I’m a big fan of personality tests. This is a side effect of being introverted and spending a great deal of time trying to figure out what makes me tick. Ideally, some of the insights I gather help me make be a better person and communicator. What makes How the World Sees You by Sally Hogshead interesting and worth posting in the professional blog is its focus on personal behavior and marketing.
Let’s begin with the basics: Ms. Hogshead is a marketing and advertising person, not a clinical psychologist, though I suppose a marketing practitioner qualifies as a practical psychologist. She has spent her career learning what makes people tick so she can help companies and organizations establish their brand through advertising and marketing campaigns. Eventually she formed her own organization and started doing consulting to help individuals develop their own personal brand.
What the heck do we mean by brand, anyway, and why should we as individual technical communicators even bother acquiring one? I’m a freelancer now, so I’m more or less forced into it, but what if you’re working in a company? I’m an introvert–is all that hoopla really necessary?
I’ll take my own shot at describing “brand” based on my time with the Walt Disney World Resort and NASA, two of the most brand-conscious organizations in the world. Brand is the totality of how a company presents itself to the world: name, logo, culture, tag lines, advertising look/feel, stationery, trademarks, employee behavior codes, intellectual property, and corporate “voice.” Ideally, all of these things have a common thread of themes: philosophical, visual, and personal. Disney is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Its marketing efforts strive to convey “magical” family-friendly entertainment and experiences. NASA’s brand is one of serious scientific and engineering virtuosity as well as wonderment in the context of observing and exploring the universe. Both Disney and NASA strive constantly to maintain and protect their brand from becoming diluted or attached to activities that don’t match that integrated image. Other recognizable brands are also out there, such as Coca-Cola, IBM, Apple, and Southwest Airlines.
I mentioned those particular organizations because they set themselves apart–not just because of quality of the things they do, but because they have a clearly defined sense of why they are different from others. Returning to How the World Sees You, Sally Hogshead argues that individuals need to be equally conscious of their personal “brand,” how others perceive their personal differences, and how they can leverage their personal differences/brand to stand out in the workplace.
I’d put it more bluntly: you need a personal brand to help you answer the following questions:
- From a potential client: “Why should I use your services?”
- From an interviewer: “Why should I hire you?”
- From a leader at an annual review: “How do you think you’ve been contributing to this organization?”
Hogshead’s system is slightly different from the Strengths Finder 2.0 approach used at my former employer, where the emphasis is on an individual’s particular high-level business skill set. These are the sorts of skills or abilities that help you clarify how you add specific value (for example, I’m supposed to be strong on being Strategic, Learner, Activator, Individualization, and Achiever strengths).
How the World Sees You emphasizes a set of seven “Fascination” principles, the sorts of things about an individual that might make them captivating from a marketing and communication style point of view–in other words, not just how you add value, but how you captivate others in a working environment. The seven principles are: Innovation, Passion, Power, Prestige, Trust, Mystique, and Alert.
Usually you take the book’s personality assessment in the course of reading it. I caught a break by getting an opportunity to take the assessment for free through an early-look link from another consultant-author, Pamela Slim. I still bought the book, but you can go online and pay for the assessment and report alone. Regardless of when you take the assessment, though, you receive a pretty thorough report on your “Personality Archetype,” the way Hogshead helps individuals identify their marketing/branding strengths. The archetypes are depicted on a 7X7 grid, with your Primary Advantage on one axis and your Secondary Advantage on another. I came out with a primary Trust advantage and a secondary Mystique advantage, which makes my Archetype “The Anchor,” not someone who drags everyone down, but someone upon whom an organization depends because they tend to be protective, purposeful, and analytical.
Once the reader goes through the assessment exercise, they’re ready to learn how they fit in the individual branding world and how they can create their own personal “brand” to focus their efforts and others’ perceptions. Ideally you come out with a two- or three-word tag line to crystallize your personal style. I ended up with “Analytical Communication,” but quite frankly, I’ve been quite happy with “Heroic Technical Writing,” so I’m going to keep that brand, if that’s okay with my readers. However, the book did prompt me to explain my blog/business brand better:
What is “heroic” technical writing? That means I want to understand what you do and to help you communicate that in the best way possible so your idea wins the day.
If you read deeply enough into the Anchor Archetype, you realize that the above statement is within character, as the Anchor looks to protect and safeguard the interests of whatever he or she is doing–which is the point of a hero, right?
So is this book worth picking up and reading/using for yourself? I believe so. Perhaps the most positive message from the book is Hogshead’s belief that you will succeed by best focusing on what makes you different from others–not necessarily better. I’ve shared a lot here, but I don’t think the author will mind. There are a lot of insights Hogshead provides over the course of the book, and I have by no means covered all of them. The text is a bit weighty, coming in at 428 pages, mostly because it provides descriptions and coaching tips for each of the 49 archetypes. However, being able to state clearly who you (and your coworkers) are and explain how you add value are important to explaining why someone should hire you, buy from you, or keep you employed.