Editor’s Intro: Jake Prysziak gives some valuable advice to young researchers in his article on personal branding. I have to confess that I had a funny gnawing feeling after first reading it, and I had trouble articulating it until this past weekend. The weather was lousy, my wife was out, so I looked for a movie on Filmstruck (a great service). I watched Persona, by Ingmar Bergman, a wonderful movie I hadn’t seen since my student days. After watching it, I looked up some articles about it, and then I realized what was gnawing at me. Persona is the Greek word for mask. Jung uses Persona to represent the public face we choose to present to the world, as distinguished from the inner soul. While Jake talks about developing a personal brand, a market research persona, I would advise newcomers to develop their market research “soul” as well. Do the best work you can at all times, bring creative solutions to business issues, keep your promises to clients and colleagues, and be reliable; when there is a problem, own it and take responsibility to solve it. While I appreciate the need to cultivate one’s personal brand, that mask you present to the world, I would advise young readers to mind your market research “soul” first; your market research “persona” will then take care of itself.
While many young researchers fall into the world of market research, my career has been slightly different. I really enjoyed the nature of research from university and I stepped into employment straight away after. I started to attend numerous conferences and talks from ‘industry experts’ and my brain started to ask questions.
Why is everyone in the industry very much the same?
They all have similar skill sets in a changing, more automated market and you find the same ‘influencers’ speaking at events and guest blogging on market research publications. I set a challenge to myself to become a sound investment and personal brand within the sector. I am not one to keep my approaches to myself, and today I am going to share with you how to create an excellent personal brand within the market research sector and why it is so important for you in later life. It’s become apparent over a number of years in the sector that certain elements have to be on your CV, such as a certificate or qualification to rubber stamp your authority and skill set. The market research certificate handled by the MRS is a clear example. What startles me is the lack of creativity from young buzzing graduates who enter the sector, who don’t have their own niche. Ultimately, they are one small fish, along with other similar fishes, in a very big pond.
But how can you create a niche that separates you from others in the sector?
This is why personal branding is so important to a modern-day market researcher. It is becoming more and more important because the modern-day audience trusts individuals more than company brands or large corporations. I am not trying to say you can gain more work as a freelancer, but a new client will go to an individual in a company to discuss an opportunity, not necessarily the business first. Therefore your personal brand is crucial. It allows you to create a reputation and identity in the industry that offers your audience a personal level of trust.
How on earth can I create a personal brand while working full-time?
The answer to that question I get asked a lot is you have to work hard throughout your career and go the extra mile that will pay dividends in later life.
My 5 top tips are all that I use continually alongside my full-time market research role., so if I can, so can you.
1. Use Social Media
Using Twitter, I have managed to forge various partnerships with leading organisations in the sector. A clear example of this is my recent trips to Amsterdam and Atlanta that all started from a Twitter conversation. I know I talk about Twitter and social media a lot, but I can’t stress enough how important these tools are to the modern-day individual, not just in market research but any career. In market research, there are a number of hashtags I would recommend searching for, and they are:
You should share your thoughts and opinions. Whatever you post on Twitter, you are letting everyone see what your thoughts and opinions are. This shouldn’t put you off from having an opinion about particular subjects but encourage you to embrace them. There are so many different subject areas you could discuss in relation to market research from methodology development and survey design to infographics and data visualisation. The language you use to share your thoughts and opinions depends on what type of personal brand you wish to have. If you are just starting out on Twitter or you have been a long-standing user of the platform, you don’t have to be on it 24/7 to get results. By results, I mean discussions with others, retweets, likes and clicks on any links you might have posted.
2. Attend Conferences
There are so many different conferences not just in the UK, but in Australia, Thailand and the USA. I am fortunate enough to have been to many of these as a visitor or as a speaker, using my 5 top tips! Like I said, you don’t need to speak, this comes with time.
I would definitely recommend attending agency and client events to get used to the new technology but also learnings in the sector which you can take back to your organisation and inspire others. This will help you to create your niche within market research, you may wish to focus on a particular methodology or technology.
Don’t forget about the various online webinars that are available in the sector. These are mostly free, yes FREE!
So, take the opportunity and listen to leading individuals in the sector where you can sit at your desk or at home, and listen to their thoughts and opinions. If you are unsure about what events and webinars take place, I would recommend taking a look at the following sites but also check social media as they are all advertised there:
The Insight Show
3. Academic Research
You may be wondering why academic research? The simple answer is that academic research and various accessible research portals offer a breadth of market research methodologies with descriptive notes that can help you to implement similar designs. Better yet, you could sign up to ResearchGate for free and access various publications and articles from academics. I have implemented some methodologies I have found from academics within the sector from reading about the pros and cons of a particular method or tool, and how academics have enhanced it and delivered some interesting results.
4. Take on a Challenge Within the Sector
Why can’t you take on the challenge and create your own trend? If you work for an agency or an organisation, there will be something that could be enhanced, not changed, but improved. Don’t wait for someone to change something; take the initiative to improve something for you and your colleagues. This can be a challenge especially if you are a new graduate and you have only been in a market research job for a number of years, but remember you are fresh with ideas and might have seen something new and interesting that you are not trying at the moment with your employer.
5. Create a Succession Plan
This will help you to form your own trend. I would recommend using some of the following points below:
- What tools do you need to help you succeed?
- Who are your key contacts and influencers you need to talk to about the idea?
- How will it help your organisation?
- How can you track its influence and ROI?
Once you have thought of how you can form your own trend and identity, I would love to hear from you in the comments below. I look forward to hearing about your challenges in the sector soon. So there you are, your next mission is to create your personal brand in the sector and make a name for yourself. Have the determination to be an expert in your field, while it might take time, there are definitely rewards to gain.