It’s the age of personal branding, and everyone is expected to be their own best PR person. If you’re a startup founder, a company CEO, or simply a business professional wanting a higher profile, you’re meant to be relentlessly building an image as — maybe an innovator. Or, possibly a change agent. Certainly a thought leader! And it’s true that you can and probably should use classic PR techniques to build your brand.
But what if you’re an introvert?
In psychological parlance, an introvert is someone who finds social encounters and large-group interaction draining but is energized by individual, often creative pursuits. In the workplace, it can mean someone who prefers to hide behind a keyboard or stay silent in a meeting rather than promoting himself to senior management or interacting socially with colleagues or even clients.
The good news is that for every Gary Vaynerchuk there’s a Mark Zuckerberg. (For inspiration, check out this list of famous introverts, headlined by our own POTUS.) But for many people the business day is already challenging, so any extra effort for personal branding or PR can fall by the wayside. It can be exhausting.
Here are some pointers for leveraging PR tactics to boost your profile, even if you’re not a TED talk candidate or a six-night-a-week networker.
Set (realistic) networking goals. For an introvert, it’s useful to set a manageable goal for building relationships, like an hour at a networking event every month, or coffee with a new contact (just one!) once a week. The same applies to social media on a daily basis. It’s easy to sit back and read a social feed or repost interesting content, but to build a profile, you need to actually engage with others. For business owners, the key journalists and analysts in your sector, prospective business partners, and potential customers should be at the top of this list.
Build your digital footprint. Digital media is one of the world’s greatest gifts to introverts. The key is to be purposeful in how you present yourself and spend your digital and social media time. Stake out the social platform that feels most comfortable – whether Twitter or LinkedIn, or a creative Tumblr or blog – and make sure your profile that reflects your business offering and goals. It’s also good to mix a bit of your personal story in your digital profile and real-life interactions with people. If you lived in five different countries as a kid, built your first business at 13, or are passionate about science-fiction novels, it helps to work that into your digital and social profiles.
Or, go small. If taking on Twitter feels too big, join a LinkedIn networking group and become active within that one community. Or, check out Quora, whose Q&A format lends itself to sharing expertise. Introverts are natural listeners, so any forum in which interested parties engage to seek help or advice is a good prospect. It’s unlikely to win you business or make you a rockstar, but the right social community can help you establish your credentials and warm up cold leads, if not build outright relationships.
Let your content speak for you. Introverts are often more comfortable expressing themselves in writing than in social or business networking situations, so if that’s the case, it makes sense to leverage your authority through content that you create or that you inspire and others create. In my opinion, a business blog is still the best way to do this. But if it’s too large a time commitment, a thoughtful piece posted once a month on LinkedIn will go a long way toward raising your profile.
Reference your own authority. This is something I tell clients in media training sessions, and many introverts have difficulty with it, because it feels like bragging. But it pays to remember that you’re not selling a service or product, you’re offering expertise. And that expertise isn’t always as obvious as you think from your job title. Whether it’s 30 years in supply chain management or three “dog years” building a tech startup, it is your experience and resulting insights that can raise your profile with the people who count.
Be a resource. To that end, one of your goals should be to position yourself or your company as a go-to for relevant journalists. Think in terms of specifics. What data or insights can you offer? Hard stats, evidence of category trends, competitive intelligence, or actual news will get the attention of media who follow your industry.