It’s probably the last thought you have – to create a personal brand strategy for yourself.

But the world of work has changed and expanded beyond your office and your personal circles. Establishing a platform to extend your expertise beyond your sphere of influence is essential to establish yourself firmly in your career as an expert with a unique point-of-view.

Is it hard? No, but it will take a shift in perspective that you may not be comfortable with – turning the magnifying glass on yourself and finding out what your value proposition is. It will also require an ongoing investment in terms of time, focus, and resources.

Can you do it all on your own? You have the skill sets, the tools of the trade and the experience, but you will need at least one trusted adviser, preferably not a friend or colleague, who can be honest with you and whose opinion you trust and respect. It can be a coach or a strategist – someone who has a vested interest in your career development.

Here are some quick tips for getting started:

Establish what is unique about you. Before you start, sit down and write out three to five career attributes about yourself that are different from others in your field. Think about your overall experiences and what others can learn from you.

Determine your audience. Is it professionals in your field? Or professionals in a certain industry? Determine beforehand whom you are targeting and where you need to make an impact.

Create a platform. A platform consists of your online presence. Start with a blog and choose a mix of tools that will most effectively reach your audience (i.e. Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn). If you have existing accounts, you may want to establish new ones under your brand name.

Join the conversation. Establish a following by joining in the conversation through “curating” articles, retweeting and commenting on opinions, and re-blogging. Bring your own personal spin to the online conversation.

Remember that content is king. Great content will create interest. Focus on developing stories that will appeal to a large audience with tips and advice to convey your overall skills and expertise.

Don’t forget the offline world. A great way to extend your brand is through speaking engagements. Develop a speaking proposal and pitch yourself at conferences in your field.

Social media. We are all using it daily. There is nothing like the rush of increasing likes and follows. But what if you are global? How do you bring your in-country work to social media in real-time and weave it effectively into your global brand story?

I was asked to introduce a first-time social media strategy to highlight the work of a humanitarian organization’s projects and stakeholders in Asia and Africa. The desire – and the ultimate challenge – was to bring country projects and stories to the forefront of all online communications.

Any visitor to their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube sites should know within seconds where they work and the nature of their work. Normally? Not a problem. However, the eight countries we were targeting were the poorest and least secure of any in the world. Getting information out quickly and developing a means to do so was made that much harder by daily technology and communication challenges that you and I take for granted. So what did we do?

Improve staffing. We moved from using an external agency to bringing in a social media coordinator on staff to improve the communication flow between the communications team and country offices. We also bridged the time zone gap by placing an intern in Europe – on the same time zone as Africa and just a few hours difference with Asia.

Open channels of communication between country officers/representatives. The onus lies with communications staff to do this. Once a week contact is preferable either via Skype or email. Your social media staff and country offices should always be connected via Skype for ease of access.

Train one or two members in each country office on taking video clips and photos. Encourage them to take videos when in the field and at meetings. At this stage, quality will come by encouraging quantity. The training can be added on to a larger meeting at headquarters to save on travel and budget expenditures.

Create a dedicated country YouTube (or Vimeo), Flickr and Instagram account for uploading to avoid file transfers to headquarters.

Encourage your country staff to engage with your social media channels by sharing content, liking, commenting and re-tweeting where appropriate and interacting with each other on lessons learned in the field. Your staff will become more comfortable using social media while expanding awareness in-country.

Over a six-month period, we were able to weave in stories of our work in Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia and South Africa by actively engaging country staff. Through continual communication between the social media team and the country teams, a seamless communication channel began to open enabling us to promote our work in real time and to create story themes between countries.

Do you have what it takes to be a global leader?

A recent survey of 1,000 human resource professionals in eight countries found that one-third of global companies are struggling to find senior leaders with nearly half stating that leadership was “the skill hardest to find in employees”.

One of the reasons cited was the retirement at a rate of 4 million per year worldwide amongst the baby boomer generation. Another reason cited was the lack of leadership development programs for younger employees.

How can you take advantage of this gap and develop skills to turn you into a successful global leader?

Here are five skills to start developing today:

Communication skills. An ability to speak clearly, write clearly and to listen intently will be the key to your success. If English is the official language of your business, remember to slow down and be much more clear in your use of language than you would normally be to ensure all of your colleagues understand your message.

Critical thinking. An ability to analyze different scenarios, data and research as well as patterns in behaviors or systems is vital. You will constantly be assessing projects, goals and expectations across many countries; an ability to identify trends or outliers will enable you to be more efficient.

Cultural dexterity. This one takes practice and it is what I call “leaving your country behind on the tarmac”. You must be able to step outside of cultural constructs. A great tip for doing so is by telling yourself – constantly if needed – that you may be the only Canadian, Singaporean, South African that your colleagues and/or clients ever work with, so leave them with a positive experience.

Global mindset. Being open to new ways of working and seeing the world is essential as well as being able to view challenges and opportunities through a global lens. It will also make your day-to-day interactions with your colleagues more pleasant; however, do not expect to be a pro at this from the outset. That comes with practice.

Team leadership. Having a team mindset and experience leading teams is a must. Your management style may need to adjust depending on the business culture. Mastering an ability to be patient – observe and listen when in meetings and in your daily interactions with your team – will help you decipher expectations, cultural understandings and ways of working.

So how’s your team? Are they motivated, engaged and able to excel?

Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to lead teams from 30 globally to 15 domestically, the majority virtual. Each team has been very different in terms of function, collaboration and motivation.

Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years on how to lead and motivate teams:

Coach individually. Make sure you have one-to-one time with each team member on a regular basis. This will enable you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each employee, how they are evolving and how their job aligns with their future career goals. If virtual, use Skype video, nothing replaces face-to-face interaction.

Provide opportunities for motivation. Find out what their long-term career goals are and make sure that some aspect – if not the majority – aligns with those goals. You’ll have a happier, more engaged and motivated staff member if you do. If they do not align, challenge the employee to develop a project that aligns with their goals and also the company’s goals.

Be accessible. And mean it. If global, some portion of your workday should overlap with members of your team and all team members should feel comfortable contacting you directly. Keep your virtual door open and your office door open. Be willing to stop what you are doing to address their concerns with an open and positive attitude.

Be transparent. One habit that many new managers have is to keep information confidential – often as a way to demonstrate power – some more seasoned managers may do this out of fear. There is no better way to alienate your team. Be transparent in your communication, your plans and with the direction of your division and company.

Have clear expectations. And communicate these often and well. Ensure each team member understands the expectations of their role, their interaction with the overall team and the company. Encourage them to improve and expand upon those expectations and provide the support needed to do so.

Be prepared to adapt. Your leadership style will evolve with your team and should meet each employee where they are. Translation: adapt your leadership style for each team member. Each individual is different and will require a different approach from you over time. A one-size fits all approach to leadership will definitely leave you lonely at the top without many followers.

For those of you leading large teams, the tips above would apply to your direct reports; however, make sure you have an opportunity to engage with the full team on a regular basis – either formally or informally.

Keeping control of your message in a crisis situation can be challenging. Facts and misinformation fly fast and furious. Externally and internally the feeling is that control is being lost and you are running to even catch up let alone getting ahead of a fast-moving crisis. Getting the media to share your message will go a long way in damping down the chaos and will be the first step in getting control back of the situation. Here are several tips for getting the media to carry your message in a fast-moving crisis:

Identify your strongest relationships, across several channels. Cementing several strong relationships with the media is vital at times like this but the work needs to be done prior to a fast-moving crisis.

Keep the media informed by developing your narrative. Communicate as often as possible through updated statements to keep the media abreast of what is being done to fix the issue. Being seen as a reliable source of news in a fast-moving crisis will influence coverage.

Make your narrative simple and straightforward. Keep your eye on the coverage and the reaction to that coverage. This will help you to course correct as you go to ensure you are addressing the most important elements of the crisis with your audience.

Don’t forget social media. Make sure all of your owned channels are communicating the narrative step-by-step as well with links to the updated statements. Do not let your team get bogged down in responses on social. Pick 1 or 2 comments/replies and respond to those.

Be as transparent as possible. State the truth and always focus on the steps you are taking to address the issue. Keep your messages forward focused.

Never heard of a mat release? You are not alone. It’s one of the lesser-known tools of the public relations trade.

Once referred to as matte, they have been in existence pre-internet and were once used to provide content filler to local newspaper across the country. They are still in use today, and more so now that news bureaus have downsized and the need for new and relevant content – referred to as evergreen content – increases with the 24/7 demand for news.

A mat release is a consumer-focused feature article, fully formatted with camera-ready artwork that can be lifted straight by reporters and editors as fillers for daily news editions, digital and print. For public relations professionals, mat releases provide a great opportunity to increase publicity for a brand and to carry messages to the consumer public.

Mat releases can be distributed through wire services, including PR Newswire and Business Wire, which acquired the old distribution service, North American Precis Syndicate or NAPS database.

Quick tips:

Keep the release to no more than 700 words with high-quality content. Remember that even though you seek to gain exposure, it is not a commercial for your brand or product.

Ensure the copy will be of interest to the consumer public – provide tips, advice, and guidance. Inform as much as possible.

Follow a feature format and ensure the article will fit in any of the feature sections of daily, local newspapers, from living to health and food sections. Do your research.

Mat releases can be an effective way to gain national exposure for your brand or client without paying for a costly advertising campaign.

In 2010, Philip Morris International sued the country of Uruguay for USD $25 million over the branding of cigarettes stating that Uruguay’s attempt to curb smoking by requiring standardized packaging is in treaty violation. The Swiss-based company claims the new packaging does not allow for trademark and is in violation of intellectual property rights.

There’s been very little international coverage of the battle in branding publications worldwide. Why should consumers and brands pay attention?

Branding is often held, hand-in-hand, with trademark for international brands. Sometimes, a re-brand is required to secure trademarks in a myriad of countries. The repercussions for brands that are required to remove their trademarks and/or their brand identity from their products could be significant.

The larger question remains, by changing and/or limiting branding, will that solve the issue at hand or is it curbing the ability of brands to market? What does that do to market competition and consumer choice?

Recently, Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg joined the battle by launching a USD $4 million fund through their respective foundations to support countries like Uruguay. Australia passed legislation requiring standardized packaging in 2012 followed most recently by Ireland and the UK.

Ultimately, the question remains: who controls branding? Is it the brand itself, the consumer or the courts? Where the outcome of the case will be decided with worldwide implications.

Read more on the case.

Source: BBC Worldwide, Forbes.

Originally posted on Navigating the world through communications:

Employees can be your strongest brand ambassadors. In essence, you have a captured audience that lives your brand and is often just waiting for a chance to effectively communicate their work to their family and friends. But how do you effectively engage that audience to expand your brand awareness?

Here are five steps for engaging employees as brand ambassadors:

Message training. As you develop your key messages for your brand, remember to provide training to all staff so they become comfortable with using them. Ask them to practice using the messages with their families and when out with friends.

Culture matters. Set the tone in internal communications on the importance of brand ambassadors. Encourage employees to become involved in external events to help expand brand awareness and to actively engage as ambassadors.

Provide tools. One way to start to engage employees as ambassadors is to create an intranet that is…

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Originally posted on Navigating the world through communications:

Do you have a speech on the horizon? Do you feel prepared? Are you anxious?

It’s normal to be slightly anxious and nervous prior to a speech. It happens to everyone although it comes out in different ways. Some boast of how terrific they are, others ask other presenters if they are nervous, some go buzzing about, others sit quietly and everyone has their heart racing and rate of breathing increase. Anxiety around speaking is a normal human reaction and everyone – I mean everyone – experiences it, some have just mastered how not to show it.

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was by a director when I was a stage actress in my early days of college. He said to me “everyone gets nervous and anxious before a public performance, your job is to accept that as a normal human reaction and use…

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Are you challenged with extending your company’s brand awareness through global media with a small staff and budget?

Last year, I spoke with the head of media relations for one of the largest tech firms in Silicon Valley. To my surprise, they faced the same challenges as smaller firms and non-profits – how to effectively manage media relations in multiple countries.

Outreach to journalists in multiple countries needs to be handled differently in order to develop effective relationships around the globe. A brush stroke approach will never work and may even set you back. Do not assume what works in one country or region will work in others.

Here are five tips for working with journalists globally:

Know the media culture. Your in-country staff and/or consultants are the experts. Have conversations with them to understand how press operate, how they view the work of the organization, who the most prominent journalists are in your subject area and what interactions they have had in the past.

Approach journalists as is expected in their country. Find out from your own research, in-country staff, partner organizations and other experts on how journalists prefer to be approached. Your professional network can be extremely valuable here – mine it for those who have worked in-country.

Hire a local consultant to initiate relationships. A local consultant will often be a former journalist with existing relationships with the press. They can help with introductions and with briefing you and your team on how to best approach the media to ensure a successful foundation.

Have a member of staff present for informal and formal briefings. If you have a country director/manager, they will have the history and the context of the organization’s work and how it has been covered by the journalist and perceived in-country. They can serve as the content expert and prevent you from falling into any traps.

Always follow-up. Distance should never be used as an excuse not to continue a connection. Use Skype and email. Send thank you notes at all times. Keep the conversation going and keep them up-to-date on your company’s work globally so they feel included and valuable.

Remove geographic borders from your planning. Include these journalists in your overall media outreach strategy. Do not think in terms of geographic borders, planning just within the boundaries of where you are headquartered or located.  Think globally every time you plan media outreach and develop a strategy for each country. It’s time-consuming, but it is an investment that will pay off in the long-run..