"We are here!" - The art of Personal Branding
“We are here!, We are here!” This is the climatic point in the movie “Horton Hears a Who!”, where in a final act of desperation, the mayor of Whoville, a township who are merely a speck on a clover, convinces the residents to shout out this phrase to an audience of anyone from the Jungle of Nool and beyond the elephant ears of Horton to save themselves. The problems are the audience do not believe in the existence of Whoville, since they cannot hear/see them, they are preoccupied with making so much of their own noise and to make matters worse the only member of the jungle that believes in them has damaged credibility among his peers.
It is not until an often over looked yet critical member of the Whoville population, JoJo manages to successfully pitch a cry for their existence with the right frequency and successfully achieves cut through off the noise to reach a similar yet influential character in the Jungle audience, Rudy. It is this role that eventually modifies the decision maker's (Jane Kangaroo) behaviour and halts the cataclysmic events for Whoville.
Perhaps the risk to the townships’s existence could have been avoided if they were on a different clover? Or listened to what Jo Jo had to say earlier? Or another credible character in the Jungle had become an advocate for them? However, whilst there are broader elements where the key characters had little control around what created that dire situation, each of them played a pivotal role in the outcome.
So, when we apply this Dr Seuss (Blue Sky Studio)’s plot to our personal branding we too can see similar challenges. Who are you? What do they say about you when you’re not in the room? What actions do you want to achieve when connecting with your audience? Who are the influences or Rudy’s within your marketplace? How do we stand out from the crowded marketplace as JoJo had? How do we create and, retain credibility of our brand and minimise any incorrect perceptions or even risk to overexposure?
As many brand professionals, will attest to, the optimal path to creating an individual’s brand is through the authentic expression of our values and passions. However, this authenticity comes with an element of risk by exposing our vulnerabilities. So, once we make a conscious decision to invest in developing our genuine brand we immediately need to have a plan to reduce our risks, and at the same time maximise any opportunities with it.
Regardless of our intentions, if our messaging is confusing, inappropriate, offensive or insincere, we misrepresent ourselves and by extension our associated network. Similarly, we place ourselves in a position where the effort and potential expenditure in creating opportunities for our brand either reduces or ceases altogether.
If we consider up until the last 10 years branding in any medium was heavily dominated by the communication of mass media organisations. Only recently we find that through accessible technologies the opportunities of promoting our brand by individuals has somewhat leveled the playing field.
Whilst we live in a digital age of constantly evolving technologies, emerging social media platforms, viral videos, streams of memes, algorithm updates through connected mobility we find the line of self-promotion between relevancy and narcissism becomes even blurrier.
So, how do we control our image and retain our brand?
This can be answered on many levels and has been the subject of many blogs, forums and books; however if we consider ourselves as an organisation with our skillset and abilities as the product/service we need to incorporate a traditional advertising plan with it's inertia focused around reach and frequency.
Before we address our advertising strategy we have to identify our target audience and appropriate messaging. Our target audience is made up of key people that have been identified, it could be current or potential managers or leaders, or like minded individuals or groups.
This communication method supports the advertising strategy focusing on the objective of raising your brand above the noise and the removal of any brand ambiguity.
REACH is the term used to express the total percentage of a target audience who are exposed to a commercial at least once throughout a campaign period. This figure represents unduplicated audience exposure.
How we reach our market via various marketing vehicles, we create our integrated marketing communications plan. Integrated Marketing communications takes into account both Above The Line (ATL) and (BTL) communication methods including but not limiting to:
FREQUENCY describes the average number of times that a person within the target audience has had the opportunity to see an advertisement over the campaign period.
EFFECTIVE FREQUENCY is defined as the minimum number of times a communication must be exposed to a viewer/potential customer to positively impact on that customers buyer / purchasing behaviour - a reaction.
If we refer to the "Three Plus"Rule developed in 1979 by Michael Naples of Lever, it was interpreted as meaning that the effective frequency for any product communication was 3 times.
1st time: Startle or provide the message that this communication has something to say
2nd time: Recognise communication
3rd time: Comfort, familiarity & acceptance
In order to minimise wastage and maximise the value of this rule the Effective frequency level should be revisited regularly and adjusted subjectively based on the following criteria.
Desired response to communication: Changing perception / personal brand or direct engagement of services
Personal Brand / Product or Service (Capability) history
Personal Brand perception and position in the market
Creative : Stand out ad in the right media context or is your brand profile on social media just 'me-too' version of everyone else
Competition: active or not, Creative - stand out/mediocre, Dominant / no real presence, targeted to similar audience or not etc - What are you up against and what is your point of difference.
Purchase cycle - One week or 1 month. When are organisations looking to hire your skillset? eg Is it seasonal?
Visibility - do they need to search for it or is your brand geared toward search engine optimisation (SEO) - ie is there lots of eye level shelf space for your product
Where is the product in it’s life cycle - can you identify and articulate if your skillset is industry established, bench marked against or considered innovative
Duration - for each level of media, can you establish a time frame for the delivery of your message
Brand loyalty - Can you call upon any references or testimonials
The complexity of the communication - What range of media, above the line or below the line or integrated that you will utilise? Is there any risk of diluting the original message or is there an opportunity to expand or reinforce the same original message
PENETRATION: advertising penetration is the percentage of total audience or people in a given area who own a particular media vehicle; eg how many audience members are actively interacting on social media platforms? How many of these are within your choosen area? This penetration rolls up into Market penetration, which is the percentage of a target market that will ultimately consume your product or service.
By reworking around effective frequency and penetration we will achieve market cut-through. It is this reach, frequency, effective frequency and penetration that are always looked at hand in hand.
So, if we find ourselves as a small speck in a busy marketplace, we can increase our chance for successful brand exposure through a hands-on management approach and clear key communication methods. Or to put it into the words of Dr Seuss from Horton hears a Who! of "A person's a person, no matter how small".