Hello class! It’s great to be back for another lesson. Ever since I started writing this column, we talked about how you can improve this or that for your trade shows or trade show related marketing. Today, the topic is all about YOU, and well, maybe a little about myself, but only as an example.

Today, we are talking about positioning and branding yourself. At any given time this is a good idea; but I am not telling you anything new by pointing out that this is an “employer’s market” and odds are, there are lots of people out there that have similar experiences and skills as you do. So not unlike what you normally do for trade show booths, you are going to do for yourself:  Define an image, build that image and enforce that image. This helps you in your career, with your current employer, or future employers and certainly if you start your own business.

You know the saying “You never get a second chance to create a first impression”, and you also know “if you act like you own the place people will treat you like you own the place”. If you combine the lessons of those two quotes you learn the importance of getting an impression right the first time, and that you have a fair amount of control about that impression if you play on pre-conceived roles and models.

My “story” is a perfect example. When I started my own trade show consulting company, I selected “TradeShow Teacher” as a company name since my primary focus at that time was on teaching companies to become more successful in their trade show marketing. I quickly realized that I had to brand myself as well. If I was to be the face of the company, I had to create a matching personal image. At that time I had long blonde hair and many friends referred to me jokingly as “Barbie”. Well, the image of “Barbie” doesn’t go well with the image of being
an accomplished professional with lots of experience and lessons to pass on.  As a result, I dyed my hair red.  The difference in perception was staggering.  I reinforced my “teacher” image wherever I could, even today after writing I don’t know how many columns, every one of them is written in class-room style reinforcing that personal brand. Since the early days, TradeShow Teacher, Inc. grew well beyond just trade show training and a one woman show; making my personal brand and image less critical now than it was in the earlier days. That is why my hair is no longer red and is back to blonde. But my branding efforts worked, I’ll still be known as the TradeShow Teacher many years from now!

Now granted, you have much more control and options to create your own brand when you have your own business, but even in corporate America there are plenty of opportunities to differentiate yourself and create your own personal brand.

The first step is to figure out what image you want to have and how you are going to support that image. This is the most important part, so don’t skip ahead to promoting your “brand”. You need to develop a solid foundation and a clear understanding of your value proposition. As with any brand, corporate or personal, you have to be able to back it up. Everyone is different, but usually you would build your image around certain expertise, or even philosophical views, though the latter are harder to turn into a brand that helps you professionally.

  • What is your vision?
  • What are your professional goals?
  • How do others currently perceive you? (you may want to enlist some honest friends here, the question is “How do others perceive you?”, not “How do you think others perceive you?”)
  • How would you like others to perceive you?
  • What are your core strengths and how do you differentiate
    yourself from others professionally?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What are your interests?
  • Who is your “competition” and what are their strengths?

The second step is to figure out how you are going to make your “brand” visible, without coming across as too self-promoting or phony. Reinforcing your selected image whenever reasonably possible is important though.
What communication tools are available to you?

  • Prioritize the communication tools you will utilize
  • Create a personal brand “elevator speech”
  • Determine ways to associate your brand with activities you
  • Define a communications strategy, including goals and  target

The third step is execution. Use tools like “Linked-In”, use opportunities such as internal or external presentations or speeches you may do.  Weave it into conversations as appropriate and certainly find a way to use it as part of introducing yourself. Find others interested in “spreading the word” and “evangelizing” your brand

  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Be sure to have a high search engine ranking for keywords people will use to find
    products/services such as yours
    Become known as a subject matter expert
  • Be a speaker at industry and vertical events
  • Social Networking: Promote your brand on sites
    like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
  • Write articles for industry publications, blogs,authored article sites, etc.
  • Create events for various target audiences
  • Work with media: Offer yourself as a resource to
    contact as needed; mention specific upcoming articles from their Editorial
    Calendar when relevant
  • Post comments on blogs

Homework should be obvious. Think about how “branding” yourself can help you. If you see some value, and you should, start working on it. It takes quite a while, but eventually it sticks and you will have achieved something we set out to do; creating a pre-conceived first impression.

See you in class next month!

About Linda Musgrove, the TradeShow TeacherLinda Musgrove is President of the Trade Show Training firm, TradeShow Teacher. She focuses on teaching companies to significantly improve Trade Show Results through strategic, customized Trade Show Training for individuals, departments or entire teams. Musgrove also presents customized training programs for Trade Show Producers to offer exhibitors. Most recently she authored  “The Complete Idiots Guide to Trade Shows”, published by Alpha Books/Penguin Publishing. Learn more at http://www.tsteacher.com and sign up for the FREE monthly Trade Show Tactics newsletter. Follow on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/tsteacher . Send an invite to connect on LinkedIn (email is: [email protected])