By Sarah Scudder
When I started in the print industry, I wanted to be known as someone whom successful business people respect and turn to for advice.
I spent my college years learning how to network and be a leader. I built a solid local network, which is how I landed my first “real” job out of college. I had just finished serving as president of my sorority and was coordinating a campus-wide sorority fundraising event for diabetes research. I was referred to a local print and promotional products company, which I hired to handle the printed materials. After the event and a series of interviews, the company offered me a job. I accepted and started the week after graduation.
The company was a print management firm — organizations outsourced their print buying to us. We had a team of print buyers who would source, manage suppliers and set up online print portals.
I studied my industry and quickly learned that it was dominated by men age 50 and older. There were very few female executives and even fewer millennials. Most companies were traditional and did very little to incorporate technology into their business.
I decided to build my brand around being a millennial, tech-savvy female who had a unique approach to selling and buying.
Fast forward 12 years. I’m a female executive at a print management firm (same company; different name), where I oversee sales, strategy and buying. I’ve dedicated a lot of time to building my brand within the print industry and the industries we serve. I’ve done this by being a radio-show host; columnist for a trade publication, PS Magazine; Print Services Distributors Association (PSDA) board member; and winner of the North Bay Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Award, Print+Promo’s Trailblazer Under 40 award and PSDA Member of the Year award.
Why am I sharing all of this? Because I know what it takes to build a personal brand. It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun and rewarding.
Strategies for Building Your Brand
Here are the most important things I’ve learned along the way:
Understand and be your authentic self. Your brand should reflect all of you (your career, family and personal interests). Set short-term goals around becoming the person you want to be. Always strive to be better.
“In a world where you can be anything, be yourself.” — Popular saying.
Build your online presence. Be conscious of how you are portrayed online. Know what you want and make sure your online image enhances your ability to get there. Post on your social media outlets at least three times per week to start. Make sure your social media platforms have diverse content and are a unified presentation of who you are. Google yourself from time to time to see what comes up in the search. Recruiters and bosses will look you up online.
“Personal branding is about managing your name — even if you don’t own a business — in a world of misinformation, disinformation and semi-permanent Google records. Going on a date? Chances are that your ‘blind’ date has Googled your name. Going for a job interview? Ditto.” — Tim Ferriss, American author, entrepreneur and public speaker.
Write thoughtful leadership articles. Writing allows you to gain credibility as an expert. Many industry publications are looking for content. The editor’s contact information is typically noted in a publication and on its website. Reach out to the appropriate subject matter expert and pitch a topic that will be of interest to readers and sponsors. Offer to be a referral source. Encourage editors to come to you when they get in a bind.
“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” — Steve Martin, comedian and actor.
Get speaking engagements. Develop your communication skills so you are a confident and engaging speaker. Speaking engagements get you seen and heard. Marketing your speaking on social media will give you great visibility. Invite your boss to hear you speak. Start small and build. Join a local organization and get on the leadership team. You can start by giving 30-second leadership/committee report updates. The next time your organization is looking for a speaker, volunteer. Make it known you are willing to speak to other organizations. I’ve started public speaking, and through word of mouth, I’m getting more and more requests.
“No one ever complains about a speech being too short.” — U.S. Marine Ira Hayes, one of six depicted in the iconic photograph of the flag raising on Iwo Jima during World War II.
Be a student of your industry. The world is changing at an incredible speed. Something commonplace can be out of fashion within just months. Thus, it’s important to stay current on supply chain and business trends. Something affecting another industry may have an impact on your industry in the future. Brand yourself as someone who can predict and prepare for change before it happens.
“Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” — Booker T. Washington, American educator, author, orator and adviser to U.S. presidents.
Personal Branding Doesn’t Happen Overnight
It takes time to develop your personal brand. It’s more of an evolution than a revolution. Let me end with another quote that may help.
“Personal branding is all about your unique promise of value and what you bring to the table. It’s (also) about getting your potential clients to choose you as the only solution to their problem.” — Sarah David, personal branding, career and reinvention strategist.
Sarah Scudder is president of Procureit5, a print management services company. She is based in Petaluma, California.