Laura Perkes is a PR Strategist, Mentor and the Founder of PR with Perkes
Firstly, many people fear the words 'personal brand' as it means going public with your thoughts. I want to know if you have always found it easy to 'put yourself out there'?
Yes and no! Yes, because I've spent my entire career working in the PR industry, so I've always understood the power of being featured in the press and how it can raise brand awareness and grow your audience. When I started in the industry, social media didn't exist, but as PR professionals, we learnt to adapt to new platforms and bring them into the communications mix. But no, because focussing on my own PR always ended up on the bottom of my to-do list, until I became way more intentional in terms of how, where and how often I wanted to show up to get my message out to the masses. I was always a lover of drama at school, so putting myself out there is something I've always enjoyed and never shied away from. As human beings we crave connection and connection and communication is at the heart of running a business, bringing leads into your business and signing new clients. It's not something I've ever shied away from.
When it comes to building an authentic personal brand, what advice would you give professionals starting out?
Be true to you and honour your uniqueness, don't try and hide it or pretend to be someone else to please other people. It's your personality and your way of working that attracts the right people and repels the wrong ones - that's your superpower! If you're setting up a business after working in a corporate environment for a long time, it can take time to shed the corporate skin and embrace a more playful way of working. But you didn't set up your business to be the same as everyone else, so do things your way, in a way that lights you up and it won't ever feel like a job. I'd also suggest laying a solid foundation that will stand the test of time. So spend time thinking about, and writing down, your big vision, your purpose, your mission and your values. This will create the core of your brand and will help you to stand out in a crowded marketplace. It will also help you to scale your business as you'll always have a North Star to come back to when the going gets tough, because it will do, but it's remembering why you started that will keep you going.
Do you think personal branding and reputation go hand in hand, and what can people do to maintain a positive reputation while brand-building?
Everyone has a reputation, whether you're in business or not, but it will have more of an impact and carry more weight if you run your own business. To maintain a positive reputation it's important to behave responsibly at all times, to deliver what you promise you'll deliver and to be the same person in real life than what is portrayed online. Before a client chooses to work with you, they'll have checked you out on Google, visited your website and either followed you, or binged your content on social media - what will they find? And does what they find reflect the person you are and the results you can deliver? Equally, does your customer journey provide a positive experience that makes every person feel special? All of these aspects make up your reputation, so it's important to operate a well-oiled machine, even if it's just you on your own in your business. As the famous quote by Warren Buffet says - "it can take 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it, if you think about that you'll do things differently". Not a truer word was spoken! Now that we all have access to the internet and social media platforms, disgruntled clients or customers won't think twice about publicly broadcasting their experience of working with you. Negativity can spread like wildfire, so if you are faced with disgruntled customers then take communication offline as quickly as possible and resolve the issues as quickly as you can. Tricky situations can easily be turned into positive experiences, if you want them to.
Can you share a success story of how you or someone you follow used their personal brand to build business or career?
Everyone I can think of did it the opposite way round - they built a business first and then become a personal brand. Steven Bartlett is the first person who springs to mind, as he co-founded Social Chain, built an incredible business and then focussed on building his personal brand - with the Diary of a CEO podcast and then as a Dragon on Dragon's Den. I'm sure lots of other things happened along the way, but in a nutshell that's how I see how he's moved away from being part of a business and become his own brand.
Which platforms do you find most effective for establishing thought leadership and growing professional presence?
For me, being featured in the press is the fastest way to establish yourself as a thought leader and grow your presence online and offline. Being featured in a media outlet is the most impactful referral you could ever receive, as the outlet is sending a signal to their audience that you're someone they can trust and learn from. It's not always easy to track how effective your media appearances have been, but PR works silently and often goes undetected. Saying that, I don't believe that any tactic should be used in silo, so for me, it's about focussing on securing articles and interviews in media outlets, then sharing them on social media to remind my audience why I'm the one they should be following/working with and to prove my authority when pitching myself for podcast interviews or to speak at events. If you've been featured in the press, you become far more attractive than someone who hasn't been featured in the press, plus it opens the door to other opportunities. I'm regularly invited to run masterclass within other business owners memberships and masterminds, and also get paid to teach other business owners how to tap into the power and potency of PR
How do you ensure your personal brand stays true to who you are and your evolving goals?
I am my personal brand so it's easy for me to stay true to the brand. I am what I am and people either love it or hate it. If they don't like it then they don't have to follow me on social media or subscribe to my newsletter. During the pandemic in 2020 I expanded the business by bringing in a team of contractors to support me with client delivery. So while our Done-For-You Service is no longer just me, the price and the deliverables reflect that. Plus, I refer to the team throughout my marketing, so that potential clients understand that while they see a lot of me online, they're not necessarily get a lot of access to me once they become a client. I also talk about things that I'm passionate about, to give an insight into who I am as a person, not just as a business owner, which also helps to attract and repel people. I always like to use Sir Richard Branson as an example of a great personal brand. Despite the fact he's the head of several businesses, people still want to know about him as a person. People buy from people and that will never change, however big your rand grows.
What are some practical strategies or tactics professionals can use to expand their network and build meaningful connections?
I love using social media to expand my network sit gives you access to all these people you wouldn't ordinarily meet in real life. I'll often connect with people who are connected to people already in my network. If I see that someone has commented on a post and I like their energy then I'll add them as a connection and engage in their content. I'm not always the best at doing this - but connect with everyone who is in a membership or group that you're in as you already share something in common. And if you attend a networking event online or in real life, connect with everyone who was also there, even if you didn't get the chance to speak with them during the meeting. I recently attended an event in London and the host of the event set up a group in Facebook so that we could all connect on social media and stay in touch. The key is to take the time to engage in other people's content and send them direct messages to get to know them better, or arrange a virtual coffee to spend more time getting to know them and what support they may be looking for. There's no point having a network if you're not going to introduce people to each other.
Along your personal branding journey, have you encountered any common obstacles that readers of this interview should be aware of?
The most common obstacle is being themselves and embracing who they are. Which I can relate to as I often worry that I'm too direct, or too much for some people and I'd hate for them to judge me, or make assumptions on who I am, based on how I show up and communicate. But then I remember that how other people respond is none of my business and is a reflection of them. People often fear being visible, but if we peel back the layers they're actually scared of rejection. But, the only way to build a thick skin is to keep showing up and being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Everything feels scary when it's new. The only way it feels better is to keep doing it until it becomes a habit. You may end up loving it!
Imagine you have a time machine that can transport you to the future. What impact do you envision your personal brand having on the world?
My ultimate goal is to get to a place where women can have it all. Even in 2023, women still have to fight to be heard, to be taken seriously, to be equal to men - it's tiring. We've progressed a lot since my Mum and Nan were younger, but there's still so much work to do. This is where my mission comes in, which is to give women access to the platforms that allow them to use their voice, create an impact and positively change the world, in a way that feels good to them. I don't want female business owners to shy away from PR and being in the media spotlight, because the positives far outweigh the negatives and can seriously skyrocket business success. Embrace it first and make up your own mind.
Close your eyes and imagine you're a bestselling author. What captivating book would you write to share your personal brand journey and insights?
I already have! In November 2022 I published my first book, How To Get PR, which encapsulates my 20-year career within 40,000 words! It's more about giving practical tips and advice, rather than focusing on me and my journey, but there are some personal stories within the book to make it more relatable.