Over the last two decades, the term “influence” has undergone a transformation in the public eye. Now, everybody wants to be an influencer, but the path to becoming an influencer isn’t an easy one. It takes both time and effort, but it relies tremendously on the way you represent your personal brand.
Earning Influencer status or becoming known as a thought leader can be a gamechanger for you and your personal brand, yet many people struggle to wrap their heads around how they can build their authority. How well you represent your brand helps to establish your credibility, so you need to know it inside out and be able to explain it properly.
That’s why on today’s episode, I’m so excited to be joined by PR Expert, Tami Nealy. Tami began her career working in pro sports before transitioning to the corporate world. During her seven years leading corporate communications at LifeLock, she served as a spokesperson, launched a partnership with the FBI’s Law Enforcement Education Association, and helped lead the company to its IPO before she pivoted to education tech. Today, she's part of the leadership team at Find Your Influence – an influencer marketing platform – where she serves as VP of Communications. With Tami’s help, we are going to share some battle-tested strategies to help you to focus on becoming who you want to be, stay on trend, and earn credibility with your brand.
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Welcome to Ignition Point – the show that’s here to help you take the leap, conquer your week, and achieve your goals. If you’re looking to amplify your mindset with a fresh perspective and spark your momentum – you’re in the right place.
Hey! What’s going on? I’m Steven Miller. Thanks for joining me for another Ignition Point – the show where we cover an influential speech or feature a Guest Keynote to get you fired up and ready to take on another winning week.
Over the last two decades, the concept of “having influence” has experienced a global rebrand. It used to have a negative undertone and was seen as a way to show power or manipulate others. Now, influence, credibility and authority are all things we want to have – and arguably – it’s something we need to have.
You probably want to be seen as an influencer or referred to as a thought leader. You want to get that little blue “verified” icon on your Twitter and Instagram accounts. Well, you can get those things, but it all has to start with the value of your personal brand and understanding the relationship between your personal brand and your credibility.
That’s why on today’s episode, I’m so excited to be joined by PR Expert, Tami Nealy.
Tami began her career working in pro sports before transitioning to the corporate world. During her seven years leading corporate communications at LifeLock, she served as a spokesperson, launched a partnership with the FBI’s Law Enforcement Education Association, and helped lead the company to its IPO before she pivoted to education tech.
Today, Tami is part of the leadership team at Find Your Influence, serving as VP of Communications. Find Your Influence is an influencer marketing platform that pairs brands with content creators, serving a network reaching more than 100,000 influencers. Tami is responsible for all internal and external communication strategies and developing their corporate messaging.
She thrives in an environment of controlled chaos and is widely recognized for her proven track record in branding, crisis communication, and lead generation.
So, Let’s get after it! Here to share what it takes to earn credibility with your brand and find your influence, this is Tami Nealy.
THE WEEKLY MONOLOGUE WITH TAMI NEALY
So, the path to becoming an influencer isn't an easy one. It takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of investment, and really developing your personal brand. For those of you listening who may be expert illustrators or digital marketers, how can you really build your brand to let others around you - in your network and out of your network - understand more about what you know?
So, for the young professionals out there, I may have been doing marketing and communications longer than you have been alive. I've been in marketing communications for over 20 years and I've seen that shift from traditional media relations that really works to place stories about products with traditional media outlets - television, radio, newspapers - and that switch has gone to social media, which allows individuals with, let's say, eight thousand to ten thousand followers or more as a starting point, to really partner with brands to create content that's meaningful and engaging with their followers.
My experience in this space has grown tremendously as communications, media relations, advertising has changed over the last 20 years. It will continue to change in the years to come, and I feel like I'm uniquely positioned to speak with you today to talk about what I've seen and what I see coming today.
More people are turning the TV off and turning to social media for their news; for their information; to learn more about products. What information do you have that you could leverage and tell your followers on social media about that could also help grow your personal brand and share your story and position you as the next influencer?
So, I want you to better understand and identify your personal brand; how you take it to the next level; how you impact others around you with your brand. Influencer marketing is the latest strategy to sell your personal brand and I really think it's important to dive in and teach you a little bit more about what that looks like and how you could benefit there.
To start, I think it's important to explain what social proof is. I looked it up for you: social proof is the influence that the actions and attitudes of the people around us have on our own behaviors. So, if you have influence and you want to demonstrate that social proof, it comes from the authority you have in a specific area. Let's say you're a fashion blogger. You can use your authority to blog about the latest summer styles.
Your brand is personal. Your brand is you. No one knows your brand better than you and no one can explain your brand better than you. Take one step back and imagine that you're a product. What are your competitive advantages that position you differently from your competitors? If you're someone that is an expert in digital photography, what do you know that your mentor doesn't know? What do you know that others coming up behind you or studying digital photography in school don't yet know? How can you share that information? And then, leverage those differentiators to tell your story and ultimately, you'll be selling your brand.
Throughout my career, several different professional opportunities have come my way because someone recognized my brand as a fit for the position. In each of these situations, I was not looking for an opportunity.
One time, it was a recommendation from an individual I had only met once. I was contacted by an organization and they asked me if I would be interested in their position and I said, "oh, how did you hear about me?" They told me the person and I said, "oh, did he mention that I'm pregnant?" And they said, "No, he didn't! When are you due?" And I said, "Today."
So, in that situation, that individual knew me from probably longer than nine months ago, was impacted by my personal brand, and recommended me for a position.
You never know where your next opportunity will come from. So, I would encourage you today - everyone you meet - find a way to connect with them. If that's getting their phone number and meeting up for coffee; if it's just a 10 minute get to know you phone call or even connecting on Linkedin; investing in these relationships can take you further than you can even begin to imagine.
Being a subject matter expert is important, whether we're talking about doing that through social media or doing it through professional networks. It's important to understand what your audience wants to know, and you only get that through engaging and connecting with that audience.
If you're a beauty blogger, it's important to engage with your audience and find out what they're looking for. It's not as important what you want to tell them. If you're not giving them information that's important to them, they will unfollow, unsubscribe, delete you from their network – and that decreases your authority. Understand what it is that you know well and don't be afraid to share that with anyone who will listen.
So, I've been fortunate throughout my 20-year career to work in corporate communications. That includes public relations, media relations, community relations, investor relations, and even crisis communications.
I base everything on the tried and true method of crisis communications. Tell the truth. Tell it fast. Period. So, my advice for you, is to be honest and authentic always. Being honest and authentic and being true to who you are, draws others in. If you are not honest and authentic, those people who are around you will call you out.
It really helps to build trust with others when you share yourself at your worst and at your best. Sharing only stories of your success and how great you are; that's great, but that's an aspirational lifestyle. When you share stories of when you've fallen and how you've gotten back up, those are the greatest opportunities.
What lessons did you learn? These lessons save others from continuing to make similar mistakes and continue to improve your influence in that area.
As you grow your influence, look at it from the perspective of cooperation versus competition. Those around you who also have the same information you do, don't have it from your perspective. Collaborating with others about what you know empowers not just you, not just the other person, but the community around you who is listening.
You know you're succeeding at being an influencer or a thought leader when individuals are turning to you and asking you for questions. They're relying on your authority. That may be on Instagram with a brand reaching out to you to say, "hey, would you like to work with us and share your experiences with this product?" When you've reached that level, it's important to continue to pay it forward.
Always understand that you can continue to make introductions. Who has mentored you that you could pass others on to be mentored by as well? Could you serve as a mentor? I would challenge you today, find a way to pay it forward.
It's important to build out your social proof and to focus on becoming an influencer in the area that you know best because others are willing to learn. Others are curious. They want to hear your perspective and what you have to say and keeping that to yourself doesn't help anyone. You will be pleasantly surprised at the audience that is out there waiting to hear from you.
Whether you're social media savvy or not, every individual has a personal brand. Maybe you're the person in your office who people rely on for recommendations on the best places to get coffee. Maybe you're the friend who others turn to for fashion advice. If you enjoy sharing your life and your favorite things on social media, continue to curate your personal brand across your various channels or networks.
STRATEGY FOR SUCCESS
Earning influencer status or becoming known as a thought leader can be a gamechanger for you and your personal brand. Whether it takes the form of a little blue check mark next to your Twitter or Instagram Handle or its defined by the size of your following, think about how people would engage with you differently. Would you be invited to speak at more events? How would you leverage more authority in your life?
To Tami’s point, you can’t just start putting out occasional content to magically grow your influence. If your dream is to expand your reach and amass a following for your personal brand that makes a much larger impact, you need more authority and respect. After all, that’s what people look for.
That type of respect can make you feel incredible, and it all starts with Authority, which stems from Social Proof, your Personal Branding, and Visibility.
When I talk about Social Proof, social media is where this is communicated best. Building Social Proof comes down to answering the question, “Does it look like people like you?” It’s the most basic principle of PR. If you’re on trend, you win. If people are commenting or posting about you or what you do in a positive way, you’ve got public perception on your side. People love to stay on trend, so you have to stay on trend. This is best accomplished by gathering feedback and sharing public testimonials from your network.
As for your personal branding, you need to evaluate regularly and adapt rapidly. In the world of influence and thought leadership, you’ll never attract people who are at a higher level of branding than you. This means if you want to attract high level individuals, you need to brand yourself up to or above their level.
Visibility is arguably the easiest, but it’s the most labor intensive. Visibility is what you gain when you become associated with other influencers and get published in places that are viewed as authorities.
You’ve probably heard of guilt by association; the idea that if you hang out with a bad crowd, you’re bad too. When your name is associated with one of these highly acclaimed sources, you get good visibility by achieving positive guilt by association. For example, not everyone appears in Forbes or Fast Company, but if you have those logos on your website, that communicates that you’ve got some really rock-solid credibility.
The funny thing is that increased visibility is something that is hugely overvalued in the public eye and by people looking to increase visibility. Yet once you’ve gotten featured or once you’ve been published, it’s extremely undervalued after the fact because people don’t make the most of that boost to their authority.
When you get a media win like this, you’ll find that your tribe celebrates with you because it validates them. That win proves that they bet on the right horse in the race. It’s a win for the movement. This is a win for everybody who believed in you enough to follow you. Ultimately, it attracts more followers to your community and opens more doors for you.
That type of validation is practically euphoric. It’s your real-life “Breakfast Club” moment, where you get to be John Bender with your fist thrown triumphantly in the air.
The best part about all this talk of finding your influence is that the "how" is very simple.
Treat and brand yourself like a high-authority expert in your space. Then authentically serve your way onto other people’s stages and keep serving your audience.
The only reason you’re not there yet, is you’re not really focused on growing your authority. Until you focus on that, you’ll just keep chasing cars.
So, where do you go from here? Well, a few of my branding mentors have advised me to ask some targeted questions when I’ve been in your shoes. So, try reflecting on these questions to help determine the direction that’s right for you:
Do you feel you have a message that can positively impact the world? If the answer is yes, what is that message?
Do you feel your customers would be more willing to do business with you if they saw you constantly celebrated in the media with other influencers?
Are you committed to upping your visibility to get more digital and real-world exposure?
What do you expect to achieve by gaining authority and upping your influence?
What do you risk giving up if you don’t take steps to gain authority and find your influence?
These are the areas you want to improve. If you don’t start establishing your credibility and building up your influence, you’ll be throwing away long-term wins and a ton of opportunity.
So, starting this week, evaluate and craft your online social proof with the help of your network, overhaul your personal brand to demonstrate a value that’s on par with other influencers, and maximize your visibility by collaborating with people and publications who are known for their authority.
If there’s one thing I could leave you with that would impact your future as a leader more than anything else, it would be to focus more time on becoming who you want to be. Communicate who you truly are and who you’re becoming.
If you’re worried that you don’t have the expertise required to get after it, build your expertise in the background and start earning credibility on a foundation of honesty.
I’d like to thank Tami Nealy for taking the time to contribute to this week’s show.
Tami and her team at FYI take great pride in their relationships with both brands and influencers. If you’re an influencer and have questions, FYI has a full series of frequently asked questions at FindYourInfluence.com to give you the clarity you’re looking for. If you or your friends are content creators, you can reach out to [email protected] or sign up today at findyourinfluence.com.
If you’re interested in learning more about Tami or want to connect, you can check out this episode’s Show Notes at DecisiveLeap.com/IgnitionPoint for access to all the links mentioned throughout this episode.
If today’s episode sparked your interest in launching or updating your Personal Brand, let’s connect! I’d love to help you achieve your goals and take your next leap forward.
Ignition Point is all about making a positive impact, and your feedback helps Ignition Point to keep moving forward. So, send me an email to [email protected] or write a review for the show on Apple Podcasts to let me know what you think of the show.
This week, don’t let yourself off the hook for what you know you need to get done.
Stay motivated, crush it, and keep moving forward. If you put in the hard work right now – one day – you could be the one motivating the world with your story.
I’ll look forward to speaking with you next time on another Ignition Point.
Now get on out there and win the week!