Les Binet and Peter Field offer some lessons for your career too
A view from Sue Unerman

Les Binet and Peter Field offer some lessons for your career too

Think about your career and personal brand in terms of the long and the short.

Mark Evans, chief marketing officer at Direct Line Group, mentioned that he’d been discussing how Les Binet and Peter Field’s now-omnipresent book, The Long and the Short of It, was applicable to more areas than marketing science. And if anyone is entitled to express this, it’s Mark, whose team won the IPA Effectiveness Best New Learning award.

It’s equally valuable as a guide to your career. So here are some lessons inspired by this broader use of Binet and Field, as well as Direct Line's award-winning work. 

Brand image and differentiation matter

MediaCom recently hosted a Glass Wall network event where Karen Blackett, MediaCom's UK chair, WPP UK country manager and race equalities business champion, shared her personal brand-building tips along with mindfulness coach, journalist and diversity training expert Mark Edwards. It’s crucial to build a personal brand, yet even in a business of brand-builders people don’t always take the advice that they give. Deciding what you stand for and what you stand against can inform and supercharge everything you do at work. For example, I can’t bear the idea that "good enough" work will do when outstanding work is always within reach. I feel equally about people who don’t get to fulfil their potential for any reason.

The long and the short applies to your career too

Binet and Field make a recommendation that brand investment should be balanced with activation investment. Overall at a 60/40 split, but with significant changes to that balance depending on the category in which the brand sits.

It is equally crucial to balance long-term career investment with short-term tactics. So there will be times when you can get an immediate pay hike by jumping ship from one employer to another. It’s very tempting, especially in times of belt tightening. In the long run, though, it might prove suboptimal in terms of long-term return on investment. In other words, a pay hike now might come at the expense of long-term career development.

As someone once said to me when I was given an extremely financially attractive job offer: there’s a reason that place is offering huge salaries – they have to in order to get good people to go there. Sometimes you need to take a deep breath and think it through.

Fame matters

One of the first – and, to some, slightly controversial – findings from the IPA Databank was that campaigns that are specifically designed to create fame for a brand outperform other campaigns on all business metrics. This is because they drive "mental availability" faster and, without this, brands find it more difficult to grow.

It’s the same with your career. If someone asks "Who’s the best thinker/seller/ideas person/most efficient?" and your name doesn’t come up at all, then you’re less likely to be considered for the next promotion or career opportunity. So, as well as making sure that your work is great, you need to be known for great work. Keep a balance between getting stuff done and building a profile.

At different stages of your career, the balance will again shift. You need great work to promote, since fame without substance may give you the wrong kind of profile.

Think long and short for your personal brand.

Sue Unerman is chief transformation officer at MediaCom
@SueU