Updated: Dec 4, 2018
When you’re running a company – mentoring and leading a team of people, developing and refining a product, building a loyal client base – the thought of writing one blog post can seem overwhelming. (If you’re like most executives I’ve worked with, that is one of the tasks that consistently gets pushed to tomorrow’s to-do list… over and over and over again.) And, while there are many reasons for this reality, one of the main challenges is that, for many executives, it’s hard to draw a straight line from blog post to business growth. But in today’s digital world – where prospects and candidates let your online story tell them who you are and what you stand for – companies don’t have the luxury to take a “that’s not important” approach.
It starts with a strategy
When you set out to build, maintain or refresh a brand, there is some groundwork that needs to be laid. For some, the process can seem tedious and time-consuming, but the work done upfront is critical to not only successful brand delivery and positioning, but to delivering ROI. For starters, it’s vital to know who your audiences are – from your board of directors to prospective clients to employees. This allows everything you do to have a purpose. For example, rather than writing a blog post on something you think is important, it’s penning one on a topic that’s of interest to your clients (and positions you as an expert/resource). It’s developing a media plan aimed at securing coverage in outlets most important to each of those audiences, rather than outlets in which you want to be featured.
I like to think of this work – development of a strategy – as a sort of checklist. Every piece of content written, media article secured, award submitted for should align with the goals and audiences you have outlined as part of that foundation-laying process. Your time is precious and you don’t have extra to be writing blog posts on topics that won’t move the needle for you/your organization, so it’s important to be thoughtful and calculated with your actions.
Focus on building momentum
You don’t have to go from zero to 60 overnight. Just because you have committed to spending resources (time, money, etc.) on your brand doesn’t mean you have to do everything all at once. In fact, it’s better to have a “phased” mentality. First of all, it allows you to try and test things, and identify what works, what doesn’t and what tweaks should be made. Second, you don’t want to overwhelm the industry or your audiences by putting too much out at one time. And third, there’s likely a strategic approach to the tactics you undertake, and not respecting that approach could be a waste of time and money. For example, let’s say you decide you need to refine your company messaging, and set out to “audit” employees and clients to understand how you are perceived – both internally and externally. Following that exercise, and as part of the work to re-position how you are seen, you need to be thoughtful about doing too many new things all at once that might make people internally uneasy. Take your time to roll out the new messaging, get feedback, present next steps and what they can/should expect, and how you’d like them to be involved. Reserve more “structured” tactics for a bit further down the line, like a more intense training program or best places to work surveys, when people have bought into the direction, vision and strategy.
We have filters for a reason
‘No’ is a good and strategic word. By having laid the groundwork and knowing where you need to spend your time, you need to step back whenever you have to make a decision and ask yourself how it aligns with the overall strategy. If a speaking opportunity sounds good, and you want to get yourself out there more – but it won’t put you in front of any one of your audiences, you need to look at that as a poor investment of your time (and money). When you write down your to-do list, ask yourself how each action item aligns with your overall goals. Outsource the answers and management as necessary; for example, if you’re working with a consultant or agency on your external communications, challenge them to ensure the time they’re asking you to spend lines up with the original goals and strategy. Internally, work with management and HR to ensure messages and values are being received as they were intended.
It’s not a one-and-done
Your brand is always evolving. Just like we do things to consistently improve ourselves – exercise, eat healthy, further our knowledge/education – it’s important to keep an eye on how things internally and externally continue to impact your brand. Make it a regular habit to check in with your clients to see how they perceive you. Do the same with your employees. Look at how your content is behaving; is it generating engagement? Are you hearing your key messages repeated back to you by prospects you meet? It’s important to make sure you regularly “step back” from your brand to assess whether how you are perceived and positioned is how you want to be.
The reality is, the idea of building and maintaining a brand can be overwhelming to busy executives – but it doesn’t have to be. With a little help and work on the front end/a solid strategy, you should have a “checklist” by which you can regularly ensure you’re not only headed in the right direction, but that you’re spending your time effectively – and that it will pay off.