THE BLOG
01/05/2011 12:45 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Be an Oprah/Oprah-ette: Steps to Branding and Thought Leadership in 2011

On the brink of a New Year, its timely to think about "out with the old and in with the new." It's important housekeeping for us whether we are talking about personal relationships or business goals and expectations. It's a time to whitewash the past and get some new ideas and "teach the old dog some new tricks." Create a forward-thinking 2011 business plan. Take advantage of Web 2.0 and digitally-driven distribution channels. Make yourself into a brand and a thought leader. Leverage and monetize your experience and knowledge. Listen up!

Oprah and the Oprah-ettes (Dr. Phil, Gayle King, Suze Orman et al) are fabulous examples of extreme personal branding and the viral "offspring" from the Queen Mother! This group of "celebrities" and many others have used a variety of impactful platforms to publish/broadcast/print content. Publishing content is an important way to begin to build a brand. Not only does it cost nothing in terms of dollars, you can profit from building out your own brand of expertise/advice in the form of web content. This is known as thought leadership through personal branding -- you can monetize what you know and "sell" your knowledge in a variety of formats through many channels. There are certain building blocks to this process which help create order to your build-out and position you and your brand for success.

How does a person, company or idea make themselves known in 2011? When I began in marketing/communications more than twenty years ago, it was simpler: you put an ad in the local/national newspapers, bought some radio/TV time and made a commercial using video/audio stating your product's features/benefits. And then you watched for an uptick in sales. Corporate and even small business advertising budgets drove the size and scope of the advertising and communication programs. Where to spend advertising/communication dollars and score the best possible ROI? Make it, play it and count the new business dollars. Measure against your expenses and you were done.

Creating digital messages, distributing them through the new distribution channels and measuring ROI is not a simple formula and one of much debate around the Internet. I am of the opinion that its "all good" and "how much" will be known later. With almost no economic or other barriers to entry, Web 2.0 offers a plethora of information publishing opportunities (read: new revenue streams.) In 2011, the revenue model has flipped from paying for communicating messages to selling messages and content for profit. But the steps remain the same. Start building identity with your own point of view and ideas. Identify those principles of your personality and/or expertise that lend value and can thus be monetized. If you continue creating relevant and valuable content and distribute it through many channels, you can build your own personal brand. Why is personal branding important? It is probably the most effective way to become known in your field and increase your value proposition in the marketplace. Make money!

Think Oprah: she is a "brand" and she is a thought leader. What she says, people do. She has become a destination on TV, in print, etc. Oprah leads women who subscribe to her "lifestyle" and want to be like Oprah! They want to eat what she eats, wear what she wears, read what she reads and so on. Through this idea leadership, Oprah also has a following from her Oprah brand's offspring: they have birthed "baby brands or Oprah-ettes." Oprah has endorsed and thus branded her lifestyle advisors. These advisors include her trainer, her psychologist, her friend, money manager and her doctor. Oprah and her "Oprah-ettes" each publish and monetize their own content using every distribution channel available. They are all following the leader (Oprah) in brand development. Not only do they sell their own content via books, tv shows, appearances, licensing agreements, magazines, blogs but they cross-sell into each other's following/fans/friends as well! I just read three of the new shows on Oprah's new television network are: Bob Greene (trainer), Dr Phil (psychologist). Gayle King (friend) and, you guessed, Dr Oz (doctor.)

When Oprah speaks, people listen and follow. She is influential and an "every woman." She represents a huge demographic of women and those women have influence over many men. Two huge "vehicles" which Oprah has also created and branded include her Book Club and Oprah's Favorite Things. I don't need to tell you how lucrative it can be to be one of her favorite books or one of her favorite things! Now she is hitting the market with her most ambitious venture: her own television network! OWN-Oprah Winfrey Network! She (ok, well others...) will be looking for content, shows and ideas to fill all of their programming time. If you have content which meets Oprah's demographic, pitch it!

Successful personal brands exhibit some characteristics including preparation /knowledge of their market, a figure or character who is unique in some aspect but universal in appeal, specific principles/ideas and likes/dislikes and a warm shining personality. These public figures or brands are clear on their message, who they are and what they represent! Remember to aim toward a demographic which makes and influences buying decisions. This will create room for you to extend your brand later.

Here are some steps which you can use to turn your own point-of-view expertise into books and products and eventually, paid lecture circuit speaker and author, sought-after media spokesperson, and television guest, private label magazine or online newspaper editor, etc. Think Oprah, Martha Stewart and many others and you will be motivated to create your own personal brand. You can become a thought leader in your field and create a million points of differentiation regardless of your business:

1. Begin by blogging. Gauge competition, audience and look at what others write about. You can write about the same things but take an opposing viewpoint. Create conversation and dialogue. Write an e-book, booklet or mini-book. Post it onto your website, push it to social media sites and distribute via email to friends, fans and followers.

2. Take your e-book and record it as an audio book. booklet or mini-book. Content is accessible to those driving, commuting via Ipod, etc. People access content in a variety of ways now. Post and re-post.

3. Create a subscription series using your original content and/or combine with public content and package it in a way that your target market will find valuable. Offer this product at a low price to entice followers, fans etc. Create both audio and e-format.

4. Pitch yourself to speak at breakout sessions during related-industry events/tradeshows, etc. Work up to be positioned as a keynote speaker for relevant industry gatherings. Use this video content over and over by posting it to your website and repost it via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook where appropriate.

5. Create and deliver an online newsletter for a fee. Deliver a relevant white paper or special report or survey which is important to your audience. This can command a higher price than more fungible content. Create and monetize the same content via a variety of distribution channels such as webinars, boot camps or even coaching sessions. Offer this to your industry related contacts via email, web release, LinkedIn, etc . Release via the web using PRweb or PitchEngine. Measure and analyze your website metrics to gauge the relative efficacy of these efforts outside of dollars.

6. Offer to write a syndicated column, become a subject matter expert, pitch yourself to local/national TV and radio shows via websites like Pitchrate or HARO. Take your press and post it and repost it! Get media-trained and practice your messaging.

7. Begin learning how to write your own book by co-authoring with an expert so that you can get credibility and experience. Coach or mentor others to learn about what you do. Charge weekly or daily rates to learn your "secret sauce" and trade secrets.

8. License your name to others who can create additional content using multi-media technology thereby commanding high rates for a high quality business development program which can be utilized inside corporations for coaching, mentoring or apprentice programs. The higher quality your content and materials, the more people you can reach and increase the price which you can command.

9. Get the Oprah-ettes! Engage with strategic partners who can support your viewpoint as well as expand your brand into other markets where they may be well-known. Cross-sell and package turn-key seminars on lifestyle issues.

10. Branded retail products--the Apex. Look to create mass market items which support your brand and which can be monetized. Anything can be brand extended with products which represent you and your viewpoint in the market. Suze Orman has software which helps you manage your household expenses, for example.

Be a rainmaker in your field and get known! You will have personal satisfaction and begin to see the ripples and return from your efforts. Begin with a plan and stick to it. Talk to everyone you meet about it. Friends, fans and followers will assist you in ways which you have not even thought of heretofore.

2011 is a pivotal year. You can make it happen by planting the seeds, sowing and watering the beautiful seedlings which you have created from the ground. How do you I know? Because that is what I am going to do; just watch!

Hey Oprah! Yoo-hoo! Look at me! I am ready to produce a how-to women's business show on the OWN Network.