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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  March 01, 2008

How To Brand Yourself In The Workplace Vs. The Marketplace

Originally published for RainToday.com

Every self-respecting rainmaker knows the power of personal brands. Whether you are an individual practitioner in a larger organization, or a solo thought leader active in industry associations or communities, it pays to be known.

The challenge: The same branding strategies and tactics that work in the marketplace usually don’t work as well in smaller communities such as the workplace and professional associations.

So, which branding techniques should you use in each arena?

Competition Vs. Collaboration

First understand that a personal brand and a company brand are both promises. The promises they each make, though, have subtle and important differences.

In The Marketplace: A brand is a promise focused on winning a competition. Even in branding efforts that disseminate information such as original research, the campaign is a comparison of you versus others.

In Communities And At Work: Personal branding is a promise based on personality. Branding efforts translate personal attributes into contribution.

They don’t compare you in order to exclude other members; they define your contribution in order to determine how you fit in and the results you can deliver. There’s room for everyone, as different folks have different gifts.

The message: I do [blank] well, so my best contribution is [blank]. In the workplace, no one gets fired because someone else is better. People leave because they are not contributing.

In Associations And Other Outside Groups: This concept of inclusion is why you can have several personal brands in one room, all working together for a common goal.

Example: Active board member Betty Sue is great at fundraising so she’s in charge of the charity gala. Billy Bob is great at sales, so he’s in charge of membership. In forums and online groups, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It takes some very inflammatory actions to get kicked out.

While there will be a lot of lobbying for association offices, there is no outright winner or loser in the elections. There’s always next year. Richard Lee is president of ABC association this year. Up and coming leader, Mary Lou is president next year. There’s disappointment but few leaders quit the association – they just wait their turn.

Your Next Step: When it comes to branding outside of the marketplace, lay down your weapons. It’s not a competition, so give up the comparisons.

In communities, you create a self-inflicted wound by outright vanquishing your competitors. While there is competition at work, “doesn’t play well with others” can get you an invitation to leave. Instead, focus on defining your contribution. Decide what you want to give and the best way to give it.

Show Up Vs. Show Off

Another big difference between branding in the marketplace and branding within smaller communities is how that promise gets communicated.

The Marketplace: In this arena, ideas or “campaigns” are used to capture attention. The message: “Hey! Over here! Look at me!!”

Example: An accounting firm brands itself as competent by promoting its original analysis of the latest tax laws. Or a financial planning organization reaches out to women by contributing to breast cancer awareness projects.

The goal is to get attention where no one knows you’re there. And enough attention creates appeal, and appeal drives the former strangers to become prospects. If businesses were cars, these campaigns would be the sparkplug that makes the vehicle go.

In Communities And Workplaces: These are smaller environments. In communities or associations, you are a person who represents a business. In the workplace, you’re a person who can help or hinder. In many cases, you don’t have to announce your arrival; folks can see you around and already have an opinion of you. They just don’t know what to do with you.

Therefore, branding in a community focuses on smaller, consistent interactions to make the case. The message: “Hi. I’m a good person to know and I can help you. Let’s explore how we can assist each other.”

Example: At the office, an accountant who goes out and researches the latest tax laws and presents at a meeting unannounced, is seen as someone with too much time on their hands. However, if that same accountant suggests that idea and volunteers to help, they are seen as hardworking and helpful.

Associations: Remember, in this environment, everyone has the same agenda: to be known in their industry. I’ve been to many board meetings that consisted of folks jostling for position. Heavy hitters tend to bring their egos with them. So coming on too strong – especially in the beginning – can backfire fast.

Your Next Step: Think small and strategic. Remember, what looks like initiative in the marketplace can be perceived as “too promotional” in the association environment and “show off” in the workplace. You want to show up, not show off.

All Bandwagons Lead To Rome

Branding in all three areas: the marketplace, the office and communities do have one thing in common. Whether you are branding from a distance or up close and personal, all efforts create a bandwagon.

Brand to compete in the marketplace, and the cart is filled with clients. When participating in communities, the personal brands load the wagon with alliances and referrals. At work, your brand makes your results clear; your bandwagon is filled with advocates and champions. Adapt to the above differences and your brand will create a community that everyone will want to join.

Filed Under: Branding


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.