One of the most vital things you can do in your first year as an entrepreneur is form strategic alliances and partnerships, either with leaders of your industry or media gatekeepers. Before I started Ruby Media, I held more than 13 internships with communications, public relations and marketing firms. While Ruby Media was my first independent launch in the industry, I had gained critical experience in traditional public relations on national accounts.
An internship may seem like working without pay (lets face it, paid internships are a rare and beautiful find), but I completed all of mine while in college and the industry experience was more important than brand building at the time. But when its time for brand building, building alliances and leveraging relationships can still be powerful tools.
Here are some ideas on where to start.
Connect With Industry Leaders
If you are unsure of how to begin building partnerships, look to join small business councils within your community or call your local chamber. Use social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Meetup.com to find new partners. When you get the opportunity to work with an industry leader, engage and use your social media channels to connect, so they can stay up to date with your most recent work.
Create a "partner" section of your web dedicated to showcasing your media partners, sponsors and strategic alliances. And don't be afraid to ask them to link to you as well; appropriate cross-linking can a powerful search authority booster.
Become the Source
Media alliances such as column writing, TV appearances or radio segments, can be invaluable to building your brand early on. Build positive relationships with reporters and other media gatekeepers, by sharing your knowledge and providing valuable content. If you develop enough "brand equity" you could become their go-to expert and source on the related topic in your industry.
Share and Share Alike
Sharing content isn't just for big media gatekeepers. Partnerships with industry and thought leaders, who have a popular newsletter or powerful network you'd like to be introduced to, is one a valuable brand booster. How do you get someone to promote your work in their social media, e-mail blasts or in person networking groups? Share information you think will be valuable to their network.
Don't be afraid to send partners a link to a piece of content you think their network would find helpful and mention that they should feel free to share it. Your note can be sent by email, Facebook message or a DM on Twitter. Avoid being overly promotional and make your message informal and short. And always remember to be very gracious and appreciative when your partners promote you in their networks. Even if you are an up-and-coming tycoon, no one wants to work with someone who lacks humility.
Kris Ruby is the President & Founder of Ruby Media Group, a Public Relations, Personal Branding and Social Media Agency. Kris also leads national speaking engagements on branding for Microsoft and the ABA has been featured on MSN Money, AOL Small Business, FORBES, CBS, ABC Good Morning CT, NBC and News 12.
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