PSGCNJ sat down with Anna Marie D’Elia, a senior-level executive with strategic brand, marketing, and product management expertise. Anna Marie combines data analytics and insights with the right mix of digital and traditional marketing tactics to engage consumers with some of the top brands in health care. Get to know Anna better by reading the following transcript of an interview taken by Marla Fishman, a member of the PSGCNJ Training Committee.
MF: Hi Anna Marie. We’re happy to have you here with us today.
When I look at your background and experience, I see a lot in areas of communications and marketing. So clearly this is your passion, this is your area of expertise. What was your path to becoming a branding marketing specialist?
AMD: I’ve been very fortunate to have spent my 15 plus years working in brand and product marketing in an industry I am passionate about, which is health care.
I’ve researched, designed, developed, and implemented countless digital and traditional marketing campaigns where brand positioning and marketing had a direct impact on simplifying the complex and high cost of care for patients, payers, and physicians. As a product marketer for Medco Health Solutions, I launched an online prescription savings portal that in three years kept health plan clients’ drug spend below the national average and helped plan members save 31% annually on their daily medication costs.
When Express Scripts merged with Medco, I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the new brand strategy team, which was tasked with developing a unified brand for two companies coming together as a top Fortune 20 pharmacy benefit manager that was going to be the largest in the US.
MF: I can imagine that was an interesting transition to be a part of.
AMD: It was great because now I was going to get a different perspective than what I got in product marketing. I was going to see how a brand was built from the ground up. And it was a great time because of these two companies coming together, to see it firsthand and be part of that collaborative team.
Principles of corporate branding
MF: I’m wondering if you can define branding for us. It’s a term that gets used a lot, and I think it would help to get everyone on the same page in terms of what it is, what is its purpose, its importance?
AMD: As a corporate branding specialist, a brand is important because it helps a company distinguish itself from its competitors. It clarifies to their customers why their products and services are better than their competitors. When executed properly, with consistency, clarity, continuity, and good storytelling, a brand makes a lasting, memorable impression. It allows clients and customers to know exactly what to expect every time they have an interaction with them.
Brand is ownership. It’s recognition and it’s equity value. So, think of a company’s stock, price, or annual company revenue, and you’ll see why companies invest time and money following a process to get it right. And that process usually starts first with an investment in research. That is, taking a look at where your brand stands today.
Internally, it’s talking with your employees and management, even customers and prospective customers. You also want to look at the state of the industry and your competition to kind of position yourself where you fit in and maybe where you’re unique. From that point on, you develop a value proposition and key driving statements. That is, what does the company bring to the market that others don’t, and what can customers expect from their branded interactions with that company? And then companies also formulate something called Mission, Vision, Values in alignment with the brand to help employees become brand champions for that brand.
But probably most important is when you bring that brand to life and out into the marketplace. You want to make it most memorable. And those elements that do that are the brand persona. So, what is the brand’s personality, its voice, and its tone? Is it friendly, formal? Is it a caretaker or a companion? Oftentimes it’s summed up in a tag line or maybe even a jingle that’s memorable and unique. And then there’s the visual end of your brand, which lots of people signify with, and that’s the company logo, its color palette, its font, and its standards for communications. This is where it really becomes instantly recognizable.
So, think of some of today’s most iconic brands. We quickly identify them with these elements. You have Apple, its unique logo, and its ability to deliver innovative products and services. And then for Nike, you have its iconic swoosh, and then you also have that memorable tagline: Just do it.
Build Brand Loyalty with Brand Personality: Companies make their brands memorable and help customers signify and identify with that brand by creating a brand personality that successfully incorporates several elements, including voice, tone, and look. This is key to building brand loyalty.
MF: I didn’t realize there was that kind of internal assessment with the employees for corporate branding.
AMD: Your employees are the front line! This is where most of the interaction with customers is going on, so having your employees become brand ambassadors is critical – from salespeople to customer service, right up to management.
MF: You mentioned the idea of brand personality. On the consumer end, you get a certain feel when you see a brand – a logo or color or phrase – that has been successful. So, that means the brand has been successful in conveying the personality it wants you to experience – is that right?
AMD: Yes, absolutely right. And, it really helps you signify and identify with that brand when it has that personality. In fact, it is the key to building brand loyalty.
Applying principles of corporate branding to personal branding
MF: And I am sure some of these principles can be applied to personal branding, is it true?
When it comes to personal branding, think of it as how others see you and how you want to be perceived by others. It’s your story. It’s your career path. It’s the story about the goals and the milestones you set for yourself along the way, the progress you’ve made along those goals, and how your job experiences and accomplishments have shaped you today.
You want to tell your story in a way that captures who you are. That’s your personality, what you do, and how what you do makes yourself uniquely you.
Just like in corporate branding, the best place to start is with a personal assessment or research. I used a self-assessment, and then I used a marketing plan template document that took me through the process of looking at myself from an internal perspective, as well as externally in the marketplace.
One key thing is the professional objective. It helps you look at where you are currently in your career, and then where you want to set goals for yourself at that point in time. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? And, how do you want to do it?
Other sections in the marketing plan help you take stock of your core competencies, such as your hard and soft skills, and a listing of your career accomplishments. Those career accomplishments will be the basis for formulating your resume. And then your Challenge, Action, Result – your C.A.R. stories. Then, you just list education, accolades, associations.
But really, one key part is that it has you look externally. It has you define your target industries, companies, and the types of positions you’re looking for. I strongly recommend when you’re doing that, just like companies, you want to align that with your mission, your vision, and the value you have for yourself. This way, it’s a good fit for you and the company – you’re both shopping. You’re also aligning with the recruiters, the hiring managers, and anyone you network with during your job search.
Personal Branding – Internal and External Assessment: Identify your personal brand by conducting a self-assessment of your skills, accomplishments, values, and goals, and an external assessment of target companies, industries, and job roles.
Some key resources I think can be helpful for skills assessment are Clifton StrengthsFinder (https://www.gallup.com/cliftonstrengths/en/home.aspx) and the Birkman (http://www.pathinsight.com/resources/birkman) career assessment tests. They help you explore, discover, and confirm your talents and strengths. You can also ask colleagues, past and current. And then, you can look at your annual reviews, which help with resumes and cover letters. And then many people, because this is a challenging process, will seek the help of a professional career coach.
MF: How can people access StrengthsFinder and the Birkman career assessment tests?
AMD: You can access both online. There is a cost associated with both. When I took the Birkman assessment, it pretty much lined up with what I thought of myself. So that was kind of good. I was in tune and connected. Most people will find that – they’re pretty much in tune with themselves. But it also actually helps shape, too, if you want to pivot and go a completely different direction. Those assessments are great for that.
MF: That was interesting what you said about not just doing the self-assessment, but also doing the assessment of industries and companies – it sounds like that creates a win-win situation because your values are aligned.
AMD: Yes, I find that’s always the case. It’s really important. Think again about brand champions and what I mentioned about how people in the company can be brand champions. You certainly want to go into someplace where it’s a good fit for you and vice versa for the company.
How to stand out from the competition
MF: So you’ve done this assessment of yourself, of your target industries and companies. But how does someone make their brand unique? How do you make yourself stand out from the competition?
AMD: Excellent questions!
They tie into the next step of the process, which is developing a brand statement, and a statement is brief and concise. Corporations do this also. I had mentioned Mission, Vision, and Value and that value proposition. It’s usually about one-to-two sentences about yourself. And it should be simple, which means keeping jargon and acronyms out of it. You want to think of that target audience – your recruiters, hiring managers, and network connections – that may not be familiar with those kinds of terms. You want to make it memorable, something repeatable, or something that’s easy for someone to summarize about you.
So, there are some questions you can use to help write such a statement:
- What do you do?
- What values do you provide? And you want to think of that in terms of problems that you helped solve. Clients, and in this case, recruiters and companies, have pain points – identifying those pain points and how you solve them.
- And then, how do you do it uniquely in your approach when you solve them?
- And then, who do you do it for (i.e. your target audience)?
Marketing your personal brand
MF: Those are great questions to help uncover your brand statement. So, you develop your brand statement, and you have your brand. How do you go about marketing it?
AMD: You want to integrate your brand into what I call my baseline foundational documents. And it’s critical to keep your statement and messaging very consistent across all of these documents. And you’re using storytelling, so you’re bringing your brand to life in these documents.
People remember stories better than statistics, and you’ll use both. A good story is one way to help people remember quickly.
- Business Card. It’s pretty straightforward – your name, phone number, and contact information.
- 30- and 60-second Commercials. You get a little bit more leeway. But it still must be tight and concise. I even did a 15-second commercial.
- Resume. I have a stylized version of a resume and an ATS version. These are one-to-two pages. This is more of a fact sheet. It’s brief, concise, and simple, quick little bullets and snippets about you.
- Cover Letter. I’ve developed a template for a T-bar version where you list the company’s requirements and how your skills and qualifications align with those requirements.
- Executive Profile. I look at this as a sell sheet or a leave behind that a salesperson uses when they go and meet face-to-face with a client. It’s a one-pager that summarizes who you are and what you do, your key accomplishments. It also includes the target industries, companies, and job titles. And, it’s a nice little leave behind for networking and referral.
- LinkedIn Profile. You also have your LinkedIn profile, which is more personalized storytelling.
- C.A.R. Stories. Your Challenge, Action, Result (C.A.R.) stories align pretty much with your resume. It’s a great spot to bring your story to life.
Bring Your Brand to Life with Foundational Documents: Use multiple foundational documents to market your brand, and ensure consistency in your brand statement and messaging throughout.
MF: Can you explain how the ATS version of the resume is different from the stylized version?
AMD: Yes, the ATS version is for those Applicant Tracking Systems, which wants something clean and not heavily formatted. So, it’s a pretty straightforward document. So, I strip out some of that stylizing that’s in the stylized resume I hand out in person. And don’t forget that both the stylized and ATS version of the resume are updated for each job. So, you’re optimizing keywords to match up to the keywords in the job description.
MF: So, you have this arsenal of documents that market your brand. Can you go into more detail on how you use them?
AMD: Yes. So, networking, as we all know, is key, and we must do plenty of it. Your LinkedIn connections are one target for networking. People in companies you’re targeting, you certainly want to connect with them on LinkedIn. Past colleagues, family, friends, and referrals. You also want to connect with people at networking events, which can include trade association events that align with your industry.
I have also done a lot of volunteer work with organizations where I’m using my services and my skill sets to keep using my skills.
These documents are key during these networking situations. You want to think of them as your marketing tools. So, in those networking situations, you’re using your business card, the 30- and 60-second commercial. That Executive Profile comes into play for one-on-one networking informational meetings. You’re using it as a guideline for that discussion and a leave behind follow-up document. People I’ve networked with use my Executive Profile to do warm introductions to referrals. It warms up my conversation with the person when I’m speaking with them, so it’s not so cold of an introduction.
MF: And, you prefer using the Executive Profile to the resume for those networking conversations?
AMD: Yes, I reserve using that resume for when you’re submitting a job application. The stylized resume and cover letter are what I would use in an in-person interview, and I have used that to send an email to a recruiter or hiring manager for a job application. But any time I’m going through an applicant tracking system, I’m using that ATS version customized for that position with a cover letter.
And then in interviewing those C.A.R. stories come into play. And to me, this is where the fun is in interviewing, because you’re sitting face-to-face, and you’re telling those stories that back up the accomplishments in your resume. This is your chance to shine and sell. You’re bringing your personality, you’re bringing those skills, hard and soft, and you’re telling that story that backs up those accomplishments and things you’ve listed on your resume.
And then there are value-added things and bonuses that are above and beyond the foundational documents. These include using social media, in addition to LinkedIn, such as Instagram and Twitter.
You can also create a personal website, which I see as being very good for those who are graphic designers, writers, freelancers, maybe someone who is going into consulting, or anyone who wants to showcase a portfolio or body of work.
Also, if you really have the gumption and you’re comfortable to byline your own articles and your own blogs to market your brand. A lot of people are also doing career-themed videos.
MF: If someone wants to learn more about personal branding, what do you recommend they read, or what resources do you recommend?
AMD: Through my networking, which, as we said is really important, I heard about Pat Romboletti. She has a book called, Bulletproofing Your Career, she’s done some TED Talks, and she does some mini-workshops about bulletproofing your career in what today everybody is calling a gig economy. The average job tenure now is about 3-to-5 years. For some people who are in a job search who are older –well, it’s changed. She talks about never stopping building and maintaining a network and branding yourself because you must be prepared for this new market and constantly have your brand ready and at hand.
There are also some great LinkedIn learning tools I have come across, like the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). I took one on “Your personal brand” a Job Hunters’ Networking Masterclass from a company called Careercake. It was a series of videos that had very good content and a good cadence. Best of all, it had transcripts, which I found helpful to refer to.
MF: As a last thought, let’s say you run into someone in passing and you have to quickly give them your best branding tip. What would it be?
AMD: My best tip on branding would be, don’t wait for a career transition to develop your personal brand and to start networking to get your story out. You should be doing that constantly, building networks, and making contacts. Keep your brand out there and stay top of mind, just like companies do. They’re continually making that effort. You don’t just stop.
Branding is a Lifelong Process – You Never Stop: With the current gig economy and a 3-to-5-year average job tenure, we must continually network, brand ourselves, and tell our story to stay top of mind.
MF: That is a great piece of advice. A great tip to end with. There are so many gems you shared. Thank you very much, Anna Marie. It was a pleasure talking with you.
About the author: Marla Fishman is a member of the PSGCNJ Training Committee. Marla has over 13 years of proposal and project management experience. She helps companies meet tight deadlines and ensure compliance with requirements by building strong relationships with cross-functional team members and collaborating with them to achieve quality, accuracy, and completeness. Marla has nonprofit and corporate experience and lean agile certifications. Marla is passionate about collaborating with others to achieve a common goal.