How to Effectively Create and Grow Your Personal Brand
As a lawyer, you are your own product. But, like any other product, people won’t use it if they don’t know about it. The process of effectively marketing yourself is known as branding. With the advent of new media, branding options are exploding – and you’ll be short-changing your career if you don’t take advantage of them.
Internal stumbling blocks
Two important psychological factors that prevent young lawyers from branding themselves are (i) lack of inclination and (ii) lack of clarity about what you have to offer. “Lack of inclination” can usually be broken down into one or more of the following factors:
• False humility, understood as a reluctance to engage in self-promotion.
• Lack of time, which usually boils down to a lack of understanding of the importance of branding and consequent low prioritisation.
• Lack of self-confidence.
• Fear of public speaking, a problem that’s virtually indistinguishable from lack of self-confidence. Solicitors struggle with this problem far more frequently than barristers do.
The second factor, lack of clarity, is often rooted in a lack of clear goal-setting and insufficient self-awareness. Branding means promoting your unique appeal – and if you can’t articulate your own appeal, don’t expect anyone else to be able to do so. If you can’t articulate it succinctly, you haven’t conceptualised it clearly enough.
Stating your appeal succinctly
To effectively brand yourself, you need to be able to describe your unique appeal in one sentence or less. If you have no idea how to do this, go through the following steps:
(i) Take a deep look at your knowledge, your skills and your inclinations (not necessarily limited to your career). What is unique about them? Is there any way that they could be combined to form a useful composite? It might help to get a friend involved for a more objective viewpoint.
(ii) Identify your target audience (potential employers, potential clients, headhunters, etc.). What are their problems? What do they need? Answering these questions might require an investigation that looks similar to market research.
(iii) Find the intersection between (i) and (ii) above. This is your unique appeal. It should be broad enough to be popular, but specialised enough for you to dominate your niche – helping Japanese subsidiaries combat trademark squatting, for example.
(iv) Revise your unique appeal by identifying competitors who offer an appeal similar to your own. Identify what makes you better than they are, and what makes you unique compared to them.
(v) Articulate your unique appeal, as revised in (iv) above, in one or two sentences.
If you find this part difficult, the problem may simply be that you’re trying to do it too early in your career. The more you have practiced enough to develop specialised skills, the easier it will be.
Discover where your target audience turns to for information
This might require a significant amount of research. Possibilities include:
• Social media
• Blogs and websites
• Publications such as trade journals
• Industry associations and conferences
Establish an internet presence First you'll need to establish your own business website that includes the following features:
• A blog platform
• A platform that allows users to download articles, etc. that appear on your website
• Marketing tools such as your own email address, an email-marketing platform, lead-generation services and a contact-management platform. You’ll also need to establish social-networking sites, especially LinkedIn and other sites designed specifically for professionals. Your choices should be guided by the identity of your target audience.
Publicise yourself in your chosen area of expertise
After filling out your website with content, you need to publish regularly in your chosen area of expertise. Remember that the same article or press release might be useful on more than one platform. Your publications could include:
• Blog posts
In addition to publications, you can also market yourself in person by giving lectures, attending trade shows or industry conferences, and giving seminars for local businesses (“How to Protect Your Trademark Rights”, for example). As the new media environment develops, your options going forward are likely to expand considerably. There’s no time like the present to get a head start.