Would someone put your bumper-sticker on their car? 

The world of presidential politics, and how brands influence people, is fascinating. Whether it’s personalities, causes we support, or products we buy, how proud we are of them affects our actions, interactions, and buying decisions. I call this the Proudness Factor.

For your business, it comes down to this: Are your constituents proud to be associated with you and your brand? If you’re not intentionally giving them reason to be, on a weekly basis, they’re probably not. 

The referral economy has always been the hidden force behind successful brands.

Every day, in your market, people are asked about organizations they trust. We decide to share, or not to share, based on how proud we are to be associated with a brand. 

Pay attention to the Proudness Factor and people will “community organize” for you, and vote with their clicks. But improving your rankings requires brutally honesty. You must ask, “Why would (or wouldn’t) people be proud to tell their friends about my brand?

All brands are built with three ingredients: words, images, and actions. 

Here are six areas that can become platforms, or stumbling blocks, to proudness and referrals for you and your business.

1. Website:

Does it communicate confidence, humility, trustworthiness, and thought-leadership?

Are the words compelling, and well-written? Are the images fresh or stale?

Most importantly, the actions shown on your web site must reflect your values. Consistency, and walking your talk, must be evident. And you must provide “handles” that people can grab onto, to share your message. 

2. Social media profiles and posts:

Social media provides a never-ending litmus test for proudness. If you can’t craft punchy posts, or professional images, hire someone who can. And make sure your words, images, and action show integrity.

Every week we see political tweets become front page headlines. The old adage that “all publicity is good publicity” no longer applies. 

You and I only share posts that we’re proud of. Create something you’d be proud to share. 

3. Tagline:

Has it kept pace with your brand and your market?

Does it create an emotional or intellectual reaction people can get behind?

If it’s been a while since you evaluated your social profiles, get them up to speed and test them with focus groups.

4. Pitch:

If you can’t clearly communicate who you are, what you do, and why I should care in thirty words or less, how would anyone share this with  friends or colleagues?

Don’t assume your customers and constituents have the time, energy, or desire to articulate your value proposition. That’s your job.

It’s also your job to add some personality into your pitch. If you value humor, inject some. If your story is compelling, share a teaser of the journey that tells me why you do what you do.

5. Bio and photo:

Think of your website as an online-dating profile for commerce

Are you proud of your photos? Research has shown that first impressions of bio photos influence elections.

If your customers don’t even own a tie, why are you wearing one? Most of all, be authentic. Even if your boldness offends a few people.

6. Running mates

In politics and business, your associations matter, and can be the difference between a “Like” and a “Block.” Are you really proud of your associations? I hope so, because people will judge your brand by the company you keep.

You might need to re-think some affiliations and endorsements if you want to grow.

Voting for you

There’s a difference between liking you and being proud enough to stake my reputation on your brand. 

People recommend movies, restaurants, music, and companies because they are proud to be credited with the introduction. They know the brand will exceed expectations. 

When people are proud of a brand, they talk about it with confidence, share on social media, and take action. Get the spinach out of your brand’s teeth and more people will talk with you, and vote by proudly telling others!

[This post first appeared in the Huffington Post, and video at Entrepreneur.

Read more in Mike’s book, Your Brand Is Calling.]

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