How to Market Yourself as a PR Pro

Last month I was invited to speak to a roomful of independent public relations pros at the Independent Public Relations Alliance of PRSA’s January luncheon.  The title of the event was “Indie Brand Check” and the premise of my talk was that as public relations professionals we are so focused on our clients that we fail to spend adequate time on our own marketing.

Yes we do great work, but failing to ramp up our own company’s marketing and PR could result in missed new opportunities.

So as you’re creating marketing, communications and promotional plans for your clients this year, put aside a little time to work on your own marketing and PR. When you get a new client inquiry from your shiny new web site, or at a speaking engagement, you’ll be glad you did.

Here are a few tips I shared.

The Spotlight is Your Friend. Make yourself client #1

We work in the background. We are expert deflectors-staying out of the pictures, staying out of the headlines, staying in essence, out of the way.  And we do it because it’s our job to make others shine.

But what happens when your business slows, or even comes to a halt? What happens when your one main client doesn’t renew for another year?

What happens when you don’t have anyone to shine the spotlight on? You find yourself, all of the sudden fumbling, trying to figure out what to do with your shine.

I want to let you in on a little secret.

The spotlight is your friend. So embrace it!

You deserve a great web presence, a fashionable wardrobe, and a thousand twitter followers because what you do is also important – just as important as your clients;. In this day in age, it’s your personal brand that is going to differentiate you from the competition, help you make more money.

In the digital age-we are all PR people.

As Keith Ferrazi says in Never Eat Alone: “Image and identity have become increasingly important in our new economic order. With the digital sea swelling in sameness and overwhelmed in information, a powerful-brand built not on a product but on a personal message-has become a competitive advantage.”

So where do you start? I say for us PR pros, it starts with a fundamental mind shift.

Make yourself client number one.

If you get on a plane, what does the flight attendant tell you about the oxygen masks before take-off? In case of emergency, put your own mask on before attaching the mask to your child. You kinda have to approach your business that way, too.

If you met a business owner with a phenomenal product or service but was getting by as the industry’s best kept secret, getting clients but not operating at full capacity, what would you do? You would listen intently, maybe take notes and then your PR brain would start percolating a million different ways to help that person.

You’d say, “We need to get you out in front if this reporter, these blogs, this market, etc”  It probably wouldn’t take you long to assess the market opportunities and identify a few vehicles to get that client out there. I challenge you to do that for yourself. Access that same genius you use to make others shine, and put the spotlight on yourself. Because what you do is really amazing. You change lives, grow businesses and bottom lines. People need to know.

Position yourself as the problem solver and you’ll never need for clients. What problem do you solve?

Don’t talk about what you do. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but no one cares about what you do.

How many times have you been in a room networking pros and asked someone what the do. They told you… “I’m a consultant that installs programs for high interest…”

What does that even mean?

Don’t tell people what you do.

Tell them how you can help.

Tell them who you’ve helped before.

Tell them how you can rock their world.

 Get Niched

I love me a good niche. You may think you don’t have one, but you do. It may be your skills or your audience.   But it’s important to know what it is because defining a niche makes your perceived value go up and helps you stand out from the crowd. You become the go-to expert on your niche, if you do it right. So get clear about this fast.

A Niche Success Story: The other day, I got a call from an old colleague who knew me from my hardcore writing days. He was looking for writing help for his son, who is now applying to colleges. Well, I don’t do that type of work , but it just so happened that I knew of someone who does. One of my brand coaching clients has a program for college essays. She was just the person my friend was looking for. I sent an email, referred her, sealed the deal. If she hadn’t been niched, would I have even thought to recommend her? Doubt it.

Promote Yourself. (It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you)

 You may know of a million and one people, but what do people know you for? How do we make sure people know us?

This is the easy part-we already do this for our clients!

  • Make a decision (self reflection, brand reflection) Who do you want to be known for? What do you want for yourself? Remember – you lose yourself in other people’s brands if you’re not clear on who you are.
  • Craft your message, your brand statement, your elevator speech or whatever you want to call it
  • Stay on message (isn’t this what we tell our clients?) Who writes talking points for their clients? You need to write brand talking points for yourself! And stay on message.
  • You HAVE to promote yourself and what you do. You can’t assume people know. Tell somebody. Tell everybody.

It’s not sleazy. It’s not overtly self-promotional. It’s business.

Vehicles to Use

  • Social Media
  • Your Newsletter
  • Facebook  fan page
  • A LinkedIn profile for yourself at the very least
  • Speaking
  • Blogging for yourself and guest blogging others
  • Writing a column for a newspaper or magazine
  • Coverage in PR blogs and PR Trades
  • Networking in your target client’s habitat – Think about your niche and then ask yourself “how do I get in front of my best client? How do I get in front of my best paying audience- where are they going, what are they reading?”

How Do WE Make Time?

You just have to. If you set aside 2 hours each week and build it into your schedule, you will see your results. You will. You can thrive, not just survive in your business.  But you have to put yourself first. I challenge you to invest in yourself this quarter.

Are you a PR pro with a less than stellar brand message? Let’s refine it together so everyone knows exactly who you are, what you’re great at, and what amazing results you can get your clients. Trust me – you’ll be glad you did.


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