How Smart Women Brand Themselves for Business Success
How Smart Women Brand Themselves for Business Success
By Catherine Kaputa
Success for a woman - whether as an entrepreneur, a professional or a corporate executive in a Fortune 500 company (or any company these days) - requires careful, calculated branding, both to enter the arena and to stay in the game. And double that if you want to succeed at the very highest levels in your profession.
Look at Katie Couric: well known, well connected, and well paid. Even she developed a full-scale self branding campaign to secure the job as the first woman solo anchor at CBS.
The problem? Couric needed a strategy to counter her critics who said she lacked the “gravitas” and hard news credentials for the job.
The cornerstone of her rebranding campaign? According to the New York Observer newspaper, Couric and her people put together a 15-page “image” book. It positioned Couric as anchor material page after page by highlighting the famous people she had interviewed, her early days as a reporter covering the Pentagon and many awards and achievements. And, of course, it downplayed the softer side of Couric’s experience.
The truth is, smarts and hard work are not enough to ensure career success for anyone, not even Katie Couric. But tapping into the principles and strategies from the commercial world of brands can help propel career success. Here are some of the self branding ideas from my new book, U R a Brand! How Smart People Brand Themselves for Business Success to get you going:
Tap into “brand strategy” and “soft power”
Self branding is about developing a personal strategy that positions you differently from others and formulating the tactics that get you from A to B all the way to Z. Branding is also about “soft power” - forging an appealing image and visual identity and harnessing the power words, sound bites and verbal identity. It’s about building visibility and a reputation in some arena.
Be aware of perceptions - other people’s perceptions about you.
If people think you are on top of your game, you will be. If people think you’re a B player, you will be – until you change their perceptions. You success in business or life is based on perceptions, other people’s perceptions of who you are, how good you are, and even what you are worth. Branding strategies and tactics can help you build the right perceptions in the minds of others about you.
The cardinal rule of branding is, “Be different.” Brand strategy is about pinpointing relevant differences and creating positive perceptions. It’s the same with people. It used to be about, “Can you do the job?” Today many people can do what you do. So it has to be about something more.
Branding for people is about finding your Big Idea – your unique selling proposition (USP). The USP is the big idea that brands are always searching for. A USP gives a brand a compelling value proposition with its target audience. Likewise, you want to represent something special that sets you apart from others and establishes a value equation for you and your abilities.
Another key tenet of branding is, “Be relevant.” That’s why marketers frequently conduct a brand audit - studying a brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – called the SWOT analysis. You can do the same.
The SWOT analysis is an intensive look at your strengths, and weaknesses in a real-world framework. “Strengths” and “weaknesses,” the first two areas, deal with you. Start with skills, experience and accomplishments. Then expand the list to include personality traits. Expand it to include anyone you have ever known or ever met, or anything you have ever explored or been interested in. The “opportunities” and “threats” deal with things that could affect you in the future. What is going on that could dramatically change things? Business is dynamic so there is always movement and change.
Create a powerful “self-brand package.”
It may seem superficial. It may be unfair. We may not like it. After all, why should you be judged by your looks? Self-presentation – your visual identity – is important because of the link people make between what something looks like on the outside and what is on the inside. We do this today despite all the familiar admonitions, such as “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
That’s why you should think about visual identity like brand managers do. The good news for people is that ideas of “appealing,” “attractive” and “successful” have expanded tremendously today.
Harness the power of verbal identity
The words you use can be powerful and memorable or blow away like a feather in the wind. What if President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had not crossed out the phrase “world history” and replaced it with “infamy” in his Pearl Harbor address. One little word. And today Roosevelt’s phrase is arguable the most famous ever uttered by a U.S. president.
Brands try to won a word, or a short phrase, in the minds of consumers. If they succeed, people think of the brand when they hear the word, and vice-versa. For example, “overnight” is FedEx, and “safety” is identified with Volvo. Owning a word helps people too. Your word can be a positive attribute that defines you, your philosophy or your accomplishments. Smart business people use a defining word or phrase in defining key initiatives or the business philosophy at their company.
Become a little bit famous.
In self-branding, we’re talking of being famous for something – an idea, a belief system, an accomplishment, an area of excellence. And we’re talking about visibility on some level – your industry, your company, your community, even the nation if you’re ambitious.
Visibility – what advertisers call mindshare - brings big rewards. You can get a higher price for your services or a bigger salary. People will seek you out. That’s because of the connection people make between something that’s well-known being better than something that is not. (“She must be good, or why would she be so well known?”
Develop an action plan to move the plot along – the plot to your career and life story.
Defining a great self-brand strategy is one thing. Making it a reality is another. Brand managers use a marketing plan to tie it all together to achieve your goals and you should, too. A self brand action plan includes the following: goals, target markets, the self-brand strategy, time frame, tactics and measurement. Throughout your career, your reputation and the perception people have about you is constantly changing whether you do anything or not. If you’re trying to move up the ladder in your career, you should prepare a “Brag Book” like Katie Couric did that positions you apart from competitors , maximizes your assets, and demonstrates that you have the track record for the job.
Remember. If you don’t keep a successful narrative going with new developments and accomplishments, the story line could get away from you, and you will be regarded as yesterday’s sensation.
Catherine Kaputa is a brand strategist, speaker and workshop leader. She is the author of U R a BRAND! How Smart People Brand Themselves for Business Success (www.urabrand.com). Kaputa is founder of SelfBrand, a brand consultancy that works with companies, products, and individuals (www.selfbrand.com).