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All About Anchor Statements: What They Are, Why You Need One, How to Write One

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The following excerpt is from Karen Tiber Leland's book The Brand Mapping Strategy. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

Tom Merton | Getty Images

The goal of the anchor statement is brand clarity. When you can explain what you do in a way that the listener can quickly and easily fit into a pattern, you've achieved brand clarity. If you can't, they rapidly tune out.

While the anchor statement is only the tip of the iceberg, it is nonetheless an important starting point for answering the question "What do you do?" at a conference, a corporate meeting, or, yes, a cocktail party.

One of my clients -- a lawyer specializing in issues -- told me she became so clear (and confident) in her anchor statement that she closed a client while standing in line waiting to buy movie tickets. A few things to keep in mind:

  • The anchor statement is designed to be brief and to the point. It's not the total picture of your brand; it's the one- or two-minute go-to description.
  • There are layers to the anchor statement. The core of the statement is a sentence or two, but additional talking points can be woven into a conversation, time and interest permitting.
  • Your anchor statement doesn't need to be sexy. Some schools of thought advocate for a scintillating elevator pitch that immediately captures the hearts and minds of those you tell it to. While this is occasionally achieved, for example, "I'm an astronaut, and my next assignment is to go to Mars to look for signs of intelligent life," that's a bar that most people can't—and don't need to—reach.

The basic goal is to have an anchor statement that resonates with your audience. Here's an example from one of my clients.

Michelle Seiler-Tucker, M&A Advisor

Core Anchor Statement: I specialize in selling businesses and represent more than 10,000 buyers looking to acquire a company. On average, we obtain a 20 to 40 percent higher selling price than what the business first appraises for.

Here are some additional talking points:

  • I love my business because I get to help owners of small businesses who are worried they're never going to be able to retire create financial freedom and come up with a plan to even­tually stop working.
  • We're a leading building, buying, and selling authority. The industry has a 40 percent success rate; we have a 98 percent success rate.
  • I've sold 300 businesses in 15 years, and 90 percent of the businesses I obtain, I sell.

Forming Your Anchor Statement

To begin to design your anchor statement, use the following exercise. Grab something to write with, sit in a quiet place where you won't be interrupted for at least half an hour, shut your door, and power down your cell phone.

Now pretend that it's one year from today, and you're sitting in a booth at a restaurant. It's one of those booths that have no back, so you can't see the people behind you, but you can overhear their conversation. After a few minutes, you realize the people in the booth are a group of your clients and colleagues and they're talking about you.

For this exercise, take a few minutes to write each answer to the following questions:

1. What would you want to hear them say about what you do? In other words, what specific actions would compose your work? Be careful: The question here is what you would want to hear them say about what you do, not what you think they would say or what you would expect them to say. By having you make this one year from today, I'm asking you to create your desired brand future.

2. What would you want to hear them say about the results you product? What are the outcomes, impacts, end products, and consequences you'd want people to say they received by working with you or your business, reading your book, or using your product or service?

3. What would you want to hear them say about the qualities with which you do your work? In other words, what are the contributions, characteristics, talents, and virtues you bring to the party?

Now take a look at the answers you wrote down for all three questions. The first answers describe the fundamental activities that define your work or business. For example:

  • A dental hygienist cleans teeth and shows patients the proper way to floss.
  • A business law firm writes up contracts, advises on business law, and crafts clever letters designed to get the other side to say "uncle."
  • A human resource-consulting firm creates training programs, writ

The "Doing" part of our is a fairly straightforward description of the day-in, day-out behaviors that make up our work. What you do is the service that you (or your company) offer, the process you put in place, or the product you provide. It's the way most people talk about their brands. But while this part of branding is necessary to clearly communicate, it is usually the least interesting aspect.

Next, take a look at the answer you wrote down for question two. This relates to the "having" aspect of your brand. In other words, this is what people will "have" in terms of results, impacts, and outcomes from engaging with your brand. For example:

  • The dental patient will have bright, shiny teeth and a world-class flossing ability.
  • The small-business owner will win her case and have an iron-clad contract.
  • The employee will easily be able to apply for maternity leave and will clearly understand the parameters of that leave.

Many people articulate their brand in terms of what they provide to their clients and customers, defining it by the results they produce. While this is more interesting than just describing your brand as what you "do," it's still not the complete picture.

Finally, take a look at what you wrote down regarding the qualities you contribute. These are the qualitative characteristics you bring to what you do. It's the bigger picture of the results you produce. It's the why behind it all. For example:

  • You generate well-being for your patients, since they feel confident, relaxed, and secure that their dental health is in good hands.
  • You generate peace of mind for your business clients, since you help remove the stress that can be associated with legal matters.
  • You generate an environment where employees are satisfied, loyal to the company, more engaged, and, as a result, more productive.

In my experience, the most powerful part of our brand is the "being" part, yet ironically, that's the aspect we spend the least time articulating. What we're contributing with what we offer (do) and the results we produce (have) are important—but the biggest difference we make is with what we bring to the party by what we are (being).

For this reason, it's important that the layers of your core anchor statement include all three levels of brand definition: what you do, the results you have your clients produce, and the way you are being that makes the difference.

Now take some time, and, using the answers you wrote down, take a crack at crafting the anchor statement for your brand. Once you have something you feel works, try it out on people you meet at cocktail parties, conferences, and even standing in line at the movies. Keep what resonates, and tweak the rest. It won't take long before you have an anchor statement that sings the true tune of your brand.

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