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The Art of Self-Marketing

by Kerri Harris

Spend enough time among the ranks of corporate culture and you are likely to hear many common catch-phrases like “branding” and “market differentiation”. These conceptual ideas can seem like mere marketing dogma reserved for abstract thinkers alone. Yet the savvy career-minded professional should turn a keen eye on these notions with a plan to incorporate a few basic principals into their annual objectives. Employing a few strategies for personal branding can help managers foster greater enthusiasm from their teams and provide the basic framework to help promote a positive self-image within an organization.

The first quarter for many professionals includes objective setting and employee performance appraisals. While a collective groan is often heard echoing in many corporate hallways at the onset of the review period, some enterprising managers revel in this process as a time for strategic planning and a renewed focus on leadership opportunities. Corporate policies and Human Resource groups largely dictate the review and objective setting process as a means of human capital management. While intrinsically this may be the case, a great opportunity exists through effective management of the process and its potential impact on the team and one’s own career. The annual planning period can be an ideal time to begin planning a personal marketing strategy.

Personal Branding to Promote the Self-Image

Companies use branding to foster a good reputation with their customers. Branding is the model used to bind marketing collateral with a desired image to influence a perception in the minds of consumers. Whether the focus is to build a brand on things like integrity, commitment, or accuracy, the goal is to associate yourself with an ideal that differentiates you from the competition. These same principals can be adapted on a micro level to promote a self-image and enhance career opportunities. As a manager, your reputation within the organization helps determine your overall career potential as well as the success of the team.

Katherine Kaputa, a professional branding coach and author of, The Art of Self-Branding writes, “To some people, branding may seem manipulative or phony, ‘I’d just rather be myself,’ they say, ‘go with the flow and see where my career takes me’. If you don’t brand yourself, others will. The fact of the matter is you’re giving the power to other people to brand you if you don’t do it yourself.”

Creating a personal brand begins with an objective look at your career field and your own identity within it. Familiarize yourself with your industry peers through networking groups, trade publications, news releases or media outlets from professional organizations. Take a few minutes throughout the week to scan headlines or leaf through publications, or even take time to touch base with contacts to give yourself a basic overview of current trends. Then, consider your own standing as a professional in your career field by using tools such as a SWOT Analysis.

SWOT Analysis

The results from conducting a SWOT Analysis can assist you in identifying areas of expertise as well as areas that require immediate attention to better prepare yourself for future opportunities that may arise. Use this tool to identify your (S)trengths, (W)eaknesses, (O)pportunities, and (T)hreats in the coming year.

  • Strengths – What are your core strengths? This is a list of your professional and character attributes that set you apart from others. What allies can you count on and which networking contacts can help you achieve greater visibility?
  • Weaknesses – Identify those areas where shortcomings are obvious impediments to growth. A lack of training, professional credentials, or weak competitive position should all be included. Be realistic and objective.
  • Opportunities – List areas where you can add value to upcoming projects, coaching opportunities or other areas where you see a potential benefit either in management related activities or personal career enrichment avenues.
  • Threats – What could you be doing differently to improve your position and where are your biggest roadblocks? What changes do you foresee within your organization or industry that may impact you directly?

Once the basic outline is achieved, begin identifying tools and resources that can mitigate your risks and exploit your strengths. Remember to balance these activities with your current professional responsibilities to promote the best possible outcome for execution.

The Elevator Speech

Another key to mastering self-marketing is to perfect an eloquent and descriptive introduction of yourself and your position. This strategic tool, commonly known as the “Elevator Speech,” can be your best approach in professional networking situations and those rare moments when opportunities arise to create strategic new allies.

Katharine Hansen, speechwriter and author of Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market, describes this tool as “…a clear, concise bit of communication that can be delivered in the time it takes folks to ride from the top to the bottom of a building in an elevator. Whatever the exact origin, the Elevator Speech is an exceptionally useful and versatile tool in numerous situations.”

We have all had the experience of being introduced to someone who seems less than enthusiastic about their profession. While this may be the reality, more often than not, this perception is derived through their poorly delivered and ineffective elevator speech. If they sound apprehensive and self-effacing, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else becoming engaged in who they are and what they do. This is not the sort of brand imagine you want to project. Instead, learn to value your achievements while being assertive and open to exciting others about who you are.

The basic format of a good elevator speech generally includes your name, title, and your area of expertise. Enhance this information with a statement about the benefits derived from your service or that quality which sets you apart from your peers. Include a brief statement outlining why your job is important and the pain points your role helps alleviate for others within the organization. Information like this grabs attention and invites further inquiry. By projecting that you are someone others should know and seek out in the future, you can help make this ideal a reality.

Coaching for Development and Results

The responsibility for maximizing the potential of the annual performance review and objective-setting process lies not at the corporate policy level, but with managers themselves. Managers must help their teams envision an effective personal and departmental strategy through this annual exercise. Aside from adopting the plan inherited from the larger organization, the manager should take the time to develop a program that will further promote the department goals, provide incentives and coaching opportunities for employees, and achieve greater career focus for each team member.

A good leader promotes the organization’s greater vision and illustrates how each team member is a direct contributor to that objective. Leadership also means learning to tap into the ego-driven propensities that engage many top achievers to further promote productivity and create a personal stake in common objectives. An effective way to do this for many job roles is by employing these self-branding strategies with your teams. As a result, these exercises can help build a larger career-path plan that will help translate daily routines into opportunities, as well as generate greater productivity and enthusiasm.

The disciplines of marketing and creating a brand have been formed over many years through painstaking observations, testing, and extensive analysis. Successful product branding is at play through daily advertising where single images that evoke an instantaneous emotional reaction. These very concepts are also highly effective when used on an individual level and in a business setting. In such a highly competitive world, it is imperative to become aware of subtle behaviors that gain effective results. The art of self-branding not only ensures a commitment to the direction of one’s own career and reputation, but opens the door to greater achievements in the realms of impactful leadership and creating a results-driven organization.

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About the Author

Kerri Harris is an Interactive Communications Specialist and key member of the Public Relations department at NCR Corporation in Dayton, Ohio. In that role, she is responsible for delivering corporate communications across various electronic and digital media, project management, and customer service. Kerri also coordinates and conducts training programs to improve client services, conflict resolution, and process-improvement techniques. Kerri has completed studies in Phi Theta Kappa’s Leadership Development with Ohio Senator Tom Roberts, and has served as Communication Chair of the Professional Resource Council. Currently, she also serves as Chair for NCR’s Intranet Council.