It is an old warning in the entertainment industry. Define your persona the way you want others to view you—before someone else defines you by comparing you to someone not as flattering as you would like.
Sometimes you win when others define your story
I have a friend in the music business who worked hard to gain introductions to, and become mentored by, several known names in the business. One well known informal mentor called him the “Stevie Wonder of Hip Hop.” That description stuck, and it is helping the young artist to define himself through instant branding and a positive image.
Sometimes it is best that you do it first
If you are proud of the fact that you were first to market with a product or service, you might define yourself as the “first and best.” If you are the largest company in your niche, you might want to define yourself by relative size, which connotes success and staying power. If you are the quirkiest of suppliers in your niche, you could create a campaign around your company’s counterculture.
Use a word picture or mantra to make it memorable
One great way to define your story is with a word picture in which you associate yourself with a person or company that is recognized in a positive way and helps you tell your story more easily. For example, if you have a bicycle courier service that you want to be known as speedy and reliable, define yourself as “the FedEx of urban couriers.” (See “Manage Your Mantra” two weeks earlier in this blog.) Your failure to do this early in the life of the company may come back to haunt you when others refer to you as just another street currier.
Sometimes you reduce your market to increase your positioning
How do you define yourself? A mantra, tag line, motto, or logo with your unique brand definition is a good start. Press releases and PowerPoint presentations with a uniform use of the mantra or phrase will reinforce your effort. Back your story up with a statistic if possible. “There may be forty companies that do what we do, but we’re the first, largest and used by more Fortune 500 companies in our area than all the others combined.” (You can tell that story by limiting your market to the lower east side of town, where you are all those things.)
Create the story and spread it so you define yourself
Teaching your associates and employees to use the phrase each time they introduce the company to another social or business contact helps spread the word. There is no one who will ever be as passionate about telling your story as you. It is worth the time and effort to work on telling it well and in a memorable way.