Women entrepreneurs: Build a public profile
(As originally published in the Financial Post, May 2013)
By Lily Adam, Assurance partner and Quebec Entrepreneurial Winning Women program leader, EY
The Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ program allows Ernst & Young to shine the spotlight on some of the most ambitious and original women entrepreneurs in the country.
The resulting press and other external visibility opportunities provides direct benefits: clearly, it is easier to win the attention of potential customers, investors, advisors and strategic partners if the media and other stakeholders have already identified you as someone to watch by quoting you, hosting you, or offering you time at the microphone. Positive messaging generated by public relations can also help drive the company’s brand position and support business development.
Still, many second-stage women entrepreneurs do not concentrate heavily on their public profile.
Entrepreneurial Winning Women program judge and entrepreneur Rob Scott has built and sold numerous companies. He's observed, "Many of the most recent applicants for the program had company websites that included not a word about the leader."
He sees such modesty as counterproductive. "Women entrepreneurs need to project themselves publicly, because that's what people on the outside want to learn."
Building that public profile and getting ready for "press time"; is an important element of the Entrepreneurial Winning Women program. We use our public relations resources to help the women learn how to work with the media, develop a plan and prepare for media interviews by coaching them intensively on the principles of strategic communications. We also work to open up their networks and help connect them to journalists and other stakeholders in the field who can help them access their most important audiences. What do we tell them in this process?
- Decide who your audience is: Start by asking yourself one key question: who am I trying to reach? Whether it’s generating new relationships or spreading the word to existing clients, you need to define the target clearly.
- Learn about your audience: Figuring out what your audience reads, how they consume news, what social networks they capitalize on and what types of events and industry associations they attend will help you map out the media and other opportunities you want to target. You have to know where the audience "lives" if you're going to make yourself a part of their world, and share your story with them.
- Manage the message well: Now that you know who you’re most important audience is, determine what exactly you want them to know about you, and your business. Then practice how you're going to say it. By figuring out what story you want to tell, and outlining the top three to five key messages, you'll be prepared when you land an opportunity.
- Remember – you're an expert: As a specialist in your field, you can provide valuable context for a number of situations. When you know who you’re trying to reach and what you want to say – start networking with people who can help break through the "noise" to provide interesting content. From journalists to editors to community organizations to governing bodies. If there’s a platform where you can contribute, find it, and start sharing your insight.
- Follow the golden rules: Making the most of your external visibility efforts also means avoiding slippery slopes like falling flat in an interview situation, spamming the wrong audience, or disappointing a sell-out crowd at a key speaking opportunity. So research, research, research – and then prepare, prepare, prepare. That’s the key to staying nimble, agile, and effective when building up your public profile, and your company’s external visibility in the marketplace.