In part 1 of this 3-part series, we learned that house cleaning and foundation building/reinforcement are crucial to prepare the infrastructure for promoting yourself professionally. In this article, we will learn how to begin the process of branding and positioning yourself. You see, there are many people with a degree in whatever they studied. So if I’m an employer looking for new talent, how do I separate the one who scraped by and got his or her degree, but really has no original thought to contribute as a future leader, innovator and contributor to society and my company, and the one who does?
Now this may sound harsh, but you and I both know not everyone takes school seriously. If you wish to argue the point, just take a look at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and see the posts chronicling four years of higher education (you better believe prospective employers will). What you will find are Ph.D.’s earned in beer consumption, body art and geological studies at the beach, combined with biology—not much in blogging and sharing a cogent perspective on the state of the industry they spent $50,000 to be a part of. A very sobering reality for a company about to invest thousands to train and select their future most valuable assets. Are you getting the picture?
So you cleaned house and removed anything that needed removing. That’s great, but it doesn’t show what you DO have to contribute. This is where the rubber meets the road! You need to make sure you now reinforce the infrastructure we discussed in part 1, with substance; not a regurgitation of what everyone else is saying, but your own unique perspective.
Now, I must clarify a bit here. While some marketing experts will debate what I am about to say, because many companies are presumptuous enough to think they can control everything; the reality is that you do not position yourself. Your public positions you.
With that said, it doesn’t mean you don’t market how you would LIKE to be positioned and hope your audience sees what you want them to see (sometimes they do; sometimes they don’t), but make no mistake—they decide your positioning. You see, branding and positioning are like character and reputation. You are in control of your character (who you are and what you do when no one is looking), but your friends, family and associates are in control of your reputation (how they see you and speak to others about you). Well, you are in control of your branding (your logo, look and feel, the content you share and how you share it, etc.), but how it’s perceived by your audience is a totally different thing!
Salem Communications is a Christian radio network. I’ve been listening to them for years and would always hear them use different slogans (how they would like to be positioned). One day, a listener called in and shared how the local affiliate (570 AM WTBN in St. Petersburg, Florida) had been a huge support to her in times of crisis. When she would listen, she would here sermons speaking to the very struggles she was enduring. Then she said it… “Your radio station is LIFE-CHANGING RADIO!” Booyah!!! They were positioned and have run with it ever since!
So depending on what you share, how you respond to your public, what your branding looks like and what niche you decide to promote will all determine how you are perceived (positioned). So while we are mentioning branding, let’s look at that.
As I stated in part 1, you are a product in the marketplace. Well, every product needs branding to identify it and separate itself from the competition. And make no bones about it, your fellow students are competition.
If you remember the old movie westerns (you may not have seen any, since the oldies of Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie and John Wayne movies are not on the list of Millennial’s favorite movies and TV shows), you would undoubtedly see how the old ranchers would brand their cattle with their family logo or crest, with a hot branding iron. This was done for two reasons:
1. Not everyone’s beef was of good quality; hence once a ranch had a good reputation for quality meat, business was steady and growing.
2. If anyone tried to steal their cattle (cattle thieves were rampant back then, like copycat products today), they could find their cattle (their product) by the brand on its hide. This was early-American trademarking.
Fast forward into the 20th and 21st century, and branding has becoming how a company burns their brand with a hot-mental poker onto the minds of their public. You need to brand yourself.
You may be thinking, “Is this premature?” I submit to you it’s not. A logo will do several things for you:
1. It will identify you at a glance. Once people get to know you, when you share your content and they see your logo, they will instantly know they have another great article to read from a well-known and trusted source.
2. It elevates your game. When you start to promote yourself like a business, something happens psychologically—you take it seriously! Why? You are putting yourself out there for all to see and in order to be successful, you instinctively know it must be of good quality, and you must be reliable. In other words, if you share at a specific time, day and place, you must continue to do so to keep your audience, because they become dependent on your content.
3. It projects this level of seriousness and professionalism to prospective employers. Think about it. How many students do this? Very, very few! The ones who do, project a level of confidence, determination and commitment that is very enticing to a prospective employer.
This is going to be the most important part of your marketing. Your website will be your hub—all things will be linked to it and everyone will go to it. No matter what you do:
…everyone eventually lands on your website. If you don’t have one, you’re not considered serious. And it cannot be a humdrum website (some template built, no marketing consideration, written poorly with bland images site). With all the choices today and everyone being bombarded in social media, on their smartphones and in email—people filter their content. So if your site is not the very best it could be in look and feel, user experience, simplicity, substantive content, with ease of navigation and impact—they won’t come back. You will have wasted all your effort, time and money for nothing.
Okay, you have your logo and website; now you have to provide a way to ensure when you speak to potential employers and consumers of your content that you can hand them a business card that MAKES them want to go to your website and join your blog. You will want to add a QR code to the back of the card, so people can take a picture with their smartphone and it will take them directly to your site.
All these things we’ve discussed in part 1 and this article, are part of a system. If any piece is missing or step skipped, it will be the Achilles’ heel that will leave you wondering why it’s not working.
I know this reads harshly at times, but coddling is what got many students in the position they are today. Public school was more concerned with self-esteem and not offending anyone, even if it was truth they were withholding. If a person does not know he or she needs to improve, why would they? So many future business leaders entered college with an entitlement mentality that the real world does not offer, and they don’t have the luxury of planning their life around—because it is a formula for disaster.
Therefore, with your housecleaning done, your foundation-building on the way and your website ready for promotion and blogging, it’s time to start actually marketing yourself—to start sharing that unique perspective in the making, which will make you stand out from those repeating what they hear. So stay tuned for the next article, Joining the Conversation and Getting Direction.