After I wrote about personal brand a few weeks ago, I received an email asking me to extend that thinking to include how to find your message. Finding a clear and straightforward way to talk about what you do and care about is hard. And today, a lot of people have more than one thing they do. Which makes it even harder.
Brené Brown neatly captured the conundrum in her first talk at TedX, describing herself as a “researcher storyteller” only to be told, “there’s no such thing”. Eight years on, not only is that still her calling card, but she could also legitimately add to her title: author, adviser and speaker (just to name a few).
The resulting laundry list of accomplishment and endeavour would resemble many I see. A quick spin through your social media feed is sure to turn up plenty more similar descriptions. Thankfully Brown hasn’t succumbed to temptation and remains a researcher (storyteller and professor).
Because everything you do is part of your (personal) brand result, it’s easy to think everything should be part of how you talk about you. And that’s where people wander off and get lost in the wilderness of consultant-author-futurist-technologist-speaker-lion tamer land.
Well okay, I haven’t seen many lion tamers, but I have seen a few ringmasters.
Instead, think of your message as a doorway, not the whole house. I used the house as a metaphor in the previous article, and it holds true here also. If visual identity is much like the exterior, the purpose of your message is to get people to knock on the door; you can give them a tour of the whole house once they’ve come in and had a cup of coffee.
Lead with what’s most important to you. You can weave other bits and pieces into the longer story of you, but for the headline, stick to your house and street number. Get them to the front door.
So what does that look like in practice?
For the past few years, I’ve used “brand thinker and adviser” as my front door with a doorbell of: “Helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make”.
And while it took me 10 years to make my way to those words, it’s still not perfect. Nothing ever will be because who I am will continue to change (I hope), along with the environment around me (for sure).
Does it describe everything I do? No. I could qualify and expand it out the wazoo. I don’t, because brand and promises are what’s most important to me. They are the foundation on which the other pieces all sit.
The thinker and adviser descriptions bridge the two main aspects of my work. Thinking about how to build a brand, and what it is and isn’t, takes up a big chunk of my time. Advising people how to achieve the brand result they want is my other focus. Of course, I stray into other areas in and around the edges, but I deliberately choose not to list them.
So, if you’re struggling with your message, start with what’s most important to you. Stake out your turf. Mashup disciplines if you need to. Leave stuff out. Align what you say with what and how you do things.
The resulting message won’t be perfect, but it will be a door worth knocking on.
See you next week.