The concept of personal branding has been around for longer than I realized; this great article came out in 1997. I guess I always thought of it as common sense–”dress for the job you want, not the job you have” kind of stuff. But now I realize that it’s more than your clothes; I think it’s the story you tell about who you are and what makes you “you.”
So how do you find your story? Think like a marketer! Whether you’re looking for full-time creative work or pitching your services as a freelance creative professional, here are five questions that come up in the marketing process that you can use to build the brand of you:
What are your 3 best features/benefits? Obviously if I’m going to market a product, I want to know all the cool things it can do. Same goes for you! Start by making a list of everything you’re good at, from negotiating vendor pricing to making peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Then circle the three skills that are your strongest, the ones that make you stand out from everyone else. Those are the three skills you’re going to play up most in any given interview or situation. Have two assets as a back-up, just in case. Then map out a benefit for each of your skills–how will that skill benefit the person or business you’re pitching?
What are your 3 obstacles or challenges? Everyone has weaknesses, and one way or another, they will come out. In marketing, we ask up front what those are so we can address it head-on with the right facts, research or spin that makes it a great story. I once wrote marketing copy for a new version of a product that had previously caught on fire (it was definitely not supposed to). Trust me, if I can figure out an argument around that one, you can come up with a good story around your weak links.
What’s your point of differentiation? Why should people work with you vs. anyone else? How are you different? What do you bring to the table that sets you apart? One way to get at this answer is to think through what you’re passionate about in your work. People like to work with people who light up inside when they talk about their work. Creative professionals are often asked what their favorite projects were and why; this can be another way to get to what makes you different. Why are those projects your favorites? What went wrong? What went right? How did it help you grow as a professional or do better the next time? Be sure to find one or two things that didn’t go right and how you fixed it or learned from it and applied what you learned. Knowing how to fail and bounce back is a skill; it shows that you’re resilient and won’t crumple at the first sight of a problem.
What emotional takeaway do you want the audience to have about you? In marketing, we are constantly aware of our audience–who they are, what they do for a living, what they like/dislike–and you should be too. Think about the people who will hear your message. What would you like them to think or feel after meeting with you or hearing from you? As a creative professional, I want people to think of me as innovative, creative and able to control the chaos that often comes with the territory. I also want people to think of me as thoughtful and strategic–I take the time to think through things. Emotionally, I want them to feel all of that as well as, “Hey, she’d be fun to work with.” If someone met you for 5 minutes, what would you want them to remember about you?
What would your tagline be? Big companies have taglines. You should too! As many of you know, a tagline is a short but powerful phrase that sums up the essence of you, your brand, product or solution. It can hit on any number of ideas, including your point of differentiation–what makes you “you.” A few taglines that come to mind: Home Depot’s “More Saving. More Doing.” 7Up’s “The Uncola” and Taco Bell’s “Think Outside the Bun.”
While you may not walk into a prospective client’s office spouting a tagline, you may find it works well on your resume, letterhead, website, portfolio and email signature. Or maybe it will just be something you speak to when you deliver your elevator pitch about who you are and what you do. It can be the foundation for everything else you say. NOTE: be sure to run the tagline past a few trusted friends or family first; practice saying it out loud and see how it rolls off your tongue. If it sounds cheesy or you can’t say it without laughing, i.e., ‘Think Outside the Bob,” keep trying.
There is a lot of thinking and planning that goes into building a brand. Take the time and use these tools to help build yours. What have you done to build your personal brand?