Your personal brand needs a strategy.
If you’ve been managing your personal brand at all, chances are that you’ve been using social media, given the explosive growth in vehicles that help you to manage your brand — to help you to feel both validated and appreciated. You’ve amassed 500+ connections on LinkedIn and hundreds of friends on Facebook. Indeed, you’ve created a voice. But what, precisely are you saying? And whom are you saying it to? Using what platforms? And why? Focusing on tactics without a strategy is likely to lead to frustration – for you and your viewers.
Social media is one of many tools to help build your personal brand – and it can be quite an effective one, when used strategically as one of many platforms. But a personal brand is more than a collection of social media profiles. An effective personal brand that creates opportunities is grounded in a solid, well-researched personal branding strategy. Simply being thoughtful, intuitive, and efficient isn’t enough to differentiate you from your competitors in a meaningful way.
Strategy is more important than ever in personal branding because of the volume of people and brands competing for attention on social media vehicles. There is a cacophony of noise in social media, and there are limits to any one individual’s ability to sustain meaningful participation across platforms and communities. If you are using social media to manage your personal brand, the vehicles you use, them, and what your message is should be guided by a strategy that dictates how these tools fit in to your overall professional goals.
What is Strategy?
A strategy is a blueprint that guides how you will channel your resources to achieve specific goals. Key components of an effective personal branding strategy include:
- Your unique selling proposition, or personal brand statement (i.e., what you do better than others);
- Your target audience (i.e., who needs your offering);
- Your pricing (i.e., what you will charge for your services,); and
- Your plan (i.e., tactics you’ll use) to connect with your target market.
Personal Brand Strategy
The heart of your personal brand strategy is your personal brand statement.
Your personal brand statement should reflect the strategic competitive advantage you offer employers or clients. Therefore, the process to define your statement should begin with a thoughtful assessment of your talents and core competencies.
This self-assessment is often the hardest part of the process, yet it is essential to grasp this precisely before you communicate with your target.
A relevant, differentiated positioning lies at the crossroads of three questions:
- “What do I do?”
- “Whom do I do it for?”
- “How do I do it?”
When reviewing your work history, identify what problems you’ve help to solve for others. Look at the problem, the actions you took, and the results. In what types of situations and workplaces do you thrive? What types of clients, co-workers, or supervisors to you work most effectively with? Are you a specialist — offering a narrow yet deep skill set –or a generalist? Let your record guide you. In addition, get feedback from current and former colleagues, clients and classmates, focusing on those who can give you the most objective feedback. Don’t focus on credentials or keywords, or building a “rock-star” profile. Rather, focus on situations in which you created value – on how your work has led others to success.
As part of this self-assessment process, review your industry and the market segments you currently compete in – or that you seek to become competitive in. How can you differentiate yourself from others who offer similar services? Do you target a specialized market segment, rather than the middle? Defining who you provide services to (i.e., your target market) is a key component of your positioning strategy. Precisely defining your target allows you to identify how you solve their problems better than your competitors can. This exercise will force you to make choices; you cannot be all things to all people.
Development of Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Now that you’ve answered the three core questions (what, who, how), you’re ready to craft a relevant, differentiated positioning.
Example of a strong positioning statement:
“To be known as the best in my field” is not a strategic positioning statement. It’s too broad, and fails to accomplish what a strategy should do by helping you to focus your resources on a clear message. Your positioning statement should focus on the results you create – not on your degrees, credentials, or years of experience.
The positioning can be stated as: “We provide this service, value or outcome (What) … for this type of market (Who) … using this kind of approach (How).” Remember, this should reflect your uniqueness.
Once you’ve done the groundwork and have a clear understanding of the promise of value you offer the market, you can begin crafting profiles and content that truly reflect what you can deliver. Then you can focus on crafting an authentic message using tools that will effectively reach your target audience – an approach that is radically more effective than proclaiming yourself an ‘expert,” keyword-stuffing, or using hyperbole to get noticed. Your authentic voice may surprise you in its effectiveness.