Image thanks to visiophone
We’ve all heard the buzz term ‘personal brand’ when it comes to marketing yourself in your chosen career field – but what does this really involve? And where to start? One of the key ways to connect with your market (be that companies you’d like to work for or directly to prospective ‘clients’) is to develop a communicable career personality. Here are some tips to get you closer to that ‘full package’ which will give you the edge.
1. Identify your market. Once you know who you need to sell to, you can tailor yourself to them; what are their desires and how can you fulfil them? Find out who the key players are within your market, and how you can emulate them. Of course, you don’t want to directly copy anybody, but it is good practice to get a feel of what is being well received. Also, make the effort to find out who the not-so-key players are/have been: who has failed – and why? Could you be displaying any of these traits?
2. Think about what makes you unique. A brand is no good if it is merely a carbon copy of something else. Though two manufacturers of MP3 players may be selling the same technology, if one has a brand based around simplicity, and one appears fussy and complex, which brand will triumph? Do you have a unique voice, angle or experience that makes you relevant in a saturated market? Discover what will potentially make you stand out and build on that.
3. Summarise your core message. Try to explain yourself and what you are trying to achieve in only a few words as this will help to focus you. This process will also help you think about the words you use in any query emails, interviews, conversations, presentations etc. and assist in defining and streamlining a message that you can stick to. Looking ahead, this can also develop into your ‘elevator pitch’ – a mini-presentation on you and your work that should take no longer than a ride in an elevator, i.e. one to three minutes. This is important as you never know how influential the next person you get chatting to could be!
4. Be consistent and repeat your message whenever and wherever possible. Treat your outcome from the above exercise like a mantra, and repeat it to yourself when in doubt concerning any work you send out, interview you take part in, or even just with day-to-day email. People need to remember and recognise you, and they won’t if your approach changes often. If you want to establish yourself as a health guru and write bestselling books on nutrition, do the utmost you can not to say or present an image of yourself which may go against this, such as drink a coke in an interview, however informal.
5. Get online. People with an interest in your brand will want to access and learn about you in a variety of different ways, so give them that option. It’s worth developing a presence, however small, on Twitter and Facebook, as well as having a blog or website. Remember to keep your message consistent across all mediums; don’t write a blog post about the values of keeping fit, and then admit on your Facebook status that you sat in front of the television all weekend. That said, people respond well to honesty; don’t be robotic, if you experience a blip you can use it to your advantage by playing up the ways in which you overcame it.
6. Create a press kit. This differs from a CV in that you can imagine you are your own publicist and write in the third person. This will help you take an objective view of yourself, hopefully weeding out any potential weaknesses and forging new strengths – and nobody need know that you wrote it yourself! It can take the form of a press release if you are releasing a new project, or act as a portfolio of existing work. Imagine someone is coming to it with no prior knowledge of you and your work, what impression do you want them to be left with? Think of the words and images you use, but also think of things like font and layout – all of these factors will be perceived as a reflection on you, and if anything looks cluttered, hard to read, or disorganised, you may well be giving that message about your work style.
7. Get opinions. It is important to get outsider perspectives on your brand because, if you are aiming to be too radically different from how others are seeing you, this could generate a friction and you may not be received as you’d like to be. Aim to ask a cross-section of people, rather than simply those loved ones who adore you anyway! At your next interview, ask your interviewer for sincere feedback, or, if you do creative work, try and find an unbiased source of feedback. Encourage honesty and try not to get upset if it isn’t exactly what you want to hear, as they might not be as honest in the future. They are your market whether you like what you hear or not, and real-world recipients of your “product” will likely be far more critical.
8. Get some professional photos. If you and your brand are published anywhere, from a website, to a local magazine, to a national newspaper (!) it’s good practice to have some photos ready (avoiding the panic of last minute shots against the living room wall with your low-spec digital camera). Quality photos are also great for your online brand as people will begin to recognise your face. Think about what you want the photos to say and talk with your photographer about this. Consider your backdrop, whether you want the images in colour or black and white, and if you want to be holding anything like a copy of your work or something more informal like a mug of coffee. All of these things will send out a message about you and what you do.
9. Create a logo and tagline for yourself. This may seem silly at first, but it can be an excellent creative process for thinking of yourself as a brand. Even if it is simply scribbles in a notebook, getting something down on paper will help to clarify the way you want to present yourself. If you get something you’re happy with, it may be worth the investment in a professional graphic designer to establish your initial drawings as a digital “identity” on business cards and the web.
10. Be prepared to change. This may seem a strange point after my many mentions of consistency, but consistency needn’t rule out adaptability. With constant changes in technology, ways of living, people’s desires etc., you won’t get away with stagnancy in your market. Yes, you should keep an ultimate goal and a clear core message, but if your market changes, you must change with it. Stay on top of these changes by regularly repeating steps one, two and seven.
Do you see yourself as a personal brand? Have you made initial steps but want to develop it further? Lord knows mine is a little muddy! Share your thoughts/experiences in the comments.