There’s a school of thought that when you work for someone else, you stop building your own brand. After all, being under a company’s roof means their name is on the door, not yours. It’s not like you have employees in that circumstance, either – you have a boss and co-workers. And they have people above them. All of which makes you feel like a fish swimming within a pond that has no room for anything personal, including your goals.
And you couldn’t be more wrong.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to start viewing yourself as a brand in need of development. You are a company within a company, a brand within a brand. And like any brand, there are several considerations that are worth making for your own personal fulfillment and happiness.
What’s your mission statement?
Without any kind of vision that’s easy to comprehend, it’s next to impossible to know where you want to go – beyond what you have right in front of you for the day, that is. That makes you like anyone else going through the motions and you’re better than that.
So visualize yourself five to ten years from now. Take your employer out of the equation for the moment. What kind of work are you doing? Who are you working for? What kind of positive things are they saying about you? Don’t worry about where you’re at and how far away from this visualized future you might be. You’re already ahead of many people who wish for a “someday” that will be different that they can’t even picture. You just did.
Who is your target audience?
A brand has ideal customers or clients that comprise the “bulls-eye” of who it would ideally like to work with, who appreciate its product most and who would, in turn, probably tells others as an advocate.
Thinking about this in your current work context, who are the key decision makers your “product” speaks to and impacts? Is there one? Three? Ten? While considering these numbers, think beyond your boss. Think about the people at the table that your boss tends to sit with when he or she has an important decision to make.
This is your Primary target audience. How can you make the people at that table notice and appreciate you? Get in their heads – don’t just think about what you do every day. Think about what they do every day. Think about what they’re facing, what their goals are, what causes them anxiety.
How can you help alleviate that anxiety and help them reach those goals?
That’s not all. Who are the people directly connected to those decision makers who might have an influence and what’s your relationship like with them?
This is your Secondary target audience. You may not work for them directly, but it’s important to know the role they indirectly play in your success. Neglect them at your own risk.
Who are your strategic partners?
You can’t be an island when it comes to building your brand. Just as many people need networking partners to refer each other business and have each other’s back, you need strategic partners who understand where you want your brand to go within that corporate environment – your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, family, close friends, co-workers you trust, etc. It doesn’t have to be a big list. You can be selective and in all likelihood, probably should be.
The point is to surround yourself with people who see you as more than just a cog in the wheel. They know what you want, they’ll sing your praises and they’re not afraid to either. If companies can have brand ambassadors, you can too.
How will you measure success for your brand?
Can I be honest? I’m not a fan of Big Hairy Audacious Goals. I think they’re unrealistic most of the time and everything accomplished before them that could be considered progress feels like a failure. I’m a fan of smaller goals, one step building upon another, step by step, so it feels like gradual progress.
So if you were to make some progress this month or this quarter to further your brand, and you could maintain that progress from now on, how would you know what that looks like? Pick one to three metrics of success that you can track one month or quarter over the next. Put it in a graph or chart if you helps you visualize your progress. And if you take a step back from those metrics from your progress, don’t get discouraged. Understand why that happened and what you plan on doing differently going forward to get yourself back on track.
How will you promote yourself?
I’m not talking about creating posters with your face on it all over the office. I’m talking about getting evidence that your brand is furthering itself. The social media universe, for example, allows us to create blogs, videos, curated collections of images, podcasts and many, many other ways to tell our story outside of the realm of our “normal” workplace. The key here is consistency of how often you create the content on weekly basis. Chances are, it will take some significant time to build an audience, but with that time and audience growth, you’ll begin to sense an appreciation from the outside about your expertise.
Now, obviously you don’t want to blog to your heart’s content while on the clock at your job, but do keep this much in mind – no matter how long you stay at an employer, your opinions aren’t the only thing that are your own. Your expertise is your own too. Expertise that needs to be conveyed and packaged in a way that makes you feel like the brand you were born to be. And a brand any employer will feel lucky to have.
Dan Gershenson is a Chicago-based consultant focused on brand strategy and content marketing. Dan has guided a variety of CEOs and Marketing Directors at small to medium-sized companies, providing hundreds of strategic plans to help businesses identify their best niches and areas of opportunity. Dan blogs on Chicago Brander, mentors advertising students and cheers relentlessly for the Chicago Bears. Dan graduated from Drake University with a degree in Advertising.