Before you read on, you should know that this article is part of a series on developing a visibility strategy. This is chapter 1 in that series.
One of the reasons you might struggle with being seen and heard in the world – particularly as a business owner – is the lack of a visibility strategy. A visibility strategy is the approach you’re going to take to ensure you’re visible to the people you’re here to reach. It considers how and where you’ll connect with them and what you’ll talk to them about. It supports you to grow your business by ensuring that a large enough group of people know about you, and buy from you, to keep the business healthy and profitable.
If you have a communications strategy, you may be wondering whether a visibility strategy is absolutely necessary. That depends on how extensive your communications strategy is. Visibility strategies and communications strategies are business besties and it’s entirely up to you whether you clump them together in one document, break them up into two complementary documents, or develop your visibility strategy as a subset of your communications strategy.
In this particular series, I’m going to separate out communication elements from visibility elements.
Visibility Tip: If you’ve never had either a communications or visibility strategy before, or if you’re thinking, ‘I don’t need a strategy, I can totally wing this’, I’m going to politely suggest that that’s a visibility block red flag. Before you read any further, it might be beneficial to do some visibility block clearing work in order to come at the idea of prioritising visibility and committing consistent thought and energy to it.
For those who are willing and ready to up their visibility game, I’m assuming your communications strategy includes the following information (information that you absolutely need to get clear about if you want your visibility efforts to be effective):
- your message (your rally cry, your tagline, the thing that gets people saying ‘yes’ to finding out more about your brand),
- your brand (the look and feel of your business as well as the values that inform it), and
- your ideal customer (who they are, what they care about, where they hang out).
These three communication elements will stay fairly consistent over time. Yes, every few years you might want to do a refresh on your branding or tweak your messaging, but on the whole these are core elements of your business which, once established, aren’t up for negotiation too often.
Here at the School of Visibility we think about your communications strategy as establishing your ‘what’ (what you’ll say and what your business will look and feel like to people passing by your website or shop front) and your ‘who’ (who you’re trying to communicate with).
It establishes the outer layer of your visibility container.
You want to commit a good amount of time to creating that outer layer, but don’t allow yourself to fall into procrastination by getting stuck there. Your business is not going to succeed or fail if you can’t land the ideal phrase for your message, or can’t find the perfect shade of green for your website, or if you’re not 100% sure if your ideal customer prefers Frankie Magazine or Dumbo Feather.
The basic level of information you want to tick off on includes:
- having a message you want to share, even if you haven’t nailed the perfect way of articulating it,
- creating a brand you’re comfortable with, and which you know you can improve on over time, and
- having a clear understanding of some of the challenges and pain points your ideal customer is working through and how you can help them.
Once that’s all established, you can then tweak and perfect over time in a way that makes people feel like they’re on an upgrade journey with you, as opposed to feeling completely confused because your brand was all about vegan food one minute and now you won’t stop talking about travel destinations.
Visibility Tip: If you’re thinking, ‘Oh but I’ve pivoted a few times now! What a disaster.’ Please, don’t worry. It’s absolutely ok. In the early days and first few years of business building, it’s very normal to pivot a few times as you’re finding your place in the market. Many business owners have created more than a few baby businesses that have gone nowhere before landing on the business they become known for.
Once you know your message, your brand, and your ideal customer, these are items you’ll check in with each time you write a new blog post, create an image, add a feature to your website, or create a new offering. That way you’ll ensure a consistent experience for your community.
And once these things key elements of your communications strategy are established, you’ll be in a strong position to start focusing on visibility.
Visibility Tip: One of the reasons people get stuck playing with branding in particular is that it’s creative and fun. It’s also a great way to not address your visibility blocks.
I was recently listening to a podcast episode by a woman who was having trouble filling places in her program. Rather than working on her visibility issues and putting herself out there more consistently, she re-branded the program. And guess what happened? Nothing. As she discovered for herself, ‘Re-branding your content isn’t what’s needed when you don’t have enough of the right people looking at your work in the first place.’
It’s true, branding is fun. It also gives you an immediate sense of satisfaction – the kind of fulfilment that comes from having an ugly website one day and having something you’re quite proud of the next. It also gives you a confidence boost to have created a brand you feel great about. Similarly, understanding the branding principle of how to position yourself in the market is essential to the success of your business. So branding is absolutely important. Just don’t get stuck in a branding round about or spend exorbitant amounts of money on branding as a way of avoiding visibility.
Once the outer layer of your visibility container (your message, your brand, and your ideal customer) is set, you can be just as wildly creative with your visibility efforts as you dive into relationship building, creating connections, building a platform, promoting that platform, and being seen and heard on a consistent basis.
You’ll remember that your visibility container established your ‘what’ and your ‘who’. As we dive into the elements of your visibility strategy, we’ll be looking primarily at the question of ‘how’. How you’ll show up, how you’ll allow yourself to be seen, how you’ll differentiate yourself from the crowd, how you’ll build momentum and consistency.
Specifically, your visibility strategy will include:
- your visibility intention and commitment,
- the platform you decide to build and the visibility opportunities you’ll pursue,
- how you’ll overcome visibility blocks and barriers,
- the visibility habits you’ll build, and
- finally, how you’ll systematise and track your efforts and results.
During this series we’ll walk through each of these components. For today, in order to get clear on your intention, it’s essential you can answer these two questions;
Why do you want to be visible? What do you want to achieve by being visible?
To answer these questions, you need to know the overall vision of the business (to provide you with some inspiration, here’s our vision at the School of Visibility).
Knowing your vision will stop you from being visible about things that are tangential to your business or distracting or confusing for the people you’re trying to reach. It also makes it easier to answer the question of why you want to be visible and what you hope to achieve by being more visible.
Here are the School of Visibility we know that the more visible we are, the more visible our community will be. We see the School’s visibility as intimately connected to the visibility all women and we believe that positive social change will flow from the sharing of stories, of wisdom and of knowledge.
Here’s why this is helpful to know; in the moments when resistance arises and I don’t want to pitch myself or I don’t want to do outreach or I would prefer to lie in bed and watch Netflix than sit at my desk and work, I remember the stories and wisdom and knowledge that hasn’t been uncovered yet. I remember that I have a role to play in that. That helps enormously in overcoming any fears, limiting beliefs, and doubts.
We’ve drawn on the guidance provided by Greg McKeown in his book ‘Essentialism’ to identify our visibility intention for the School of Visibility. McKeown advises that first and foremost, your essential intention should be inspirational and concrete. You must know when you’ve achieved it. It must be simple, inspiring and easily measured. That way there’s no ambiguity in yourself or in your team about what you’re doing. Your visibility efforts will align with your operational efforts and your brand story will remain consistent.
McKeown gives an example devised by Martha Lane Fox, the UK’s first ‘Digital Champion’. The intent that Martha and her team came up with was ‘To get everyone in the UK online by the end of 2012’. So clear. So easy to understand.
Perhaps you’re a home birth advocate. Your visibility intention might revolve around revolutionising the birthing experience of women. To make it both inspirational and concrete, you might decide that by 2025 you will have provided 100,000 pregnant women with the information they need to decide if a home birth is for them.
Alternatively, you might be a nutritionist who wants to revolutionise the way people think about food. Your intention might be to educate a thousand people by the end of 2020 on the benefits of plant based whole foods.
Do you see how much easier your visibility efforts become once you’ve made this decision? McKeown speaks about making one decision that will eliminate 1000 future decisions. By deciding that you’re only going to talk about plant based whole foods and that the role you’re going to play is to educate people about its benefits, you eliminate a thousand other decisions about whether to speak about the environment more broadly or about the problems with the food production system. You’re here to educate people about plant based whole foods and why they’re beneficial. With that in mind, you can stick to your lane and become easily identified as an expert in that area.
In determining your vision intention, it’s important to remember one thing; bigger isn’t better. It’s just bigger.
Connecting deeply with 1 or 10 or 100 people in a way that supports them exactly as they need to be supported, is just as significant as reaching a million people with your Grammy award winning song or your New York Times best selling book.
Capitalist ideology teaches us differently. It says; bigger is always better. It assumes that continual growth is what matters above all else. But that kind of linear thinking, with a complete disregard for the interconnectedness of all things, has found us living in a world where the temperature of the earth is at dangerously high levels and is starting to cause irreparable damage to the planet.
So set a visibility intention that feels like a natural extension of your vision. Then use it as a mirror to show you where your expanding into the fullness of yourself and where you’re holding yourself back. Don’t use it as a way to measure self worth or to determine the value you bring to the world. Use it as a technique for staying true to who you believe you are and what you believe you’re here to do. If you find yourself continually falling short of what you’ve said you’re here to do, that’s useful information. It tells you something about your approach, your desire, and/or your intention. Either way, it’s all a mechanism for greater self awareness which is a very good thing.
So let’s make sure you can find your way to your visibility intention. To summarise:
- Do you know why you want to be visible? (Start with the vision you have for your business.)
- Do you know what you want to achieve by being visible? (What kind of impact will your visibility have?)
- Knowing these things, what’s an inspiring and measurable essential intent you can establish that will eliminate a thousand future decisions?
- And finally, what are the values you’ll infuse into your day to day operations as you work to realise that intention?
Final tip! If, as you’ve been reading through this, you’ve fallen into doubt or confusion or overwhelm, start by giving yourself a timeframe to work things out. Somewhere between 30 and 90 minutes should be more than enough. If you’ve been in business for a long time, you might just be reviewing what you’ve already established, making any tweaks and then moving on.
Then, once you’ve decided how long you’ll give yourself to decide on your visibility intention, here are some questions to ask to get your brain firing on all cylinders:
- If I could be truly excellent at one thing, what would it be?
- What’s one idea people can grasp onto?
- What question am I trying to answer?
- What problem am I trying to solve?
- How will I know when I’ve succeeded?
- What won’t I do? What will I say no to?
Remember, done is better than perfect. So do your best, arrive at a conclusion, and then keep going with the knowledge that the more action you take the more you’ll give yourself the chance to learn from experience, and the more wisdom you’ll have to draw from when you come back to review your intention in the future.
If you’re interested in diving more deeply into the link between your soul’s purpose, your business, and your personal energy levels check out this audio:
NB: The full episode, including some block clearing around seeing and living your soul purpose, is available to our School of Visibility students in the library. Check out the library here and more information about how to enrol as a student at the School of Visibility here.
Coming up next in the creation of your visibility strategy: your visibility commitment.
To access all the visibility strategy chapters, click here.