An Excerpt from AdaptAbility

July 23, 2009


Build Your Brand M. J. Ryan "Discover your brand by pinpointing your unique service and identity.

Build Your Brand
M.J. Ryan

"Discover your brand by pinpointing your unique service and identity." —DR. JASON A. DEITCH

Jason A. Deitch is a doctor and author who teaches other doctors "that today's new health care economy requires us to adapt in order to survive." He has five secrets. One is "create your brand." Jason thinks that when it comes to this, "doctors might just be the absolute worst marketers ... on the entire planet."

Well, Jason, I'm not so sure. I spend a lot of my time helping clients from all walks of life understand the need for branding and then strategizing how to do it. I'll never forget the corporate client who said to me, "I thought that if I did a great job, people would know and I'd get promoted." "Doing a great job is only part of your job," I replied. "The other is making sure other people know who you are, because otherwise they are too focused on themselves to pay attention to you."

Business buzz words come and go. I tend to ignore them. But the idea that we must all create a brand and market ourselves is one that has not just staying power but that has gained in importance as the world is changing. Brand is all about reputation—what you're known for. It is made up of what you do well, your talents, and what people can expect from you. As Jason Deitch says, it communicates "who you are, what you offer, and most importantly, how people will benefit from working with you."

No matter what position you are in—entrepreneur, small-business owner, corporate vice president—and what job you have or want to have, you need to clearly understand your brand and then make it known to others. Terry Wood, the CBS executive responsible for launching Rachael Ray's and Dr.Phil's shows, said in a recent interview that one of the things that characterizes successful folks is that they know the answer to two questions: "What do I want to be known for? What makes me different? ... Famous can be overrated, but if I'm known for something, and that defines who I am, I can take it to the bank." That's what brand is.

What do you want to be known for? What makes you different? I think of it as your unique form of greatness. Go back to the four elements of LIVE (what you love, inner gifts, values, and environments that bring out the best in you) that you identified in previous chapters and condense them into a sentence. Here's an example: "I'm great at taking ideas that others come up with and turning them into saleable products in a tight time frame by myself." Now think about the benefits to others of your brand: "You don't have to supervise me, and I'm good at anticipating what could go wrong so you save time and money."

Now, think about who needs to know about you and your brand. Your customers? Your boss? "But I don't want to be seen as bragging," you're probably thinking. This is not bragging. It's a simple statement of what you uniquely have to offer. The more you embrace who you are and what you're good at, the more you can communicate it in such a way that it comes off as an accurate statement of the truth, with you being appropriately confident. And the more you focus on the benefits for the person on the other side, the more they'll be so captivated by them that they'll only be grateful that you can offer such a wonderful thing!

Next you have to decide how you're going to let people know. You can look for opportunities to bring it up, or use it as an elevator speech when searching for a job. Or if you have your own business, like a doctor, you could create a flyer for your office. When you do something great, make sure you let the appropriate people know. Look for ways to quantify it. I have a client who simply sends out a one-line analysis once a month to her boss and her boss's boss, quantifying the results her marketing efforts have achieved in dollars. When I talk about my work as a thinking partner, I let prospective clients know that when I worked with a group of women at Microsoft, 80 percent of them got a raise and/or promotion within six months. That gets people's attention and differentiates me from others out there.

Brand isn't communicated solely through words. It's something you create from all of your actions—from the way you answer e-mails to coming up with a great idea at a meeting. Bottom line: you want the people who matter to say the same thing about you that you say in your brand statement, for example, "Boy, is he great at coming up with ideas that sell and getting to the right people!"

Putting an effort into branding and communicating your brand will give you a competitive advantage during change, whether you are looking for work, looking for advancement, looking for networks, or looking for customers or clients.


"I wanted to go to art school but didn't have all the right requirements," said John. "I decided to try by visiting the school and talking to a professor on the admissions committee to hopefully market myself with him. He encouraged me to apply and submit my portfolio. After the visit I sent a thank you saying, based on your suggestions I will go ahead and apply. He then wrote back offering to look at my portfolio and make suggestions as to what to include. I did that, then sent a thank you for his suggestions, which I took. Then I asked what I could be doing to prepare while I was waiting to find out if I got in, what websites, etc. would he recommend for me to learn more about graphic design. I figured he'd think of me as someone who was very eager, open to feedback, and willing to work hard. Lots of people think, 'Why bother?' when it comes to thank yous, etc. I think, 'What does it hurt to try and make a good impression, to let him know the kind of person I am?' And yes, I did get in."

Putting an effort into branding and communicating your brand will give you a competitive advantage during change, whether you are looking for work, looking for advancement, looking for networks, or looking for customers or clients.

Excerpted from AdaptAbility by M. J. Ryan Copyright © 2009 by M.J. Ryan Published by Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. To learn more, visit www.mj-ryan.com.

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