Archive for December, 2009

Guilty of UnPersonal Branding?

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Are you guilty of relying on your company’s name and presence – and not working hard to establish your own personal brand? Unless you have an infamous past to hide, you’ll do yourself and your company a big favor by relentlessly communicating a clear, consistent and compelling personal brand. Then, you may leverage your brand so it functions as a 24/7 ambassador, not just for yourself, but also for your organization.

People who don’t “get it,” always ask: “Why would my firm want me to be personally recognized – shouldn’t the company brand be the be-all and end-all of my identity as an employee?”

Are you a Human Asset or Resource?

Are you a Human Asset or Resource?

Those folks don’t know that “human assets” is the new term for “human resources,” and has even replaced the more recent moniker “talent,” when it comes to describing employees. Frankly, most companies don’t want to spend much money on developing employees. Like getting dressed in the morning and showing up on time, your responsibility for the basics of self-management rest with you, not the company. Personal branding ranks above getting dressed and below speaking at the next TED conference, when it comes to desirable self-management.

Now that indentured servitude is illegal, many companies see that even paying for a skilled foreign worker’s visa is a bad investment. We used to believe that foreign workers would stay because the company took on the work and expense of getting the visa. We found out, once you get the visa…well, you can pretty much go anywhere – and you do, no reimbursement (or even a hearty thank you) required.

What’s also come to light over the last decade of stakeholders’ scrutiny? Most companies’ training dollars “invested” in employees disappear faster than their 401K plans did last year. As soon as you leave for the next job, the company’s investment in you leaves as well.

So, companies want their employees to be competent, respected and committed to growing their own reputations, skills, connections and career path. Maybe your firm will part with some tuition reimbursement money, but frankly most employers want you to come in and be the best you can be, and lend them all the connections, visibility and relationships you have.

Your brand is part of what makes you a human asset, as opposed to a human liability.

Let’s compare human assets to real assets. Most companies don’t buy “real assets” like property and buildings, and hope those assets will be invisible to the naked eye. It’s true not everyone is still ideating on the Taj Mahal concept of buildings as monuments to the founder’s ego. However, most companies spend a good bit of coin to keep up the limestone, granite, wood, plastic and fiberboard based dwellings we call our headquarters or offices.

buildingAs you drive up, the building makes an impression, way before the sign does. In a weird way, the building has a personal brand. Even the office complex or the neighborhood is branded – elite, modern, efficient, convenient, near the freeway, off the beaten track and “by the way we have a squash court and a company gym,” are components of the building’s brand.

When I went to work for The Coca-Cola Company, I immediately got the “we are on a campus” branded land use, much like Allergan, Google and Yahoo later copied. The space communicates this brand message: “We care about our people and our image with visiting clients and partners.”

So, consider yourself a mobile branding platform for your organization, even if all the mobile you’re doing is running on a treadmill in the company T-shirt while chatting to the panting person next to you.

I bet you never call a restaurant, and make a reservation for:

“Party of 5 young, intelligent, happening kind of people.”

Do you leave an amorphous description that could fit any group? Or, do you leave your name? Hopefully, you leave your name (and the number of guests the venue should expect). That way, the hostess doesn’t give away your table to any equally hip group of five – before you arrive.

Here’s the connection to personal branding in business.

People don’t buy from Consolidated Waste Management Assets, Houston Office. They buy from you, Bunky. That is, if you’re the hip, young and intelligent Bunky McFearson of Consolidated Waste Management Assets, Houston Office. Yes, customers write the PO to CWMA, Houston. They make the check out to the firm. But, they buy from YOU. You have to build your personal brand, even if you are in Large Company, Inc.

Certainly you are the brand when you’re job hunting. Don’t label your resume document: Resume.pdf. Label it: McFearson4AcmeWasteManagement.pdf

And, when you open your own shop, remember that the greats have leveraged their own names – way before they were large and famous.

  • Parsons
  • Northrop
  • Morgan Stanley
  • Ogilvy & Mather
  • Holmes and Narver
  • O’Melveny & Myers – and every humongous law firm.

Often small business owners have the misperception that using their own name makes them appear small. It’s an unfortunate misunderstanding of business and business relationship development.

What is the power of using your name?

You may be the biggest point of leverage and differentiator among your competitors. Why hide that? It probably is the single best part of working with your firm – YOU!

To all my favorite personal brands, including YOU: Have a clear, consistent and compelling 2010!

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Ten Commandments of Personal Branding – #7: Think Themes Not Words

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Giant WheelWho are you? You are a theme. You are one unified, coherent, understandable and consistent presence – if you are successfully branding yourself with your network, both real and cyber.

You can’t be all things to all people. You must be one distinguishable thing to your tribe. If you don’t choose, your tribe will assign a theme to you. Sociologically we cannot live among each other, without labeling.

You know this. You have that crazy friend, the boring one, the smart one, and the one who always knows what club is happening.  Most people didn’t sign up for the label they live with. Their bad.

Regular people live their lives and let others brand them. People like you, living with intention, making their mark indelibly, choose a theme. You must choose an authentic one – and use it in every communication, conversation, presentation and meeting.

Consider these, they may help you self-diagnose:

#1 Courageous, adventurous, brave and daring
#2 Encouraging, joyful, uplifting and fun
#3 Gracious, generous, giving, and thoughtful
#4 Funny, quick-witted, sardonic and comedic
#5 Current, hip, in-the-know and happening

Consider who’s who in a new partnership

Courage is the guy who puts his money down to jumpstart the deal. Encouraging is the guy who inspires others to contribute. Gracious is the person accepting the funds and thanking everyone for their efforts. Funny is the one who lightens the mood when the going gets tough. Current is the one who knows exactly where to spend the profits.

If you think you’re all of these themes, you’re going to have to spend some time alone, because no – you’re not all things to all people.

Ask yourself:

If you were with Gilligan, lost on an island with people who don’t know you well – what traits would undoubtedly define your attitude and interactions with them? That’s who you are. It may not be who you want to be. So act accordingly, or rather change your act accordingly.

When you like what you see, go ahead and let the world know.

Who are you?

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The Power of Your Name in Personal Branding

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Your name is the single most important factor in your enterprise, whether you introduce and represent your company by speaking your name loudly and clearly while offering a hearty handshake – or write an equally hearty introductory post on a discussion thread.

Here’s a slightly off topic tip: the back of your head or an avatar that looks like Gumby and Courtney Love had a child, not a good personal branding choice.

I counsel my clients to use their whole names, by the way. So unless you are Perez or Cher (who might be the same person since we’ve never seen them together), when you are introducing yourself or registering on a website use: Bunky McFearson. That is, if you are Bunky McFearson. So Bunky, when you’re making a new acquaintance live and in-person, you might add: “That’s McFearson with an F.”

Give them a hook – give them a visual.

You see, within seconds of making contact: you got to work in your last name mynameistwice. You might also add, “I know, I look a lot like Kenny in South Park. I figure the K in my first name: ‘B-u-n-K-y’, is our connection.”

Always add something that forces your audience (one or one thousand plus people) to spend time remembering your name. You might give an association of your name and likeness to a famous person, develop a word picture or story, or create another reason that allows you to repeat your name.

Why is this an important factor in personal branding and not simply echolalia?  Because you’re helping your audience overcome a widespread and embarrassing problem.  Almost everyone is nervous when it comes to remembering names of people they’ve just met. So, your name ritual is a personal branding tool for two reasons. One, you are making multiple impressions with your name. Two, you are perceived as ready, relaxed and helpful, perhaps even opening a window on your sense of humor. Simply put, you are relationship building.

Here’s one of my self-introductions for a networking event.

“I’m Nance Rosen. Yes, just Nance, not NanCY. When I was born, my parents were too poor to afford more than one syllable, so they left off the ‘Y’ and stuck on an ‘E.’ So, I’m not Nancy Rosen just Nance Rosen.” (Pause and Smile) Just kidding. Actually, there’s only one other Nance I know. She’s Nance Mitchell the famous Beverly Hills hairdresser. Obviously, no one would mistake us for each other (my hair is usually pinned up so I can shower and get to work in under ten minutes). Obviously, we have different businesses and priorities (Smile). I’m the executive publisher at Pegasus Media World and I speak to audiences on the topic of personal branding.”

Avoid the Vacuum


Aviod the Vacuum

I want to break you of the habit of introducing yourself into a vacuum. The first time you say your name it is swallowed up and your audience’s brain space goes vacant. You need to establish your name as a beachhead for your personal branding from now on. No, you don’t have to do a soliloquy, but you do want to say something so people can later LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and more, with you.

If they collect a pile of business cards, they will remember you when they see your name.

Do this before your next holiday gathering.

  1. Consider how you can say your name and associate it with memorable images.
  2. Create your “story” and say it 10 times before you greet your sister’s boyfriend’s cousin’s daughter at your family’s holiday party. Every new person you meet could be a prospect or referral source.
  3. Never stop branding.

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Personal Branding with a Punch and Some Cookies

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Typically, it’s not the best, but the one who can take the stress that makes it to the top of any company, industry or career path. It’s the person who can take a punch, get past the burn, and play injured that makes it to number one.

It’s the person who cleans and dresses their own wounds – and knows how to unwind rather than blow up – that other people trust and admire.

Soothing self-talk is way under recognized as a career and reputation management tool.cookie

While our personal brands must be distinct from the masses around us, those of us who succeed have one thing in common: we are low maintenance on other people. We appear to be self-cleaning ovens, effortlessly churning out fresh, hot and delicious chocolate chip cookies without leaving a mess. Even when we don’t have the perfect temperature, ingredients and other conditions that we wish made our missions easier – we perform reliably.

If you embrace the facts: business is not nice, people don’t play fair and cheaters often prosper, and you’re okay with that – you can save your energy for the real fight.  Guess who is your opponent?

The real fight is always with yourself, not with your circumstances or other people. The fight is to maintain your calm, measure your words and keep things in perspective.

My business partner says the toughest part of deal-making is: “getting over yourself.” Getting over the loss of “must-haves,” that turn out to be “not right now haves.” Getting over what feels like career ending injuries – like getting fired or being passed over for the ideal job. Getting over the client who breaches a contract, the boss who goes back on his word, and getting on with the real job you wind up with – which rarely looks like the job description you signed on for.

Dream big but don’t torment yourself. Goals are meant to stretch you, but not so far as to break you. We all have an internal thermostat regulating our sense of well-being, with a surprisingly small range for novelty and change in any one space of time. So, do yourself a favor, and set the next upward threshold at 2 degrees not 20 degrees higher as you make the climb in your mind, which is where success starts.

As you rise in reality, acclimate to the stress, the perqs, the people, and the altitude. The air gets thinner and it can be really hard to take that centering, cleansing breath – as you go higher and higher in your business or career. Like any great ascent, you have to see it and take it, in stages. People who manage their careers, reputations and the growth of their brands are not just self-confident.They have soothing self-talk. Most of the time, we’re thinking about the next step, not the entire mind-boggling journey.

If you are pushed or pulled over your limit, even by your own imagination, you may creatively find ways to self-sabotage.

As soon as you’ve laid down the great get, such as: “I will be the leading social media strategist or blogger or pundit or accountant or tech genius in my field,” drop in mini-goals.  You eat an elephant and an apple the same way, one bite at a time.

So survey the buffets that are spread out this season, and resolve to enjoy just enough holiday punch and cookies to satisfy you in one sitting. Your eyes may not be the best judge of what your stomach can hold down.

What other reasonable resolutions are you going to make at this time of year?

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Ten Commandments of Personal Branding – #6: You Must be Consumed by your Tribe and Tribe Watchers, and Seen as a Servant-Leader.

Monday, December 14th, 2009

tribeThe drum beat, smoke signals, man-sized kettle slowly boiling bound strangers as warriors dance for vengeance or rain, that’s the old image of a tribe. Things have changed. Tribes are now considered groups of people who come together because of a compelling interest, connected on the web in forums or blogs, and occasionally at a Tweet Up. Even today, being a stranger is a losing proposition and reigning as a tribal leader is still the guy to be. The conditions, however, are less dramatic. The stakes however may still be life or death, for your personal brand.

Commandment #6: Be Consumed By Your Tribe

Of course, by “consumed,” I meant this in two metaphorical ways…

First, you must be authentically drawn to the industry, topic, idea and people you want to lead (your tribe per Seth Godin). At one time you were consumed by a group’s music, a lover’s magnificence, or a head-cold. By this I mean your thoughts were dominated by this one thing.

Ask yourself:

What subject and what group of people simply fascinates me? What am I drawn to read about, write about, talk about, investigate and sit endlessly through the night poking around the web finding new and arcane facts and opinions?

Look at your search history. What sites are consuming your interest? Who are your people – find them in these places.

Second, your number one priority must be fulfilling the needs of your tribe and the many ways you can get to them, to serve those needs. You must be genuinely willing and able to parent, lead, provide for, shepherd or otherwise serve the tribe, way more than most people in the tribe. Maybe not lead in every area, but in at least one significant area. And, make major, consistent and relentless improvements and opportunities for others.

Tribes need leaders, and your personal brand depends on your being seen and sought out as a leader.

For example, Greg Stewart is the Creative Director at Pegasus Media World. He happens to be consumed by Freemasonry. He’s engaged in a nearly lifelong journey of consuming everything imaginable about the group. He knows the myths, legends, history, famous people, deeds, misdeeds, odd turns and even the criticism and fears evoked by this group. He can compare its practices and traditions to almost any other practice, including some ancient religions that many theologians might not know. And, by the way he’s a creative director in publishing – so its a behemoth role to have taken on leadership of a tribe outside of his professional activities. But, he is simply and authentically consumed by this interest.

Greg is also consumed by his tribe and their needs. He has made himself a clearinghouse, central resource, education and entertainment center revolving around Freemasonry, Greg lays out a significant body of work at the website he founded and runs, Freemason Information. You can get his free eBook there. You can listen in to hundreds of podcasts featuring Masonic experts that he’s recorded. You can interact, be inspired and connect with the tribe there. Follow him and his blog posts, feed, tweets, and Facebook, from the blog.

You’ll constantly tend to your tribe via social media, forums, personal calls, emails, meetings and more. If you have an innovative and inclusive approach, that will create a leadership position for you. Consider how you can provide a unique and powerful platform such as a blog or forum for your tribe to gather about, contribute to and dwell.

Your tribe could be candle makers, cupcake bakers, crochet hobbyists, nanotechnology scientists, SAP programmers, accountants with small practices or like me: the tribe of people who are building personal brands via the web and on-ground opportunities. I am consumed by the sociological, psychological, and technological aspects of creating reputations in today’s online and on-ground environments. I want my tribe to find the best most satisfying jobs and business opportunities. My tribe consumes my tips, tactics, and techniques of creating and managing personal brands, and my philosophy and thought leadership. I give away a lot of stuff that teaches you how to market yourself, impress recruiters and win big contracts, because it nourishes me to nourish my tribe’s ability to leverage their personal brands. This status provides me with a huge audience, speaking engagements, book contracts, consulting gigs, media coverage and access to the leading people in many fields. Your leadership may do the same for you.

What will you consume today? And, who will be consuming you? The answers will help you define and find your tribe. Once you connect with your people via the many platforms on the web, or simply start by creating a blog, you are no longer a stranger. You won’t be boiled while others dance – if you have identified the right tribe.

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Ten Commandments of Personal Branding – #5: You Must Be A Triple Threat – Writer, Producer, and Star

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Fame! I’m gonna live forever! Remember, remember, remember: remember my name. In old media, starting with Fred Astaire, a triple threat was a guy who could sing, dance and act. The tradition continued with actor Ewan McGregor. He sings in Moulin Rouge and light-saber dances his way through Star Wars as Obi Wan Kenobi. Can you say “action figure income,” anyone? It’s good to be a triple threat, young padawan.

Commandment #5: Be A Triple Threat

Your personal brand is a triple threat if you can 1) produce your own media presence, 2) write in the style that authentically suits you, and 3) come alive before an audience that matters to you. That means getting yourself and your content online via video, podcasts, blogs, social media, ebooks, and more. It could mean producing seminars – even if the ustream comes out of your living room and you use hand-puppets. Hey, the paper cut-out presentations totally work for Twitter. Slideshare does it well, as well.

Consider that your personal brand is created by your literally writing your defining role on the metaphorical stage you want to dominate. In your social media role, the dialogue isn’t what’s scripted between the cast of characters you choose. It’s what happens when you attract an audience that starts to respond to you (and you respond back). The story unfolds as you star in it with greater and great force, and manage your reputation with your brand identity in mind at all times.

As a producer today, you create the venues and attract the audience. Consider which media forms reveal your best side (Writer? Blogger? Actor? Editor? Publisher? Aggregator?) – and what roles make you grow. Everyone’s first podcast is their worst. Even if you accidentally are good, you will get so much better. But, save the old files because you’ll see just how brave you were, young padawan.

Once you are a known quantity, pursue venues that others “own” and negotiate a deal for yourself. I do like the multiplier effect of appearing in media other than my own: CNBC, NY Times, Media Post and the list for me gets larger literally every day.

When you control what you produce, write and star in, you can choose what suits you best. The results from closely held personal branding including Anderson Cooper, Rocky and Pee Wee Herman. So, be sure of what you want – and keep your brand in your own hands until you know yourself pretty well – and want to go large.

The biggest threats get the best opportunities. Where are you going to star today?

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Buy Stadium Naming Rights, Without Spending a Penny

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

yournamehereNance Rosen, your name, Verizon, Twitter and Jenny Craig: all brand names with something in common. We all are – or can be – marquee names on stadiums that draw hundreds of thousands – even millions – of fans now and for decades into the future. It’s true, it’s inexpensive and it’s easy.

How would you and I join a major telecommunications firm, a social media reference, and a weight loss chain? Consider we would also be joining some ignominiously branded locations – which made the “Worst Stadium Names” list. These include:

  • Pizza Hut Park (Dallas, Texas)
  • Arena (Phoenix, Arizona)
  • Save On Foods Arena (Victoria, BC)
  • Four Seasons Hotel Chain Centre For the Performing Arts (Toronto, Canada)
  • EasyCredit-Stadion (Bundesliga’s FC Nuremberg)

Admittedly, no one is proud to say, “Hey, come see me at Save On Foods Arena.” It sounds more like a downscale food pantry for the homeless than an entertainment destination. But, be honest, your personal brand and mine probably shouldn’t complain if we are drawing the crowds these places do. So, how do we do it?

Write a blog. The secret is to write in as narrow a niche as possible, and “own” the virtual stadium for ideas, comments, arguments, news and feeds about that topic. It’s your field of dreams, as is Seth Godin’s, Chris Brogan‘s and the PersonalBrandingBlog published by Dan Schwabel.

Build it – with enough compelling content – and your audience will find you. Even the great names in your industry, along with hundreds of thousands more, will come. Maybe not all at one time for one “event,” but if you write reasonably well – and provoke enough attention, they will come. It helps if you have enough PR savvy to write an SEO’d press release on a hot subject a few times a month. Maybe nab an interview, even a podcast with a big name. Even better, if you can afford to send out your releases over the wire to media. If you don’t have the cash for your first wire, email me ([email protected]) and I’ll help you out as my “blog-warming” gift (or “virtual stadium-warming” gift) to you.

That is all it takes now for you to drive more traffic than John Mayer touring with another bad jazz album. I know. I just coached a first time blogger (in advertising) pin a NY Times best-selling author to do the blogger’s first ever podcast and blog post. The hardest part for the virgin blog site owner was figuring out how to hit record and save for the podcast.

I know we all want it to be more complicated – especially those of us with successful blogs and recognized personal brands. But your personal brand launch and the beginning of drawing an audience, starts with a free account on WordPress.

If you haven’t created a viable home for your personal brand, start now. There’s no rent to pay, no seats to fill and the popcorn is almost free if you already have a microwave.

Now do this:

  1. Pick your topic.
  2. Get on wordpress with your first 250 word post.
  3. Send an email to the number one author in your field to interview.
  4. Learn blogtalkradio, if you want to break into podcasting on the cheap.
  5. Leave a comment with your email below if you want to create buzz with a wire announcing your grand opening.

Then, get ready to play ball in the big leagues, in the comfort of your home stadium!

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Ten Commandments of Personal Branding – #4: Feed the Beast, Satisfy Your Audience

Monday, December 7th, 2009

repetitionPersonal brands have a message. A clear, concise, consistent, compelling and relentless message.

Just like product brands, with a twist. Perhaps a painful one, depending on how much time you have to convey your message in all the available channels. Social media, the most ubiquitous channel, is always on and demanding to be fed.

Commandment #4: Feed the Beast, Satisfy Your Audience.

When compared to product brands, the relentless part of personal brand communication is the toughest challenge. After all, if you think Coke is refreshing today: great. Think it’s refreshing tomorrow: great. Think it’s always refreshing? That’s the point of all the messaging, isn’t it? Yes.

So, repetition of the same message really works to hammer in some of the world’s most beloved slogans. Slogans like “from the land of sky blue waters,” and “where’s the beef,” or icons like the clown from one burger chain or the king from the other, do their job (or did it) by appearing over and over again.

You, alas, are not a beer or a burger. You are, hopefully, not a clown and unfortunately, not a king.

You have to be clear, concise, consistent, compelling and relentless – in a different way. You know this. That’s why – unless you work at a burger place and wear the uniform – you choose to wear different clothes everyday. You probably have changed the way you wear your hair a few times. And, unless you are as annoying as Joan Rivers, you probably don’t have a saying like “Can we talk?” to end nearly every sentence.

You do have to produce content that represents how you think, what value you bring to your tribe and what potential you have to be an even greater influence (or better paid employee, consultant or thought-leader).

To produce content, you must consume it - Be the content monster.

To produce content, you must consume it - Be the content monster.

To produce content, you must consume it. All great writers are great readers. In fact, one of the easiest ways for you to feed the beast, is to read books (okay, sample chapters from ebooks) and leave comments on places like Amazon and B& You can also consume content from your industry sites, forums, and blogs to not only leave a comment, but also link on your Twitter and Facebook updates. Just keep in mind, you are known by the company you keep and the links you leave.

Of course, your own blog may be the biggest beast of all, and thus the best and most fearsome beast – because it needs to be fed regularly. Your blog is your opportunity to provide your tribe with original, signature, and most importantly: clear, concise, consistent, compelling and relentless messages.

If you appreciate your audience and feel responsible for satisfying its appetite, you will be conscientious about quality and quantity of what you serve. Everyone is hungry for nourishing words.

What do you have to say about that?

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