Every company has one. Every not-for-profit. Every professional organization. Every celebrity. Every city. And as a career-minded marketer, you should too.
Your personal communications plan.
You are probably very familiar with the concept of communications planning. Perhaps you manage the communications for your company. Now you need to take that same communications expertise and apply it to yourself.
To build your personal brand, reach your goals, and increase your success and fulfillment, you'll need to increase your visibility and get your message out. But before you start spreadin' the news (in the words of Frank Sinatra), there are two important questions you must answer:
1. What am I going to say?
2. To whom am I going to say it?
What to Say
You must develop a message that clearly describes your unique promise of value. There's no sense spouting off about the health benefits of ginger if your goal is to become the managing director of a branding company. Your target audience needs to know what you stand for—what you have built your reputation on.
And just as with corporate brands, strong personal brands are known for something—not 10 things; so you must do some soul-searching and determine your area of thought-leadership. What makes you successful and differentiated from all those marketers out there who share your job title?
Your message must be...
- Authentic. It needs to come from the heart and be core to who you are and what you believe. You need to be able to demonstrate what you talk about, otherwise it is just hot air!
- Differentiated. It must stand out from what your colleagues and competitors are communicating. You won't get very far if you are sending a "me-too" message.
- Consistent. It needs to be the same all the time. Strong brands don't change. Be consistent and stay the course.
- Compelling. It must be something your target audience wants to hear. Don't sell ice to Eskimos. Think about what you can authentically express that will get the attention of your audience.
- Aspirational. Although based in authenticity, your message needs to be connected to the future, to where you want to take your marketing career. Remember, you are communicating so you can reach your goals. Keep them top of mind when you're expressing your message.
Just as Volvo doesn't waste time or money communicating its message of safety and security to 16-year old boys, you too must target your message so it falls on the ears of those people who will help you reach your goals. Your target audience—or brand community, as I like to call it—includes everyone who needs to know about you so you can be wildly successful: your peers inside and outside your company, senior executives in your industry and related industries, marketing executives, headhunters, hiring managers, influential thought-leaders in your field, your networking contacts, etc.
You must apply what you have learned (by answering the two questions above) to all of your communications tools. Your communications tools fall into three categories:
1. Standard career marketing materials
2. Online communications
3. Executive brand communications
Standard Career Marketing Materials
Your standard career marketing tools are essential to your success. You can't go anywhere without them. They include your resume (or CV), cover letter, bio, and professionally taken headshot. You must always keep them up to date, make them reflect your unique differentiation, and ensure they are compelling to hiring managers and executive recruiters. Ensure that the content, format, and delivery reinforce your personal brand—your unique promise of value.
It's the new world of work, and in this new world your online identity is often your entire identity. As the world becomes more and more virtual, your online identity becomes more and more important to your success. So face it, you're going to be googled: 75% of recruiters say they google candidates, and 23% of professionals in the workplace google their colleagues, managers, clients, etc.
To be successful in your career, you need to ensure that your online identity is consistent with your personal brand and compelling to hiring managers, executive recruiters, and other members of your target audience; and it must be current—reflecting who you are right now. Your online identity must augment and reinforce the messages in your standard marketing materials.
The best way to ensure that your online identity is congruent with your offline identity is to build your own Web site or blog. This gives you control over the message that is being communicated about you. If you are not quite ready for your own space on the Web, you can build your online identity through existing Web sites. Posting comments to blogs that address topics that are relevant to you and posting online reviews of books are great ways to build your online identity.
Your standard communications and online communications tools are essential. Without them, you won't get in to see an executive recruiter and you won't be considered a candidate for that Director of Marketing job. But those are just table stakes that get you into the game. To truly advance your career and build your personal brand, you need to layer onto these communications other expressions of your unique value that will bolster your thought leadership and further separate you from your marketing peers. I call these advanced communications tools your Executive Brand Communications.
Executive Brand Communications
As a career-minded professional, you need to make a proactive plan to build your personal brand through all forms of communications, including writing articles, delivering presentations, writing whitepapers, authoring books, taking on board positions with organizations, etc.
The key to effective executive communications is to build your annual media plan. You can then pursue all of these communications activities to ensure that your message is heard and appreciated by all the members of your target audience.
Here's an example of a media plan for a Senior Director of Marketing in a Healthcare Company:
- Deliver a presentation at the healthcare marketing conference
- Write one article for Brandchannel.com
- Deliver a presentation to my local AMA chapter
- Contribute comments every week to my two favorite marketing blogs
- Write a whitepaper about the role of viral marketing in field of pharmaceuticals
- Publish an article about marketing on my favorite healthcare portal
- Update my resume to reflect the recent project I will launch in September
- Get updated professional headshot taken
- Decide on the topic for my blog and initiate the blog by midyear. Prepare at least 12 posts before launching
- Run for the board of the local Healthcare Communications Society
- Find a coauthor for my book
- Update the look and feel of my career marketing materials so they reflect my brand attributes: "visionary, futurist, creative"
If you haven't built your personal brand communications plan for this year yet, now's the time to do it. Remember, before you put pen to paper or finger to key, think about what you want to say and who it is who needs to hear your message. Then go off communicating clearly and consistently and watch your success expand!
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