Back To Your Cards & Letters
Last time, we touched on the mutually inclusive ideas of social media and SEO.
It's gratifying to know that some of you found that little rant to be useful. Thanks for the notes.
One can only assume that those who remained silent were snoring in the back of the class over that one. So it goes.
It's still worth every penny you pay for the product. (Yay, freebies!)
Next up, we have a really interesting question.
This reader to Hot Shots asks, "How can I, as an employee, build a strong personal brand?"
Obviously, the first thing to do is make a lot of noise.
YELL. THROW THINGS. BERATE YOUR FELLOW WORKERS.
There ya go. My work here is done. See you next time!
OK, in seriousness, that kind of performance will certainly create a brand. Maybe not a desirable one. But it works for some people.
But it probably won't work for our friend here, who works for a group of very friendly and conscientious radio stations.
He goes on to say, "When I say personal brand, I'm not only talking about how our clients feel about me, but how my colleagues feel about me."
(See how he's been hanging around here long enough to be using the vernacular? How people "feel about me." Feelings rule branding. Right on!)
"For example, I've had to work hard to earn the trust of our sales reps. I've done this by taking specific steps (being open minded to their ideas, never getting flustered or raising my voice at them, working long hours to meet deadlines). I do this to gain a positive reputation which, now that I think of it, is kind of like a brand."
OBVIOUSLY, ONE COMPONENT OF THIS GENTLEMAN'S BRAND IS SELF CONTROL
He might even be a candidate for sainthood.
That aside, he is definitely on the right track for establishing a solid personal brand.
And yes, what we're about to discuss is personal brand couched in the context of a radio station creative department.
Despite that, personal brand is applicable across the board.
ANYONE can benefit from a strong personal brand--but probably nobody more so than a sole proprietor or solopreneur.
See also: personal brand in the context of comedians.
Every successful comedian has a personal brand.
That brand is always a sliver of his or her personality amplified many times over into a comedic stage persona.
THAT STAGE PERSONA IS THE MARKETABLE CASH COW OF PERSONAL BRAND
Jeff Foxworthy is the "You might be a redneck if..." brand.
He comes off with affable-redneck, good-old-boy charm.
He has parlayed his personal brand into the hugely popular Blue Collar Comedy empire.
He makes a killing along with a fellow personal-brand expert, Larry the Cable Guy--he of the good-natured, working-class, "Git 'er done" persona.
You probably never heard of Jacob Rodney Cohen.
Jacob was a failed entertainer who had dropped out of show business to become an aluminum siding salesman. When Cohen tried to revive his comedy career, he went deeply into debt.
Cohen finally realized he was lacking a personal brand.
He did something about it.
Goodbye, Jacob Rodney Cohen.
Hello, Rodney "I don't get no respect" Dangerfield. As you know, his brand was as the guy for whom nothing ever goes right.
The failed entertainer and aluminum siding salesman became an icon and an obscenely wealthy man.
PERSONAL BRAND IS CRITICAL TO SOLOPRENEUR SUCCESS
When you're a single person swimming in a sea of me-too-ness, standing apart and being the desirable choice can be the difference between mere survival and making a killing.
One of the killer motivational brands of the 21st century is Timothy Ferriss.
There are all kinds of experts out there trying to capitalize on the century-old Think And Grow Rich model.
Tim Ferris has capitalized on that like nobody else with his 4-Hour Work Week empire.
He's taken the "work smarter, not harder" dynamic and turned it into a bestseller ride at the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
How much different is he than a lot of other solopreneurs plying this same trade?
Not a lot, when you get right down to it.
He might be better educated (Princeton) and a better athlete (kickboxing), but his ideas are not that far outside of convention.
THEY'RE JUST PACKAGED AND PRESENTED BETTER AS PART OF A KILLER BRAND
Circling back to our radio guy's question, how can he as an employee, build a strong personal brand?
Time to consider this: exactly what one thing do you want to be known for?
I know an ad agency copywriter whose personal brand was as the "No Problem!" copywriter.
This copywriter's job as a freelancer was to come in and make things work when others were having challenges.
Whatever this copywriter was asked to do, the answer was always, "No problem!"
The demeanor was always cheery.
There was never any resistance.
The ideas were always top-notch and out-of-the-box.
This talented copywriter was determined to be a pleasure for everyone involved--but probably no more so than for the Creative Director who had made the call in the first place.
CAN YOU SAY, "FULL-TIME INCOME FOR WORKING HALF THE YEAR"?
This copywriter had an impressive run in Los Angeles and New York and always worked.
In my case, my personal brand as a copywriter didn't work out exactly as I had planned it.
About 20 years ago, when I first walked into a Los Angeles radio station as a copywriter, I did it with a singular goal: produce work as good as what was coming out of national advertising agencies.
Admittedly, there were times where we actually achieved this goal.
The multiple national awards are evidence.
But very quickly, it became apparent that in the context of radio, that goal isn't always appropriate.
For one, there's a lot of direct response advertising that doesn't lend itself to the kind of creative that big ad agencies produce.
Moreover, with DR, you live and die by response.
SO IF THE PHONE ISN'T RINGING, SOMETHING'S WRONG
And often, the task is to figure out what that something is and replace it with better.
My personal brand became something much different than originally planned.
I became the guy who raised the bar on DR.
Many account reps wouldn't come to me immediately. They would start with whatever direction seemed appropriate.
If that direction failed, they showed up in my office. "This isn't working. What do we do about it?"
Or, if they had something they knew immediately was going to be challenging, they'd come looking for a solution.
I had become the DR Problem Solver.
Got a failing campaign? Bam! Quadrupled response overnight.
Got a script that isn't making anyone happy? Here's why it feels wrong, let's fix it.
Got a client who needs to sound different than the other five advertisers just like him? Here's a new direction.
WHEN "GOOD ENOUGH" WASN'T CUTTING IT, I WAS YOUR GUY
Today, close to a decade after leaving that gig, I still get calls from radio people who need help raising the bar.
(Interestingly, most of the time, they're unwilling to pay for it. They get caught up in the poverty mindset of radio station budgets. But that's a whole other screed.)
When I was busy doing this in LA, there was another writer who was widely recognized as the person to call when you wanted an idea that was way over the top.
This writer had a hugely successful business creating radio advertising that was out-of-the-park hilarious.
You could hear a commercial on the radio, and as soon as you were done wiping the spit-take off the inside of your windshield, you knew immediately who had created it.
STRONG PERSONAL BRAND--KNOWN FOR ONE THING AND ONE THING ONLY
So, all this said, it's great to be known for diplomacy.
It makes people feel comfortable. They know they can work with you.
But what's the writing talent?
What do you inject into your work that nobody else does?
Can someone hear the work on the air and know immediately who created it?
There are copywriters all over the country who have that kind of style.
Whether it's TV or print or whatever--it has their fingerprints all over it.
I would frequently get phone calls or emails from radio people asking me, "Did you do that new spot for so-and-so? Killer!"
Figure out not just what kind of diplomat you want to be, but what kind of artist.
Yes, "artist" might sound lofty.
But we're talking about taking mere facts about a business and spinning them into a tapestry that makes the prospect want to pick up the phone.
The prospect needs to feel something that inspires him or her to take action.
To paraphrase everyone's favorite unreliable resource, Wikipedia, art is about creating an artifact expressing the author's imaginative or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for its emotional power.
YES, A RADIO COMMERCIAL IS DESIGNED TO DRIVE TRAFFIC
But it does that by eliciting an emotional response in the prospect.
The writer's skill here is key.
In every case discussed here, it all boils down to emotional power.
And that, my friend, is how you do or don't get no respect as a personal brand.
It doesn't matter whether you're a copywriter or a solopreneur or running a 7-figure operation.
No matter who you are or what your brand is, make them love you or make them hate you.
But make them feel something.
And doing that requires a skill.
What's in your toolbox?
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Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.