In middle school, I didn’t play flute or clarinet. I played french horn — the only girl to do so. I didn’t carry a Liz Clairborne purse like the rest of my braces-clad cohort either. And no, I didn’t play a sport — instead I opted to trek an hour each way to study classical voice in the nearest city.
These differences haunted me throughout my middle days school days. Much like my partner’s having to wear an eye patch in elementary school for medical reasons haunted him.
This makes sense. Developmentally during childhood, we all just want to fit it. Carrying a bulky french horn on the bus or wearing an eye patch is a target — a physical representation of difference.
Flash forward to today. Difference is what makes us interesting. Difference is what sets us apart from our competition. Difference make us memorable. Difference is awesome.
We — as both professionals and as stewards of our organization’s brands — must explore and celebrate what makes us stand out. Otherwise, we’re just the same as everybody else.
Here are three tips to get you started.
(1) Ask. Often our own personal thoughts on what makes us stand out are completely wrong. Your colleagues and your donors can articulate what makes you stand out in ways you could not even imagine. Take a colleague out to lunch and ask her what sets you apart professionally. Survey your donors and ask them what three qualities makes you unique.
(2) Celebrate. Make your difference a strength in all of your communication and outreach. For instance, Sea Change is a boutique agency that is small by design. Anyone who works with us, works directly with me and Mark. This unique value proposition embodies everything that Sea Change puts out into the world.
(3) Share. Make sure your staff knows what sets you apart and is incorporating that messaging into everything they do as well. Do a short training session on the essence of your brand and help them understand how to articulate it and translate it into their work.
What sets you apart might not be as easy to pinpoint as an eye patch. But once you find it, it will become your most treasured asset.