Archive for January, 2010

Is Your Next Step An Accident Waiting to Happen?

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Dont SlipI’m laying here injured. The worst of it isn’t the aches and pains. The real crime is that I did it myself.

Zach, a friend of mine, did it times three. After a late night drink with the guys, he did the right thing: he got his friend, who was sober, to drive him home. Unfortunately, Zach held on to the roof of the car as he was getting in and his friend slammed his hand hard enough to break Zach’s hand. After three days of getting used to the big purple bat that was the cast covering his hand, Zach felt strong enough to go out for a run. He ran along the railroad tracks near his house in Whittier and, in one innocent, heart healthy move, hit a spike and broke his foot. Finally taking off some time to recover, Zach was bit by a spider that blew up his uncasted arm. And so, that night, Zach sat for seven hours in the emergency room trying to find out if the bite was deadly. Though he went unseen by a doctor, after seven hours he figured that he’d live.

Zach’s injuries and mine are the worst kind because they are a result of our choices. Of course it’s easy to see what we’ve done when we are limping and achy because of it. They call these things “accidents.”

What have you done lately with your personal brand? Where have you made some unfortunate mistakes and really crummy first impressions? When were you introduced to someone, perhaps at an event, and didn’t have a business card with you? And when, online, have you asked someone to buy you a donkey or help you raise your imaginary barn?

Personal brands beware: our tendency as humans is to lay the blame for the loss of a job, a failed project, or a “personality conflict” on another person. But that doesn’t make sense.  Your personal brand, your reputation, your output, your input, your trajectory – even the people you go for a drink with – are all your own choice.

It’s going to take me another week before I can stand up and move around easily, but the end of this minor back injury is certain. Zach is already back to his new workout regime now that his hand and foot have healed, and he lived through the spider bite.

What you and I say, do, miss, forget, and engender negative regard for, is almost always, wholly, in our own minds, hearts, words, and deeds.

Think about where you’re going to take Your Next Step!

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Personal Brands are Today’s Leaders, Not Tomorrow’s

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

GirlOuch! I keep reading about personal branding being a tool that sets you up to be tomorrow’s leaders. Why do old people always say this to young people? And, why do young people repeat it?

Does anyone wake up in the morning and say, “I hope I’ll be tomorrow’s leader.” When they wake up the next day, they a) discover that hope is not a strategy, and b) that tomorrow is yet another day away.

Don’t be fooled by anyone who says you can’t lead today. Truth is: if you’re not leading something today, someone else is. And, they aren’t waiting for you to wake up and say, “Thanks for keeping my spot warm, move over, I’m leading now.”

They will lookdown at you from their perch of leadership (no matter how minor) and kick you back down among the crowd of followers. (They probably won’t actually kick you. What they will do is more covert: steal your ideas, not pass along a great concept you offered up or just talk you down to their leader.)

Personal brands of earth: wake up. It’s today. Lead today. Whenever it turns out to be tomorrow, you just keep on leading. Don’t be fooled by that “tomorrow’s leader” ambition killer Kool Aid, even if it they say it’s good for you. It’s not. It’s good for them.

Seth Godin famously says that you belong to a tribe (maybe several) and within that tribe you can step up and lead it. Maybe you’ll lead a particular sub-group or lead on a particular project.

I’m sure you can think of something in every segment of your life, where you can initiate a plan, project or program and lead. Consider your work, social life, community, worship group, family, sports club, hobby… the places where you can exercise leadership is almost infinite.

When leaders above you and around you see you leading by virtue of your own initiative, you’ll be promoted as a leader of greater and greater authority. Your sphere of influence and control will widen. You’ll meet other leaders. You’ll recommend each other for choice assignments. You’ll invent. Become CEO of your life and probably others.

Study leadership, and make that part of your personal brand. Remember you take on responsibility for the people you lead, just as much as the outcome from their actions.

The sooner you take leadership roles, the better.

Right now would be good.

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Personal Brands Celebrate 2010 Before It Happens

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

By now you’ve probably amazed yourself with your ability to stick to your resolutions! LOL.

FocusDon’t worry. Now is NOT the right time to assess how 2010 is going – or how you’re doing. The only thing to judge during week two of the year is this:

Do you have a clear, crisp, compelling focus for your personal brand in 2010 – and are you planning to relentlessly pursue your goals?

Have you taken THE PLEDGE?

Before your brain hears the refrain of anyone else’s plans, commands or demands: pledge allegiance to yourself, every morning.

That’s all you need to deserve a celebration, every day.  Celebrate that you have vowed to overcome any obstacle. Take pride and joy, you’ve joined an elite corps of people living on purpose. Everyday, take the pledge to honor yourself, your goals, and your sense of purpose. With this ritual, you earn the badge of personal branding, and the cascade of success and happiness that comes when you decide how to live your life to its peak.

Intention + Affirmation + Determination = Celebration

What’s the point of personal branding? It’s to be widely known, appreciated and paid for the talent, quality, service or accomplishment you decide is authentically who you are and what you want to do.

Before you become famous, you’d better decide who you are. Otherwise, you’re going to be known for what other people think of you – and what they want from you.

There’s an old expression that uses the word “famous” in a way that applies to all of us. The host at a party would use the term, when you were being introduced to a stranger. In hopes of quickly helping the two of you find something to chat about, the host would announce something like, “You’ll be interested to learn that Ellie is famous for her chocolate chip cookies!” Wow. Ellie is writing a novel based on her travels to Sri Lanka and seeking a publisher.  But now – because someone else decided what is interesting about her – she is about to spend a precious half-hour with a new contact, answering questions about semi-sweet versus milk chocolate chips, and how long to cream butter and sugar before sifting in flour.

What worse: because you never get a second chance to make a first impression, she will be known forever as the chocolate chip cookie lady. She could be standing face to face with the executive publisher of Pegasus Media World, and completely miss the biggest opportunity she’d ever have to be a published author. Plus, the publisher misses out on a best-selling author.

What are YOU missing, if you fail to hone and convey a crisp, clear and compelling message of how you would like to be introduced, known and celebrated? You risk being famous for something that OTHER people like about you or want from you. That could be staying in your position as an assistant, when you really are ready to be a director. Being seen as a new college graduate looking for work, rather than a chef deciding on how to best channel your culinary prowess.

What are you famous for now? When others talk about you or think about you, is it for what you want known about you? Have you known some people for quite a while – and they don’t know what you want to do, where you want to go, and what opportunities you are looking for?

That’s where the pledge is your greatest asset in creating the life you want. You train your brain to not let a minute go by without helping you find the right opportunities, and stay on your path – no matter what distractions there are. Without conscious effort, you won’t let anything come between you and what you visualize as the big juicy prize. You see yourself taking the victory lap with a stadium full of screaming fans who can’t believe their good fortune. They’re celebrating your success. They got to pay you to do what you most want to do in the world.

Before you shut your eyes tonight, crisp up an ideal image of what your personal brand is – what you are doing that you want to do more of, or want to do that will actualize the ideal you. Then, wake up in the morning and take the pledge. Put it up on your bulletin board.

Tweet it to people who need to know: this is your year and it can be theirs, too! THE PLEDGE:

This is my year.

I’m fighting for it.

Fighting to keep the big, juicy prize in mind so it lands in my hands by the end of this year.

Fighting to see and stay on the road, high or low.

No stopping for distractions, no matter how attractive.

I have no respect for roadblocks: inadvertently or purposely cast in my path.

I’m fighting to obliterate my own inclination to please, appease or do anything less than seize the day; every day this year.

I’m exploding with energy, but conserving it, too.

I vow to plow through walls that surround me and beat anything that threatens to defeat me.

I own my ideas, my process, my results and my truth.

I own the rights. I own the turf. I own this fight, from round one.

I will make it to the big dance with a performance that’s bigger than a personal best.

I will cross the line in record time, with a valedictory lap on the track, flashing the victory sign.

This is my year.

I’m fighting for it!

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3 Rs of Personal Branding

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Can everyone you meet receive, retain and repeat your personal brand message?

That’s the goal of all your personal branding work: your audience being able to

Receive: Understand who you are and where you add value in their world

Retain: Get your name ingrained in their brains so they can “store” you

Repeat: Be able to recall what you do and refer business to you when an opportunity pops up that you’d be interested in

Your position in the minds of your market is what connects your next highly desirable job, project, partnership, investor – or whatever it is that’s driving you to create and grow your brand image.

MegaphoneSo, once you have framed your personal brand (no small feat), your next step is to relentlessly deliver a clear, consistent and compelling message. Every communication tells people what you do – and describes how you benefit the people who know you and work with you.

You must relentlessly get out the word – in every form of social media, with cold calls, your website, networking at events – and yes, even wearing a T-shirt with your name or company name on it when you go out for a run.

What are you doing so your audience can learn the 3 Rs of your personal brand?

Receive: Frame an image of what you do

Retain: Keep that image alive in their minds

Repeat: Have you top of mind when anything related to your brand pops up

Before you start your day, everyday – here’s 3 questions to ask yourself:

  • Who’s going to receive a personal brand message from me today?
  • Who should I touch back with today, so they retain my brand image?
  • What can I say, that my audience will want to repeat or retweet?

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The Baseball Rule of Personal Branding

Friday, January 8th, 2010

StrikeThree strikes and you’re out. You may do all the personal branding and business marketing imaginable. But, if you can’t move through the bases of new business development, you’re OUT.

Marketing is getting easy and easier. But your sales from social media marketing are probably getting worse, if you see any results at all. Why? You’re only ready to strike out. You’re not prepared for success.

Here’s what I mean. Marketing is really simple now. Just tweet and link to your website or article.  That gets you in the game really fast.

Over time, you attract followers – including qualified prospects. This means people (like me) need what you’re selling – and have money to pay you. We click on relevant tweets with links. That gets us onto your website or an article you’ve written.  You seem like you know what you’re talking about.

If you were prepared to succeed, we would be your customers within 24-48 hours. But, two-thirds of business people aren’t ready for the most important conversation you can have: talking to a qualified prospect.

Can You Recognize a Qualified Prospect?
In case you don’t know, here’s what qualified prospect looks and sounds like.

  1. We have a problem we’ve identified, even if it’s not the “right” one.
  2. We could use expert guidance to understand the consequences or tentacles of the problem.
  3. We need your help to define the right sized solution, especially because what we need may not be exactly what we think we need.
  4. We need simple to understand pricing information, so we know what you deliver for our money.
  5. We can afford to solve the problem, and more importantly: you created a feeling of urgency to get to it right away. You’ve amplified the downsides of leaving things as-is. Alternatively, you’ve made our mouths water thinking about the pay-offs we get from working with you.

How a Direct Message Gets You Up to Bat
A qualified prospect probably sends you a direct message to begin the attempt to work with you. Learn to recognize it. Here’s an typical exchange.

PROSPECT to YOU: Do you do handle (insert problem/solution)
YOU to PROSPECT: Absolutely! What’s your project?
PROSPECT to YOU: Briefly (insert quick spec). Can you email me (insert my email)?

Then, you and the prospect email back and forth a bit, even talk directly. This is where you strike out. It’s like we’ve put a softball onto a T-ball stand in front of you. How do you miss?

When you are obviously unprepared with relationship-building skills, including the right questions, along with examples, success stories, roadmaps, references and budgets: you unwittingly reveal you’re no major league expert.

You ask about the “project,” not the challenge we’re facing or opportunity we’re trying to capitalize on.

You don’t have the time or you lack the communication skills to help prospects define what we need. You’re unprepared to lead us with questions or examples that capture the downstream consequences of our problems or the upside of solving them.

Sad, because the single greatest factor in your getting a job is your participation in defining it. If only you were ready with the right questions.

You poke around in your prospects’ pockets.  We’ve taken an inexpert stab at defining our project (which is what you call our problem when you talk to us). Now you want us to tell you what we should pay you.

Your bad. Don’t rely on customers to come up with your price. Once you’ve defined the problem accurately, produce a price list that describes similar jobs, reflecting a range of costs. Maybe you have a menu of functionality or customization, based on objectives. How about terms and timelines? Time is money.

You don’t have samples and references.

Maybe you’re too busy working to get your site together.  Maybe you forget to save your work and you have no idea how to ask for a reference letter. Or maybe, you’ve thought about the business you’re promoting, but you don’t really do it.  You don’t have to be a veteran to win over prospects, but if you’re a newbie: you must partner with someone who has samples and references.

How to Go All the Way with a Prospect

Get down the fundamentals of the game.

  1. Write and practice clear, crisp and compelling questions that get you the information you need, and inspire the prospect to do business with you. Make a FAQ cheat sheet for yourself. This allows you to get back quickly via email or be ready to lead conversations on-the-spot.
  2. Prepare a price list with job descriptions and timelines.
  3. Put your samples together with highlights of outcomes they helped achieve. Make these easy to see on your website, or send in a email. Post testimonials.

It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame. Get prepared to win.

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Ten Commandments of Personal Branding – #10: It’s All About 30 Seconds

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

“With one look, I can break your heart.”

“With one smile, I’m the girl next door.”

“Watch me when I frown, you can’t write that down.”

“With one look, I put words to shame.”

SBI particularly like these lyrics from the hit Broadway musical Sunset Boulevard. I like them because I earn a living with words, and the song — delivering the thoughts of a silent movie queen — challenges my very existence. In her mind, words don’t come close to being as effective as her ability to sway her audience with one “look.”

Which gets me to the 30-second rule, or nearly there. It took you just under 30 seconds to get my point to this point, which is:

In reality there may be two points of view: words either do or don’t matter. But they certainly matter to me. And, it’s my life’s work to get yours to matter to the audience you need to influence.

In the 1970s, Milo Frank put forward the concept of the 30-second rule. If you can’t say something in 30-seconds or less, your reader or audience can’t get it. Not that you have to deliver the whole Gettysburg Address in 30 seconds, or describe why you are the single most qualified candidate for a job in 30 seconds. It’s just that the human brain probably can’t hold more information in its RAM than you can cram into 30 seconds of speech or text. So, you must string together points of information and generate emotional response, in 30-second increments.

Go ahead and try to use only 30-seconds you make a point. Pick the subject: “What’s the coolest thing about me and why.” Stopwatch application in hand: Go!

How did you do? Not easy, is it? That’s why successful personal brands demand intentional wordsmithing, just like big brands do. On TV, brands make a whole movie in a 30-second commercial. You laugh, you cry, you buy!

Remember, as a personal brand you can (and often need to) build a longer case. But do it in 30-second bits so your audience’s brain can take a brain breath or re-boot. Your audience’s brains are actually working on your behalf: associating what you’ve just said with something else that’s in storage. Keeping talking and you risk your audience freezing up, or checking their smart phones. They mean no insult. They just need a break, every 30 seconds or so.

Gold FishGoldfish have a 7-second memory, and there’s some evidence to say our species is moving in that direction. Actually, if you understand the theory of evolution, we likely started in the ocean, so ending up in bowl of water isn’t so far fetched.

When I was a marketing executive at Coke, working with franchisors and Zs, they stressed us pretty hard to speak in 7 words or less. That way, ANYONE could receive, retain and repeat your message: the CEO of Coke and the guy delivering cases of it. One relentless, unified message-making machine is the underpinning of the world’s most recognized brand.

You might take a lesson from Coke when you first introduce yourself or a new concept. Deliver a great 7 seconds. Here’s my company’s description in just about 7 seconds.

“Everyone has an expert hiding inside of them. Pegasus Media World finds the expert in you and brings out the media darling you’re meant to be.”

If your audience “bites and chews” your first tidbit, you should see a “look” that says, “Tell me more.” Those are the 3 sweetest words in business communication. Save the “I love you” for personal business, although I must admit that both 3-word expressions reflect how I feel in business (you know who you are).

In 30 seconds or less, the 10th commandment of personal branding is:

Crisp up your personal brand’s communication so everyone in your audience receives, retains and repeats:

How wonderful you are

What wonderful things you’ve done

When your next wonderful opportunity to invest, buy or hire is

Why you are the most wonderful person for the job, project or partnership

Now, go!

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Ten Commandments of Personal Branding – #9 Never Stop Learning: You Couldn’t If You Tried

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

LohanYou are what you watch, hear and engage in, by intention or accident. That should be a caution to you, if you’re reading this only because Project Runway is on a commercial break, or Perez Hilton still has up that photo of Lindsay Lohan in an orange bikini (made you look!).

If you own all the farm animals on Farmville, killed all the people on Mafia Wars and you’re typically the mayor of the burger joint you 4square from, it’s time for you to stop “learning” how to spend your time on things that make no sense being mixed up with your brand – and teaching the people who know you that you spend your time on nonsense. You don’t have an endless amount of attention units and neither do we when it comes to our schema of you. Our brains’ respective RAMs get filled up in 30-second increments. Or, if you’re a goldfish, 7 seconds. In any case, brains get full pretty quick, so be careful what you’re focusing on. Be careful how you use the time you get with other people.

Better to sit addicted to Twitter, if you follow people in your industry or experts on subjects of huge value, including social media itself. Click on the links and get smart. Bring your own perspective and experience to bear on what you learn. Share original thoughts (if you can). Retweet if you can’t. Try to ignore anything that quotes Donald Trump. Sometimes, I can’t restrain myself because I’m on earth to propound the truth that the only things dumber than Donald Trump are people who quote him.

PhonePersonal branding is a function of your learning, given that what comes into your head comes out of your mouth or fingertips (or just your thumbs if you’re on a smart phone).

So, subscribe to newsletters that edify, unsubscribe to the ones that are redundant or waste your time. Set up Google Alerts for keywords that are central to your area of expertise and command. Spend your free time in bookstores, libraries, museums, strange neighborhoods, conferences where you meet interesting people, and the gym because you need to build some real muscle after fake farming all last year.

Your personal brand is a reflection of what you are learning. Do it by intention, and you’ll become the person you choose to be. Otherwise remember: accidents happen. We could call that misbranding, or just a dong a Lohan.

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Ten Commandments of Personal Branding – #8: Don’t Fear Being Hated

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

ApocalypseDon’t fear the wrath of anyone. If you are a big enough personal brand to attract a substantial number of friends and followers, someone will hate you. Welcome animosity as a badge of recognition. If no one hates you, you really haven’t accomplished anything.

The more important the hater is, the more important you are. The larger the group of haters, the more fiercely your tribe will advocate for you. The whole hubbub will be good for your personal reputation.

Remember, indifference is the opposite of love.

Why would anyone mock, revile, or talk about you behind your back? Because you are a competitor! Maybe you represent a new wave of thought in your industry. Perhaps you’re so inventive that your thinking could put someone else out of business. Could be: you are a larger presence, a bigger force or person of greater wisdom, courage, charisma, resources or resiliency. Rising stars make cash cows mad.

If IBM had been limber enough to do what Apple did, it would have. So instead, PC people hated MAC people. It’s a good kind of hate. It was the mother of invention, and eventually some collaboration.

There’s not a single woman who won Miss Congeniality in the Miss America pageant, who later became CEO of a Global 2000 company.

FotYThe truth behind most “Father of the Year” awards is that they are banquet fundraisers for do-good organizations that need money for good works. So, the board picks a really high profile guy who’s beaten his way to the top of the heap and along the way had a few kids.

He invites all his friends, intimidates them into buying tables at the event for $10,000 a piece, and gets his face plastered on the cover of his city’s business journal.

When Coke introduced New Coke, people HATED New Coke. Which proved how much they loved Coke. If the blue company that competes against Coke weren’t around, Coke would have to invent them.

No one hates you yet? Be bigger, bolder and more brilliant. Your time will come.

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