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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Be the Brand

A concise and clever personal story can people talking – and get you hired.

Be the Brand

What do ambitious professionals and Amazon products have in common? Each needs to be recommendable to rise through the ranks.

While written with brands in mind, a new book on how to generate word-of-mouth advertising and positive recommendations – trusted by 92 percent of consumers above all other forms of advertising, according to a 2012 Nielsen survey – also applies to people looking to enhance their reputation and advance their careers by generating buzz about their abilities and accomplishments, according to Paul M. Rand, author of “Highly Recommended: Harnessing the Power of Word of Mouth and Social Media to Build Your Brand and Your Business.” (McGraw-Hill, 2013)

Brands usually stand for something – such as reliability or innovation – and so should ambitious professionals, says Rand, chief digital officer of the public relations and marketing agency Ketchum as well as president and CEO of the agency’s digital and social unit Zócalo Group.

Just as buyers know what they’re going to get when they choose one well-branded product or service over another, higher-ups should have a sense of what they are going to get when a your name comes up for a promotion or an assignment. It’s up to you to create the impression, Rand says, and it starts by developing a “clear, purposeful and sharable story about how you want to be talked about.”

Although a colorful professional bio can’t hurt – think of Steve Jobs launching Apple in his parents’ garage and his subsequent, stratospheric rise – what Rand means by “story” can be as simple as a fill-in-the-blank statement: “I want to be seen as the best at…” or “I want my name to be synonymous with…” or “People who work with me will come to expect…”

Your story should reflect your values, passions and strengths. In other words, your “core self,” Rand says. That way, you can live up to it each and every day, which is key.

In fact, more than anything, your everyday performance will determine what others think and say about you. Though sporadic successes may be buzz-worthy, recommendations are based on expectations consistently met.

Use staff meetings, performance reviews and appropriate social media outlets, including LinkedIn and Twitter, to share your accomplishments. LinkedIn allows you to add Projects and Publications sections to showcase your work. LinkedIn also provides a forum to tell your story in your own voice, and possibly put the desired words in people’s mouths when they go to recommend you.

Emphasize accomplishments over attributes. “You do need to be self-promotional without being braggadocious, and the best way to go about it is by talking about tangible, measurable, inarguable results,” says Chad M. Oakley III, president and COO of the executive search firm Charles Aris Inc., in Greensboro, N.C.

Don’t underestimate the importance of likeability. People recommend and do business with people they like, plain and simple. Fortunately, for a lot of folks being more likeable just means acting more like themselves.

“So many people act warm and friendly with their friends and the people in their apartment building, but when they go to work, they clam up. They think they have to act so serious in order to be taken seriously,” says social and conversational skills consultant Marvin Brown, author of “How to Meet and Talk to Anyone Anywhere Anytime.” (Contact Strategies, 2013) “Just being friendly can help your career.”