Virtually everyone is familiar with the concept of "branding" as it applies to products and services. Branding enables companies to stake out a position of distinction and preeminence in the marketplace, to differentiate themselves from competitors vying for the same customers.
People can have brands, too, to distinguish themselves from peers competing for that special assignment or promotion. People can be known as innovators, problem-solvers or budget-masters, to name just a few.
Men seem to have no trouble promoting themselves in their organizations. Women, however, seem less comfortable making others aware of their abilities and accomplishments. That's why women in management should consider applying the following branding principles to their careers:
Conduct Market Research. Good marketing -- of products, services and careers -- begins with market research. What do people know about you? What do they think of you? Honest answers aren't always easy to come by. Identify two or three trusted confidants from among your superiors, peers and subordinates and conduct an informal 360 evaluation. Don't bristle at any criticism, but use the candid feedback to reinforce your strengths and shore up any weaknesses.
Create a Tagline. Once you know how people perceive you, determine how you want to be perceived. Like products that marketers promote, what benefits and features do you offer your internal and external customers? Are you responsive? Valued-added? Results oriented? A team player? Review the accomplishments you are most proud of, the key challenges you have handled and the results you have produced … and distill them down to a simple declarative sentence that you can comfortably use the next time you're at a meeting or business event and someone asks, "So what do you do?" This is your tagline.
Develop a Brochure. Imagine you are a direct marketer and you're looking to create a mailing piece to sell the brand of "you." What would the headline say? What would be the "unique selling proposition"? Then sit down and create a brochure for yourself. No one need ever see it, but it is a useful strategic step in defining yourself, your attributes and your accomplishments in more detail. Revisit your brochure periodically to keep it up to date, and remind yourself of all the good qualities you have to offer.
Launch Your Campaign. As the final step in developing your personal brand, create and launch your campaign. Identify your "target market" -- the people inside and outside of your organization who can be helpful to you in your career -- and map out a plan for introducing yourself to them. If internal activities can't help you achieve the visibility you desire, try going outside. Join a business organization or charity where word of your achievements can filter back to your company. Make speeches, write articles, teach courses. You will be surprised at how quickly your brand -- and your career -- can gain momentum.