Business cards are obsolete, fast losing their value in a virtual, green world. Our security blanket is disappearing. Scary thought! Especially since that little card plays a powerful role in creating our professional identity (at least in our minds).
Long a symbol of professionalism, a business card was your ticket to the conference table, to get in the door, to give you instant credibility, maybe even free sandwiches. Not so much anymore.
As everything and everyone moves online, into the clouds, your virtual identity will be your business card. Yes, the printed card will linger for some time as an artifact of our pre-internet work life. But don’t rely on those dinosaurs to help you build your personal brand. This applies whether you work inside an agency or as a contractor. It is especially relevant if you are in transition (thanks to our current economy) and you are trying to start a business, subcontracting or consulting.
Follow the Mad Men
A key element of your personal brand is your tagline. The Mad Men on Madison Avenue have known about the power of the tagline for years…
* Disney World: the happiest place on Earth
* Ringling Brothers: the greatest show on Earth
* Pepsi: taste of a new generation
* Apple: think different
Taglines are not just for big business. I bet you already have a tagline, but don’t think of it as part of your personal brand. Consider the taglines you use with people you work with: the web guy, the numbers guy, the go-to person. In my consulting work, as part of my data collection to learn about an executive’s leadership, I ask the people who work with and for him/her: “What’s his/her tagline?” It is always on the tip of their tongues (especially if I’m asking about their boss) and what I hear is amazingly consistent. A few leaders understand this and manage their personal brand effectively. I don’t meet those too often.
Your Personal Tagline: sell the sizzle, not the steak
Taglines are the haiku of branding. For personal branding, taglines are the shortcut descriptions for what people do. You are selling your sizzle (how you do your job, who you are), not your job title. Rather than answer the question “what do you do?” with a noun like “I’m an artist” or “I’m a teacher,” generate a descriptive statement.
Start by collecting your own data. Ask others to give you, top of mind, a tagline that best describes you at work. Cull out the best and start writing your own haiku, the phrase that describes what you do. Not your job title, not the role you play, but what you actually do.
For example, my personal tagline is “I help smart people be better leaders and decision makers.” I selected this tagline because I do many things. I write books, articles and blogs. I teach executives, leaders and managers. I consult on change management for organizations. I coach executives. But underlying all the things I do is the fundamental activity of helping others be better at what is important to them.
[Note: There is so much business in the world of branding and taglines that there is even a TaglineGuru.]
Remember: the goal of your tagline is: 1) to quickly explain what you do, 2) to remind yourself that you are a brand, and 3) to get and keep control of your personal brand.
Next time somebody asks you what you do – use your Personal Tagline!