If you lead a company’s marketing efforts as the Chief Marketing Officer, then it’s reasonable to assume that your mastery of marketing strategy is the launch pad for lucrative product suites. That’s an enviable professional story to tell. Despite a long career, you are an early adopter, and wide-ranging knowledge of how to align “old-school” insight with current social media marketing tools has stamped you as a trusted thought leader within and without. To your company, you are the solid partner who builds a culture of marketing execution for all channels, and to your external clients, you’ve earned a reputation as the practical and creative idea generator who always finds the needle in the marketing haystack when no one else can or does.
You visualize, craft and grow brands with sustainability. But are you on a collision course to destroy the one brand nearest and dearest to you personally—and professionally? In less than 60 seconds?
Ask yourself why, then, you have avoided applying even a few core concepts of branding to yourself? Put another way, what would it take to help you transfer your knowledge and expertise of marketing to personal brand growth? You know: you’ve heard a lot of buzz about personal branding in the last decade. Politicians hire big-deal consultants to help brand themselves before their opponents do. Executives at the very top navigate the choppy waters of brand reputation on a regular basis. For all strivers, a polished personal brand can be the most important arrow in your career quiver. Don’t worry about any disconnect, however, because you—especially you—have the appropriate mindset to recalculate and express a vibrant personal brand. The natural barriers to the personal brand solution are somewhat subjective by nature, and no one is at fault here. So let’s take a look at the first steps in your new personal marketing plan.
Avoid Abundant Mythologies
The Theory of the Case:
Everyone needs a résumé, correct? The short answer is an obvious “yes” if you’re in the market to explore career opportunities and pursue access to high-end recruiters, or penetrate the senior executive management tier of companies that you target. The longer answer is “no” if you want to do anything more in the way of solving the personal brand + career satisfaction = success equation. By that I mean having a product in your hand that is much more elastic and incorporates multiple components for a broad spectrum of marketing applications.
Don’t Fall Into the Anti-Brand Trap
Templates are useful and important tools that help establish a framework for a project or product. However, they are the start and not the end point because each template must be customized to be useful. Anything else is a one-dimensional piece fresh from an assembly line. If you were to create a product portfolio where each part was embedded into the whole—complete with an exquisitely rendered brand—you would deliver that to your clients and expect to get results. Of course—you would, and you have. Why not do the same while creating a career portfolio that is a branded product instead of something that walks and talks as if it came from off the shelf?
Avoid Abundant Mythologies? Actually, Explode Mythologies & Launch a Turnaround
The Career Marketing Plan that Drives Your Brand
Before you buy several career guides and résumé books, or look for free samples online, think like a marketing chieftain and lead yourself right out of the trap. If I took away all of the mechanics of what you assume a great résumé should be, you would be left with an 8 ½” x 11” blank space that I’d like you to think of as your whiteboard. And it would be a whiteboard with no design restrictions, no content requirements and no conceptual hurdles to leap over that trigger the wrong question: “What do the hiring managers want?” Go ahead—have some fun, and be fearless! Your new “page one” is like a car in a junkyard stripped of its parts. Bid farewell to the wrong vehicle that never communicated your brand well in the first place.
As a marketing maven, you understand the difference between “want” and “need” and it’s the need side of the scorecard that will drive not only the résumé but your personal brand as well. The only leap that you need to make is one that taps into your business imagination and expresses your values with clarity and distinction.
My fundamental approach to creating any copy for any reason is that the start point is STRATEGY. Absent a strategy, you will stumble and find your task more than daunting. Instead of real writing you will be dumping data onto your whiteboard that has no clear purpose. How could you possibly expect that anyone who reads your page one will be able to identify, assimilate and embrace your unique characteristics, accomplishments and promise of value in the marketplace if you don’t identify and broadcast these personal brand features strongly and consistently?
Fact or Myth?
Assume that almost all of your “end users” will first scan your résumé to figure out who you are. If you accept the “30-Second Scan” proposition, then what do you think is going to happen if you litter your page one with ambiguous verbiage that’s bloated with jargon and all-too-familiar catchphrases? Hints: Senior Marketing Executive; results-driven; detail-oriented; experienced; excellent communicator. These are but a few deadly examples.
Imagine packing an opening summary piece with broad headlines and worn-out platitudes into a paragraph of prose that’s formulaic. If nothing else, you are on the wrong side of the road and you are well on your way to ruining “the great brand of YOU” instead of anchoring your uniqueness. All it took was a scan of less than 60 seconds!
Career Marketing Plan Checklist
Here are some first-step, basic activities to build your strategy:
Review! Review! Review!
If you have an old résumé or bio, read it several times and prune out your best achievements over the course of your career. Select anywhere from five to seven “ bullets” regardless of where they appear on your timeline. Do you notice any similarities or emerging themes that provide the context to what you accomplished? Write them down onto a scratch pad. Identify the unique attributes, and you can lay out the initial expression of your personal brand.
Boil the Brand.
Capture your brand concisely in a few sentences without sloganizing. Does this differentiate you in the market? Would it have any strong emotional appeal to your clients, or end-users?
Compare and contrast.
If you have built and shepherded a great brand, analyze how you did this, i.e., the process. How was that brand uniquely positioned? Write down the story behind that brand’s success. Now compare that process to the development of your personal brand. What can you learn from your branding and marketing story that applies to you? In other words, if you are the product, how can you translate that into compelling copy?
Be a Master Storyteller.
Remember your whiteboard? Don’t fill in the blanks yet. Instead, take those bullets and turn them into stories that are interesting and relevant to the marketplace. Write as much as you want. If I were to help you execute this, I’d guide you with these points: elevate the stories by using language that is sophisticated and not hyped; eliminate as many adjectives as you can and use some principles of exceptional writing and branding. This means “Show, don’t tell.” Give me hard data and don’t dance around the value—let the story itself drive that. More than that, will your stories get me into your head and not your work cubicle or office?
Personal Brand Futurist
Obviously, there is a lot more work to do to create your page one and animate it with your personal brand. But if you can execute some basic steps recommended here, you’ve already nailed down the hardest part in personal career branding. The product? Make it more than a résumé and turn it into a portfolio with the go-long strategy. Think of it as an executive smartphone with multiple “apps” e.g., short-form to long-form content for social media; consulting projects; articles, speeches and traditional media; shaping and promoting a new business mission post-turnaround or M&A. In a highly competitive, overcrowded marketplace, this can raise your visibility and attract the market to you.