Friday, January 14, 2011

By Mark Helfen

"Your brand yourself every day."

"You have a brand, whether you like it or not."

"Great work does not equal a great reputation." (Perhaps this last one could be the most difficult for engineering types.)

These were a few of the things you would have heard at the last SDForum MarketingSIG (January 10) from speaker Karen Kang, an expert on personal and corporate branding. Kang is principal of Branding Pays, a consulting practice that helps both corporations and individuals brand them self. Or maybe more accurately, helps them establish and manage a reputation that helps with their marketing.

Kang, a former partner at Regis McKenna, one of the valley's premier PR firms, spoke to an overflow audience at the regular monthly meeting held at EMC. (And thanks to EMC, both for the space and the food.) Her presentation focused on the idea that your brand, or the reputation that you have in the eyes of others, needs to be managed. Just doing your work expertly isn't enough.

"Brand is both a noun and a verb," said Kang, meaning that your brand is your image and reputation, but developing or changing your brand is an activity that requires work.

The work starts with both your professional competence, and your core values. Your brand starts with results you can actually deliver.

You need to "start getting expert in something, to make you stand out from the pack."  Most people have skills and competence in their background that can be the core of their brand. But as with all marketing, doing everything isn't a good strategy. You need to focus on a small number of things that match your core beliefs and objective, and that will make a memorable impression with your target market

Kang's model is a cake with icing. The cake represents what you are really good at - what you can deliver. The frosting is your presentation - the outside layer. Maybe your personality - the immediate thing people feel when you walk into the room. Being "attractive, engaging, and likeable."

Once you have developed your brand, at least to your own satisfaction, the next step is to make it visible to others. One step is developing a "third party reference structure of endorsements." This could include writing, blogging, or speaking.

Kang also has a 90/10 rule - 10 percent of the people have 90 percent of the influence. Part of your branding strategy is finding those 10 percent - your brand "eco-system" that helps transmit your branding message.

The end is a reputation that is focused, clear, and compelling - what people will remember about you - your brand.


Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant. He can be reached at:



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