Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

4 Easy Ways to Boost Your Brand

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Whether you’re starting your own freelance business or launching a start-up, getting your new brand into the universe can be just plain scary. But, just like anything else, nothing is ever as hard as that first step.

With a little bit of guidance, a little more elbow grease, and that big ol’ creative brain of yours, getting people excited about what you’re doing will be easier than you think. Here are four effective (and affordable!) ways you can start getting the word out.

1. Host Your Own Focus Group

If you feed them, they will come. Throw together your favorite dish and gather your friends, family, and neighbors (and theirs too), for a casual focus group. Between bites, fill them in on what you’re doing. Since they already know you, it will be easy for them to ask lots of questions (some of which you may not have considered). Also, don’t forget you’ve invited them for a purpose, so be sure to keep a notebook handy to jot down all the feedback and suggestions you get.

Although feedback isn’t always easy to hear, ultimately both you and your brand will grow as a result—not to mention, your guests will feel invested by having the opportunity to contribute. If you can stand the baking and houseguests, make it regular event. It’s a great way to nurture your network and keep your brand buzzing in the ears of your current and future fans.

2. Generate Valuable Content

The phrase “Content is King” may be a jargon-laced aphrodisiac for marketing executives, but how does it apply to your brand? It’s simple: Creating content—articles, videos, whatever—is a great way to get your name out there, but only if it’s good. The content you share should be a value-add, not a sales pitch.

For example, if you bake and sell personalized ginger cookies, writing a blog post titled “Why You Need Ginger Cookies with Your Name on Them and Why You Should Buy Them From Me” isn’t going to cut it. Yes, technically it’s content, but is it something your audience needs or wants to know? No. Instead, post a topical article like “Ginger ranked #6 in Top 10 Foods for Cognitive Health” and include your thoughts, along with links to relevant pages or articles on your site.

When brainstorming content ideas, don’t forget, you’re a consumer too. Research your favorite brands to see how they use content to keep you coming back for more.

Also, always be on the lookout for valuable content to share with your network. Find an article that covers an interesting topic in your industry? Link to it. Find a website that targets your audience? Pitch an interview. Positioning yourself as an expert not only on your product, but on your whole market will build a strong reputation for your brand.

3. Develop Your Platforms

So, now that you’ve compiled all that meaty content, what do you do with it?

In PR, we consider the platforms we use to distribute our message to be just as important as the message itself. And these days, one of the most important platforms you have is your blog or website. Think of this as your foundation platform—your home base. Which means, in addition to all the content you’ll be posting, you also want it serve as your virtual biography. Be sure to include an “about” section that tells the story of your brand in your own words.

(Note: If you’re breaking out in hives at the thought of starting your own blog or website, don’t worry—you’ll have lots of choices that cater to the less tech-obsessed. Both Tumblr and Wordpress are great places to start, not to mention free!)

Once your foundation platform is up and running, you’ll need a way to tell everyone how to find you, and that’s where social media comes in. Familiarize yourself with outlets that speak specifically to your brand and audiences: Naturally, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are a must, but be sure to investigate other platforms like, foursquare, Pinterest, YouTube, and Meetup, too.

More importantly, keep your pages updated and active. It’s better to post frequently on a few platforms rather than infrequently on many platforms. Also, remember the Internet almost never forgets, so make sure every post is something you’d be proud to have associated with your brand, both today and years down the road.

4. Participate

You hear it all the time, but it’s so true: Get out there! Don’t ever forget the power of PR’s oldest friend: a face-to-face conversation. Attend events in your industry, volunteer in your community, and nurture your growing network. Join entrepreneurial groups and women’s leadership groups. If you aren’t sure where to start, try looking up your competition. See what associations they’re affiliated with and what conferences they attend, and make a point to go as well. The more people you engage, the better your brand will be known—and that’s arguably the most important part of getting it off the ground.

Now you're ready to venture out to boost your brand! As you progress, don't forget that brands are constantly evolving. How you talk about your brand will shift based on the feedback you receive, as well as changes in the market. But don’t worry—that's not only allowed, it's expected. Be sure to go back to the drawing board occasionally, and see if your message needs a refresher. If it does, you know just how to proceed.

Check out more from Start-Up Week at The Daily Muse!

Photo courtesy of Joi Ito.