If you’re not telling your story online, someone else is, and there’s a good chance they’re messing it up.Hamza Khan
That’s a key lesson from Hamza Khan, a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and university educator who understands the strength of good storytelling – particularly when it comes to brands.
Establishing a personal brand can help you personally and professionally as your audience sees you as a thought leader in your space. Your story — and the story of your business — should be done on your terms and done well.
In fact, Khan uses Toronto-born rapper and singer-songwriter, Drake, as a prime example of storytelling. Why? – well, says Khan, Drake had a deep understanding of his brand and “locked his identity with the City of Toronto; a burgeoning brand and a burgeoning rapper, both reciprocally, helping each other.”
Below, we outline some of Hamza’s key insights about building your brand, elevating your company and accelerating its growth.
Tell a symbiotic story
This symbiosis – or interdependence – is not exclusive to Drake. In fact, the story of your brand, as Khan points out, is already being told by your network, whether personal connections, peers, investors, employees, employers, or partners.
The individuals who are interacting with your business, regardless of industry, are already acting symbiotically to create a story around who you are and what you represent. And these stories, as Khan highlights, are crucial.
In fact, according to a recent Harris Poll study, consumers are becoming increasingly more interested in perceived values of brands. This means that it’s perhaps more important than ever to take control of and evaluate your company’s story. For example, what keywords are associated with your company? How might customers or partners feel when interacting with your brand? What types of stories might they expect from you?
Although these interdependent relationships are important in strengthening and spreading the word about your brand, it’s crucial, says Khan, that you “don’t leave it up to someone else to tell your story.” You want to take the reins on your own storytelling – which begins by defining it.
Define your brand
Khan explains that brand is defined by perception and experience. “Perception is how you see yourself, how you want to be seen, and how others see you,” he says. Experience, on the other hand, “is the total amount of activities that you engage in” or “the interactions that you have with other people spread out over time.”
How can this be applied to your business? One early step, Khan suggests, is to establish your organization’s promise in just eight words. This will not only make it succinct for others, but really challenge you to consider the core of what you have to offer. Some things to consider could include what you can promise to consistently deliver to your customers or how you compare to your competitors.
It’s also important to remember, says Khan, that personal brands can evolve and change. In other words, if you’re not satisfied with your branding – change it! Once you’ve got a sense of your brand, however, “it’s on you to figure out how to reconcile… such that how you see yourself, how you want to be seen, and how others see you should all have almost the identical answer,” says Khan.
Strengthen your online presence
It’s no secret that keeping up with the latest social media trends is important for most businesses. And one of the first steps in the social media-verse, as Khan explains, is ensuring that your profiles are completed and up to date.
“One of my biggest pet peeves is whenever I follow somebody or connect with them online, and I go on their profile, and there’s no information,” says Khan. “It’s a person like me that’s trying to figure out who you are and how best we can add value to each other’s lives, but I don’t know where to start because you haven’t given me anything, and I’m filling in the blanks… with nonsense,” he says.
Once your profiles are completed, Khan explains that you should trust that your network will be interested in following social updates from your organization. “Simply document what you’re already doing,” he says, while also explaining that people who are engaging with your company’s story will naturally want to know what comes next. This logic can be applied to personal professional websites, which Khan recommends highlighting with your key skills to optimize search engine performance.
As for online behavior? “You should absolutely avoid illegal activity, harassment, divulging, confidential information lies, or misrepresentation rants about colleagues and non-inclusive language,” Khan says.
Once you’re ready to post on your social channels, you can strengthen your brand through thought leadership and by amplifying other voices that are aligned with your own, says Khan. If you’re entering a new line of work or want to alter your brand’s voice, Khan explains that your audience will eventually view you as an expert in this arena if you continue to share relevant content.
Follow the “90-day formula” to get started
If you’re building from the ground up, he recommends a 90-day formula for content sharing: spend 30 days amplifying like-minded voices, followed by 30 days adding your thoughts to relevant content through social engagement, and finally after 60 days, post your original thoughts through mediums like articles and long-form blogs. “Don’t overthink it,” he says. “Just document what you’re already doing.”
Finally, once you have an established social presence, Khan emphasizes that it’s important to listen to your audience.
With these great tips, you can take your brand to the next level and ensure that you’re the author of your own story.
Want to learn more about elevating your brand and leadership? Check out Hamza Khan’s podcast Ideas Into Action.
This content comes from a webinar hosted for Georgian’s Growth Network, a private community designed to help Georgian companies scale their businesses through peer-peer collaboration and knowledge transfer. All employees from Georgian companies are invited to join the Growth Network here.
Hamza Khan is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and university educator who understands the strength of good storytelling – particularly when it comes to brands. The managing director of Student Life Network and co-founder of Skills Camp, Khan has also provided consulting services for global corporations such as Airbnb, LinkedIn, Amazon, and Google.