Part of my experience as a hiring manager in marketing and communications functions in the high-technology sector included participating in test marketing of various product-branding campaigns with potential consumers. As the Apple iPhone and iPad have taught us, the right branding campaign for a highly desirable product the consumer needs or wants (or is told they need it) can create favorable associations that lead to a larger mindshare and marketshare. All other wannabes usually are competing for the “catch-up crumbs.” Working with consumers in different target markets has taught me that building brand value involves two important components: making others aware of the brand in question, and creating a brand image that generates positive associations.
The same principle applies in the employment arena, whether you are looking for a permanent or contract position, or whether you are seeking additional clients for your business. This subject of relating product branding to personal/professional branding is too big and important for just several blog posts (in fact, it’s the subject of my next book), but over the next few posts, I’ll give you the three high-level ideas that you can use immediately about developing your professional brand: Brand awareness, brand image, and brand attitudes…but first, a word about brand equity.
How Brand Equity is Created
How and why people buy things is fundamentally an exercise in behavioral psychology involving consumer memory. Radio, TV, print, Internet, and WiFi ads are all aimed at burrowing into your memory for future recall when you have a need for some particular product or service. Advertising and marketing experts know that memory structure in the brain involves the creation of associative models, which consist of a network of nodes and links. Basically, these nodes are sites of stored information (logos, tag lines, jingle, etc.) that are connected by links of varying intensities. The intensity of the association between stored information locations reconciles which sites (and how many of them) are triggered for recall.
This same process occurs in the employment arena hiring cycle, and how businesses want their products and services to be perceived in the marketplace. If you’re looking for permanent or contract employment, or promoting your own business, your task is to create positive associations between your quantified accomplishments first, followed by your professional skills, knowledge, and experience—however you package them—and the people with a need for that expertise. Your “brand” is the single conceptual association others create based on your real and perceived professional (and personal) reputation in your specific profession or field.
Building Brand Equity through Brand Awareness
Building personal/professional brand equity first involves making others aware of your brand, and upon this foundation building a prominent image composed of positive associations about your brand. Regardless of whether you’re looking for a position in your field, promoting your own business, or wanting to build your own professional brand in the company for which you work, you must get your name embedded in the “associative models” of others. Here are a few ways, when properly managed, to build brand awareness (which could also be called “name recognition”):
- Writing articles for peer-reviewed journal
- Giving presentations or workshops at professional association meetings and conferences
- Networking with other professionals in your particular field
- Using social media (blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) to expand your circle of potential influence (be sure you have something of value to say; the virtual world is already overflowing with mindless blither)
- Write a book on a particular issue in your profession or field
In Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0, I discuss in detail the “Continuous Promotion Approach” as a post-intervew strategy that reinforces your brand equity to the hiring manager and/or the hiring team. A job interview demonstrates that people are aware of your “brand” through your cover letter, resume, and the interview. The Continuous Promotion Approach builds on the awareness you have created by reinforcing the value and equity that is associated with your demonstrated accomplishments, skills, knowledge, and experience.
The most critical aspect of brand awareness is the formation of information in the memory in the first place. A “brand awareness memory node” must first be in place before people can make any brand associations. Without that established brand node in the memory, it is impossible to build a brand image, which will be the subject of my next post.
What can be said for a personal/professional brand was said about baseball diamonds in the middle of cornfields: if you build it they will come. Get in people’s minds first; the opportunities will follow.
What are you doing to build awareness of your personal/professional brand?