It’s been almost ten years since Tom Peters first talked about it –- imagine you’re the CEO of your own company: Me, Inc. What makes you different? What are you better at than anyone else? What do your style and voice look like?
“To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
It was true then of Web sites as it is now of blogs: anyone can have one. And because the cost of entry with tools such as Joomla, Blogger, Typepad, Movable Type, and WordPress is so much lower, many people do. What guides your choices of blogs to visit, to comment on, to subscribe to? The answer is quite simple: branding.
The blogs you include in your daily reading diet are the ones you have come to trust. They are the ones where the brand experience tells you that a visit will be well worth your time, over and over. The brand promise those blogs keep is the value you continue to receive.
If you think about it, today’s blogs are very much like mini services organizations. When you self publish, you own very little in physical assets. In many cases, you don’t even own a server –- your blog is hosted elsewhere. So the assets are chiefly what you bring to the table. You’ve enlisted yourself, you do the work, in some cases join a team, and you start to figure out how to deliver value to your readers -– whether they are buyers or not.
As the chief marketing officer of Me, Inc., you will need to answer a couple of questions for yourself and for the reader.
What Makes You Different?
Even if you have a regular — do we still say day(?) — job, you will need to begin thinking about yourself in a new way. I’ve worked in nonprofits organizations and in corporate America my whole career — five industries, marketing products and services. I still do. Yet, when you come into contact with me, what I write in my blog, and the conversations we have at live events, I am quite clearly Brand Me.
What are your favorite brands? I’m partial to Benetton, Prada, The Body Shop, Adidas and Armani. What I’m saying is that you’re every bit as much a brand as those. The brand managers at those companies have asked themselves the same question you should ask yourself: what is it that makes what I do and write about different?
Write down your answer and take a look at it. Does it light you up? Would someone coming into contact with your work see it? Keep writing down all of the qualities you think you have that nobody else does. What have you done lately to stand out? What would your readers say to qualify you?
Think in terms of features and benefits. A feature is something you possess; a benefit is what’s in it for the reader. One of my features is that I pay very close attention to everyone I come into contact with –- I listen actively, I am interested in their story, I want to learn about them and from them. The benefit for you: you feel interesting and welcome. An ultimate benefit to all: I get to know a lot of people well and I am a better connector because of it.
Do your example. I’ll be waiting here.
Done? Good. Now think about those characteristics in terms of value. What can someone see as measurable, distinctive, belonging just to you? If you look at all that you know and all that you can do, what are the things that make you most proud of? You got it! One more step. Ask yourself, what do you want to be remembered for?
What’s Your Pitch?
Now that you know what you’re about and want to be famous for, you will need to develop and practice a pitch. This is a brief, natural-sounding (please), statement you use when introducing yourself in conversations. Since you don’t have the budget of an Armani brand, you will need to do all the work of getting a consistent message about you at every opportunity you have.
You are already doing it with your blog. You decided on a topic or topics, created or had help in creating a design, structured a menu of categories, maybe you have a blogroll. Everything on the site talks about your brand, from the colors you selected, to the decisions you made about adding feed counters, email subscriptions, widgets, etc.
How do you get people who are not online and should know about your work to visit your blog? Join professional associations or initiatives that cater to your audience. Help the local community in any way that makes sense to raising your personal standing. If your reach is quite regional or global, find those places and people you want to meet, online and off line, and introduce yourself.
The point is that visibility multiplies itself –- the concept wasn’t born with blogs. The more people you know and who know you, the better exposure your brand gets the more upside to your brand. Remember that everything matters when you’re promoting Brand You. Every single thing you do, write, and say –- even all those things you choose not to join and do.
Now take a look at your business card. Do you have one? What does it look like? Maybe you don’t need a logo; still does your brand come through visually? Is the information on the card consistent with your blog?
And keep in mind that your personal circle of friends and contacts can be your best ally when it comes to your personal branding campaign –- they are your word of mouth marketers.
Why is it Important?
Having a strong personal brand is the equivalent of having influence power. I was in a discussion with a colleague not long ago about this very topic. No matter what your title or social standing, influence is a very powerful currency. For me, the more I expand the network of people I know, the more the people in it can benefit from the resources and ideas contained in it.
Your about page is not a resume or a sterile list anymore. It is a portfolio of Brand You stories: project deliverables, achievements, and things you got done. It’s a living and breathing marketing brochure.
Another benefit of Me, Inc. is the partnerships you have formed over time. These are your colleagues, friends, and like-minded professional connections. They can be not only your loyal allies; they can also be the user groups for a periodical review and check of your brand. Are you still writing interesting and fresh content? Do people feel the passion from your work come through?
Many of you blog because this is a way to reinvent yourself, share information, uncover and learn new practices, better yet to invent them. What does Brand You stand for?
It’s hard to believe that this content is as fresh today as it was ten years ago, isn’t it? Ah, and one more thing –- a strong, resonant brand can be a lifesaver when it comes to reputation. That will be the topic of another post. For now, just remember that your brand is the sum total of all the impressions you create and give as well as the perception that others have of you. What will you do differently today?