Five Things Miley Cyrus’ Tongue Can Teach Us About Business

My friend Casey jokingly challenged me to write this post:

Casey Valiant's Miley Cyrus Tweet

After Miley’s R-rated performance at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs), including gratuitous tongue wagging and grinding on singer Robin Thicke, social media was ablaze with shocked reactions and stunned disbelief at what they had seen.

Of course, I’m never one to turn down a good “What _______’s tongue can teach” blog post, so I accepted the challenge.

There are a few business lessons, especially related to crisis communication, we can all learn from Miley Cyrus’ tongue.

Sort of.

1) Transparency and visibility are not always highly valued.

Photo quote about Miley Cyrus - Transparency and authenticity are the two big watchwords the social media hippies like to spout. But there’s such a thing as too much transparency. No one wants to know how sausage is made, and no one wants to see your Gene Simmons-esque tongue flapping in the breeze.

There is such a thing as too much transparency. Don’t air the company’s dirty laundry just because you think you should. Which leads us to. . .

2) Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

We hear about the PR stunts and the corporate jackassery all too often in the business pages, and we read with the appropriate amount of shock and horror. And that should clue you in that PR stunts backfire, and jackassery, well, is not looked kindly upon by most people.

This means that while some things may be legal, that doesn’t mean they’re right — looking at YOU, Wall Street!

3) When your actions get in the way of your message, rethink your plan.

My oldest daughter used to love Hannah Montana, and I will grudgingly admit that she has a modicum of talent (“he mumbled curmudgeonly”). Which, I assume, is why she was invited to the VMAs in the first place. But I couldn’t even tell you whether she sang that night, or what song she did sing. And I’m willing to bet that in 10 years, no one will remember the song, but they’ll remember her performance.

Do I really need to draw this particular analogy out for you? Don’t do stupid stuff.

4) If you’re going to screw up, you’d better have a plan for recovery.

In a recent interview, Miley cited Madonna and Britney Spears as positive role models other singers who have made, um, questionable decisions about performances, and she pointed out that people forgot all about it.

Eventually.

Of course, you have to have a lot of star power to pull off a “screw you, I don’t care” recovery plan successfully. For the rest of us, you need to work on containment and recovery. You need to work on overcoming the issue. Don’t hide from it, don’t deny it, don’t pretend it didn’t happen. The road to business failure is paved with bad PR advice.

Just cop to the problem, admit it, apologize, and move on. Assuming your problem isn’t legal or going to see you in court/jail, just shrug it off and promise to do better.

5) When that’s not even the worst thing people are discussing, you’ve got bigger problems.

All the photos I’ve seen of Miley are of her tongue sticking way out of her head. Not all of them are of her grinding on Beetlejuice, but they are all of her and her tongue. And yet that’s not what people are talking about. When every photo is of your tongue, and yet that’s not even the elephant in the room — though, given its size, it does give the elephant’s trunk a run for its money — then you have a problem.

Don’t lose your small problems in your bigger problems. If you’re going through a crisis with your company, you still have to focus on the smaller problems at the same time: deliveries, customer service, sales, etc. You don’t shut down. You don’t assume that your customers will give you a pass. You take care of business and deal with the crisis at the same time.

Five Things To Stop Putting In Your Press Releases

Press releases are one of those not-dead-yet tools that lazy PR professionals still insist on sending out to hundreds and thousands of journalists and bloggers. I still get press releases for movie releases taking place in L.A., inviting me to attend the red carpet rollout of some indie movie. Clearly they’re not culling their lists.

When I did crisis communication, we got a real sense of pride if one of our releases was published verbatim, or nearly so, by our state newspapers. That’s how we knew the real journalists were taking us seriously. That, and our success rate (it was an outstanding day if you could bat .500 on story placement). To do it, we needed solid, tight news stories, not a marketing puff piece.

Many releases I see are just abysmal. I don’t know if the agencies are teaching young flaks the wrong way, or if they’re teaching it in college, but there are some serious errors that are keeping your stories from getting published at all. Here are five things you need to stop putting in your press releases.

1. Marketing copy, especially in the opening paragraph

“ABC Coffee Stirrers, the leader in the coffee stirring industry since 1978 and the developer of the Turbo-Whoosh titanium stirrer, is pleased to announce the acquisition of Global Stirrings, a Canadian coffee stirrer manufacturer.”

Do you see all that dreck? All that extra crap about ABC’s history? That’s amateur hour. That stuff goes at the end of the press release in the <H2>About ABC Coffee Stirrers</H2> section. You know, the part nobody reads. It’s going to get cut out anyway, because journalists like real openings, not a copy-and-paste of your About Us page. When you write that, you sound like a flak, not a journalist, and the editor may pitch the release out of spite and loathing.

2. Adverbs, adjectives, and competitive language

“ABC Coffee Stirrers have proved to be 33% more effective at mixing a coffee drinker’s cream and sugar into their beloved morning java. And customers have eagerly demonstrated their strong preference for the Turbo-Whoosh by increasing sales by a staggering 12% every year for the last five years!”

Newspapers and TV stations are supposed to present the news in an unbiased, objective manner. That means they don’t get to express their opinion. They don’t get to say whether something is good or bad. They typically don’t talk about products, unless those products killed someone.

That means they’re not going to talk about how much better your product is than anyone else’s. They’re not going to publish the “news” written by your product manager. And they’re not going to talk about increased sales, customer preference, or improved performance.

You may get that kind of coverage in trade and industry journals, but you still need to avoid the adverbs and adjectives. If your press release sounds like a freshman English Comp essay, pitch it and start over.

3. Copyright and Trademark symbols

The company lawyer may have told you to put them in the release, but the ®, ©, and ™ symbols don’t belong in press releases for two simple reasons:

  1. They could interfere with SEO. While we can’t be sure how Google treats these, why risk it? Maybe they ignore those symbols, but maybe they treat it like a regular word. No one is going to search for ABC™ Coffee Stirrers®, so don’t make that a search term.
  2. Those don’t appear in news stories. The editors are going to delete them anyway, so don’t make extra work for them or you.

Unless the company lawyer also has a background as a journalist, ignore anything they tell you about writing press releases.

3. “We’re very excited” quotes

“We’re very excited about the merger between our companies.”

“We’re very excited about our laptop upgrades.

You can’t be equally excited about both things. Saying “we’re very excited” about every damn thing that happens is either lazy writing, or your CEO is off her meds. Find another way to express interest or enthusiasm. Better yet, don’t even bring it up at all. We all know you didn’t interview the CEO for this, and if you did, she probably didn’t say this at all.

Talk about the benefits of the news item. Is the merger going to add jobs? That’s your lead quote. Is it going to improve profitability by $10 million? Then that is. No one cares who’s excited; that’s not news. The jobs and profitability are exciting. Only include things that drive the story.

4. Business jargon quotes

“This new relationship will help us streamline mission-critical functionalities as a way to regenerate impactful niches.”

No one talks that way in real life. If they do, make sure they aren’t having a stroke.

But even if they do, preserve their reputation and avoid marketing words altogether. Make them sound like a real human being since, not a marketing textbook.

(Note: It’s easy to confuse marketers with real human beings, but do your best. Give them the benefit of the doubt, and translate their marketing gobbledygook into real words.)

If you don’t have good quotes, the journalist will either email you or call you for a follow-up quote that uses real words. Save them the time and give them a quote that sounds realistic and not one made up by the Dack.com Bullshit Generator (which is what I used to write that sentence above).

A press release is supposed to sound like a real news story written by a real journalist. Most PR flaks don’t know what that looks like, so they keep putting out the same garbage week after week. Then they complain that their stories aren’t being published and that their clients aren’t getting any traction. Start writing real journalistic stories and send out only newsworthy items. You’ll see your success rate — and self-respect — increase.

Where Should Social Media Live? Marketing, That’s Where

Amber Naslund recently commented on a post of mine, and said:

As social business becomes more the MO instead of just “doing social media”, we still don’t have an answer for where it lives, and it needs somewhere. I don’t think it’s going to be enough for it just to be dispersed independently in various departments. We have C-suite roles that are holistic and support the entire business. HR and IT do that to an extent, too, because they’re practices that have to carry across and touch all disciplines. I think social business needs to be that way too.

But as it matures – and maybe even after it’s well established as best practice – it needs some kind of alignment in order to thrive. I’ve yet to make up my mind whether that means there’s an executive that’s responsible for ‘social business’ itself or something else, but the reality is that we need someone to be accountable for the purposes, vision, and results of social business initiatives (and things like innovation, organizational design, culture development ) as their purview, not just an aspect of their job description.

This has been an ongoing question, and one that is not easily answered.

Except that I think it’s the Marketing department.

If you look at Marketing as the communication channel between customers and the company, and not just the department that makes brochures, pictures, and websites, it makes sense. Marketing communicates through web, print, broadcast, and even direct communication. How those messages reach their audience depends on the mediums (media) where they’re found.

There are those who would argue that it should belong in PR, because they have to communicate with journalists and industry bloggers who are all using social media. Some will argue that it should be in customer service, because it has become an established customer service communication channel. (I would argue that customer service should be folded into marketing, since they focus on customer retention, but that’s a different blog post.)

But if anything, the responsibility for social media needs to be kept in marketing for the communication aspect, and the other departments need to be allowed to use it as part of their own responsibilities. If anyone is going to decide what the social media strategy will be, that should come from marketing, but in cooperation with PR, Customer Service, and any other departments using it.

As I said in a recent blog post, Social Media Stars Killed Social Media, we’re reaching the point where social media is just going to be another form of communication, like email and the phone, and we’re not going to have dedicated social media professionals.

So when that day comes that social media professionals just turn into regular old professionals, they need to land in the marketing department.

Want Me to Watch Your Ads? Pay Me

The one and only reason I stopped paying for Hulu+ is that I was paying $8 a month for a service that was still showing me ads. (Then, I turned around and paid for the commercial-free version a few years later. Totally worth it!)

Every other app and online service I can get offers the option to go ad free if I pay a monthly fee. So I quit paying for Hulu+ because it wasn’t worth the $96 per year to see ads I would see if I was on the free service.

“But you get to see shows that are older than five weeks!” Hulu fans say.

Or, I could just watch them before the five weeks is up. Or catch them on Netflix, which is ad free.

We’re Sick of Being Shouted At

Given that many of us are trying to escape the bombardment of advertising and marketing messages, it can sometimes be a small price to pay for just a brief respite of BUY THIS! BUY THIS! BUY THIS! messages every time we interact with the outside world.Old Ovaltine magazine ad

Here’s what annoys me about marketing and my fellow marketers:

  • I pay for cable TV, and yet I’m still seeing advertisements. I am, in essence, paying someone to show me ads. These same advertisers whine and complain because people like me DVR shows and fast forward through ads.
  • Clothing companies sell t-shirts with their giant logo silk screened on the front, making me a walking billboard. It costs me $20 – $30 to be a walking shill for their company.
  • Car dealers who I just gave thousands of dollars to now want to put a sticker or license plate frame on my new car so I can tell everyone where I got it. That’s not there for my benefit. That’s free advertising to the person driving behind me.

Since when am I required to be an advertisement, and when do I do it because I truly like the product, and want to evangelize on their behalf? And why do brands presume I want to pay money so I can promote their product?

I don’t see why I have to pay for the “privilege” of advertising for a company, or pay to be advertised to. It’s my prerogative to escape advertising, and it’s my prerogative to not shill for a company when all I wanted was a t-shirt. I’m the one doing them a favor by telling people who trust me that I endorse that product.

So here’s what I’m going to start doing:

I am going to purposely avoid as much advertising as I can. I understand that I can’t escape it completely, and I’m not going to try. But here’s what I will do:

  • I will record all TV shows and fast forward through all commercials. The one exception is the Super Bowl.
  • I will never wear a shirt that has a company brand name or logo on it, unless it’s one I support. For example, a conference t-shirt or a shirt for the Cincinnati Reds or Indianapolis Colts.
  • I will never allow a sticker or license plate from to be placed on a new car I purchase. (In fact, I did this already on the last car I bought. They asked if they could, and I said I would if they gave me $1,000. They said they couldn’t go any lower on the price, and I said, “No, I mean you can give me a check for $1,000.” They said no, so I did too.)
  • I will avoid buying magazines filled with advertisements. If I do, I will purposely skip over the ads. When a lot of magazines are more ads than articles — looking at you, GQ — why should I pay for something I can find online?
  • I will pay for the ad free version of an app or product if I believe in and support it or the company. If I don’t, it means I am willing to pay the small price of being marketed to.

In short, my time, my mental bandwidth, and my careful consideration are mine to give. They are not yours to take.

Don’t assume that I want to be advertised to. Just know that if I need your product, I’ll seek you out. If I need your service, I’ll Google you.

But — and here’s my concession — I will happily look at your ad or your short infomercial, up to 30 minutes in length, for $50. You give me $50, and I will watch, read, or listen to whatever you want. $50 gets you 30 minutes of my time, and no more. It doesn’t guarantee I’ll buy your product or tell other people about it. For that, you have to impress me.

Is it fair? Am I being unreasonable? I don’t think so. Too many marketers try to take our time and attention away from something else. They try to insert themselves everywhere and into everything, trying to find that place we go to escape them, so they can take that away from us as well.

So I’m willing to meet them halfway. Instead of going to all that time and trouble to reaching me in the place I don’t want to be reached, just pay what you would have paid anyway. I will gladly sit down, review all your materials, and then we will go our separate ways.

You’ve been trying to spend all that time and energy to get me to watch your commercials (I fast forward through them), your magazine ads (I flip past them), your billboards (I keep my eyes on the road), your radio commercials (I listen to public radio or change stations), and your direct mail (I recycle it before it ever makes it into the house).

Let’s take all that money you spent and guarantee that it has been read, seen, heard, and considered. Compensate me for paying attention to you, rather than wasting money trying to trick me.

Photo credit: Crossett Library Bennington College (Flickr, Creative Commons)

PR & Marketing Agencies, Know Your Stuff Before You Offer Social Media

I’m both heartened and worried by the number of PR and marketing agencies that are offering social media.

I’m heartened, because it means the business world is that much closer to accepting social media as a real form of communication. It means they know it’s going to be around for the long haul.

I’m worried, because a lot of these agencies don’t even understand it They just threw their new junior account exec at it because she has a Facebook page and they think that means she knows enough to run a large-scale campaign for them.

A lot of social media professionals just come off as snake oil salesmen, like this guy.

Make sure you know your stuff, AND that it works.

Social media is not an entry-level position, people. It’s not something you turn over to the brand new employee who has never even run a traditional campaign. And it’s definitely not something an agency should try to learn on a client’s dime.

NOTE: This is not to say that entry-level people shouldn’t do social or that PR or marketing agencies shouldn’t get into it at all They absolutely should. But, your experience needs to be more than resuscitating the nearly-dead Twitter account you started six months ago with the “Still trying to figure this twitter thing out. Does this make me a twit?” tweet.

I’ve seen a number of agencies now that are starting to offer social media as part of their service offerings, but I think they’re out of their element, and are only going to screw it up.. For one thing, their Twitter accounts are less than six months old. The agency accounts have fewer than 500 followers, and the employee accounts are all hovering around 100, and are filled with retweets from the agency account.

That is not social media experience. Not enough to start providing services for clients.

Strong social media experience means running campaigns where you can measure the ROI and show how much money you made. Strong social media experience means having more than 2,000 followers, because you know the ethical way to break past Twitter’s 2,000 following cap. Strong social media experience means you have a blog that’s more than a year old, and it’s filled with new social media knowledge and opinions, because you publish 2 – 5 times per week, not per quarter.

Look, I know how to write a press release, and I know how to pick up the phone and individually pitch journalists and bloggers. (Jason Falls would say that puts me ahead of the game for knowing that.) I even know how to do good TV and radio interviews. But that doesn’t make me a PR expert.

If I wanted to open a PR agency, I could probably do a passable job. I could fool a couple of small clients, and learn on their dime. But I wouldn’t be giving them the best I could be (or, if I was, the best I could be wouldn’t be good enough).

If you’re in PR or marketing, and you want to offer social media to your clients, you need to do a few things before you ever you’re ready to start:

  1. Put together a team of people who are responsible for social media, not just one person. You at least need someone who can write and someone who knows how to read analytics and research. You also need one person who will be responsible for it all. This is not a time for committees and democracy. You need a social media account executive to take charge.
  2. Understand that social media is as much about sales and customer service as it is about marketing and PR. If you’re going to manage social media for a client, you need someone who can sell and deal with problems.
  3. You need to invest heavily in the ongoing education of your social media team. Require them to read industry blogs, read or listen to social media books, attend social media networking meetings, and pay for any learning they can get their hands on. I met an advertising agency that pays its staff to read books and give book reports to the rest of the agency at a monthly meeting. They pay $25 per book read (they even have a copy of Branding Yourself (affiliate link) in their library).
  4. Send your social media team to at least one conference a year, if not two or three. Better yet, have them learn enough so they can present at those conferences. The great thing about being a presenter is you have to know more than your audience, which means they have to stay on the cutting edge.

If you’re going to do social media, do it right. You can’t sign up for a new Facebook account and pronounce yourself a social media consultant any more than you can record a video on your mobile phone and call yourself a video production house. Take the time to learn as much as you can before you offer it. Don’t feel like you have to rush. There are plenty of clients available, and they’ll still be there in a year or two when today’s agencies are being fired by their clients for bad social media execution.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

Photo credit: Inky (Flickr)

Four Ways a Corporate Blog Can Help Your Company Increase Profits

A corporate blog is more than just a company diary where someone from marketing talks about the latest trade show. A corporate blog is a support tool that can lighten the load of several different departments within your company. Here are four ways a corporate blog can help your company.

1. Reduce Marketing Costs and Improve Reach

In the past, Marketing put a lot of time and money into developing, creating, and printing new sales literature and brochures. But once the specs changed on a particular product you got a new area code (it happened to my company in 2002), or you made an egregious error (guilty), the remaining 8,500 copies of the brochures were rendered obsolete, or you had to hand correct every single one of them with a black marker.

A blog can replace a lot of sales brochures and literature, introducing customers to the new product, letting them read the new specs, and finding out the latest features and prices. A blog will also let you show new photos and video demonstrations, tell people about the upcoming trade show or the show you just finished, or even post a video of the CEO talk about the product and what it means for the industry.

By turning to electronic publishing, you can reduce printing costs, reduce costs per lead, and ultimately, costs per sales.

2. Serve as a Newsroom

The PR department spends a lot of time chasing down the industry media or traditional media, trying to get them to talk about your latest product or service. The problem is, the media isn’t always willing to listen, or they can only publish on their own schedule, not yours. But by posting news articles to your website, you become the news source, not the traditional or industry media.

A blog will let you disseminate the latest news to your customers, helping your most loyal customers not only read what you’re up to, they can share it with their readers, which promotes your news as well. The media can use your blog as an information-gathering source as well. This lets them see what you’re doing, rather than waiting for a press release. They can find your press releases, product photos, and HD video clips, and get everything they need with ease. They can also get further information and details without calling your PR person while she’s on vacation and unavailable.

3. Sell to New Customers

Corporate blogging can greatly benefit the sales department, because salespeople can talk about the benefits of the new product, use blog posts to answer frequently asked sales questions, and preemptively overcome any objections potential customers may have.

While this won’t answer every question and objection for every customer, you’ll find that it cuts down on the time per sale. When I started selling on the Internet in the late-90s, I found I had cut my time per sales call down from 40 minutes to 10 minutes just because of the information I was putting on my website.

Again, this is where video demonstrations can be invaluable to potential customers. This also helps improve search engine rankings, so your site is more easily found during web searches, which means more customers could find you, which in turn means means more sales.

4. Provide 24/7 Customer Service

If you have a product or service that has frequent questions, don’t just rely on an FAQ section. Turn your blog into a knowledge center, and ask your customer service reps to write posts that answer those frequent questions. Make them as easy to find as possible (proper keyword tagging, links from the FAQ page, or even listing them in your “popular posts.”

Ask other customers to leave comments on individual posts about different fixes and solutions they’ve found as well. Incorporate their answers into the official blog posts to continue the discussion, and to make your customers feel like they’re contributing.

Finally, customers can search your website and find in-depth answers to questions they have. This saves phone calls about basic constantly-asked questions, which means you can help reduce customer service costs.

A Social Media Strategy for Non-Marquee Sports & Athletes

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Dan Clarke (@speedydanclarke), an Indy Lights racer from England who lives in Indianapolis, and learning about his struggles this off-season. He’s looking for corporate sponsors so he can race in the upcoming season.

Dan Clarke at Carb Day 2010

Dan Clarke at Carb Day 2010

If you don’t know what Indy Lights racing is, then you’re starting to see Dan’s problem. Indy Lights is the developmental racing league for IndyCar — Indianapolis 500 — racing. In a sport with fewer US fans than the NHL, he’s in the minor leagues.

Think of your favorite baseball team. Can you name its AAA minor league affiliate? Can you name their players? Do you know who their best hitter was last year, or their best pitcher?

Now you understand Dan’s problem. He’s looking for sponsors for a sport outside the big three — NFL, NBA, MLB — trying to convince them that the developmental league is a great place for them to be seen.

This is where social media can help. A personal branding campaign, even for athletes, can help build their brand, find new fans, and hopefully, bring in the big sponsors. It doesn’t matter if you’re an IndyLights driver, a minor league baseball player, or even the veteran right guard for the New Orleans Saints. If people don’t know who you are, they’re not going to care, and you’re going to have a tough time getting them to notice you. But by doing some basic personal branding, you can use that network to bring in new opportunities that contribute to your total success.

Start with Twitter

Twitter is one of the easiest places to start. This is where you can immediately see your fan base (# of followers), interact with them, and even measure the impact you’re having. Turn followers into fans, turn fans into evangelists. And as more people follow you, demonstrate to potential sponsors that you carry a lot of weight with your network.

Most athletes ignore their fan base on Twitter, choosing instead to communicate with each other publicly about private issues. For example, most IndyCar drivers have only a few thousand followers and only follow a few dozen people. Helio Castroneves, one of the most famous drivers in the world today, only has 31,000 followers, Ryan Briscoe has 8,600+, and Penske Racing (“one of the most successful teams in sports history with 330 race wins”) has 9,900 followers. To put that in perspective, I have 7,200 followers, I write blogs for a living, and the last thing I won was “Best Comedy Script” in a theater script competition in 2005.

If you don’t follow people, they won’t follow you. When you’re in a small-market sport, you can’t afford to be picky about who you follow. If you’re worried about privacy, don’t tweet your personal life. If you’re worried about managing a large Twitter network, get TweetDeck and use Twitter lists. But don’t make yourself seem unapproachable. Twitter is the one place you can interact with fans and still keep them at arm’s length.

Tip: Use Klout or Twitalyzer to measure the influence you have. Show sponsors that a positive word from you can influence buying behavior among your fans.

Create a blog

The blog is really the hub of your personal branding campaign. The point of being on those networks is to drive traffic to your blog; the point of your blog is to get people to join you on the other networks.

Visual diagram of a social media campaign, with blogging at the center

Your personal branding campaign is a wheel, with the blog at the center.

A blog is a place where you can share a behind-the-scenes look at what you’re doing. Share your exploits on and off the field/court/track, post photos, post videos, and tell stories. Fans love feeling like they’re connecting with their favorite athlete and learning stuff the casual observer or fair-weather fan doesn’t know. This is why celebrity news is so popular. People get to learn something about their favorite stars. But since small-market athletes don’t get the rave coverage that the Peyton Mannings and LeBron James of the world, you have to make your own news.

Blogs are becoming more important and popular among the PR crowd, especially crisis communicators, because they avoid the whole filter of mainstream media. For athletes, this avoids the filter of the sports media, which only gives a scant amount of attention to your sport anyway, and even then, only to the victories of the marquee stars and screwups of everyone else.

Tip: Use Google Analytics or Yahoo Analytics to measure web traffic. Demonstrate to sponsors that you 1) can get traffic to your blog, and 2) can send that traffic to sponsors’ websites.

Social Media PR

Adopt a strategy of sharing with other bloggers in your sport. Even though I’m not a big open wheel racing blogger (I’ll get to blog from the media center of the Indy 500 for the 3rd year running, but won’t be going to any other races), I can name at least five other race bloggers who all have a decent readership. And they’ll gladly share some digital ink with anyone from the sport who will talk to them.

So, talk to them. Tell them stories, give them exclusive news, and grant interviews. In short, treat them like real journalists, and they’ll pay you back with space, exposure, and kindness. Let a few bloggers break the news about your new team, your plans for the year, or even your struggles. They’ll become your fans, and tell their fans all about you, which will make them your fans too.

I’ve been listening to Wall Street Journal sports writer Stefan Fatsis‘ book, A Few Seconds of Panic (affiliate link), about his weeks spent in training camp with the Denver Broncos as a kicker. While I have never been a Denver Bronco’s fan, Fatsis’ look at the danger and drudgery of training camp and football has me looking at the Broncos in a whole new way, and I may have to cheer for them a few times this year (something I would never have done until this week). Can you find bloggers to do that for you? What about bloggers outside the sport? When less than 1% of the country knows who you are or what you do, non-industry bloggers are a rich, untapped vein. (Just don’t blanket every blogger out there. You’ll be labeled a PR spammer.)

Tip: Let other bloggers tell your story. If they make it compelling enough, they’ll win your fans for you. If you connect solidly with 10 bloggers and they each have 1,000 readers, you’ll reach 10,000 people. Now, compare that to the effort you would need to put out to reach 10,000 people yourself.

Build a Facebook Brand Page

You may already have a Facebook page, but that should be kept private. Try not to connect with your fans on your personal Facebook profile, since that’s where you’re also connecting with family and friends. Instead, create a Brand Page, and connect with people there.

However, it’s crucial that you actually use this page regularly; don’t ignore it. Promote your blog posts there. Post status updates when you publish your tweets (but don’t feed your Twitter stream into Facebook; it’s annoying. Just rewrite them to be more Facebook friendly.)

Tip: Republish your videos and photos to your Facebook page too. Ask your fans to share them with your friends. It’s a well-known adage in social media circles that we consumers trust recommendations by our friends. Let your fans evangelize to their friends about you.

There are a whole lot of other strategies I could recommend — posting videos to YouTube and photos to Picasa/Flickr — but that’s for another post. Use these strategies as a place to start and start building your personal branding campaign as a way to get sponsors, build name recognition among fans, and add new fans.

Do you have any strategy suggestions? Anything you’ve done as an athlete, or anything you wish an athlete would do? Share your wisdom in the comments section and let’s learn from each other.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

Photo credit: Just_Bryan (Flickr)