The Skills Needed and Tips for How to Break Into The Industry
When we teach at universities or guest speak at events for students and early professionals we are often asked, “What does it take to be a successful, impactful brand strategy consultant” or “How do I get my foot in the door”? In this blog post, we’ll share our key insights and tips we’ve garnered and refined over the years. While not exhaustive, we feel it gives a pretty good sense of the mindset and skills brand strategy consultants develop and continually invest in throughout their career.
Listen to learn, not to speak. When we approach client work with a “listen first” mentality, we build empathy and understanding. It also allows us to immerse ourselves in the intricate details and nuances of the organization, the people we are working with, and the brand challenge at hand.
Strong research and analytical skills are critical to brand strategy. Our brand programs always begin with a discovery phase that involves rigorous research. This looks like taking a deep dive into the industry our client operates within and carrying out an analysis of their competitors to identify key trends and any opportunities in the space. We also audit all their marketing and communications materials to better understand how they interact with their stakeholders.
Before diving in, we think through questions we want to answer to guide our research. As we sift through what is relevant and what is not, we collect our baseline information to analyze and synthesize. The insights we identify directly inform the brand strategy we develop. Conducting rigorous research helps us create more detailed, intelligent, strategic hypothesis and conclusions, ensuring that the brand position we build carves out a unique, differentiated space for the brand to own in its market.
As brand consultants we do a lot of public speaking. We are constantly building comprehensive, story driven presentations as a medium to share the brand strategy we develop and explain how we arrived at our recommendations.
Your credibility and power as a brand strategist and your ability to gain a client’s trust relies on your ability to communicate ideas convincingly, thoroughly, and with passion.
Tell a Story
Since the beginning of time, humans have relied on stories to inspire, motivate, and persuade – and it’s no different in brand strategy! We use a story driven approach to share information and write narratives to support the brand position we land on, encapsulating the ethos of the brand. Stories have the power to capture and communicate the emotions, feelings, and other intangible benefits of a brand.
Curiosity is key throughout your career as a brand strategist. It is imperative to continually ask questions and to constantly be learning and devouring content to stay informed and to flex your strategist mind inside and outside of work.
Be a Trusted Advisor
When you genuinely and whole heartedly invest in your client and coworker relationships as well as your daily work, you will reach a point where people can deeply trust you and view you as an adviser. This is an essential skill, especially as you develop in your career.
There’s no one clear path directly to the brand strategy profession, which means individuals bring their own unique experiences, backgrounds and set of skills to the work they do. This promotes diversity of thought and fosters an enriching environment where various viewpoints, ways of approaching problem solving and building strategy co-exist. Your unique path and background are assets that can add immense value to an organization’s culture and team.
Advice for Getting Started
The first step is to seek. Seek information through individual research and step out of your comfort zone by asking people for their time to ask questions and learn.
We recommend tapping into your network to set up informational interviews. These are conversations with people who might have a connection to the world of brand strategy where you can ask questions about their professional path. This could look like hearing someone from Innovation Protocol speak at an event and reaching out to them via LinkedIn to see if they would be open to having a phone call (we always are 😊). Or maybe you’ve spent some time searching your connections on LinkedIn and found someone who might be interesting and informative to speak to.
In the exploration phase of your career search, informational interviews are a great tool to round out your understanding and make connections along the way.
From there, getting started is key. If seeking is the information gathering phase, getting started is where you take your understanding to the next level with hands-on experience. This can help determine if brand strategy consulting is in fact the career path you want to pursue. Consider searching and applying for internships like Innovation Protocol’s upcoming Fall Internship program where you can be fully immersed in a brand consulting company, observing and learning what the day to day looks and feels like.
Start applying to opportunities or asking individuals you’ve made connections with if they are open to you shadowing. Hands on experience is the only way you’ll be able to “test out” the brand strategy profession and will help foster deeper connections to people in the industry, both peers and leaders alike.
With a foundational understanding of what a career in brand strategy looks like, the skills needed, along with tips of how to break into the industry, you can embark on a journey to determine if brand strategy is a career path for you. As brand strategists ourselves, we can say it’s a rewarding career that challenges you to continuously grow and enables you to make a lasting impact on organizations and individuals alike.