woman standing holding speech bubble
Your personal brand should consistently display who you are and what you're about to the public — including potential customers, investors and employees. — Getty Images/PeopleImages

What do you stand for as the owner of your business? And what kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be perceived as? The answers to these questions are found in your personal branding — the value of which can make a big impact on prospects, clients and the public at large.

Research suggests that building a personal brand is particularly crucial for early stage companies and matters more to staff and public forums at later stages. And in a recent study, executives polled credited 45% of their company’s overall reputation (as well as the level at which they can attract investors, garner positive media attention and attract employees) to the their CEO’s individual reputation.

But enhancing your personal brand isn’t an easy task. We connected with three experts in the field and asked their advice.

[Read: PR Without the Price Tag: How to Promote Your Business on a Budget]

Take stock of your online presence

Today, if people want to learn more about you, they search online. Consequently, you should be aware of what they can discover about you, said Isabel Botero, assistant professor of Family Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Stetson University.

“If you are aware of how you are portrayed online, you will be able to control part of your brand. I encourage small business owners to conduct periodic searches of their name to see what results come up and to make sure that the information displayed is accurate,” she said.

That means checking and updating, as necessary, any existing profiles on your website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google My Business, Twitter or other platforms. Replace any outdated photos, bios and contact information. Consider removing any online profiles that you cannot actively manage and update.

Additionally, take time to scour through your past posts and tweets and delete any questionable content you’ve generated that could draw negative attention to your personal brand. Try to respond with grace and professionalism to any negative comments or feedback posted about you, as well.

“Remember: Founders imprint their organizations with their own identity. Thus, it’s important to know what is said about you and by you; others will use that to determine if they will enter in a business relationship with your organization,” Botero added.

[Read: 4 Affordable PR Strategies for Small Businesses]

To keep consumers returning to your personal brand, you must provide value.

Paige Velasquez, CEO of Zilker Media

Provide valuable content

Paige Velasquez, CEO of Zilker Media, said the biggest mistake she sees small business owners make with their personal brand is pushing promotional, “you”-driven content.

“This turns potential customers off. To keep consumers returning to your personal brand, you must provide value,” she said, adding that this is best offered in the form of articles, blog postings, tweets, videos, podcasts and other forms of helpful content.

Velasquez’s recipe for value-added content that can improve your personal brand includes:

  • News-driven content. “This should be 45% of your overall content mix. Monitor the news cycle for stories, new studies or current events you can tie your personal brand to. Then, create articles on these topics that you can position yourself as a thought leader on, and publish them on your website, blog or other platforms.”
  • Relationship-building content. “This should also comprise 45%. It involves highlighting other experts in your content to broaden your network and audience by featuring someone in your article, podcast or video who will want to share that content with their audience.”
  • Promotional content. “Limit this to only 10%,” she recommended.

Be your authentic self

Lindsay Mueller, managing director of ScaleUp at the Women’s Business Development Center, believes that it’s not the “flashy stuff” — like a snazzy headshot, expertly composed bio, or list of personal/professional achievements — that matters most to your personal brand; it’s all the genuine pieces of you and how you present yourself to the world every day.

“The best personal brands are authentic to the individual. Hence, the best way to build trust is to just be yourself. Let your personality shine through in all that you do,” she said. That makes it easier to present yourself reliably and honestly, which customers and the public will appreciate.

To accomplish this, Mueller suggested three simple rules:

  1. Be consistent.
  2. Be authentic.
  3. Don’t be afraid to promote your strengths.

“For example, in your bio or profile, describe who you are as an individual first, such as ‘I am a hardworking mother of two children who loves living and working in Chicago,’ and then add ‘business owner’ somewhere at the end of that description.”

[Read: A Guide to Growing Your Business With Social Media Marketing]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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