Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Branding and elevator pitch notes

The Austin Job Seeker's meeting yesterday covered branding and elevator pitches.  I'm kind of stuck at the moment because I am juggling my dream job with my plan B job.  I'm finding it very hard to work on both at once.  So I'm typing up my notes from Monday's meeting.  Once published I will be able to come back to this later, when I'm ready for it.

First you brand, then you write your elevator pitches, resume, etc.  You should even brand before you decide what you want to do next--understanding your own brand is critical to understanding yourself.  In fact, I should have branded before I started this blog.  After I brand I should probably edit the blog to make it sing from the brand hymnal.  Or, my branding exercises should take what I'm doing here into account--that would be a very authentic brand, which is important.

Your brand is what it is.  This is not the process of pretending to be something you are not.  This is the process of self discovery where you learn to communicate the core truths about who you really are in a clear and concise manner.

You are who you are.  Don't pretend.  Don't lie to yourself.

You can focus on the positive aspects of who you are and how you operate.  If you are obsessive-compulsive then you can describe yourself as 'very detail-oriented'.  There is a slippery slope here, so be careful to be honest.

There is a plank in your eye.  Your own self evaluation is distorted by your own perspective.  So you really need to rely on your friends to tell you who you are.  Ask them to tell you stories about you, or to tell you how they would describe you to someone else.  Beg them to be honest with you.  Then take what they say and spin it to a positive aspect (see point above), if necessary.

The whole point of branding is to come up with a very short description of yourself that communicates the real essence of who you are.  What you will be describing is attributes of yourself.  You can pick three to five attributes to highlight.  Fewer is better.  Five is the absolute maximum.  You have to pick one and make that the central theme of your messaging.  When you are talking to someone (elevator pitches) only mention that one.  Written communication should focus on the same one attribute, and can mention the rest as supporting evidence.

Try writing a few stories of times when you have had success.  You will likely finding yourself describing some of your better attributes.  Each attribute should be one or two words.  A good list of attributes (read: brand) will look something like this:
* Primary: Innovator
* Secondary: Detail-oriented, visionary, problem solver, pragmatic, integrity
(Yes, that is the first self description I wrote.  And yes, it is too many words.)

The words that you use (verbal and written) must be consistent with the primary brand, and should not overly conflict with the secondary brands.  The layout and look-and-feel of your written communication should also be consistent with this brand.  (So if I decide to stick with 'Innovator' I should change the layout and colors of this blog to be more innovative.  Although I might argue that the blog itself is innovative, and my calendar embedded in the blog is innovative.)

Elevator pitches
Write two elevator pitches.  The first is 30 seconds and the latter is 2 minutes.  The first is the hook.  If they bite on the hook then you get to give the second (longer) pitch.  Sometimes you might be in a situation where you can just skip the first and give the full 2-miute pitch, like if you are buying lunch.

30-second pitch will be about 100 words.  2-minute pitch will be about 400 words.

Both must include your primary brand, and should not include your secondary brand.

There are three keys that you need to communicate:
1. I bring _____ value to a company. (Your brand and experience fill in that blank.)
2. I'm memorable.
3. Call the hearer to action.

Mention specific accomplishments and give your numbers.  People remember numbers and interesting specific details.

For the 2-minute version, you can cover these points with something like this breakdown:
* 20 seconds on personal and pre-work information.  Degrees, hobbies, awards, etc.
* 40 seconds on past work accomplishments.
* 30 seconds on most recent work position--give numbers and accomplishments.
* 10 seconds on transition (why are you looking?)
* 20 seconds on your target position and company/companies.
* Give the same call to action closing statement as your 30-second pitch.

Questions and empathy are both good for bridging the gap and really hooking the person.

The closing question should be "Do you know someone whom I can connect with?"

If someone gives you an objection then use it as a hook to have a follow up conversation.  Like this:
Seeker: (gives elevator pitch and ends with): "Do you know someone whom I can connect with?"
Contact: "I do actually know some people, but I'm not sure if you have the experience that they will want to see."
Seeker: "Thank you for your honesty.  I would really like to hear more about what type of experience that you think these people would need to see.  Can we find time to talk more about that sometime?"

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