Defining My “Cake” (aka Positioning)

Starting Monday, I’ll be teaching an MBA class in the Muma College of Business called “Communication Skills for Managers.” The previous two times I taught this course, we focused on writing, presentational, and interpersonal skills in a business setting. An example of one of the assignments was a persuasive letter to a supervisor or potential sponsor. Students also had three speaking assignments–a personal story, an informational speech, and a persuasive speech. We also talked about how to manage teams and other interpersonal communication situations.

After meeting with the MBA director over the summer, I learned that they wanted to take the class in a new direction. The class will now focus on personal branding, and I am excited to be leading students through such a journey. I’m supplementing the class with two books I just picked up–Known, by Mark W. Schaefer (plus the workbook) and BrandingPays by Karen Kang. Students will be writing elevator pitches, creating Handshake videos for prospective employers to view, writing legacy statements, creating and managing social media, learning simple graphics programs, and telling stories in their presentations (much like Ted Talks).

The first step in Kang’s book is to develop a positioning statement for yourself. This is your “cake”. Students will consider their target audience, the problem statement, the category, their value proposition, and their competitive differentiation. Kang cites Geoffrey Moore who explains these steps as thinking about “for” (target audience), “who needs or wants” (problem statement), “our product is a” (category), “that” (value proposition), and “unlike” (key competitor)…”our product is…” (competitive differentiation). An example from the book is a recent MBA graduate who targeted “hiring managers at global management consulting firms” “who want to expand in new markets…” The MBA graduate offers that he is “an MBA-trained business strategist and software project leader with Chinese language fluency…who can provide immediate value…through domain knowledge and capabilities in research, strategy development, and project management.” To differentiate himself, he’s a “software engineering leader who led deadline-oriented project teams and lived and traveled in Asia.”

In light of this book, I’m now considering my positioning with this blog. We all probably have multiple target audiences, but I will think of the community of PR and social media educators as my target audience here. The problem that audience might face is how to stay on the cutting-edge of what is happening in the field, particularly as it relates to digital and social media. I offer 16 years in academia focused on teaching and researching in the areas of digital and social media and my value comes from my interest and willingness to share that knowledge with others. I have utilized a wide variety of resources in my classes and have been developing best practices, which also contribute to my value. As far as competitive differentiation, I know we have some excellent people out there doing similar work. I guess maybe I will be modest here and just say I am happy to be in their company.

Not only do we develop our cake, but also our icing. Sounds delicious, and I will discuss that in a future blog post.