Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Brand Called You


Reflect on these points and answer the questions as you build you brand.  Every 6 months look over your answers. Do you still uphold your plan and goals? What has worked for you? Where and how can you make improvements?

What makes You different? 


  • What is it that my product or service does that makes it different?
  • Identify the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors
  • What have you done lately -- this week -- to make yourself stand out? 
  • What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength? Your most noteworthy (as in, worthy of note) personal trait?
  • What is the "feature-benefit model" that the brand called You offers? Do you deliver your work on time, every time? Your internal or external customer gets dependable, reliable service that meets its strategic needs. Do you anticipate and solve problems before they become crises? Your client saves money and headaches just by having you on the team. Do you always complete your projects within the allotted budget? I can't name a single client of a professional services firm who doesn't go ballistic at cost overruns.
  • Forget your job title. Ask yourself: What do I do that adds remarkable, measurable, distinguished, distinctive value?
  • Forget your job description. Ask yourself: What do I do that I am most proud of?
  • Most of all, forget about the standard rungs of progression you've climbed in your career up to now. Burn that damnable "ladder" and ask yourself: What have I accomplished that I can unabashedly brag about?
  • What do I want to be famous for? That's right -- famous for!

What's the pitch for You?

  • It's a cliché: What motto do you have to make your brand stick?
  • Visibility, but no budget to buy it.
    • So how do you market brand You?
      • There's literally no limit to the ways you can go about enhancing your profile. Try moonlighting! Sign up for an extra project inside your organization, just to introduce yourself to new colleagues and showcase your skills -- or work on new ones. Or, if you can carve out the time, take on a freelance project that gets you in touch with a totally novel group of people. If you can get them singing your praises, they'll help spread the word about what a remarkable contributor you are.


      • If you're a better writer than you are a teacher, try contributing a column or an opinion piece to your local newspaper. And when I say local, I mean local. You don't have to make the op-ed page of the New York Times to make the grade. Community newspapers, professional newsletters, even inhouse company publications have white space they need to fill. Once you get started, you've got a track record -- and clips that you can use to snatch more chances.


      • If you're a better talker than you are teacher or writer, try to get yourself on a panel discussion at a conference or sign up to make a presentation at a workshop. Visibility has a funny way of multiplying; the hardest part is getting started. But a couple of good panel presentations can earn you a chance to give a "little" solo speech -- and from there it's just a few jumps to a major address at your industry's annual convention.


  • It all matters. When you're promoting brand You, everything you do -- and everything you choose not to do -- communicates the value and character of the brand.
    • Everything from the way you handle phone conversations to the email messages you send to the way you conduct business in a meeting is part of the larger message you're sending about your brand.
  • It’s a matter of substance: what you have to say and how well you get it said. But it's also a matter of style. 
    • On the Net, do your communications demonstrate a command of the technology?
    • In meetings, do you keep your contributions short and to the point? 
    • It even gets down to the level of your brand You business card: Have you designed a cool-looking logo for your own card? 
      • Are you demonstrating an appreciation for design that shows you understand that packaging counts -- a lot -- in a crowded world?
  • So the big trick to building your brand is to find ways to nurture your network of colleagues -- consciously.
    • The key to any personal branding campaign is "word-of-mouth marketing." Your network of friends, colleagues, clients, and customers is the most important marketing vehicle you've got; what they say about you and your contributions is what the market will ultimately gauge as the value of your brand.

What's the real power of You? 

  • If you want to grow your brand, you've got to come to terms with power -- your own. The key lesson: power is not a dirty word! It's influence power.
    • It's being known for making the most significant contribution in your particular area. It's reputational power. If you were a scholar, you'd measure it by the number of times your publications get cited by other people. If you were a consultant, you'd measure it by the number of CEOs who've got your business card in their Rolodexes. (And better yet, the number who know your cell phone number by heart.)


  • Skills that are necessary to build brand:
    • Getting and using power
      • Intelligently
      • Responsibly
      • And yes, powerfully
    • One of the things that attracts us to certain brands is the power they project. As a consumer, you want to associate with brands whose powerful presence creates a halo effect that rubs off on you. 
  • There are power trips that are worth taking
    • Is your team having a hard time organizing productive meetings? Volunteer to write the agenda for the next meeting. You're contributing to the team, and you get to decide what's on and off the agenda. When it's time to write a post-project report, does everyone on your team head for the door? Beg for the chance to write the report 
    • Remember the hand that holds the pen (or taps the keyboard) gets to write or at least shape the organization's history.
  • Most important, remember that power is largely a matter of perception. If you want people to see you as a powerful brand, act like a credible leader. The fact is you are a leader. You're leading You!


Project World makes it easier for you to assess -- and advertise -- the strength of brand You.


  • One key to growing your power is to recognize the simple fact that we now live in a project world.
    • If you're not spending at least 70% of your time working on projects, creating projects, or organizing your (apparently mundane) tasks into projects, you are sadly living in the past. Today you have to think, breathe, act, and work in projects.
  • When you look at your brand's assets, what can you add to boost your power and felt presence? 
  • Would you be better off with a simple line extension -- taking on a project that adds incrementally to your existing base of skills and accomplishments?
  • Or would you be better off with a whole new product line? 
  • Is it time to move overseas for a couple of years, venturing outside your comfort zone (even taking a lateral move -- damn the ladders), tackling something new and completely different?


 You don't have an old-fashioned résumé anymore! 

  • You've got a marketing brochure for brand You. 
    • Instead of a static list of titles held and positions occupied, your marketing brochure brings to life the skills you've mastered, the projects you've delivered, the braggables you can take credit for. 
  • Like any good marketing brochure, yours needs constant updating to reflect the growth -- breadth and depth -- of brand You.

What's loyalty to You?

  • It is loyalty to your colleagues, loyalty to your team, loyalty to your project, loyalty to your customers, and loyalty to yourself. 
  • Being CEO of Me Inc. requires you to act selfishly -- to grow yourself, to promote yourself, to get the market to reward yourself. 
  • You’ve got to check with the market on a regular basis to have a reliable read on your brand's value. 
  • How is brand You doing? Put together your own "user's group" 
    • Ask for -- insist on -- honest, helpful feedback on your performance, your growth, your value. 

What's the future of You?

A career is a portfolio of projects that teach you new skills, gain you new expertise, develop new capabilities, grow your colleague set, and constantly reinvent you as a brand.

  • What you want is a steady diet of more interesting, more challenging, more provocative projects. 
  • Instead of making yourself a slave to the concept of a career ladder, reinvent yourself on a semi-regular basis. 

Put it all in Writing! 

However you answer these questions, search relentlessly for job or project opportunities that fit your mission statement. And review that mission statement every six months to make sure you still believe what you wrote.

  • Write your own mission statement, to guide you as CEO of Me Inc. 
    • What turns you on? 
    • Learning something new?
    • Gaining recognition for your skills as a technical wizard?
    • Shepherding new ideas from concept to market?
    • What's your personal definition of success? Money? Power? Fame? Or doing what you love? 
  • There are four things you've got to measure yourself against. 
    • First, you've got to be a great teammate and a supportive colleague. 
    • Second, you've got to be an exceptional expert at something that has real value.
    • Third, you've got to be a broad-gauged visionary -- a leader, a teacher, a farsighted "imagineer."
    • Fourth, you've got to be a businessperson -- you've got to be obsessed with pragmatic outcomes.

Final Thought

It's this simple: You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else.

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