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You are your own brand
A friend was applying for a communications job recently. She had an amazing pitch, great story ideas, an impressive Rolodex of names and contacts plus a portfolio to die for. She was, in other words, perfect for the position. After she sent out her pitch and portfolio, the manager she was talking to asked: “What’s your Klout score?”
Say what? According to Klout: “The Klout score measures influence based on your ability to drive action. Every time you create content or engage you influence others. The Klout score uses data from social networks in order to measure:
- True reach: how many people you influence
- Amplification: how much you influence them
- Network impact: the influence of your network”
The Klout.com: Profile article on About.com, explains further that “[t]he Klout score is on a scale of 0 to 100 with 100 being the most influential. Your Klout is calculated with a combination of more than 25 variables. It analyzes the content of your tweets, who reads them and how they react to them.” Although the About.com article focuses on your Klout score based on what’s going on with your Twitter account, other social media applications, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, are also included in these calculations. There’s been a lot of criticism of Klout because of its mysterious arithmetic, which is used to calculate the topics that its users influence. To give you an example, here are the topics that I supposedly influence: parenting, moms, family (okay, I do write about all three a lot outside of here) and then ... unicorns, cars and chocolate. I don’t drive, I don’t particularly like chocolate, and I sold my unicorn to finance my trip to the third ring of Saturn, but okay. (Hey, did my Klout score just go up on all three topics plus “Saturn”? I hope so.)
But all joking aside, one shouldn’t disregard the Klout score completely. In the article Why Klout Matters. A Lot., Mark Schaefer argues that “[i]nfluence has been one of the most studied aspects of politics, marketing, sociology, and psychology and yet it has never really been measured in a statistically valid way. They [Klout] are finding the people who are experts at creating, aggregating, and sharing content that moves online.” Your online presence and the topics you write about or repost about or comment on — all of that combines to make you an expert in your field. When my friend was asked about her Klout score, the manager simply wanted to know if she was someone that was not only knowledgeable in her field but also had a powerful enough reach to potentially create a bigger buzz about the company’s brand. That particular job was in communications so it was only fair that a savvy communicator was required.
The story ends with my friend getting the position under the condition that she improves her Twitter skills (and gets more followers), gets more friends on Facebook and possibly starts a blog for the company she’s employed at. One other suggestion was that she creates a uniform brand for herself — even through such no-brainer ways as using her own name as a brand. Then she was encouraged to start posting interesting and relevant material online, in other words, to make sure her own name gets associated with certain content.
So what does this have to do with me?
Perhaps you’re not at all interested in communication and don’t even have any stake in being that active online. Still, creating a brand is “about figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life, setting goals, writing down a mission, vision and personal brand statement (what you do and who you serve) as well as creating a development plan,” according to Personal Branding 101: How to Discover and Create Your Brand, an article that talks about organizing your professional life in a way that will supremely market your skills. In the article, Dan Schwabel argues that “[p]ersonal branding, by definition, is the process by which we market ourselves to others. As a brand, we can leverage the same strategies that make these celebrities or corporate brands appeal to others. We can build brand equity just like them.”
Although branding traditionally used to be seen in the context of selling a product (“branding is a critical component to a customer’s purchasing decision”), with a little twist it can be applied to selling your own work skills. In other words, you are your own CEO and you are the product that you’re passionate about. The idea is that your passion and your product (You) will inspire others to “buy” “it” (You). Yes, it may seem kind of horrible, but that is the way things are going especially in the tough, competitive world of job seeking.
Schwabel suggests that in order to create your brand you should organize all your material into a personal branding toolkit. He lists 10 items that should find their way into your toolkit. Please note, not all of these items may be applicable to your type of work (you probably don’t need a blog about nursing to get a job as a nurse …), but use these for suggestions on what to put in the package.
- Business card — “The card should contain your picture, your personal brand statement (such as Boston financial expert), as well as your preferred contact information and corporate logo if necessary.”
- Resumé/cover letter/references
- LinkedIn profile
- Facebook profile
- Twitter profile
- Video resumé
- Wardrobe — “Your personal style is tangible and is extremely important for standing out from the crowd.”
- Email address — Schwabel suggests using gmail (if you don’t have a personalized email address from your website). Use your email@example.com.
The Lindsay Lohan effect
In the article The Brand Called You, Tom Peters talks about the importance of being your own brand. He writes, “To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” Peters compares individual self-branding, to that of corporations such as Nike, Coke or The Body Shop. He says to ask yourself the following question: What is that my product or service does that makes it different? Write it in 15 words or less, he suggests, and if the answer doesn’t grab you, then you’ve a big problem.
Peter Coish, the founder of DailyXY magazine for men and the president of Cloud Ad Agents (check out their sweet tag: “The World is our Office”), explains the concept of branding in the following terms: relevance, differentiation, knowledge or familiarity, and esteem or respect. What you can add to a certain position is your relevance (your skill set) to it. This needs to be strong, of course, in order for you to get an interview at the place you’re applying to. But that’s not all. Coish says, “In a marketing sense, branding is established through your audience by your relevance and how unique you are. Even if it’s a person, there’s a point of differentiation that sets you apart from the competition – something that gives you a unique position among the group of people with a relevant, similar skill set.” Coish gives an example of six people applying for the job of an editor at his magazine, Daily XY. “I’m going to look for that one thing that makes you stand out — let’s say you’ve established a man’s magazine at some other place.” That will be your winning point.
Knowledge (or familiarity — how familiar you are to your audience) and esteem (how you’re regarded) are the next elements to successful branding. Coish says that indeed notoriety can be useful (any press is good press), but if you have a bad reputation you might score high on familiarity but not so high on respect. He mentions a certain media company that he says is familiar to most Canadians, but in terms of respect “it’s zero” because of its notoriously bad service. In other words, he says, “that brand is compromised by its reputation.” Getting yourself out there is one thing but doing the right thing is another. You know how Lindsay Lohan is all over the tabloids, right? But can she actually get any work?
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