Small Business Tips for Building a Powerful Brand Identity

By April Neill, CEO/Founder April Neill Public Relations

BrandImage3As 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: NBCChicagoIncWell

Charity fundraiser brings sports and hope to kids in need

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Gear for Goals collects sports equipment for kids in need during mega sports gear donation drive at the Schaumburg Boomers.

On Friday, June 21st, 2013, Gear for Goals (G4G) partnered with the Schaumburg Boomers Baseball Team to present a large scale sports and musical instrument donation drive. On this day, G4G asked fans to bring along new and used sports equipment and musical instruments to donate to children in need.

Fans came out in full force to support the effort and over 2,500 pieces of equipment were donated during the event. The Schaumburg Boomers Baseball League also made a donation to the cause.

Founding director, Dr. Warren Bruhl says, “So many children around the world have virtually nothing. They have no soccer balls, no baseball mitts, absolutely no equipment to play with and have little hope for a brighter tomorrow. However, our abundance in the United States and our gently used sports gear and even musical instruments can be a Godsend to a child. Everyone has something in the garage or closet going unused and they just want to know someone will put it to good use. That’s where we come in and provide the resource to connect the need with the generous giving.”

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G4G Compassion Associate and World Renowned Photographer Dan Borris joins the effort to bring joy of sports to children of Cuba during recent trip.

Since Gear for Goals’ launch the summer of 2012, over 7,500 pieces of sports equipment and uniforms have been provided to underprivileged children around the world.

“Our heartfelt thanks go out to the Boomer’s fans and to the Schaumburg Boomers as well for making this event such a success,” stated Bruhl. “Equipment donated will make a difference in a child’s life and will help bring them joy of sport and hope.”

Gear for Goals’ Mega Sports Gear and Musical Instrument Drive sought to fill a semi truck with donated gear to benefit children in need. In total, G4G aims to provide equipment to over 10,000 children globally this year through their 10,000/$10,000 campaign.

Supporting the effort was G4G’s newly appointed Youth Ambassador, Jared Kuper who threw the opening pitch of the game. Jared is on a mission to raise awareness for childhood diabetes and with his new appointment with G4G, to impact the lives of children around the world.

The event also featured a performance by pop/singing songwriting duo, Acoustic Truth, composed of Ryan Knott and Sarah Lendy, who performed “Save the Children” during the pre-game festivities.

In addition to G4G’s team of volunteers including world renowned photographer Dan Borris who was on hand capturing the event, Josh Kerman who led a live DJ performance, and dance instructor Jennifer Eirinberg who choreographed G4G’s flash mob dance, other participants included individuals from Volunteer Match who came out to support the cause .

G4G currently ships to the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Bolivia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Russia, Philippines, Jamaica, India, and Cuba. For more information on ways you can support the effort, visit dreamweaver911.org. 

Gear for Goals is a project of Dreamweaver International, a 501c(3) organization located in the United States that provides education, healthcare, and humanitarian aid to the people of the Rift Valley of Kenya. Gear for Goals’ Vision is to see every child in the world have the opportunity to play, compete, and enjoy sport through equal access to necessary equipment and instruction. Gear for Goals’ Mission is to provide every child enjoyment, passion, and love of sport. Follow Gear for Goals at Facebook.com/GearforGoals.

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.

Find Your Purpose, Follow Your Bliss

By April Neill, CEO/Founder April Neill Public Relations

“Every man has a purpose, something special that he can do better than anyone else. Your work is to discover this, then give yourself to it. The extent to which you use your skills to add to the world determines your happiness.”—Deepak Chopra

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I had a conversation the other day with my son, Steven, who is contemplating whether to pursue his Master’s Degree (he currently holds a BS in Psychology from Loyola University – so proud of him!) or to venture off as an entrepreneur starting a design business with his best friend. Or maybe a janitorial business? So many choices! He currently has a great job at a hospital, although not in his chosen field, and it got me to thinking about how important it is to find your passion when you are considering your career path. My advice to my son? Do what you love to do!

According to a recent survey conducted by Yahoo! Finance/PARADE almost 60 percent of Americans polled would choose a different career. That means for most of us, if you work in a profession that you’re not charged up about, you could end up feeling uninspired and unfulfilled for a huge chunk of your life. That’s a lot of time and years to waste!

I personally didn’t start out as a publicist. I studied Criminal Justice and dreamed of a career as a profiler. That dream changed after I got married and had four beautiful children (my greatest love and passion, for sure!) and it wasn’t until I was in my early 30s that I started on a path to my chosen profession. With no formal education or experience in marketing or publishing, I launched a career as an entrepreneur and started my own Christian publishing company. I discovered a passion and a great love for marketing and publicity and embarked on an exciting and fulfilling journey which led me from running my own business for 15 years to leading the PR efforts of a large chiropractic group for 5 years and then back to my entrepreneurial roots with my own PR firm. Why did I end up working in publicity? Because I LOVE it! It’s my passion; it’s what gets me up in the morning and what I think about day-in and day-out. Simply put, I can’t imagine doing anything else. And being able to help other businesses and non-profits expand their reach and grow their market share? Giving back in this way brings me great joy. The inner profiler in me still loves watching Criminal Minds, however, I discovered that publicity was my true calling.

There are many reasons people get up to go to work every day and more often than not, it’s not just about getting paid. Some people find fulfillment by working for a company that shares their vision for helping people. Some people love their company culture – I hear Zappos employees are having tons of fun in their highly creative and zany workplace—and some are just nuts about crunching numbers all day. The key to happiness at work is to figure out what you are passionate about and what truly inspires you. Here’s the advice I gave to my son. Ask yourself what you would do with your life if you had everything? What would you do if you didn’t need the money?

If you’re contemplating changing careers, ask yourself the following: Is your current work meaningful and do you feel challenged? Do you enjoy it? Also, are you proud of the work you do and the company you work for? Do you feel like you’re part of the larger picture? An important question that I had to ask myself was whether I felt appreciated at work. That was a big one for me…and one that ultimately led me on a different path.

If you can’t answer yes to most of these simple questions about your job, it may be time to find inspiration in a new career. And if you’re just now pondering what it is that you want to do with your life career-wise, consider this: Life is short. Do more of what makes you happy, more of what brings value to others, and follow your bliss!

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.

 

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.

Small Business Philanthropy: 4 Ways Your Small Business Can Be Charitable—And What You Will Gain

 Posted By: April Neill, President April Neill Public Relations

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I’m a big believer in giving back to your community by either donating your time or expertise to charities or organizations that you have an affinity for. As you may already know, volunteering has been shown to have a number of benefits –including boosting your health, longevity, and outlook, but did you know that it could also help your small business?

In a recent study by Ernst & Young and the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, 62% of small business owners say that giving back to their community has made their business more successful in the long run. Below are 4 ways to support local charities and the benefits you’ll gain:

1. Provide Your Expertise. As a small business owner, you can offer your knowledge and expertise to others by sitting on a nonprofit committee or by offering your services pro bono to a charity. By doing so, your charitable contribution will be your time, and not money out of your budget.

Benefit: For business owners just starting out, this can be the perfect way to develop new relationships while doing good work.

2. Host a fundraiser. People love to go to parties and events and hosting an event that requires a donation to a local charity as admission is a great way to align your business with charitable causes in your community.

Benefit: Hosting a fundraiser is the perfect opportunity to get media exposure for your event and to generate goodwill about the work your business is doing. Positive press is a also great way to build your reputation and increase your market exposure.

3. Volunteer and promote volunteerism. Volunteering your time to projects can make a huge impact in your community and getting your employees involved with organized volunteer days can be the perfect way to bring your company closer together.

Benefit: Giving back feels good and for most people, giving back makes them feel happy. Happy employees tend to be more productive and happy business owners, more successful.

4. Give a little bit to a lot. You don’t need to break the bank to make a cash donation to a charity. A great way to give back is to earmark a small percentage of your profits from each new client or project to a charity that you care about or better yet, a charity your client cares about.

Benefit: Clients are far more likely to do business with you if they know a portion of their fee is going to a good cause. You will also set yourself apart by being socially responsible.

At ANPR, we believe in giving back to our community and we are committed to working with clients that are socially responsible as well. If you’re a small business owner or executive who is looking to increase your social impact and global imprint, we’d love to help you tell your story!

Do you have a unique way of giving back to your community? Tell us about it!

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.

7 Tips for Optimizing your Small Businesses’ Reputation Online

Building perfect reputation

A reputation can take years to build, and in today’s digital age, only seconds to tarnish. As a small business owner, your company’s brand reputation is one of its most important assets and keeping your brand’s profile spotless is important to your success. Try the following tactics to optimize your brand reputation online.

  1. You are your Brand. Online reputation management for small business owners involves maintaining a good name with your personal profile as well as your business profile so it’s important to note that you are your brand. As a business owner, your personal digital profile is more than likely linked to your business so it’s important to remember to think before you post. What are you saying about yourself that may reflect on your business image? Also be mindful of what your friends post on your social sites as well. You’ll want to monitor comments to make sure they don’t put you, or your business, in a bad light. If they do, hit delete. Your friends will understand.
  2. Monitor your search results at least once a week. Google your business at least once a week and keep an eye out for any negative content that needs addressed. And be sure to search past the first page on Google. It’s also a good idea to track what you find including the URL, the page title, your relationship to the page, (is it a social site that you have ownership or control/influence over?) and whether the comment is positive, negative or somewhere in between. You may want to keep a spreadsheet if there are numerous results and chart what action, if any, is needed.
  3. Be Authentic. It’s important to always be authentic in your responses to negativity online. If you made a mistake, be upfront about it and don’t try to “spin” the situation. Acknowledge what happened, apologize when/if appropriate, and outline your plan to make amends. Sincerity and humility speak volumes online and you will more than likely defuse the situation quickly by being upfront about it.
  4. Know when to Stand Up or Stand Down. It’s always okay to delete a comment that is abusive or one that uses offensive language and it’s important to know when to stand up to an online bully or when to stand down. If you have an unhappy customer who posts a negative comment online, your best bet is to immediately contact the person who wrote the comment and ask them if there is anything you can do to address their concerns and to give them a more positive customer experience. If that fails, if possible, leave a comment to explain what you’re doing to rectify the situation or your side of the story if there is nothing you can do to turn the situation around.
  5. Write to Boost Your Google Ranking. Writing a company blog helps connect your brand with your audience and can go a long way in boosting your page ranking on google. Using a blog can also be a great way to position yourself as a leader in your industry and to sway public opinion about your brand and create a positive fan base. That said, if a negative comment pops up on a search engine, you’ll have a better chance of dominating your ranking with positive content about your company.
  6. Diversify your Web Presence. In addition to writing a company blog, it’s important to establish a presence on social media sites. If you only have time for one, LinkedIn may be your best bet. Profiles on LinkedIn tend to rank higher on search engines and many business people search on LinkedIn for professional services. Once you establish your presence, be active. Providing new content on a regular basis and becoming interactive with your clients and prospective clients will boost your rankings and generate overall goodwill for your company.
  7. Boost Your Online Presence with PR. Sending out search-optimized press releases on a regular basis, on topics that interest your audience, can be very useful in boosting your online presence. Pay close attention to relevant keywords and phrases and infuse them into your press releases for the best results.

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.

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.