Growing a Business
Is it right for your concept?
We live in a society obsessed with celebrity. Reality TV shows are numerous, and when you add YouTube, blogs and other social media to the celebrity mix, people are enthralled with creating a personal brand. Although some of these media excursions can be chalked up to narcissism, some very smart business people are extending the reach of their products, knowledge and services through the use of "celebrity". For those that make it work, they can create tremendous positive impacts for their businesses and themselves. For those that don't make it work, it can result in wasted time, resources and simply cause frustration. Below are some things to consider when extending your "celebrity" brand.
1. Realize that you probably know things that others would find interesting.- My wife follows the blog of a woman in Oklahoma that lives on a cattle ranch. This individual communicates country living through recipes, photography and stories from the prairie. Because I grew up on a cattle ranch, I don't find the information presented particularly interesting (and they are the cleanest ranch hands I've ever seen), but my wife finds the different lifestyle intriguing. When you have specialized knowledge or you live in a unique culture that the more metropolitan based society of today is disconnected with a vast majority of "rural" people, you are unique. Find the things that you know and the weird aspects of your life that you can use to "tell a story." You will be surprised at the people that might find you interesting.
2. Get used to technology in order to effectively share your knowledge.- Some people are "tweeters", some people use video, some people use longer stories through blog sites and others use pictures to convey a message. In each of these digital formats, you need to find the appropriate venue to communicate your information. The great thing about technology is that you can bring family, friends or local students into your project to fill in a "tech gap".
3. Find the outlet that works best for you.– Digital media is vast. You can easily get bogged down in all of the different options you have to reach an audience. Find the media type that you excel in, and stick with it. After you feel comfortable with one form of media, you may consider expanding into another form demanded by your customer base (we've been asked, "why don't you blog?", for example).
4. Understand that it takes time, frequency and great content to build a following.- I follow a few YouTube channels, and those that post new content at least once a week, I follow. Those that post once every few months, I tend to ignore. Encourage people to comment on your content, and make adjustments accordingly. Answer "viewer" questions, and give people a "behind the scenes" look at what you do. Some people even have "blooper reels" for video, or "photo bombed" picture albums. Make sure people are hearing from you at least once a week, and try to release content on the same day of the week each week, if possible.
5. Reach out with a persuasive pitch.- Once you have a following, you can reach out to other forms of media as an "expert" on a topic, as competitor in a contest or as a subject for an interview. For the Christmas season, do you know how to decorate trees, wrap presents or make that special holiday dish? Maybe you know wish list etiquette, how to build holiday cards or ideas for the perfect party? Even service businesses can get in on the act by talking about those "end of the year" tax items, family planning or other related topics. Reach out to media on a Monday or Tuesday with a practiced "pitch" for a human interest, entertainment or news story and offer your expertise on someone else's media network. Traditional television, web channels, radio and newspapers need great content to build an audience. With the right pitch, you can be that content and help expand your brand.
6. Realize that this strategy can be a time consuming pain, and plan accordingly.- If you are the type of person that does what you want to do when you want to do it, this strategy is not for you. If you don't like to be "bothered", don't bother with this strategy. It takes time to put together an effective alternative media plan, and the consistency requirements necessitate that you set aside time on a consistent basis to create content. You can generally create content outside of the 9-5 hours, but you do need to set aside a block to get work done.
7. Get help.- Understand that "celebrity" planning isn't all about you. Ask for help. Find local talent and resources that can assist with video, editing, photos, content, etc. Bring in "guests" that you can interview. Understand that if you are going to a buying market, holding a class or attending a professional seminar, these are potential content builders for your alternative media strategy.
8. Calculate your return on investment.- Although things may start slowly, over time you should be able to calculate a tangible return on your investment. Forexample: I can record the amount of referrals we get at Main Street through an alternative media strategy. I can quantify "views" and relate them to success in events. I can talk to the community and receive feedback from our communication. From a retail or service standpoint, you may be able to translate your media efforts into sales. The point is, you need the ability to record a tangible impact of your efforts to justify your investment of time and other resources.
9. Ask yourself the tough question: is this really what you want?- This is an important question. When you invite the public into your life, it is hard to create a personal barrier. That may seem silly to talk about in a small town, but it can get a little weird. I remember working retail years ago when Ron Thomas walked into the shop. His voice was a dead giveaway, and one of the staff members at the store instantly lost sight that this was an individual's personal time (he was very gracious, as always). But, it can get a little weird if you extend your persona outside of your business. Conversely, if the public doesn't identify with you in a small business, it can put you at a competitive disadvantage. It's a fine line. But, before you start trying to become the next YouTube, blog or television sensation, think about if notoriety is what you really want and if it fits your personality.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned the blogger my wife loves. Well, this blogger is now opening a restaurant in Oklahoma and she has a television show to compliment lines of cookbooks and other merchandise (I'm sure I'll get talked into a visit to their restaurant). Another one of my former favorite "nerd" internet "celebrities" had an active YouTube account, a television show and was a panelist on several media outlets, but she's now loading weird music videos about once every four months… Taking a "celebrity" approach to marketing doesn't guarantee success. But, for the right people with the right technical expertise and the right personality, it can be an effective strategy to build your business and personal brand.