(By Mike McVay) One of my favorite management books was released in the late 90s. It is The Brand You 50 by Tom Peters. I find myself recommending it to young media talent, to music artists and to those I mentor. It’s a book that gave me a blueprint to figuring out my own brand and applying it to who I am and how I am perceived.
We know what a brand is, right? Starbucks, Coke, Nike, Apple are all brands. There are people who are brands like Martha Stewart, Michael Jordan and Oprah. There are radio stations who are brands like KIIS/Los Angeles, WCBS-FM/NYC and The Ticket in Dallas. There are Air-talent who are brands like Delilah, Ryan Seacrest, John Tesh, Stephen A. Smith, Mancow and Mark Levin.
You don’t have to be a personality to be a brand. You have to excel at what you do and be remembered for what you accomplish to be a brand. People have to know immediately what you stand for to be a brand. You have to be faithful to your brand and not become something that misrepresents your brand. All of this is easier said than done, but not impossible. It requires a total commitment to your values and your performance.
There is no better comparison for air-talent than being compared to professional athletes. Athletes come and go. They may play for multiple teams during their career. They are very focused on their individual performance because they know that to stay in the game, they must perform at a high level. Great air-talent view their performance in the same fashion. They know that they have to win their daypart if they’re to have job security. Today, more than ever, performance includes more than what comes out of the speakers. They need to make themselves available to sales for appearances and ride-along’s. They need to make themselves available to the promotion department to participate in events and concerts.
Talent should want to build themselves into a brand for two simple reasons. Advancement and preservation. A winning performance increases the odds of longevity and greater value for your services. Unfortunately, like the job of an athlete, there is an end to everything. All jobs end. Either by your choice or the choice of your employer. It’s tougher to eliminate a brand personality. Not impossible, but such an elimination requires at most more strategic thinking and at least a discussion.
The tricky part about becoming a brand is to do so without turning your back on the team and without being blatantly self-centered. The Brand You doesn’t mean that others don’t matter. It doesn’t permit you to survive as a loner in a business where there needs to be collaboration. It means that you are among those thought of in a certain way that reinforces your value and puts you in-demand.
These are the people who become brands; The Programmer who has a successful track record of dominating the ratings in several markets. The Air-Talent who knows how to build an audience and keep them in the face of several challengers over multiple years. The talent that’s known for winning in the ratings because the audience loves them and what they do on-air. A Promotion Director who always finds a way to “own” an event. A Director of Sales who outperforms the ratings with revenue. An Engineer who is famous for making their station sound the best. A podcaster whose content is shared among likeminded individuals leading to a rapid increase in downloads.
It takes years of repetition to become a brand. Even when you reach brand status, the job isn’t finished.
Becoming a personal brand, the Brand You, can be summarized in 10 points:
- Understand who you are and what you believe in.
- Be true to that persona.
- Know what you stand for and do not stray from that stance. If what you stand for could cost you your job, then either the job is wrong or what you stand for is wrong.
- Excel in the area of your expertise.
- Never stop learning.
- Work hard to perfect your craft as an on-going project realizing that evolution is important.
- Be known for something easily identifiable audibly.
- Be known for something easily identifiable visually.
- Be everywhere and be seen everywhere to build a high profile.
- Be memorable. All big brands are known for something and remembered for that something.
Think about those 10 points when you think about any high profile, highly successful, person in our business. That person … is a brand.
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]