Takeaways from Ronan Farrow for building your personal brand

Communicators can derive key career lessons from the award-winning New Yorker writer. Consider these three essentials.

Branding lessons from Ronan Farrow

Ronan Farrow’s lighting-in-a-bottle rise to journalistic prominence holds lessons for communicators.

His Harvey Weinstein exposé, published in October 2017, led to a new contract with The New Yorker, a shared Pulitzer Prize with The New York Times, a book deal and a deal producing documentaries for HBO.

Farrow was already an established journalist when that groundbreaking story helped shoot him to the top, and he’s now a go-to investigative reporter tackling abuses of power.

He’s also exemplified how communicators can use personal branding to elevate their standing in their industry.

Here are three takeaways to apply in your own life:

1. Positioning

The best business markets have tons of competition. It means there’s a lot of money at stake and that customers are already looking to buy what you have. So the problem isn’t a technical or innovation one, but one regarding marketing and positioning.

The same holds true for PR pros, because there is a low barrier to entry for new competitors and often very little that separates you from the next consultant, contractor or firm.

That’s why step one for personal branding is positioning. You need a unique, defensible position. That could be a niche, publication type and/or service.

You can figure this out by starting with your winners. What were the most successful client relationships? What were the most successful launches or campaigns?

Zero in on why those were a hit, while others flopped, to figure out where your unique mix of experience and skill set makes you the “one and only” in that space.

2. Consistency

Since that first Weinstein piece emerged, Farrow has published similar investigations into far-reaching abuses of power.

In PR, too, consistency in your work leads to reliable results for clients and reinforces your strength in the market.

As Farrow has expanded from The New Yorker to books and movies, his personality and tone remain consistent. He balances being empathetic to victims and authoritative in condemning the accused.

Personal brands aren’t built overnight, nor are they constructed of flashy ad campaigns or other sponsored messages.

Instead, a successful personal brand is the byproduct of consistently doubling down on the same niche for months and years at a time.

3. Repetition

The flip side of consistency is repetition. It’s like a politician who keeps hammering away at the same points on the campaign trail.

Farrow’s breakthrough story for The New Yorker was on Weinstein. His second? Weinstein again. The third? Weinstein. The fourth was tangentially related to Weinstein, and the fifth was 100% Weinstein again.

He had a hit, so he kept going to the well. You pound the same message, saying it multiple ways to make sure your name becomes synonymous with a concept or idea.

In a world where millions of blog posts go up daily, we’re all fighting to keep up with a firehose of new information. Repetition is how you cement your position.

It’s the same logic behind why it often takes around a dozen “touches” with a prospect before you can close the deal. People are already too busy, too stressed, too overwhelmed.

It might take them a few times to become aware of your positioning, products or campaigns. It’ll take longer still for you or your products to become memorable and recognizable. Saying the same thing in new ways over the long haul helps messages stick with a new audience.

Your own personal brand is no different: You’re trying to build an immediate association that sticks out in the minds of your peers and customers.

It’s simple, in that the steps are easy to understand: positioning, consistency, repetition. There are no tricks or secret hacks.

That’s why it’s also difficult: What worked for me or Ronan Farrow or anyone else in your industry won’t work for you.

Figure out your own formula, iterate as you see what does or doesn’t resonate, and be prepared to double down on the earliest signs of success.

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Neil Patel Digital. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.


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