Word of mouth is the most powerful force in business. Who doesn’t want to have other people “buzzing” about them? If people respect you, like you and have a good experience with you (or hear about it from someone else) they promote you and do business with you.

How do you get people buzzing about you? Let’s look at how big companies do it—Nike®, for instance. Everyone recognizes the famous swoosh logo on athletic shoes, clothing and accessories. That logo has power, but its power was not the result of a multi-million dollar marketing effort.

Back in 1971, a graphic design student at Portland State University named Carolyn Davidson was hired to “just do it”—create a logo for the side of a running shoe. She was paid the princely sum of $35. Carolyn’s moment of creative genius resulted in a symbol that became ubiquitous on Nike gear. Twelve years later the company gave her a gold Swoosh ring embedded with diamonds, along with a certificate for an undisclosed amount of Nike stock. Today the company reports net revenues of $13.7 billion.

Seven Aspects of a Strong Personal Brand

You don’t need a big budget or a multi-million dollar ad campaign to build a personal brand. It’s more about focusing on how to communicate effectively using your wits. A creative, thoughtful approach to delivering your message will get people saying positive things about you. If your message is interesting and you deliver it often enough, you are going to develop a powerful personal brand.

A message is a thought—it’s what people think when they are thinking of you. What comes to mind when people see you? Or hear your name? What do they remember after you’ve had a conversation or given a presentation? That’s your personal brand.

Every time you speak, you are branding yourself. Your conversations, presentations, emails and phone calls all send signals. Do you have significant ideas to share? Are you clear, concise and to the point? Do people tend to be engaged and pay attention when you speak?

Most people have a feeling about others as soon as they meet and work with them. They continue to shape that feeling with the each new interaction. In short order, as soon as they see them walking down the street, something registers—either positive or negative.

The good news is, it’s within your power to make that feeling positive and build a strong personal brand.

A personal brand…

1. is instantly recognizable;

2. stands for something of value;

3. builds trust;

4. generates positive word of mouth;

5. gives a competitive advantage;

6. creates business opportunities;

7. results in financial success.

Start Speaking…

Some people have all the assets to create a strong, personal brand—but they just can’t get the ball rolling to get their name out there. They have great ideas but there’s no buzz about them. How do you create buzz? One powerful way is to start speaking, in both formal and informal settings. Public speaking is perhaps the single best action you can take to establish yourself as an expert in any business or profession. Here is why:

  1. Most people don’t do it, so it sets you apart.

  2. People assume if you are speaking on a topic you are an expert.

  3. If you give a valuable talk, people will promote you.

  4. Being on stage automatically gives you credibility.

  5. People will remember you when they have a referral for new business.

  6. You may get invited for other speaking engagements.

…and Do More Speaking

Some of us feel, “I don’t really have opportunities to speak.” Finding occasions to speak is easier than you think. If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, ask organizations you belong to if you can make a presentation. Include all of your local business and community organizations, from the Chamber of Commerce to the Lions Club.

If you want to develop your reputation inside an organization, look for opportunities there. Many companies sponsor committees and events where you can present your ideas. Raise your hand to be a presenter in team meetings; by volunteering and marking it on your calendar you automatically create a deadline that forces you to take action and prepare a great presentation.

If you are an inexperienced speaker, start small with friendly audiences—a team meeting, your church group or local Rotary Club—until you develop some confidence. Once you’ve had a chance to test out your presentations, push yourself to accept bigger assignments.

Volunteer to speak at regional conferences or professional events your customers or prospects attend. Ask the executive directors of those organizations if they are looking for speakers. The more you practice, the more refined your material becomes. As people hear you speak and like you, they will invite you to speak for other organizations.

The benefit of a speaking engagement is not only that you get in front of a live audience—you also get other people to market for you. You aren’t just getting exposure to the fifty people who show up. Your name is going out on their stationery, email newsletter or web site to the thousands of members on their list. That’s powerful marketing. And it doesn’t cost you a thing.

Wherever you are today in your professional life, you can start sending strong, positive signals that will cut through the clutter of day-to-day business and create buzz about you. In fact, creating a strong personal brand is something you must to do if you want to succeed in a competitive, global economy.

SUZANNE BATES is an executive coach and communications
consultant and is author of
Speak Like a CEO: Secrets to
Commanding Attention and Getting Results.