Don’t Look for a Job – Market Your Brand

The realities of a challenging global economy and after-effects of a recession in our country are unexpected educational experiences for recent college graduates. This year’s graduates have degree in-hand but in many cases have no guarantee of a job or immediate prospects. Young people are moving back home, searching earnestly for positions related to their college majors and in many cases taking jobs with little relevance to their chosen career.
I can empathize with the struggles young people are facing on two fronts. First, as a college professor one of my responsibilities is to help students launch their careers. I share with them the importance of building a professional network and encourage them to use tools like LinkedIn to engage in networking. Also, I stay engaged with the local business community to stay abreast of job opportunities for marketing majors. Second, in addition to my advisees who study under me, I am currently mentoring my flesh and blood advisee – my oldest son graduated with an Information Systems degree in May and is in the job market with thousands of other recent grads. On both fronts my advice is the same: Don’t look for a job – market your brand.
Job seekers are abundant; they flood Monster and Career Builder with résumés. The problem is that it is difficult to differentiate yourself as an employee when your mindset is to find a job. In contrast, when you are marketing your personal brand, your thoughts and actions serve to build your brand. Why is personal branding a big deal? Most job seekers do not think like a brand manager. Their focus is on finding a job. Employers are interested in how a candidate can add value to their organizations. Brands focus on creating and articulating value.  
My advice to job seekers (including my own Chris) is to manage and develop the 3Ms of a personal brand:
·         Meaning– Your values and beliefs that guide your priorities
·         Makeup – The skills, abilities, and training that are marketable competencies
·         Message– Communication of your qualifications and personality; Social media gives us numerous opportunities for spreading our message… if used correctly
It is a unique but daunting task to oversee the most important brand in the world: You. If you want a job, develop your brand and market it. When you define what you have to “sell” and are able to persuade others about the value you can deliver, the job opportunities will follow.

Your Story, Your Brand

I am a strong advocate of personal branding. As a college professor who serves students in their junior and senior years of business school, I introduce personal branding concepts in my classes. Students are encouraged to manage their professional careers using marketing principles learned in the classroom. It is a challenge for many people, especially if you are at the outset of your career, to embrace personal branding. Uncertainties about what to do or say as well as doubts of how one can add value for others are common obstacles to launching a personal brand.

One approach for simplifying the task of creating a personal brand is to build it around stories. This idea is not a suggestion to create fictional escapades but rather stories about events and people in your life that have shaped your values and purpose. Author Amber Mac gives three tips for how to base your personal brand on stories:

1. Discover Your Story – What are things that have happened to you that people would find interesting and create common ground?
2. Re-write Your Story – Craft a collection of “short stories” into your brand story. Stories do not replace credentials like education or skills, but they do add personality to your brand and can increase your brand’s appeal.
3. Share Your Story – It is communicated via your social networking pages, oral presentations, and personal interactions. Remember that the purpose is not to brag about you but to develop connections with other people.

Keep this in mind: stories are more interesting than facts, bullet point lists, and résumés. Think about brands you like and admire most- they probably have stories worth telling. The beauty of a storytelling approach to personal branding is that everyone has stories to share. Let your stories shape your brand.

Fast Company – “Mastering the Uncomfortable Art of Personal Branding”

Sell Dreams

As a professor who studies the marketing discipline as a passion and job requirement, I like to think that I am up on its fundamental tenets. However, it is always refreshing when I see marketing principles in action. A conversation with a business owner recently offered one of those moments.

I met the owner of a travel agency at a business networking meeting at which I made a presentation. As she told me about her business, she said that she owns a travel agency, but what she sells are dreams. Wow! What a powerful statement, but it is a mindset that is often lost on marketers and businesspeople in general.

We tend to define our business and careers by the industry sector or category in which we participate. I just realized I was guilty of it in my first sentence of this post! But, the value we add to the lives of customers and others does not reside in a sector or category label. Rather, the value comes from the impact we have on those people with whom we interact.

If any industry deserves sympathy for the rampant change that has taken place in the past 10-15 years, it is travel services. The transition of travel and lodging purchases to a self-service model online, 9/11 and resulting terrorism fears, and the recession have walloped virtually all businesses associated with travel. But, the travel agency owner said her business has succeeded for 20 years because she has never lost sight of what she does- selling dreams. Yes, travelers may be able to score lower prices buying directly (but not always). The agency’s expertise, network of contacts, and personal service bring comfort and assurance to the process of planning travel.

Define your business and personal brand by the value you deliver. It can be a differentiator between you and competitors stuck on defining themselves by industry and product. Sell dreams!

Brand Essence: Say it in 7

One of the best reads I have experienced this year has been The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry. Anyone who works in a creative field or wants to strengthen his or her creativity should read this book. Unlike many business books, The Accidental Creative goes beyond telling you what you should do and provides guidance on how to become “prolific, brilliant, and healthy.” I have been a fan of Henry’s Accidental Creative podcast for some time; it is a treasure trove of useful ideas for creatives.

An example of actionable ideas in The Accidental Creative is the concept of a 7-word bio. The idea is simple: distill what you do and who you are into a 7-word description. I see it as a cross between mission and position. While Henry discusses a 7-word bio as a tool for individuals (ideal for developing one’s personal brand), it has applicability for organizations, too. Drilling down to 7 words forces an organization to strip away grandiose proclamations and get away from wordy mission statements. In other words, cut to the chase and define what we are as an organization. What is the payoff of having a 7-word bio? It provides grounding and focus that guides decisions on what projects you take on and how you manage relationships.

This week, I have challenged students in my marketing communications class to develop a 7-word bio for their personal brand. It is a challenge I am taking on, too. What are your 7 words?

Brett Favre on Branding

I have a confession to make: I believe I am falling under the spell of Brett Favre. I have resisted the urge for years, but I have finally succumbed to his magical powers. As I watched the nearly 40-year-old quarterback carve up his former team, the Green Bay Packers, I thought about the qualities Favre exudes. Brett Favre’s mystique offers lessons that can be applied to branding, whether it is personal branding or managing a product brand. Here are four characteristics (would you expect any other number?) of Favre’s personal brand that any brand would benefit from possessing:

1. Distinctive – There are other quarterbacks, some of whom are very good, but there is only one QB with Favre’s style. He is not different for the sake of being different (like Cincinnati Bengals WR Chad Ocho Cinco), but he is genuinely different. Relevant difference is a key to winning in business and in life.

2. Consistent – Favre’s performance level has not changed dramatically over the years. His style of play is basically the same, and he shows up to play regardless of pain or injury. Brands must be consistent, too. When one encounters your brand, there should be no question about your identity and values.

3. Passionate – Favre cares deeply about what he does. Maybe that is one reason why he has had difficulty retiring from the game. He digs down and delivered some of his greatest performances when in the spotlight as he was against the Packers on Monday Night Football. Brands with passion resonate with consumers and the public. Authentic passion is noticeable; pretending to be passionate is not necessary!

4. Fun – Why is this guy smiling on the field when there are 11 people trying to hit him and hit him hard? He’s having fun at what he is doing. While carrying out 1-3, never lose sight of why you are doing what you are doing. What’s your purpose? What’s the mission you have set for the organization or yourself?

Thanks, Brett for the branding lesson. Now, if we could only get John Madden’s take on what we can learn about branding from Brett Favre!