#LBQA: How can I create a personal brand?

The Question:

I’ve been working as an IT security professional for over 30 years, and last year, I was promoted at my current employer to Chief Information Security Officer. Along with a great pay raise and additional responsibilities at a world-renowned security firm, I’ve noticed that I have been approached by members of the press quite often for advice on corporate IT security. Most recently, I’ve appeared on CNN, Bloomberg News, BBC, and was even featured in a Los Angeles Times cover article. Each time I’m mentioned in one of these publications, my inbox quickly fills up with invitations to speak at events, host workshops and seminars, and share my thoughts as a leader in my industry. It sounds weird to be considered a leader in my industry, because deep down, I’m still a 16 year old videogamer that just so happens to be able to hack into just about anything. I know that these are important opportunities, and they will not last long. So my question is, how do I maximize the attention I’m currently receiving from the media and how can I develop this into something sustainable?
— Timothy, Los Angeles, CA.

The Answer:

First off, congratulations on the new position! It seems as though you are interested in creating a personal brand. Similar to your favorite brand of clothing or ice-cream, your personal brand will attract those with similar interest to you, and position you to be able to create strategic content that will grab their attention and encourage them to fall in love with you and your cause. 

From what you have mentioned, you are on track to building a successful personal brand, whether you are planning to or not, as mentions or features in top publications are extremely effective in helping you build a following of supporters within your niche field. The real question at this point is, would you like to take control of your public perception, and start to offer content that maximizes the relationships you’ve developed thus far. When a personal brand is able to control the message that is being shared publicly, this brand is able to maintain sustained media attention that is targeted toward specific topics or concerns. 

Within the field of corporate IT security, there are infinite topics that can be explored in exciting and fresh ways - and there are just as many media organizations and partners who can help you share targeted content. The first step we’d suggest is to build a media list of all the influential individuals, organizations, and media outlets that are related to corporate IT security, and be sure to include their contact information and topic areas that are most important to them. 

Once you’ve prepared your media list, use it as a guide to develop your in-house editorial calendar. An editorial calendar is a concept borrowed from the media industry, where a specific topic area is covered each quarter or month. For example, one month you may focus on nonprofit IT, the next might be employee sabotage, and the next might be protecting your identity during the age of social media. Each month, you’ll create content that will touch on the editorial topic you have chosen, and ensure that all of your blog articles, videos, podcasts, live speeches, and event appearances are geared toward the specific editorial topic. 
Once you have created your content for the month or quarter, begin reaching out to your media list - but not all of your contacts, just the ones who may be interested in the specific editorial topic you’re discussing. Yes, the number of contacts you reach out to may be smaller, but if you’re selected to contribute to a publication or partner organization, you will be able to share insight on a topic that you’ve prepared in advance. You’ll also be able to ensure your audience stays on topic and doesn’t bring up wildly different expertise areas which may throw you off-track if you’re not prepared. 

When reaching out to the media, be sure to keep an eye out on what their editorial calendar looks like, and be sure to do your research and target the correct individuals. For example, do not email your corporate IT security article to the news director unless it’s related to a current news event. If it isn’t current news, send it to the correct writer/producer/contact that handles your specific niche.

Another technique which can be used to create a thriving personal brand is public speaking. If you’re comfortable, reach out to local organizations who can use a speaker on corporate IT security or a niche topic on your editorial calendar. Offer to speak for free as you develop your speaking reel, and ensure you do a great job at offering real insight to audiences that you confirm. The more you can position yourself in front of your niche audience of IT professionals and executives, the more you will elevate your personal brand, and create the perception of a thought leader.

The last thing is actually something I’m assuming an IT professional already understands the importance of -  a web presence. Use your diverse background to create a beautiful website that gets across how you’d like to be perceived. If you’d like to be perceived as an outdoorsy nature-lover who just so happens to be an IT expert, include elements of nature in your website. If you’re looking to create a presence of a seasoned IT executive, ensure your website includes material to support this. Regardless of the look and feel, be sure to include an active blog for your outgoing content, an about page with your biography and press materials, and a contact page with current information.

If you’re able to hit the ground running with the above recommendations, you’re on track to building a successful personal brand. No, this isn’t an overnight, or even short-term process. Building a brand is just as intense as building a company, and takes time to nurture. Don’t give up if you are denied a media appearance, or if you’re e-mails to potential partners are ignored - again, this takes time. Persistence and perseverance is what will inscribe your name into the memories of influencers and media outlets in your niche industry. 

Good luck!