It’s said often that the PR industry has a PR problem, and I think that extends to the people who work in PR too. Only today I was talking to my colleagues about ‘PR-ing’ yourself. Hyping yourself up and shouting about your successes is really not easy, especially if you’re naturally introverted. But I do maintain that it is important to do it, when you can. Whenever I write or give advice to PR students, I always revert back to personal branding, but it’s much easier said than done. Today I wanted to talk about the difficulties of ‘PR-ing’ yourself, but why it’s important all the same.
It’s Not Easy
Let me start by saying that what you see on my social media, I work hard to be that person online. I’m not a total introvert, but naturally I am on the quiet side and I find it very hard to believe in myself, let alone big myself up. (You won’t see it online, but I get super embarrassed when I get considered for things such as the top 10 digital PR accounts to follow on Twitter, or the top 10 PR blogs by Vuelio – on both occasions I had a permanently red face all day). I think a lot of people in PR might secretly feel the same, but there is a certain kind of expectation that you must have an outrageous personality. Or at the very least when you do something good, you should be shouting about it.
When I created this blog during university, it was because I knew I needed a personal brand. With so many graduates to compete against, you need to show people in the industry what you can do, and what makes you special (as difficult and cringey as that can be). Though it’s definitely not been easy for me to build a brand for myself, it has given me the stepping stone I needed into my PR career and has continued to support me ever since.
I’ll come on to some advice for ‘PR-ing’ yourself below, especially if you’re a bit of a wallflower like me. But first, let’s talk about why it’s important.
Why You Should Be ‘PR-ing’ Yourself
If you haven’t noticed, the PR industry is crazy competitive. There’s a myriad of agencies out there doing incredible things for world-leading clients, and more popping up every day. Many agencies now appoint dedicated marketing managers to look after their brand and online presence, but not every business is in a position to do so. I also believe there’s only so much you can do with your company profiles. Both of these points bring us to ‘PR-ing’ yourself as an individual. Scary, I know, but if you work hard on your own branding and become quite well known in the industry, naturally you become a representative for your company too. Pulling together a great marketing strategy for your agency is important, but ultimately your team are going to be your best ambassadors. They’re able to get much more creative and passionate about what they say online.
Also for students, younger people in the PR industry and those looking for a change in their career, your personal brand is going to help you stand out amongst the competition (of which there is plenty). I have my hang ups with creative CVs, as you’ll probably know from past blog posts, I instead think that one of the best ways to stand out to employers is to show them how well you can PR yourself over a sustained period of time, as you’ll be able to do that for their brands too. This comes with building a personal brand.
Last, but certainly not least, ‘PR-ing’ yourself is great for putting yourself (or your agency) in front of new business too. If you’re connected with various brands and are consistently showing them what you can do, you put yourself in a favourable position. Next time they’re looking for creative support, they may very well think of you thanks to how well you market yourself. It’s not easy to shout about your wins, but it certainly helps when it comes to showing the world what you can do.
How To Create & Strengthen Your Personal Brand
I said I’d come back to ‘PR-ing’ yourself, and here it is. I’m by no means an expert, but I have been working on my own personal brand for around 4 years or so now, and I’ve picked up a few ideas. Here’s what I can offer to you in the way of advice:
- If you have something to say, say it – whether that’s via a blog, on Twitter or LinkedIn, or if you’re particularly plucky, on a webinar or podcast. If you have interesting thoughts on the industry, please share them. PR twitter is such an exciting place where we spend most of our time hyping each other up, the best way to get noticed is to use your voice and share your personality far and wide. If you’re more introverted, like I am, I can’t recommend starting own blog enough. My website has given me a platform to share my thoughts that I otherwise would not have been brave enough to, and it’s definitely an integral part of my personal brand. If you want to set up your own website, then you will need SEO. Don’t forget, if you want to appeal to clients rather than customers you should use a B2B SEO solution rather than a typical option. This will give you audience members that are likely to convert.
- Share your successes – my goodness it’s so difficult, I cringe every time but it is really important to share the things that you’re doing well for the reasons that I mentioned above. Whether that’s personal wins, or great achievements at work. If you’re feeling a bit too shy to put yourself out there personally, then use your businesses’ social media accounts (if they’re happy for you to do so) to share encouraging stats, good bits of coverage and anything else you deem appropriate.
- Connect with people who’ll support you – I have so many connections on LinkedIn from when I first made the account, and I also got to know a lot of people on Twitter when I first started getting into networking and brand building for myself. I’ve been able to get involved in a lot of different activities because of this which have all helped to ‘PR myself’, from hosting a #PowerAndInfluence chat with Ella Minty, to becoming a regular contributor to PR Moment. If you’re not the most confident person, networking online is a great alternative to in-person events (and at the moment, this is the best we can do anyway thanks to Covid-19). Only last year did I push myself out of my comfort zone and go to my very first confrence, I’m super glad I did though.
- Get involved where you can – and on that point above, get involved and put yourself out there when you feel comfortable to do so. I noticed a call out for PR experts to comment on a PR Moment piece and made contact, which is how I got acquainted with the editor and now I comment regularly. Likewise with #PowerAndInfluence, I got to know Ella through Twitter and started taking part in the weekly discussions (which take place at 8pm every Wednesday – try it if you can).
- Create, and stick to, your own ‘brand guidelines’ – another thing I’d say is to create your own brand guidelines and stick to them, that could be down to the fonts you use on a blog (if you have one) to your tone of voice, emoji usage and so on. Consistency helps to reinforce who you are and this links back to what you can offer. Build yourself a recognisable brand that people will associate with you, and only you.
- Link everything back to your business or brand – finally, make sure you link everything back to one or (at the most two) destinations. You might be communicating on different channels, but which do you want to be at the forefront? For me, I try to link back to my agency most of the time – The Source – and also my blog. The Rise at Seven gang have a really good example of packaging everything together, in that they all have their personal Twitter accounts where they have their own brands, but in their bios, their company values are displayed via three recognisable emojis.
Remember It’s Not The Be All & End All
But all this being said of course, it is important to remember that not everybody can PR themselves. NDAs might be stopping you from talking about client work, you might not have the time to spend on your personal branding or you just might not be comfortable doing it. Please don’t feel discouraged. PR needs people who get their heads down and get on with the job at hand quietly, just as much as it needs people who can be a little bit loud and outgoing. This tweet from Danielle Jones from Evolved Search summed it up well, and it’s what I’ll leave you with…
If you have anything else to add, please let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.