How to build your personal brand using Public Relations

Public Relations (or PR) is all about maintaining a favourable image with the general public. It’s often conflated with damage reputation management but is so much more wide-ranging than this. It’s used to promote organizations, businesses, and individuals.

For example, a film production company may launch a PR campaign to promote their new movie. A smartphone manufacturer can do the same to launch their new product. And an individual can launch a public relations campaign to build their brand.

In the past, PR was largely limited to media such as the TV, Radio, and press. In the last couple of decades, public relations campaigns have been increasingly out in digital ways, using channels such as social media, influencer engagement, and pay-per-click advertising.


Create a PR strategy

If you are hoping to build your personal brand, either to help your career or compliment your business brand, public relations is a powerful tool.

As with any other form of marketing, however, it requires commitment and a coherent strategy with clearly defined goals.

The first focus is on what PR is and isn’t. As a former executive at Apple, Jean-Louise Gassée, once said: “Advertising is saying you’re good. PR is getting someone else to say you’re good.”

The key to developing a great PR strategy for your personal brand is utilizing all the tools that are out there at the moment and doing it smartly. Opportunities for PR usually fall into three categories: Owned, paid, and earned.

  • Owned is the top layer, if you like, and is every asset that you have complete control of and can manipulate in any way that you want. It includes your website, your social media feeds, and your blog.

  • Paid PR opportunities include using PPC advertising to get your brand identity out in front of the unsuspecting public. It includes buying advertising space on social media channels that you can target at specific demographics. It also involves building relations and attracting influencers to raise your profile or finding sponsorship opportunities, including for local and sporting events, for example.

  • Earned PR is essentially the pay-off from getting the first two approaches right. It means your customers become an extra PR channel for you and this can be particularly powerful. They follow your social media posts and retweet them, review your products and boost conversions and send your blog posts or YouTube videos viral.

Public relations are multifaceted

It’s easy to think that PR is simply about getting your brand messages out there. It’s a lot more nuanced than that. It’s about using a wide range of tactics to build your personal brand. That could include:

  • Going to local, national and international events and networking with customers and other businesses directly.

  • Building community connections through altruistic projects such as supporting local organizations, providing education, or making charitable donations.

  • Whether you are communicating in-house or to the general public or other businesses, your brand needs to shine through. The messages need to be coherent, attractive and, above all, consistent across all channels.

Influencer marketing is becoming a very powerful tool for businesses and individuals that want a higher profile. These don’t have to be influencers with millions of followers. Building relationships with experts in your field or local leaders, for example, can also make a big difference.

When developing your strategy you need to set goals, create key messages and choose the right tools and tactics, just as you would with any other marketing activity.

PR for when things go wrong

Developing a PR strategy also means thinking about the future. What happens when things go wrong and there is a crisis. How are you going to respond?

This may never happen if you are lucky. But, if it does, you need to be ready to hit the ground running. As Benjamin Franklin said: “It takes many good deeds to build a reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Make sure you have the right tools in place for reputation management.

A complete PR strategy to help build your personal brand requires a good deal of thought and a lot of commitment. Getting it right, however, should raise your profile in ways that simple branding and advertising won’t be able to do.


Simon Clayton will be speaking at People Power 2021 on June 30th. Book your tickets and make sure your catch his session 'How to Optimise & Grow your Personal Brand'

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