Just this week, I presented an interactive seminar, Personal Brand: Your Career Value-Add to dozens of international postdoctoral and MBA graduate students at NC State University. I was asked by the Director of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs as part of the university’s professional development series.
Personal branding is a vast topic, with about 49 million results when the term is Googled. Whereas ‘corporate brand’ and ’employer brand’ yield an average of 26 million hits.
After my introductory story about beginning my career as a technical recruiter and finding ways to make my hiring managers STAND OUT (remember, this was 1997 and clearly an employee’s market), I orchestrated the launch of the first class exercise.
I directed the class to break out into ‘pods’ and then collaborate to answer one question:
“Share views and ideas and come up with one sentence to answer the question, What is a brand?”
As I walked around the room to listen to the conversations develop, I became excited to hear some really key words get expressed. “Unique!” “Emotional!” “Promise!” The groups synergized and after about 10 minutes I had them present their best efforts to the rest of the group. Here is what I captured:
- A marketing tool/concept that distinguishes the recognizable uniqueness of me from others
- Way of differentiation through invoked emotion
- An image or essence that is progressively built through experience
- A carefully created campaign which serves as a memory trigger to make audience feel emotional toward the brand
- A unique and memorable technical and emotional connection
- A differentiator or modifier that makes you unique and connects with your target audience
- Easily recognizable name/logo that conveys personality, image, and reputation
As the groups elaborated on their responses, I found it interesting how the groups each came up with such different perspectives and yet all accurate definitions. ‘Brand’ for them meant different things, depending on their collective pod or individual perspectives. Tough to put a finger on a ‘one size fits all’ definition for this diverse group!
We next moved to specific brands. I flashed different logos on the big screen…asking the group to shout out the product or service name as soon as they knew it.
“PEPSI!!!” The class clearly delighted in this visual.
“Mercedes…” Easily recognizable by nearly all in the room.
It took a realizable hesitation, and then some of the class murmured, “Girl Scouts.”
‘What happened to the recognition?” I asked the class…”What didn’t you all shout it out as loudly as with the first two?”
Participants indicated they either did not remember where they had seen the logo before or had never seen it before.
The answer to this was hit upon by one of the more active participants when he said, “Because Girl Scouts is for young women and girls and many of us here are not women and so we are not the intended target audience for the brand.”
The balance of the class explored the building of a cache of attributes, skills, and soft skills which may be analyzed and considered and communicated toward a select target audience in a specific Unique Proposition of Value. A truly concerted effort in these and other areas of ‘brand discovery’ is the first step in unearthing your personal brand.
The seminar participants agreed that they learned that:
- Like the Girl Scouts realize, it doesn’t not matter if your message does not reach the world. We cannot be ALL things to ALL people, we want to be ‘selectively famous’ in OUR world (either profession, industry, or geography).
- Once a brand message is identified, it must be clearly and consistently conveyed their brand message to that audience.
- That great brands elicit emotional responses to their name, logo, or some other representation (think Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa, Tiger Woods).
Don’t wait, get started and understand what your brand is and how others view you. It’s the first step to discovering your personal brand! You’ll also love these free tools to gauge your online identity!
Live Brand YOU!
Kelly Welch, Chief Brand Strategist and president of YES Career Services is a veteran HR professional, is certified as: Personal Branding Strategist, Professional Resume Writer, Leadership and Career Management Coach, Online Identity Strategist, and is accredited by the International Coach Federation. Resourceful and creative, she is reputed for her dynamic insights and passionate commitment toward helping her corporate and private clients rebrand and position themselves for unbridled success.