Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Taking my own brand medicine...and it's good!

If you know me you know that I'm big on new things.

Got a project? I'll volunteer!

Beta software? I am there!

Freelance opportunity that doesn't conflict with my job?

Well, those don't often come along...but they sometimes do, and I've always got my eyes open.

The great thing about having this attitude towards life is that you do tend to grow.

Example: Early in my career I started a writing/editing business and landed a gig rewriting a book about psoriasis.

Now you might be flinching at the word psoriasis. I definitely did - at first. It wasn't exactly my idea of a dream job. I wasn't getting paid to write the Great American Novel.

Yet I learned so much from that experience. Especially about my own personal brand, though I wouldn't have used those words at the time.

I learned that I like to take boring, complicated, technical content and make it easy for the average person to understand and use. That I am good at it. That it's a special skill, and that there is money there. And that I would rather write helpful nonfiction than entertaining novels.

Thus I love writing about marketing.

But as important as it is to explore, there is also a time to narrow your focus. Being everywhere and doing everything means that your identity is...nothing.

Plus you end up with no energy if you burn yourself out running around all the time aimlessly.

How do you decide what to do, in a world where there are so many choices?

At The Brand Consultancy, where I learned brand consulting many years ago (in 2001, has it already been a decade? My G-d!) they advocated the use of a brand filter for business decision-making.

I remember hearing about it and preaching it over and over, as though it were obvious. But it wasn't obvious, it was new, and nobody really got it - until they did, and the lightbulb went on, and then (as co-owner Mark Morris used to say), "It was like a domino effect." Suddenly, for the customers that understood it, everything fell into place.

Technically the term is "operationalizing the brand."

It is so odd that you can preach these tools but not really apply them to yourself. Sort of like a doctor who overeats and pops pills.

Anyway, yesterday I chose between two freelance business opportunities. One was to teach marketing as an adjunct. The other was to write online in an area unrelated to marketing strategy, which is my specialization.

I made the decision, for the first time, using a brand filter - my personal brand. Myself as the business, so to speak. As Tom Peters put it, "The Brand Called You."

(Of course as a federal employee, my agency has to give me permission too. And they have a brand simply by being the government, something I took into account as well. It all has to fit.)

What was great about using my personal brand as the filter was that it removed second-guessing from the equation completely. Sure you never know 100% if you were right. But when you use a branding framework, you manage the risk associated with eliminating a choice.

So that's my little story about how I put my personal brand into action. I hope it is helpful to you.

Good luck!

Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D.
Twitter: @thinkbrandfirst
All opinions my own

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