I was asked to write a guest article for Personal Branding magazine, by successful author and speaker on the topic, Dan Schawbel. Since submitting articles to blogs and publications is a great way to establish yourself as an expert and build your brand, I jumped at the chance.

But first, a quick recap: Branding, whether done by a business organization or a solo entrepreneur, is simply the practice of defining and articulating your own unique value and positioning your value in the minds of your audience.

Once you define your position, you must continue to take the necessary actions to maintain the positive reputation you have created. If you don’t, your brand will suffer and your value declines. It happens to companies all the time: AT&T has a terrible reputation. Groupon took a hit after airing controversial commercials during the Super Bowl. People have a love/hate relationship with discount retail behemoth Walmart.

As for people, Tiger Woods’ position as Golf’s Golden Boy was severely tainted by his personal actions and he’s had to work hard on a comeback, but his value has certainly declined. Charlie Sheen’s public implosion has been bizarre and fascinating to witness, but despite his own reports to the contrary, he is hardly, “Duh, Winning.” And, instead of using social media as a platform to share his political ideals, Rep. Anthony Weiner used it to share pictures of his junk with young female co-eds. After weeks of lies and denial, he resigned amidst the pressure of the fallout. As someone trying to earn a reputation as a trusted public servant, this scandal will sully his brand for years to come.

The truth is, as your brand builds, it becomes a magnet. So a good question to ask yourself is, “What do I want to attract?”

The article below is the one I submitted to the magazine. Since the publication is called Personal Branding, I’ve skewed it towards the individual, and as Small Business Owners, you may apply the info to yourself in relation to your company and its brand.

“How To Become An Opportunity Magnet”

One of the best results of creating a strong, coherent and positive personal brand is that, in time, opportunities start seeking you. There are countless pursuits and goals we strive to achieve in order to advance our careers or individual journeys. In many cases, we possess the power, skill and influence to make things happen, but often times, we are at the mercy of someone else whose decisions could determine our progress.

If it often feels like you’re exerting an unusual amount of effort to achieve important goals, or that it’s more of a struggle than it should be, you might want to ask yourself if you have done all you can to create a strong impression in the minds of the audience who can help you achieve your goals.

One mistake many people make is trying to be everything to everybody. Having many interests is understandable, especially early in your life or career. However, branding yourself as ‘jack of all trades’ does not create a perception of ‘multi-talented flexibility,’ it only creates the perception of ‘unfocused amateur.’

So, how DO you create a unique, meaningful brand that can be leveraged into exciting, progressive opportunities?

A great place to start is determining what you’re passionate about. What do you love to do? How do you enjoy spending your time? Once you zero in on that, start looking for existing opportunities to either gain more knowledge and experience, or to start spreading your existing knowledge on the subject.

The idea is to become a go-to expert on your topic of interest, and to put yourself in the public eye as often as possible in a way that relates to your expertise. Creating a strong online presence is essential, but it’s only half of the equation. You also need to get out into your community and beyond.

As for your online strategy, that could consist of blogging, writing guest posts, articles or ebooks, creating podcasts, commenting on related blogs, and creating a narrowly focused social media presence. Whether you’re using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, or any other platform, make sure your content offers deep value within a narrow niche, and your bio emphasizes your area of expertise in a succinct manner.

Your offline strategy could consist of speaking engagements, teaching workshops, volunteering, networking and showing up at the places and events where your target audience and other people of influence are congregating. Keep in mind, this is not about sucking up to the right people in order to get ahead. It’s about forging mutually beneficial relationships with people who share your values and appreciate your vision.

Remember, the more your expertise has the potential to improve the conditions and the lives of others, the more successful you will become, and the stronger the magnetic pull of your unique, powerful brand will be. Now, go forth, shine your singular light on the world and magnetize the remarkable opportunities you rightfully deserve.