Tell me a little about yourself.” What a great opening question.

It’s a question I haven’t heard in a while. I have a job and I’m fortunate enough to work in the newspaper business. I have a resume, but haven’t needed to spruce it up. Nor have I recently been in a job interview where I answer the questions.

Interviewing is an important tool. Hiring new talent is a lot about getting to know the candidates. Folks on the street looking for work understand the marketplace is competitive.

Give your newspaper a ‘Brand-Aid’

But that’s what our brands do every day. If you are involved in maintaining or growing your paid audience, you know your market demands to know a little about you.

Readers and subscribers make decisions about what they know about us. Buying decisions are made — and lost — on account of brand.

Companies and products are not brands. Only brands are brands. Without a brand, the consumer has a stale relationship with whatever perception he or she holds.

Brands provide businesses the precious opportunity to have a conversation about what really matters. Cola and car sales are won and lost on account of brand.

Help wanted

Imagine your newspaper brand, for a moment, in a job interview. That’s right, your newspaper brand is looking for a job. And your prospective readers are hiring. They have a job to fill.

For the right candidate, they will make your brand an offer. Then they’ll welcome your brand into their family. But first they have a lot of tough questions.

“Tell me a little about yourself.” It’s an easier question to ask than to answer.

The company and products behind your brand are diverse. There are printing presses and distribution facilities. Your newspaper boasts a headquarters where money is counted, important decisions are made, and paychecks are sent to employees.

It takes people and paper to run a newspaper. And, oh, you’ve been in business for more than 150 years.

While these facts are true, your brand would remain jobless without something more. Tell the consumer what they want to hear: Your brand make a difference in peoples’ lives. Now convince them of this. And stories of newspaper presses won’t do the trick.

“Tell me a little about yourself.” Heck, this is a tougher question than it seems.

How would you answer this question? What would you say? Let me offer some help: Differentiate yourself. Brand is the quickest way to help your consumers understand “what you’re all about.”

Get creative

So what are you all about? What makes your brand stand out? Make a list of things you do better, faster, and cheaper than anyone else.

In other words, why is your brand unique?

Benefits should be on your customers’ terms, not yours. So I don’t want a list of recent capital improvements.

A unique brand is a very powerful force. And the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) communicates it. The USP was pioneered by iconic ad man Rosser Reeves. He believed the purpose of advertising was to sell.

As marketing professionals, it is our job to plainly convince our audience of one thing: When you buy a daily newspaper, you receive what you can’t get anywhere else.

What is the one undeniable benefit of purchasing a daily newspaper? For my brand, it is local news, information, and advertising you simply can’t get anywhere else.

What is your brand’s promise? Your USP tells the story.

But is it really unique? That depends. If your claim is easily settled by competition, then your proposition is not unique.

As newspapers, what do we do that our competition cannot? Answer this question with honesty and you win!

Who has tackled gathering, reporting and publishing local news, on a local level? Some have tried and failed. To me, it seems the local daily newspaper has a business model that sustains it. The brand is the nerve center of that business. It determines how business decisions are made.

Be wary of the imitators. They’re your real competition. It is the likes of network evening news, CNN, Google, and even the dreaded aggregators. And it’s up to us to evangelise the benefit of a truly local news brand.

Since you deliver upon a promise that’s so unique, your competition can’t touch you. But be bold and tell the story. Your brand message must be strong. It must be compelling to the degree that it moves a significant amount of the market.

Consumers demand to be immersed in the unique benefits of your brand. Watchwords such as “local,” “reliable,” “credible,” “different viewpoints and perspectives,” and “things that matter to me” should be part of your brand’s lexicon.

You’re in the brand hunt of your life. Tell, write, show, and invite your market to understand the uniqueness behind your brand. Build your USP. If you’re bold, direct, and powerful, your brand yields immense value in your consumers’ lives.

Your market needs your brand. Be unique. Remember, your customers are begging, “Tell me a little about yourself.”