Small Business Tips for Building a Powerful Brand Identity

By April Neill, CEO/Founder April Neill Public Relations

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As a lifelong entrepreneur and business owner myself, I can confidently say that starting a business can be one of the most exciting and empowering moves you’ll ever make and absolutely doable, even in today’s highly competitive marketplace. It takes more than a great idea to sustain a business, though. To be successful, you’ll need to first focus on building a powerful brand identity. Here are some tips to guide you on your way.

Be Sure of Yourself.

It’s important to know what your brand stands for, what makes it special and its benefit. You also need to know who your target audience is and make that benefit clear and obvious to them.

Create a Distinctive Identity.

Branding is about perception and the most powerful brands are built from the inside out on differentiation. Creating a distinctive logo and tagline that captures the essence of your brand can increase your visibility. A quality website can also help differentiate your business while also introducing you to online customers and boosting credibility.

Get Connected and Be Memorable.

Creating a brand voice and social media strategy is essential, so it’s important to create a profile for your business on select social media platforms where your customers congregate. Next, create compelling communications that emotionally connect with and motivate your customers to love your brand and buy from it! Powerful brands are great at listening so be sure to respond to online comments and questions.

Be Consistent and Congruent.

Maintaining consistent, congruent messaging makes your business easier to remember and trust. Ask yourself: Does your website look like it belongs with your business card and your social media channels? Is your messaging consistent with your brand?

Consider Leveraging Cause Marketing.

Whether you support a homeless shelter or donate services to a local charity, giving back can increase your brand power. Take Dawn dishwashing liquid, a great example of effective cause marketing — its promise, to donate one million dollars this year for rescue efforts to save wildlife. Not surprising they’re the best-selling dishwashing liquid on the market. Who wouldn’t love, and buy from, a brand that rescues wildlife from oil spills?

Deliver on your promises.

Strong brands possess credible, relevant and distinctive brand promises. That said, create a brand promise, deliver on it and provide an exceptional customer experience. You’ll end up creating brand advocates who will sing your praises and help build your brand.

This post first appeared on NBC Chicago’s Inc. Well Blog on July 23rd, 2013.

April Neill is a brand strategist, lifelong entrepreneur and founder/CEO at April Neill Public Relations, a boutique public relations firm serving small businesses and non-profits in Chicagoland. You can find April on Twitter and also connect with April Neill PR on Facebook.

April Neill Public Relations is passionate about helping small businesses position themselves as experts in their industry. We offer a complimentary 30-minute in-person or phone consultation. Email AprilNeill@gmail.com to make your appointment today or call 312.772.3832 for more information.

Source: http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/inc-well/How-to-Build-a-Powerful-Brand-Identity-for-Your-Small-Business-216382481.html#ixzz2aBm6hX16

6 Tips for Branding Yourself as an Expert in your Field

Being recognized as an industry expert can be powerful and persuasive.
Being recognized as an industry expert can be powerful and persuasive.

In every buying decision, whether it’s hiring an accountant or finding a good mechanic, we all want an expert. We want to pay someone who has a real solution and we don’t want to waste our money or our time.

That said, you want prospects to look to your company for solutions when they are ready to buy or hire a consultant and a great way to gain market share is to position yourself as the go-to expert in your industry. Few things are as powerful or as persuasive in business.

Branding yourself as an expert has many benefits including standing out in a crowded marketplace, getting media attention, gaining partnerships that help your business grow and being able to charge higher fees due to your expert status.

Here are six tips to help brand yourself an expert in your industry:

  1. Define Your Expertise. One of the most effective ways to communicate your expert/authority status is to create an “expert” website. A professional headshot, professional design and highlights of your social influence (proof numbers of fans, followers, subscribers) along with a press room highlighting the places where your work has been featured will go a long way in positioning and defining your expert status.
  2. Deliver fresh, educational or informative content: Deliver regular content on the internet through article marketing and blogging that is informative and offers value and solutions to readers. Pay attention to hot topics that are trending and if they’re relevant to your industry, craft blog posts about those topics. In no time at all, you will be considered an expert in your field.
  3. Take part in online conversations: Post comments on other influential blogs and social media sites. Additionally, respond to comments left on your blog; it’s a great way to start a discussion and to showcase your expert knowledge.
  4. Position yourself as an expert source to the media. Pay attention to what’s going on in the news. Do you have a unique perspective to bring to a story that is trending or seasonal tips to share? Let the media know that you are available as an expert source in your industry. Also reach out to reporters and editors when there is a news story that you can weigh in on. Reporters are always looking for sources for stories and segments and this may be your chance to get your business on the 10 o’clock news!
  5. Post on YouTube: Post helpful and instructional videos on YouTube about your products or services. Soon enough, consumers will start to look to you for solutions.
  6. Seek Out Endorsements and Testimonials. Once in a while, you will get an unsolicited testimonial from a client, which will make your day. More often than not, you will have to ask. So ask! Send an email to your clients asking them to share their experience with working with you and how it has helped them. Reach out to colleagues to ask them for endorsements of your expertise. LinkinIn has a great platform for seeking out endorsements and is a great space to build your reputation.

April Neill Public Relations is passionate about helping small businesses position themselves as experts in their industry. We offer a complimentary 30-minute in-person or phone consultation. Email AprilNeill@gmail.com to make your appointment today or call (312) 772-3832 for more information. Visit us online at AprilNeillPR.com. Follow ANPR on Facebook at Facebook.com/AprilNeillPR.

8 Tips for Rebranding your Small Business

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By April Neill, CEO/Founder April Neill Public Relations

As a small business owner, your brand image is important and if you’re thinking of reinventing your brand –its identity and personality —it’s important to first ask yourself why you’re doing it.  Do you have specific reasons and goals for giving your brand an overhaul? Rebranding may involve significant changes to your logo, your website, and your social media presence as well as your marketing and public relations strategies. Consider the following key points before rebranding.

  1. Review your existing brand. What are you saying about yourself as a business? What promises does your brand make and to whom? Focusing on your brand’s attributes and values and how your stakeholders perceive your brand will help you to develop new strategies to reach new customers and to ensure your message resonates with your current customer base.
  2. Discover your “Why?” What can you achieve by rebranding? What do you want your customer to think or know about you and how will you deliver their highest values and needs? Build your rebrand with a direction in mind and with the customer experience in mind.
  3. Evaluate brand communications and factors that make up your brand. A brand is the sum total of perceptions that leap into a person’s head when your brand name is mentioned, so look beyond print collateral, logo, and signage and perform a thorough audit of all your brand communications and channels.
  4. Involve and Evolve your Brand’s Mission. As you consider how your company mission lives within your brand, it’s important to consider how it will exist in a rebrand. What makes your brand uniquely and wonderfully you and how can its core evolve to reflect your new strategy?
  5. Look internally and externally for buy-in. With branding and rebranding, it’s important to consider how your brand lives internally and externally. What do your employees think about your brand? What does the public think about your brand? As you create new perceptions of your brand, it’s important to consider how your stakeholders feel and the promises that you will make with your rebrand. When planning your rebranding strategy, it’s important to consider the impact a rebrand will make on all your stakeholders and to get their buy-in.
  6. Utilize Social Media. When you release your new brand into the social media “wild” it’s important to monitor social media posts and respond when appropriate. People tend to resist change, so be ready for some resistance. Remember that taste is subjective and if you do get resistance, this is your chance to connect, interact, and engage with your audience.
  7. Synchronize, and Be Consistent. When taking on a rebranding initiative, do it whole-heartedly. It’s important to synchronize your rebrand launch across multiple platforms and to ensure that you have an integrated visual communications strategy for your new brand. The last thing you want to do is to rebrand on one platform, and have your old brand logo on your other platforms. It will make you look disorganized. Remember, consistency is key so take the time and use your resources to plan a synchronized launch.
  8. Utilize Publicity in your rebranding launch. By all means, construct a press release to announce your new brand. Launching a rebranding PR campaign can help you multiply your reach and results quickly and if submitted to online news services, boost your ranking on search engines.

April Neill Public Relations is passionate about working with small businesses to increase their brand awareness and help them find their voice. We offer a complimentary 30-minute in-person or phone consultation. Email AprilNeill@gmail.com to make your appointment today or call (312) 772-3832 for more information. Visit us online at AprilNeillPR.com. Follow ANPR on Facebook at Facebook.com/AprilNeillPR.

Find Your Voice, Maximize Your Message: Five Tips for Finding Your Brand Voice

By April Neill, CEO/Founder April Neill Public Relations

As new social media platforms emerge on the web, creating a marketers paradise where businesses and brands strive to stand out and build their brand awareness in the social media realm, it’s more important than ever to find your voice.

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I’m an avid fan of American Idol and this season I’m rooting for Lazaro Arbos, a contestant who struggles to communicate while speaking. Often stuttering during interviews, Lazaro is able to overcome his speech impediment while he sings. His recent rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was spellbinding and in song, he finds his voice and a deep connection with the audience (as evidenced by his top ten ranking). Yay, go Lazaro!

Like Idol’s Lazaro, many businesses struggle to communicate their brand messages to their target audiences. Often stumbling over their words, especially in the social media realm where it can be tricky figuring out how to speak to your audience and how to find the right voice for your business, their messages tend to be mixed and confusing. Here are five top tips for finding your brand voice.

1. Know Yourself. If you’re a brand looking to promote your business or service on social media channels, it’s important to first consider who you are as a brand. Knowing who you are (what is at the heart of your brand and what your purpose and promise is) will greatly help you in developing your brand voice.

2. Know Your Audience. Be clear on who you are trying to connect with. If you’re looking to connect with diverse audiences, be sure to pair each social media platform with the audience that it best suits and plan your social media mix based on reaching the largest segments and optimizing your messages for each platform’s audience.

3. Establish Vibe, Tone. Your brand’s voice should be a clear representation of its personality and character and its vibe and tone should reflect that personality. Is your brand serious or quirky? Is your vibe professional or friendly and casual? Consistency is key and while it’s perfectly okay to establish a more serious tone with your brand messaging, coming across as human and approachable is essential. The language you use in your messaging sets the tone for your brand voice, so take the time to create a list of words, phrases, and adjectives that reflect your brand’s core and share this list with your social media manager or team. This tone may change across platforms (your tone on LinkedIn will more than likely differ from your Twitter tone), so you will need to evaluate each platform you engage on and set the tone for each.

4. Social Media Policy. A well thought-out and transparent social media policy that outlines your strategy, language and tone, and that specifies who is responsible for managing your posts will provide your business the structure to be consistent and effective with its messaging. If possible, appoint one person to be responsible for managing your social media posts, content creation, and curation. If you’re a large organization with multiple divisions engaging on your behalf, it’s even more important to establish your brand’s social media policy to outline who will be responding for what and your policies for responding to negative comments, customer service issues, and general questions. It’s important to note that it’s absolutely okay to delete a comment or block anyone leaving harassing messages or using foul language on your social sites and having a policy in place to address these issues will be a great guide for your team in dealing with them as they arise.

5. Credibility. By far, the most important concept to consider in finding your voice is building trust and credibility with your audience. Be authentic, honest and transparent; respond in real time to comments and post regularly with quality content that your audience will find interesting, entertaining, and helpful. Do this and it will go a long way in boosting your credibility. Remember, keeping your audience engaged is key so pay attention to what your audience is talking about, what they are interested in, and which posts get the most engagement.

April Neill Public Relations is passionate about working with small businesses to increase their brand awareness and help them find their voice. We offer a complimentary 30-minute in-person or phone consultation. Email AprilNeill@gmail.com to make your appointment today or call (815) 651-0656 for more information. Visit us online at AprilNeillPR.com.

Brand Story, Brand Power

iStock_000012811129_SmallBy April Neill, CEO/Founder April Neill Public Relations

Branding is about storytelling and a strong brand message has incredible power. Not just on how it is perceived in the world, but also how it positions a brand and connects it with consumers, key influencers, and stakeholders.

Whether you are launching a new brand or re-branding your existing business, it’s important to consider what’s at the heart of your brand and what your brand stands for. You really need to know yourself before you start sharing your brand’s story with the world.

In today’s technologically advanced world with the explosion of social media, it’s more important than ever to have a clear vision for your brand, authentic brand communications, and an integrated brand communications strategy.

Let me introduce myself. I’m April Neill, president of April Neill Public Relations (ANPR), a full-service marketing and public relations consulting firm specializing in meeting the needs of small businesses in the corporate, healthcare, and not-for-profit sectors. ANPR takes a strategic, holistic approach to developing brand-centered, results-driven communications and has worked with hundreds of businesses in promoting and publicizing their brand.

ANPR believes that publicity alone isn’t enough for small businesses to gain market share and drive sales. ANPR works hard to make sure that all components are covered and integrates a combination of branding, PR, social media and other marketing components to create successful PR and Marketing campaigns to tell your Brand’s story effectively and strategically.

Our goal for our Blog is to offer a platform for our readers to gain insights into the latest trends and best practices for Branding, Marketing, PR, Reputation Management and Social Media and to start a conversation about what’s working out in the real world.

Do you have a question for our communications experts? A real-life marketing success story to share? We want to hear from you! Join the conversation and tell us about it!

What’s your Brand’s Story and how are you telling it?

April Neill, CEO/Founder April Neill Public Relations
April Neill, CEO of April Neill Public Relations

April Neill is the President & Founder of April Neill Public Relations, a subsidiary of April Neill & Associates, Inc. located in Plainfield, Illinois. April can be reached at (815) 651-0656 or via email at AprilNeill@gmail.com. Visit ANPR online at AprilNeillPR.com.