Some instances of personal brand communication require an advanced form of micro-targeting and customization of your pitch. For example, you might be planning a potentially career-changing presentation to the executive board of your company, are about to pitch an important client, or are preparing a heavily customized resume and cover letter to the prospective employer of your dreams.
In all of these situations, I recommend using “linguistic micro-targeting” to further boost the effectiveness of your personal value proposition and overall brand communication. This process starts with a close look at the types of words, phrases, and references that will most likely “resonate” with your target audience. In combination with an effective hook, value proposition, and tagline, this form of audience targeting powerfully leverages existing linguistic and cultural references to boost brand recognition and memorability.
Linguistic micro-targeting, Part I: Organizational culture and mythology
Every company, from the smallest startup to the most established Fortune 500 giant, has a unique culture and set of shared stories (the “corporate mythology”). The culture expresses common values, the mythology contains stories of great successes, spectacular failures and subsequent recovery, or significant details of important people in the history of the company, such as the founders or other memorable team members. Conversations with individuals working at the company in question, the official website, the 10K report, and other forms of electronic and printed collateral can be valuable sources of insight into these shared cultural elements.
In your research, take a closer look at what type of qualities are emphasized when members of this organization refer to the company as a whole, individual teams, goals, or other unifying aspects of the group. Do people pride themselves on their level of informality and egalitarianism? Do they emphasize hierarchy and order? Are they proud of being an agile and nimble organization? Are there names that are often referenced in a positive light, such as the names of the founders or members of the current leadership team?
Using elements of corporate culture in your micro-targeting
Create a list of attributes, events and names that you can then weave into your own presentation and messaging. For example, you may want to emphasize examples of previous projects and professional success stories that are in alignment with the declared vision and values of the target company. When giving examples of hypothetical customer stories, you could choose the first names of notable company luminaries, past or present. Also highlight how your educational or professional experience have prepared you to actively participate in the corporate culture of the target organization.
Linguistic micro-micro-targeting, Part II: Individual language adaptation
For one-on-one conversations, you may want to take your micro-targeting efforts even further and subtly adjust your language to the individual word choices, interests, and values of your conversation partner. Start by taking a close look at the educational and professional background of the person you will interact with. It may also be instructive to get a hold of a publication authored by this individual to get a feel for their linguistic style and preferred metaphorical tools. Do they frequently paint visual pictures, prefer the bang of auditory expressions, or get their point across by using kinesthetic or tactile examples? In addition to preparatory research, you should use the first few minutes of your meeting to actively listen to their word choices with an eye towards the linguistic preferences mentioned above. If the meeting takes place in a personal office, scan the walls for sports memorabilia, college diplomas, or any other artifacts that may let you build a proverbial bridge to the personal background and culture of this person.
For much more in-depth look at the role of language in corporate culture and communication, please see my paper on Resonant Value Communication in Business-to-Business Sales.
Here’s are two quick exercises to practice corporate and individual linguistic micro-targeting:
- Take a look at your value proposition, tagline, and hook. Now imagine that you are applying for a position at one of the four companies below. How would your pitch change? What are some of the most interesting cultural elements of each company? What do they stand for? How could you resonate with their culture, from the hundred-year-old industrial titan to the scrappy startup?
- Imagine that Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, has invited you over for dinner. What would you talk about? Take a quick look at his professional biography, information about his youth, and any other biographical snippets. Can you find an article written by Mr. Bezos that would give you any indication as to his preferred communication style? If you were interested in a job Amazon.com, how would you change your value proposition to make it even more appealing to Mr. Bezos?
To help you craft a custom micro-targeted pitch or to schedule your personal branding discovery session, please check the Personal Branding Services page.