Are Lifeguards Watching Out for Your Brand?

A lifeguard watching over a pool.

A lifeguard watching over a pool.

Tragically, Long Island beaches have experienced a number of rip currents this summer that have led to drownings. Rip currents drag swimmers out into deep water. Swimmers then drown as they become exhausted fighting to swim back to shore. Even non-swimmers can get swept away by a rip current when standing in shallow water. Rip currents, rip tides and undertows are powerful forces of the sea that are difficult for even the most experienced swimmers to contend with. To escape the rip, the person must swim parallel to shore and NEVER swim against the current.

Unfortunately, swimmers panic and tire out in a short period of time and/or they may not know what to do in this type of situation. As a former lifeguard, I know the challenges and pressures a lifeguard faces when watching water conditions.  Lifeguards use their eagle eyes to look out for the safety of swimmers. I never was a lifeguard at an ocean beach – only at pools and lakes – but I had to come to the aid of close to 50 swimmers in just two summers.

Jumping into the ocean when lifeguards are not on duty is a risk, one that no one should ever take. The same is true for your brand.  When you open your business and jump into marketing and promotion, once you put just one foot into the water you are exposed to threats and risks to your business, which could consist of angry customer reviews or comments on social media, negative word of mouth comments about your business or a product or a poor review in the media.

There are many ways a brand or business can get in trouble. Some problems are completely out of the control of the business owner or management: a fire, an unwarranted lawsuit, theft by an employee, an extended power outage or a computer virus. Any of these can cause a major disruption in business and will quickly have a negative impact on a brand.

Every business must have a crisis plan in place for the day when something unexpected happens. The crisis plan, like an insurance policy, will provide you with a process for reacting to the problem at hand. The plan is only part of your response. You also need a “lifeguard,” somebody who can help keep you away from danger and step in when something bad happens. In fact, you need more than one lifeguard to make up an effective support team.

Your professional business team.

Your professional business team.

Your business lifeguard team must be comprised of the following professionals:

Reputation Monitor 

We live in the digital age and social media is a key part of marketing and branding. A crisis for any business can start online or in the cyber world. Negative reviews, comments and articles can damage a brand or business. Failure to know that your brand is under attack is unacceptable. It’s imperative that you or your team monitor your brand online. If you don’t have the time or lack experience, have your digital marketing firm monitor and report to you regularly about your online reputation. They should also have a plan ready should your brand come under attack online or in the real world.

We regularly monitor online news, social media sites and websites to make sure that nothing negative is being said about our clients’ companies, their products, their services, their staff, or owners/management. Online reputations must be monitored and if there is a need to address an issue, it must be done in the right way. Negative reviews, comments or even videos can damage a company’s ability to attract and keep business.

Crisis Communication Expert / Public Relations – Media Relations Expert 

If a crisis situation impacts customers, business or a community, it is likely to become of interest to the media. Negative press can lead to loss of business, clients questioning their relationship with you and damage to your brand (personal or business). Having a communications plan and a crisis communications expert available to you is important. At Corbett Public Relations we work with clients on Long Island and across the nation to establish a procedure to follow during a crisis. We see ourselves as professionals who are promoters and protectors of brands. Reacting to a crisis situation in the media takes thought and consideration. Every incident is different and those with decades of experience, such as the individuals on my team, know how to manage communications in all kinds of situations. At a minimum the owner of a business should consult with a firm and have a plan for managing a crisis and know who to call if the situation escalates. Would you know what to do if the media calls or shows up with cameras at your office? If you don’t, you need a plan today and the help of a crisis communications expert.

Attorneys

Your attorneys protect you before, during and after an incident. Make sure to consult with them and discuss potential risks and know how to get in touch with them during nights and weekends should a crisis situation occur. Discuss your concerns with your attorneys so you know that they are prepared to handle the types of situations that could possible occur. Attorneys have different types of practices so make sure your attorney is experienced in handling crisis situations.

Accountant/CPA

Crisis situations can come from many directions. Bankruptcy, fraud, ID theft, tax issues and other financial issues require the assistance of accountants. Your accountant should act proactively to warn you about issues and potential problems that could occur from their perspective. Your accountants will also be part of your team to provide reports and financial information should you need to defend your business and brand in court or with authorities.

Insurance Professionals

Everyone and every business has insurance. In addition to knowing the coverage that your policies provide, it is critical that you also know and trust your insurance agent and local broker. These are the people who will fight for you if and when a crisis occurs.

Depending on the company that the policy is purchased from and the kind of policy, there are many details that you will need to know. Having a good relationship with your broker will help. We saw this play out on Long Island after Super Storm Sandy in 2012. Thousands of people and businesses were impacted by flooding and extended power outages. Local insurance professionals played an important part in helping clients submit property claims and get the funds they needed to rebuild and survive. Insurance companies will also assign attorneys to defend clients following incidents. Remember to look at this part of your policy to get an understanding of how it works and get the name of the firm that could potentially be defending you.

Often crisis situations occur without warning. Trying to manage them as they happen is a challenge. Take the time in advance to create a plan, put together a list of the critical actions that need to be taken and be sure that you have all necessary contact information at your fingertips. Keep copies of your plan at the office, at your home and in a place that is accessible online at all times.

Lifeguards are on duty to protect as well as to jump-in to save a swimmer in an emergency. Every business needs to have a team of “lifeguards” watching out for the management and the brand. The swimmer (the business owner or management) must also know what to do in case of a crisis and certainly never take risks when the lifeguards are not on duty.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

The Lazy Days of Summer? The “No Crazy” Days of Summer

At the beginning of July, I committed to blog every day and to encourage you to engage in significantly more social media activity. This is my 31st blog in a row. The results, on a number of fronts, have been positive, interesting and rewarding. I have also learned quite a bit and I want to share the lessons learned and a few frustrations with you.

vacation-from-work[1]On the positive side, being more active with content creation has allowed me to re-ignite my passion for providing marketing, PR, personal branding and business strategies for entrepreneurs and businesspeople. By sharing my knowledge and experience, I have been able to engage in conversations with wonderful people from around the world and get feedback which has advanced my own knowledge base.

I have experimented with blog distribution and social media to provide new and more effective strategies for clients, friends and colleagues along the way. In the pursuit of understanding new marketing trends, I have read a variety of articles in respected business publications such as FastCompany, Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, Business Insider and others. This led me to follow some impressive writers and bloggers and pod casters and their fantastic podcasts. I have also discovered people who are equally passionate about the entrepreneurial spirit.

What did I learn?

Twitter

One blog I did was called “I love Twitter, I hate Twitter.” My explorations and research into Twitter has opened my eyes to the potential of this platform and the best ways to use it to engage with people and build a following.

use 022814twitter[1]The two most important lessons:

The first is to engage with people on a one-to-one basis but do so in public. Thank people for following, ask questions and start conversations. I did not hesitate to send messages or ask questions of thought leaders. I am pleased that a number of them responded and are now following me. Having some TV personalities connected with me has been fun and it is very cool.

The second lesson is to acknowledge that brand consistency matters. When I veered away from my core interest and brand engagement the results were not the same as when I was more focused. The outcome after a month of heightened activity on Twitter resulted in an increase of over 300 followers and hundreds of likes, retweets and favorites.

LinkedIn

I wrote a number of blogs about LinkedIn. Since LinkedIn is a community and platform that I encourage businesspeople to use, I want to know how to use it more effectively.

The two lessons I learned:

Bill Corbett's LinkedIn profile page.

Bill Corbett’s LinkedIn profile page.

First lesson: if you are not doing long form posts on LinkedIn’s publishing platform, you are missing out on one of the best ways to build your brand online. I shared some of my blogs from this past month via this platform and the response has been amazing. My profile views tripled, contact requests are way up and the number of followers on my business page has more than doubled.

Second lesson: share content in groups and join the conversations. Conversations in groups have not only enabled me to speak with and connect with amazing people in the small business world but also with thought leaders and top level executives with major corporations. LinkedIn is about relationship building, not selling, and in this month alone I have started many new relationships.

Social Media

socialmedia[1]By sharing blogs and being more active on Google Plus, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest I have been able to bring my message and expertise to more people. Using images and video has been critical. I made the commitment to share images more and learn more about Instagram and Facebook. On both of these platforms I have seen engagement and this has strengthened my brand. Interesting, this is where business and personal activities intersect. In fact, this will be a future blog topic for me – relationship building does not stop when the business day ends. Personal posts and images of activities of interest to me have helped me to engage with more people and to share my involvement in charities and interest in grilling/BBQ and photography. The lesson learned here: share your passions and interests and you will be rewarded with comments, likes and respect. People will more likely approach you at networking events because these posts are great conversation starters and business opportunity generators.

PR – My Core Business

Many people know me, but there are those with whom I have not personally worked with and therefore it’s understandable that they wonder what I do and what happens at a PR firm every day. Through blogging, social media activity and storytelling, I have been able to educate people about what I do, my expertise and what it is like to be a PR professional. Lesson learned: talk to people and tell stories about what you do and how you do it. Give examples, use images and video whenever possible to tell the story and you will advance your business goals and build stronger relationships. We all have competitors, to stand out you must tell stories and let people get a good glimpse of what you do and how you can help them.

Video

Build_Brand[1]Through my social interactions, experience writing blogs, research and observations of  what others are doing to succeed, it is very clear that video is going to be the most important part of personal and business marketing in the years to come. I have included many videos in my blogs and I have shared many videos across social platforms over the past month. Video tells your brand story and invites people to get to know you better or introduces you to people before they even have a chance to meet you in person. I shared my recent TV interviews and the feedback has been very positive and has led to meetings and opportunities.

Blogging

Active blogging and the process in creating a blog has been an enlightening and positive experience. I have shared information that I am passionate about and have had fun. At the same time, I’ve broadened my knowledge base. Blogging can be both frustrating and challenging. Developing new content takes time and pushing out content requires a system and a consistent effort. It is frustrating when a blog does not get the response expected. Nonetheless, you must learn from disappointments to ultimately find success. I know that good content with images and videos attracts the most attention. I learned that social media sharing of your own content builds respect, interest and engagement. I also learned that when it comes to blogging it is great to share blogs directly with friends and others who will share it with their networks.

podcastmikeheadset1[1]I have said repeatedly during my Grow Your Personal Branding program presentations that your blog is where your personal brand comes to life. My daily blogging over the past 30 + 1 days has proven this to me once again. I plan to continue to blog, just not every day. I definitely will integrate more videos and I am looking forward to launching a podcast in the fall.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 

@liprguy

@corbettpr

Working with Celebrities: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Jared Subway

Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle.

The recent Subway controversy with spokesperson Jared Fogle has once again brought unwanted attention to a large corporation. The lesson is: although there are positive aspects about working with celebrities, businesses must be prepared for anything if you decide to go down this path.

Working with celebrities and well-known figures can draw attention to a charity or business. Celebrities such as Betty White (Morris Animal Foundation), Danny Thomas (St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital) and Christina Aguilera (World Hunger Relief), have adopted causes and have been effective spokespeople as well as superb brand ambassadors.

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek.

Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek.

Over the years we have seen celebrities endorse products and pitch them to us on television and in most other forms of advertising. Alex Trebek, the host of Jeopardy!, currently promotes reverse mortgages. In past ad campaigns, Wilford Brimley was the spokesperson for diabetes supplies and Sally Struthers implored viewers to “save the children.”

On the local level small businesses work with celebrities too; most often they are former sports stars or entertainers. These “local” celebrities are less expensive and can be very effective in driving attention and awareness of a new brand, local business or not-for-profit. When acting as spokespeople for a temporary campaign or long-term effort these local celebrities can become synonymous with the brand or not-for-profit. The results can be very positive, but pay heed to the current headlines with Jared Fogle and Subway – it is getting very ugly.

Good pitch men and women are spokespeople and celebrities who know how to articulate a message. They can do this in person, as part of an ad campaign and potentially when interviewed by the media. A savvy spokesperson will make sure that they stay on message and get their pitch or promotion out when being interviewed. This is not as easy as you might think. Even when the popularity of a celebrity is on the decline, they will get the attention of interviewers who will typically ask questions related to what the person is best known. This is fair game of course, but it cannot be the only topic for an entire interview. Likewise, the interview cannot be a 100-percent pitch or commercial. An astute spokesperson will balance both and never lose the opportunity for the plug.

Shatner Cuoco Priceline

William Shatner (l) and Kelly Cuoco (r) for Priceline.com.

Those who fail to use the opportunity to make the pitch fall into the “bad” category. They have neglected to present the brand message. The company or business that hired and paid the celebrity will not get the attention or PR it needed and expected. Certainly, long-term, experienced spokespeople rarely have this problem; they get to know the businesses and management they work with and are practiced at what they do. William Shatner and Kelly Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory) with Priceline.com are both excellent examples.

The Jared/Subway controversy, just like ones involving Tiger Woods (Nike, Gatorade, Gillette, General Motors) and Lance Armstrong (Live Strong and the United States Postal Service), highlights how celebrity endorsements or relationships with spokespersons can crash and burn. There is always the potential risk for crisis and controversy in associating a brand with an individual, regardless of who they are. When this happens it can truly be ugly, dragging a brand or business through a media controversy for days, months or even years.

Picture2

Lance Armstrong.

Whether you are associated with a not-for-profit or a business, working with big or small name celebrities must be examined and monitored closely. Be leery of putting too much of the brand’s reputation in the hands of a spokesperson and always have a “crisis” plan should a controversy arise. Weigh the value of the good coverage that you can potentially receive against the bad and hopefully, not the ugly.

Pitch the Media: Strategies for Getting Media Coverage – Part II

A+TechSchoolSafteyAs explained in my previous blog post, there are numerous benefits to using PR as part of your marketing plan. It positions businesses, individuals, products or services in a positive way, increases brand awareness and sets you apart from your competition. You don’t have to wait to start obtaining media coverage. Today’s post focuses on strategies you can use yourself to get media coverage you want and need.

The best place to start is by reverse engineering the whole process; really think about what you would do with the coverage if you got it? Why do you want your story to be told? The answer can vary based on the type of coverage you receive and want. You can send links and videos to clients, prospects or use it as part of a sales presentation kit. Remember PR is a vital part of a marketing plan for a business or individual.

To make sure your PR efforts are effective, first identify your target audiences and their preferred choices for news outlets. Research your prospects and understand what they are reading and watching. You want to position yourself in the media in a way that is relevant to your target audience. Media coverage is most valuable when it directly or indirectly reaches the right people.

RB-GMSD-aug-2012

To succeed in this effort you need to develop a list of media contacts. These are the people to whom you will pitch your story. You must know who they are and build relationships with them. You need to be aware of the specific department or subject matter a writer or reporter covers. It’s now time to pitch and here are a few strategies to follow:

  1. Think like a reporter: What do they need/ want? What angles, stories or subjects does this reporter usually find interesting and write about? Recognize that they have deadlines and only bring appropriate stories to them at the right time.
  2. Find out what is trending: If your story or information is relevant to trending news, the media will be more inclined to write about it. They need to see that it is newsworthy and what is your connection to the story or trend. If you can be industry specific or if you can create a local connection, even better.
  3. Demonstrate that you are an expert: why should members of the media even listen to you? You should be prepared to back up all your information with details, facts and sources. The media can position you as an expert in your field if you provide them with everything they need, which sometimes includes having clients and customers ready to provide information or quotes. A story that includes people with whom you have worked or you have assisted boosts your reputation and strengthens your relationship with reporters.
  4. Always think about the visual aspects of storytelling. Today all print and online media as well at TV media outlets want greater visuals. These can be images or locations and people that are interesting. Always include a description or sample of what the visual will be when pitching.

Pitches are most successful when they are short and offer a solution to a problem and provide a personal connection or narrative. Members of the media are not looking to do a commercial about businesses and write about how great they are. Pitches that are clearly promotional are often disregarded and can foster negative perceptions.

Pitch ideas create a “buzz” and new awareness about a topic. Again, describe and provide an opportunity to tell the story with visuals. Images and video clips can all be helpful in this capacity.

As described in Part I, each story in the media gives people a chance to learn about your business, your brand and what you stand for. Therefore, it is important to make sure that you practice your pitches. You want to deliver pitches clearly and professionally. At Corbett Public Relations we also recommended that you think about the medium you are pitching to; stories for print, online, TV and radio vary based on the length and space for visuals. For example, radio spots may only allow for a few minutes to tell the story, so be sure to send an informed and articulate public speaker, while print will most likely offer more space for details and visuals to enhance the story.

Knowing how to best pitch to these mediums is something that everyone can learn through practice and experience. However, it does take time and effort to learn the practices and build a contact list.

We encourage everyone to seek media coverage and ask professionals questions about how you can do it yourself or with some assistance.

Public Relations professionals work with the media every day. Most, like those who work with our firm, have strong and established relationships with the media. These relationships come from communicating with the media regularly on behalf of many different clients. If you are not 100 percent prepared, it is best to seek out a PR professional that can help prepare or perhaps work on your behalf to gain the coverage you need for your brand and your business.

If you have any questions about PR and how to pitch the media, please feel free to contact us.

7 Reasons Why You Need PR as Part of Your Marketing – Part I

Hey Small Business Owners and Executives – Don’t Forget the PR!

I wrote an article that was published several years ago with the title “Don’t forget the PR.” This was a well-received piece, however with the changes taking place in marketing and technology I wanted to revisit the subject. It also became clear to me recently at several speaking engagements where I was talking about personal marketing and mentioned PR to attendees; only 10 percent of those in attendance had ever been interviewed by the media. I was not surprised about this and it was not surprising that only about 1 percent of small businesspeople have any kind of PR strategy. Let’s explore PR and why everyone in business should have PR as part of their marketing strategy.

Long Island Public Relations

Click for video.

Why public relations? For today’s post, I am focusing on the media relations and positioning elements of public relations. Media relations are, in its most simplistic form for business, about securing positive media coverage for a business, individual, product or service. Media relations can also include providing authored articles to blogs or publications.

DSC_9676

Securing media coverage is important, here are seven reasons why:

  1. Positioning – Media coverage positions the company, individual, product or service in a positive way. Media coverage is an unbiased third party endorsement. Coverage is not purchased like advertising; it is earned and has tremendous value.
  2. Awareness – Media coverage or an authored article in a trade publication builds awareness with a niche audience or with a mass audience. Either way, the message reaches an audience which contains prospects or referral sources.
  3. Competition – If you’re not part of media stories that relate to your industry, your competitors will be. You lose in several ways when your competitors get the coverage that you should get as these are lost opportunities for business, result in reduced awareness of your business and your competitors will be seen as the experts and not you.
  4. Reputation – Your greatest asset and one of the greatest assets of a company is its reputation. Being in the media and being recognized as a thought leader will enhance your reputation and this is a competitive advantage.
  5. Marketing assets – Every print or online article, news video interview or radio interview is an opportunity for you and your brand to shine. These materials can be shared on social media creating quality content; copies are added to your website and marketing portfolio, these assets are also added to sales presentations and project proposals. These materials provide you with the ability to differentiate yourself, your products, services and business. These assets, when used properly and regularly, give you a competitive advantage.
  6. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – The more often you or your business are in the media, the greater impact this will have on positive search engine optimization and online searching. Every online story creates a new place where your brand lives and provides an opportunity for people to find your brand and learn about who you are and what you stand for.
  7. Insurance – Positive media coverage built up over time can be invaluable should a crisis impact you or your business. Positive coverage allows you to control the narrative and build relationships. With a good reputation, customers and others will recognize who you are and what you stand for. This is critical in the event of a serious crisis. Having relationships with the media also plays a part during a crisis. Knowing members of the media and having the experience speaking with them can help reduce the damage of a crisis.These are some of the reasons why PR/Media Relations is important for a small business and for individuals. For those who work with businesses and who may not be owners, PR is also an important marketing tool that can be used to build business, create job security, advance your career, enhance your standing in your industry as a leader and support the growth of the business that you work for/with. In some instances, businesses do not allow staff members to pursue media coverage. This is a challenge, however when you can make the case that media coverage for you will enhance the bottom line and will prevent competitors for securing the coverage, you have two strong arguments that management will have to recognize. If you are an expert and leader, you owe it to your career to pursue media coverage to build your brand. As a manager or owner, create rules and a strategy that will allow team members to pursue media coverage that is in line with business goals.

Securing media coverage can be a challenge. However, with effort and energy it can be done. Part two of this blog will discuss some of the strategies you can use to obtain coverage for yourself or business.

Make the Truth Be Your Friend

Witness 1

It is not uncommon for critics and others to call PR professionals spin doctors or manipulators of perception. The fact is that we seek to present clients in a favorable way and position them as leaders and experts. Many PR professionals and my team take our role seriously and ethically. In order to effectively promote a company or individual, the effort must be solidly founded in truth.  Companies, individuals, marketers and hopefully politicians who lie will be caught and called out for it.   Communications professionals and marketers must accept responsibility as Picture1well.  Today consumers may not always expect great customer service, but they do expect honesty.

When developing a PR strategy it is critical that you identify what your vision is and what your messages will be. What will your brand stand for? This may not be an easy question to answer right away, but it must be based in truth. It takes some thought and discussion. What a business brand stands for or what an individual’s personal brand is must be stated upfront and for it to resonate, it must be honest and truthful. Including lies in a brand story will cause problems and when business Picture2owners or those who are there to defend them do not have facts and truth as their friends, the challenge may be insurmountable. When brands and individuals are caught lying, it destroys trust and trust is the currency of success.

Some embrace the “fake it till you make it” philosophy or approach. This is a dangerous path to pursue and could destroy a growing brand or even one that is established. Reputation is based on truth. Look at examples such as Brian Williams of NBC News, disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner and professional cyclist Lance Armstrong. Each was caught lying and look what happened to their brands.

Invest in the truth and it will grant you significant rewards.

Weiner

Make truth your friend and you will have no regrets.

Revisited 2015 – July 4th Independence Day – Lessons from the Founding Fathers for Social Media and Personal Branding

I wrote this blog 5 years ago it is still relevant today.  However, the world has changed.  Today Americans have more ways to market and communicate.  With smartphone technology in our hands we have enormous power to broadcast our messages and engage with others. I call smartphones, PMD’s Personal marketing Devices they can also be seen as your own personal broadcast center. (More on this in a future blog)

The technology we have however is not being leveraged effectively by small business people.  Many don’t see the opportunity because they are overwhelmed with time pressures and lack of understanding of the power that they have. Understanding marketing and why and how it must be done is also a challenge.

It’s time for small business people from across America to take charge of their destiny and bring their brands and messages to target audiences.   Failure to utilize the marketing tools that are available (for free) today will see many smart and capable people struggle to succeed in the new economy and within the new marketing paradigm.

As we look back at the lessons of our Founding Fathers below, consider what they would do today.  I believe that they would be regularly leveraging social media, blogs and video to get their message to the masses. They would engage in conversations and share their vision for the future.  They would be making connections, building relationships and beating their competition.

The pursuit of happiness lies in our hands both literally and figuratively.  Use marketing technology today as a vehicle for achieving success and your American dream.

First Published 5 Years Ago 

Today we celebrate Independence Day, July 4.   Beyond the fireworks and BBQs, we all should think about the great nation that we have the pleasure to be part of, and the many people who gave up their lives to give us the freedoms we enjoy.

Exactly 234 years ago, a group of brave, brilliant and industrious individuals met in a steamy Philadelphia room and agreed to do something that had never been done before—start a revolution.  The risks were great; the price that was paid was high in terms of lives lost, lives destroyed and money, but in the end the reward was unmatched in human history.  The American Revolution gave us a country where freedom is sacred.

Today despite a challenging economy we have the freedom to express ourselves and pursue our business as well as our personal dreams.  For many the dream is being an entrepreneur or a small business owner or simply pursuing a career in a chosen profession or industry.  Having this choice is an integral part of our national character and a driver of the entrepreneurial spirit.  While entrepreneurs and small businesses are under attack from many directions, the American entrepreneurial spirit lives on.

The information age has brought with it new media vehicles which are allowing individuals to voice their opinions, develop creative ideas and start new businesses.  Like the minutemen of Lexington and Concord, individuals can stand up, and take control of their own destinies like never before.  Like the “shot heard around world” that started the American Revolution a simple Facebook post or Tweet can literally be seen around the world just in seconds.

Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Adams, Hancock and the other Founding Fathers all understood the importance of individuality and expression.  They were passionate individuals with a mission, and the creativity and drive to achieve their goal – a free and independent nation.

While the Founding Fathers did not have social media vehicles and platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Youtube, Flickr and Foursquare I am sure that they would have taken advantage of them as mediums for communicating with contacts, public, friends and others interested in “the cause.”  Social networking and marketing did not exist, but these individuals knew the importance of publicity, having a personal brand, word of mouth marketing, networking, effective writing, publishing and public speaking. Do these skills and approaches sound familiar?  These techniques and others are the same that individuals need to capitalize on today to build their own personal brands, the foundation for a success in life, in business and in any community.

Did Franklin and Madison have a Blog?  Not exactly, however they did have a printing press.  They were able to create a buzz using well written content, printed books, flyers and newspapers. Papers and printed materials were circulated in pubs and homes across the 13 colonies and beyond.  People held discussion sessions and analyzed the information they were provided.  They debated and came up with their own comments and then shared materials with others who they thought would be sympathetic to their dreams of an independent democratic nation.

Today’s social media and personal branding gurus like Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee)Dan Dchawbel (@DanSchawbel),  Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki), Peter Shankman (@skydiver), Seth Godin and others are taking similar approaches as the Founding Fathers.  The Founding Fathers published articles and spoke to small and large groups to educate, motivate and inspire individuals to become part of a movement that included the individual but also was much larger than any single person.

Let’s look at some of our Founding Fathers and how they relate to personal branding and communications.  There is much we that can learn from them and ways we can apply these lessons to social media marketing and personal branding efforts today.

George Washington – Founding Father and First President of the United States of America.  Washington is also

known for his leadership abilities, speaking skills, political savvy and ability to stand out in crowd.  Although he did not sign the Declaration of Independence his leadership of the Continental Army made him a front runner to lead the country after the war.

During the Revolutionary War era it took weeks or months to get information or important messages out to thousands of people, or just one letter from one colony to another.  Hand written copies of the Declaration of Independence were circulated by hand around the 13 Colonies and read in front of groups gathered in pubs and in front of churches and other community buildings.

Today we can disseminate messages and blog articles in seconds using social media sites and digital communications.  The speed of distribution may have changed but the goals of communicating ideas messages and attracting attention remain the same.

We can learn from George Washington an important lesson, humility.  When offered the opportunity to become king of the new nation, he turned it down.  He also turned down the opportunity to run for a third term as president; instead he retired.  In today’s world full of online and off line self promoters and overexposed celebrities seeking the lime light, humility is a trait that seems to be in short supply.  We could all benefit from more people following Washington’s example of humility and grace.

Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, agonized for weeks to find the right language and consulted with other Founding Fathers to craft this historic document.   We learn from this example that writing passionately and choosing the right words is important.  On Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other writing quality has certainly suffered. Today it remains true that quality writing and compelling content will attract followers, and poor and uninteresting content will drive them away.

In our fast paced mobile technology society we are constantly on the move. A telling example of this is that on average there are more than 3,000 Tweets being placed every second.  Jefferson’s quote: No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing,” is apropos for today.  Many people are always “doing,” (communicating).  However, how much doing is actually wasting time? How much time is being spent on social media marketing with no measured results? Social media marketing programs must be planned and have goals. Without goals or a plan, the “doing” is nothing more than wasting time.

John Hancock – We know the name and we know the signature, he was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence and did so in large and bold script.   John Hancock knew the importance of standing out, making a statement and doing something different.  My favorite quote from Hancock is: “The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions.” This statement is especially true today. To be successful in business relationships and trust need to be built.  To influence people to act, purchase products or services, information and proof of abilities need to be conveyed to the target audience.  Be bold, but also have objectives and consider how relationships are being forged.

Benjamin Franklin – Frequently clients ask what should be said or what information should be put out on social media streams?  This quote from Benjamin Franklin answers the question perfectly: Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.”

Benjamin Franklin was truly an original and individual who understood celebrity and personal branding.  His exploits, scientific experiments and inventions as well as his larger than life personality made him a celebrity in France before he arrived to solicit their support for the “cause.”

We have much to learn from Franklin but for now, his grasp on being relevant and authentic can be our take away.  If something interesting or newsworthy is done write about it, don’t just write something for the sake or writing something.

John Quincy Adams – Are you a leader or do you aspire to be one in business, politics or in another field? If your answer is yes then this quote from John Quincy Adams is most appropriate:If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” To be a leader you need to be relevant and interesting.  Self-promotion and self-serving actions will not attract the right attention or inspire others.  Remember that being successful is not what inspires; what motivates and inspires others are the stories and examples of overcoming challenges and hardships to become successful.

There is much we can learn from studying our Founding Fathers.  From humility to creating relevant content their lessons can be applied to many facets of business and life today.

Every day of the year we should celebrate the precious gift of freedom we have been given.  We continue to enjoy this freedom because of the sacrifices of those who came before us and those who fight for us today in foreign lands and on other fronts.  We can honor them by embracing the American entrepreneurial spirit and following the examples set by our Founding Fathers.

All comments welcome, Happy 4th of July.

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