Not so long ago, your personal brand would have been limited to a throwaway clause at the top of your resume – something along the lines of “creative, organized self-starter looking for a job in this industry.”
Back then, your resume was a foot to get you in the door of a group of candidates whose numbers would be limited by location, skill set, and education. Your self-summary, as it were, was not going to be the thing that caught an employer’s attention… that would be up to your degree, your last work experience, and even your grade-point average.
Today, prospective employers have access to literally millions of potential candidates. The only way for you to get yourself noticed is to get their attention and keep it. And why not take a cue from corporate America and put together a really great brand for yourself?
Think about some of the world’s most memorable marketing campaigns. Coca-Cola: It’s the Real Thing. Miller Lite: Tastes Great, Less Filling. New York Life: The Company You Keep.
Certainly a slogan is not going to get you a job. But think about the images these slogans inspire – fizzy beverages and stable money-managers. These companies have created their images over a long period of time through ever-evolving, but consistent, marketing messages. These messages are aimed at key target audiences – customers. There’s no reason trying to sell Coca-Cola or Miller Lite to a religious group than prohibits the use of caffeine or alcohol. Likewise, you shouldn’t aim your message at audiences that have no use for you or your skills; once people have realized that you are a documented time-waster, no one will give you the time of day.
In personal branding, it’s important to note that the brand you create will likely become your personal and professional brand. If you’re a corporate attorney, it’s probably a good idea to keep your dominatrix hobby away from your public messages. You aren’t the president of Coca-Cola or some big company whose branding stands on its own no matter what you do; you are your brand.
Your brand, in effect, is your trademark. It will build trust and an emotional relationship with your audience. You can’t afford to have stray messages that confuse the issues floating around out there.
In order to create a message, narrow down your focus. Who are you? What do you do? Why are you good at it? Why are you better at it than others in your field? What are your talents, and where did you go to school? I have had no end of good luck pulling clients from the ranks of graduates of my Alma Mater – don’t underestimate the power of school spirit, especially if your team is on a winning streak.
Also consider the specific goals and fears of your potential client. If your client is an investment banker, he will be afraid of a loss of trust. If your client sells burgers and fries, he is afraid of medical reports warning of health problems and obesity issues surrounding these types of foods. Use the concerns to streamline your brands.
Finally, come up with your slogan. What is it that describes you? Come up with a sentence – an easy way to do this is develop a play on a term in common usage, or a very simple, unarguable statement.
After you’ve developed your message, build a campaign around it. Part of Coca-Cola’s great success was the company’s detailed attention to marketing. Your message needs to be everywhere you are, and it needs to be consistent and simple. After you’ve garnered the attention you want, you can expand your brand – but always keep close to your key message.