It’s a very noisy competitive world we live in and opportunities to stand out and make a lasting impression come and go in an instant. That’s why it’s critical that we invest time and effort in building a strong personal brand.
This typically requires seeking honest observer feedback and putting in lots of internal and external work that builds on strengths and eliminates behaviors that could detract from a compelling executive presence.
And just as a commercial brand, a personal brand must be heard, seen and experienced by others in order to endure and make a lasting impact. This means actively contributing in meetings, engaging 1:1 with stakeholders internal and external to an organization, i.e. networking, and sharing compelling ideas in writing.
The latter is a particularly attractive option for introverts and those who find it difficult to engage with others in person, i.e. those of us who just can’t get themselves to network.
Not that writing comes necessarily easy to everyone who’s got something to say. But maybe a few tips from someone who’s been there can be the nudge you need to take the next step:
1) Be Authentic
If you’re flirting with the idea of having a service do it for you, reconsider. It’s tough to capture someone’s voice and stand out for being truly unique and insightful. Let your passion and subject matter knowledge guide you instead to come up with the ideas you’d like to put out there.
2) Know Your Audience
It’s tough to write for everyone. And why would you want to? You need to focus your efforts on an audience that will appreciate what you have to share. Who are they? What do they care about? Can you offer guidance, solutions, inspiration or hope? The answers to these questions can be the editor that keeps your writing in check.
3) Establish Your Point of View
Decide on your angle of attack. You may be able to see an issue from various perspectives, but to be heard and get on your audience’s radar you’ll want to let people know where you stand on a particular issue. Make your point and support it well. That means reading widely and doing the research.
3) Make it a Conversation
Imagine you’re having a conversation where you’re sharing an insight you think valuable to the listener. Write in that tone.
4) Be Concise
Go over what you’ve written and cut it down to where it just still makes sense. You can add flair afterwards. Sparingly.
5) Beat Writer’s Block
Catch your inner critic off-guard. Avoid the dreaded blank sheet or blinking cursor by writing on anything that’s within reach when an idea strikes or an insight imposes itself. I often use my iPhone by typing an idea into the note section or by sending myself an email. Often, Before I know it I have a useful paragraph. This feels less like a chore that you “have to do”.
6) Use Constraint to Your Advantage
Constraint is your friend. If you only have 1300 characters (not words) to share your insight (when you’re sharing a post on LinkedIn, for example) make the most of it. Lack of space can be just what you need to keep from rambling and adding nonessential detail.
7) They Say/I Say
When you have a hard time coming up with your own ideas, play off the ideas of others. If it’s a subject you’re intimately familiar with, see what other experts have to say about it. Everybody has an angle, a particular perspective. You can quote what they say, and contrast it with here’s what I say.
8) Invite Criticism
It’s the only way to get better. Let a couple of literate trusted friends read your piece over. Consider their feedback.
9) Hire an Editor
If you really want to get better, hire a freelance editor. Someone who can both edit and coach along the way. To find someone good you’ll have to do some digging. Look for someone who worked at some of the most popular daily newspapers like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, The Washington Post or any of the top magazines in circulation, like Bloomberg or HBR. Journalism professors from top schools often freelance as well. You can often find them on LinkedIn. The goal is to make sure the quality of your writing supports rather than undermines your personal brand.
10) Get Some Distance
Remember, when you’re writing for an audience you’re putting a stake into the ground. Let it sit for a day or two and review your prose with a fresh eye to make sure it aligns with your aspirational personal brand before you hit ‘submit’.
It’s tough to build a personal brand when no one has a chance to perceive and evaluate that brand. So put yourself out there and share your ideas with the world. And maybe by getting on the radar of some interesting people with your writing, you might just be a little more open to networking in person as well.