Yes, it’s obvious, but if you don’t start here, there’s no sense in doing anything else. Doing your job well is obviously the single most important thing you can do to build a positive reputation for your small business or startup. Customer service is a close second. But let’s be honest. In today’s competitive marketplace, customers expect you to win. They presume you’re competent and they demand exceptional service. Today, building your business’ reputation is about doing your job well and then going the extra mile—using your marketing muscle—to make sure that your customers and potential customers know that you’re accomplishing more than they expect.
Write Articles. Part of any plan to build your reputation should include getting published. First, you’ll need to find an editor. This is not as hard as it may seem. In fact, the growing number of print and Web-based publications with insatiable appetites for content means there are more opportunities than ever to find a home for your article. But you have to take the lead. Contact editors that might be interested in publishing your articles. A good place to start is with the publications you already receive, or those that are targeted toward the audience you want to reach.
Introduce yourself to an editor by sending an email about a story you’d like to write. Or, when a publication runs a feature that addresses your area of expertise, phone the editor directly. Volunteer to write an opposing viewpoint or provide timely information that adds a new twist to the topic for any follow-up stories that may be running.
If finding the time to write is an issue for you, there are several creative ways to share the workload. For example, you can join forces with a colleague or co-author an article with one of your clients. Collaborating on an article is a great way to deepen your working relationships. Moreover, your partner may have already established a relationship with an editor.
Another option is to hire a professional who can create a content marketing strategy for your startup. Some marketers charge by the hour and you’ll find reputable ones whose rates are reasonable. Also, you must remember to take time to provide your digital marketer with clear and specific direction. After all, it’s your reputation that’s on the line.
Give Speeches. Speaking engagements put you in front of a captive audience with a keen interest in the topic you’re addressing. If you fear public speaking, recognize that thousands of people— even famous individuals on the high-priced speaking circuits–feel the same way. Overcome your fear of public speaking by facing it head on and developing the skills you need to be successful in front of an audience. Take a presentation skills course each year or visit your local Toastmasters on a regular basis to practice giving presentations. But don’t pressure yourself. Start by addressing a small group of friends. Ask them to honestly critique your speaking skills and heed their comments. Gradually work your way up to larger audiences and you’ll soon find a comfort zone.
And, don’t get discouraged if finding a podium seems difficult at first. The competition for speaking opportunities is usually focused on exclusive, high profile events. There are hundreds of local and national industry organizations looking for speakers that are often overlooked by those seeking a podium. These venues are not only good practice arenas—they are great places to find clients.
Get Quoted. A study found that people that call you after learning about you in the media are substantially more likely to hire you than those that “cold call” you or that you call first. Needless to say, it behooves you to make connections with the media. Before making your first contact, however, remember that your interactions with the media are business transactions and nothing more. You’ve heard the warnings before: nothing is “off the record” — and stick your talking points.
Also, do your homework. Think about what sets you apart from others in your business and pay close attention to headlines in publications your customers regularly read. See who gets quoted and why. Review the editorial calendars and find reporters who are dedicated to issues that pertain to your practice niche. Read what they write and get familiar with what excites them. As you take these steps, you will begin to define the kind of an expert you want to be and you’ll start to see how you can dovetail your message with the hot issues of the day.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to acquaint yourself with local reporters. Find out who their audience is and how they select stories. Elaborate on your areas of expertise and provide leads for current stories. Ultimately, you want them to see you as a valuable resource and place your name on their list of experts in your area. Avoid jargon at all costs and practice using colorful language that clearly states your point of view. Great command of plain language will make you quotable. Keep at it and they’ll come around.
Most importantly, make it easy for the media to find you. Consider listing yourself in media directories such the Yearbook of Experts. These searchable databases will maximize your online exposure and make it easier for the right people to find you. And, remember to return calls QUICKLY! Reporters are always on deadline; they can’t wait four or five hours to hear from you. Another source is just a phone call away.
Make the Most of Each Activity. And speaking of deadlines, today, everyone is strapped for time. To build your reputation by writing articles, making speeches and getting quoted, you must find a way to optimize your efforts. The best way to conserve time is to use what we call the “Core and More” principle. Simply put, for every core reputation building activity that you perform, there should be at least 3-5 more ways for you to capitalize on that single effort. For example, for the suggested tips listed above, go for more by working with a firm whose expertise lie in digital marketing.