring together people you’d like to create relationships with, whether that’s other influencers, potential partners, or prospective clients.
- Content triggering is becoming more popular.
I coined the term “content triggering” to describe a practice that helps you document moments that trigger ideas for content. Some of the best brands are built by listening to audiences, identifying the things that engage them, and then delivering on them. Content triggers show you what those things are and help you create the best content around them.
Your branding is becoming less about you and more about the value you provide others. So, ask the right questions of the people who matter most to you and uncover what they find engaging. Then create and distribute content that meets their needs — whether it’s through educational content (as I mentioned earlier) or entertainment.
- Personal branding is an official line item on the budget now.
It’s becoming rare for me to talk to a CEO of a company who doesn’t have personal branding or thought leadership as a line on his or her budget. It wasn’t always this way, but now it’s becoming its own line item on individual budgets. For example, sales teams often select key sales leaders and invest in their personal brands because of the trust those brands can foster between the sales leaders and potential clients.
Lastly, be yourself. I see people every day talking about hustling, posting pictures of fancy cars, and gassing on about being successful. That’s not me at all, and honestly you couldn’t pay me enough to do those kinds of things. It’s important that you challenge yourself in your brand building, but align it with something you can be proud of. Cheers to an awesome 2018, the year when you make an investment that I assure you will naturally attract opportunity to you.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors (John Hall, CEO of Influence & Co.)