James Cann talks about building your brand as an entrepreneur

To find out more, Real Business asked the business builder about why entrepreneurs should develop their own personal brand, and what this can mean for your business.

How is the perception of entrepreneurs changing?

I believe there has been a shift in perceptions of ?entrepreneurs? as people, a career choice and also to the word itself. In the past, being an entrepreneur stood for something which seemed unattainable; it was a finished product ? a business owner who had made their money and was already successful and wealthy. This isn?t the case anymore.

Entrepreneurship is finally being viewed as a genuine career path for innovative and driven people to consider, and those who call themselves entrepreneurs are celebrated, respected and more accessible than ever due to the explosion of social media.

This change has allowed for entrepreneurs to present themselves as the personality and brand of the business, opening up many new opportunities for start-ups and SMEs to market themselves as their brand through social media channels.

What is the value of the founder or owner of a company developing a personal brand??

Typically, entrepreneurs are so busy working and keeping their businesses up and running that they would not have time to look up and think about the perception they give off beyond that of their customers. This is now changing; people want to know the names, faces and personalities behind their favourite products, brands and services. Entrepreneurs now have many social media channels available to market, advertise and PR their businesses.

Demonstrating personality behind a brand is a great way to gain followers and create a brand with validity. Startups really need to take the time to think about who will be the face, name and personality of the brand ? will the company tell its own corporate story or will the owner tell it directly?

It?s Inevitable that for anybody starting out, it?s you. As a one man band, your business is built on your personality; this is how you are winning business and making connections. All your success in the early days is driven by you through networking, pitching and expressing a passion for the industry. Remember, people buy people! And as you are your business, creating a personal brand is vital.

Why make this distinct to the company?s own social media following??

Twitter is a must If your business revolves heavily around customer contact. As a startup your personal brand and business identity are one and the same. However, as your business grows so too must your approach in dealing with growth of customer engagements across various social media channels.

Establishing a separate brand on twitter for yourself allows people to get to know the visionary behind the brand, rather than just gaining quick access to customer service.

This isn?t just limited to companies involved in business-to-business sales, a great customer experience is essential in any aspect of business, this is the only way to build trust and communicate effectively with customers and potential customers alike.

Read more about James Caan:

What practical steps would you take on social media to help establish expertise??

Technology has fundamentally changed how we execute and deliver. At first, social media scared me but I forced myself to understand it because without digital media my business would suffer. Social media is critical to business development, but firstly you need to do your research. Ask yourself, what do you enjoy about Twitter, what do you get out of it and why use it at all? Think about your audience, who are you trying to communicate with and why? Don?t just advertise, have a real conversation, accept and consider the feedback you receive, be yourself and most importantly have fun!

What about content creation? Are blogs still useful? ?

I find blogs extremely useful and make time every week to share my experience with fellow bloggers, particularly via my LinkedIn Influencer page. Blogging on behalf of a small business can make a real difference; it can establish new business leads and connect people to your brand. It?s a great way of developing relationships with existing and new customers and can support a reputation as a leader in the field.

Use your unique offering to make a mark in the social media world by sharing your experience and expertise. I would definitely recommend making the most of the LinkedIn blogging feature; since I joined last year I have gained over two million followers and always receive such great engagement with all my posts.

How important is it to employ a professional PR agency or hire somebody?

Managing your brand can become a full time job, the more followers you gain, the more conversations you have and as media interest in your business increases, so too does the work load in this area. That?s when you may consider employing a PR agency or recruiting an in-house media team.

You need to decide whether the time it takes to plan and execute an effective communications plan is more or less effective than the time you could be spending on what you do best in your business. Communications cannot be sporadic, it needs to be consistent and real, especially as your business begins to grow.

If you have the time, tools, and know-how to launch, maintain and follow up on your own social media or communications campaigns and are confident to tell your own corporate story, then you should definitely do so. If not, there are plenty of public relations and media specialists and services available. But it?s important to only hire what you can afford. Remember to view this expenditure as an investment, and keep in mind the potential new business opportunities which could arise following a successful media campaign.

How time consuming can this process be for entrepreneurs??

It takes as long as it takes. All entrepreneurs need to be in it 100 per cent, that?s the only way to survive and succeed in such a competitive market. Being an entrepreneur isn?t a nine to five, it?s a 24/7, every hour of the day kind of job, so you need to know you definitely want it and be willing to dedicate your time and passion to making it a success.

Starting up is a very long journey full of ups and downs. You?ll have good days and you?ll have bad days where you may even contemplate giving up. When this happens, take a break and remember why you began the journey, remind yourself about the possibility of freedom and all of the other benefits that you gain as an entrepreneur.

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