Archive for April, 2010

Personal Brands: Stop Lying

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

You know who you are.

You tell us you will get it done – and you don’t.

You tell us you got it done – and you didn’t.

You tell us where you will be – and you are not.

You tell us you understand the situation and are prepared – and you haven’t given it a thought.

You tell us you used airline miles, when you actually put it on the company credit card.

You say you will be back to relieve someone else on their shift, but somehow traffic delayed you – again.

First you are informally demoted when someone else has to be brought in to do the mission critical portion of your job. Then, you are angry and irritable about feeling “underutilized,” so you lose your job. You have a tower of accusations or excuses. To us, your family and friends, your defenses actually are credible the first and second time.  After all, there really are impossible jobs with terrible bosses, and good people get fired. But, the baseball rule (three strikes and you’re found out) solves the puzzle of what you say happened versus what really happened.

Three of the best liars I know are able to look me straight in the eye and lie without blinking. They’re also performance artists: they cry real easily or get angry when they’re called out. They wonder aloud why no one trusts them. How could their character be so impugned? Why do we keep reminding them of what needs to be done? Why do we keep seeking assurances that it’s been done?

When lying is part of your personal brand, part of how you cope or how you roll, you are eventually exposed and everyone around you is exhausted from working with you – or accommodating you.

The path of destruction

The path of your destruction: the missed deadlines, the thrown together projects, and the loss of our time, money and opportunity hang like a shroud around you. The anxiety about what will be done, what will not be done, what will be half done and what will be undone but lay undiscovered for months so destroys our relationship with you, that any other amazing contribution you make has no appreciable value.

Lying is so stupid and debilitating to your career, that it’s most shocking when a smart, confident and ambitious person does it. It’s stupid because you lose all credibility, trust, respect and regard from the rest of us. No matter what other qualities you have, being a liar defines you.

Whether you lie reliably (about pretty much everything) or intermittently (which really destabilizes our relationship with you), just quit it. Cold turkey. People quit smoking, drinking, overeating, biting their nails, creating clutter, and a whole host of other self-destructive habits in service of self-actualization.

Consider that lying is a career-ending pattern for you. It’s disrespectful and disruptive to society – even if that society is just your workplace.

If you know me, you know I am Dr. Seuss’ Heloise the elephant. “I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant’s true 100%.”

And I recognize that no one on earth is able to perform 100% on any given day. I suffer from making the same mistakes and experiencing the accidents of life just like everyone else. So, this isn’t a diatribe about your computer really crashing, a family member really falling ill or a sudden detour sign taking you off route.

It’s about the truth and our trust.

Let sleeping dogs lie. You keep your word.

Note to other elephants: Consider sharing this post by email with the people who lie to you. Subject line: “Can you believe this?”

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Personal Brands: Stick Together

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

ActorI spent the weekend in bootcamp at UCLA with dozens of amazing people who all were wrestling with their personal brands.  I was their wrestling coach. I was also, at times, their opponent, referee, fan in the stands, hot dog seller, beer purveyor, mother, sister, aunt, and confessor.

I could not be more humbled by their bravery and vulnerability – and their affection for each other, and me.

All of us were strangers on Saturday at 9 AM. All of us were planning our first reunion by Sunday at 4 PM.  This is evidence that the opportunity for collaboration can result in both our finest and oddest moments.

Finest in that we find our true purpose in life when we are group goal oriented. Really odd, in that personal branding seems by nature to be a solo – not team, sport.

What we each accomplished for ourselves is developing personas that are “different in a good way” from our competition. This is the pure play definition of positioning – the marketer’s dream in a competitive environment.

I told everyone to keep a “key learning” journal during camp – a way to capture the “aha!” nuggets that erupted, leaked or somehow emerged as the exercises, lectures, examples and interactions widened our focus and narrowed our legitimate claims on space in our professions, industries, sectors and so on.

The greatest aha moment for me came after I drove off campus early Sunday evening, to dash over to the big, empty space that by May 3 will be my company’s new headquarters. This is now: gaping holes, half-finished walls, primer instead of paint put up and the detris of construction activity – like tools I don’t know the name of. As I sat on a stack of wallboards waiting for my partners so we could make some decision about paint colors, I was the one thing I had not been for days: alone.

My “aha” moment is this: you and I need a safe and nourishing place to ask and answer the really big questions in business. When the defining nature of the business involves personal branding, I am surprised that meditating alone or any type of navel-gazing isn’t very effective. What I now know is this: there is something magical or primal about real human contact. Being with our tribe magnifies our intentions. We seek to make meaning when we take on the responsibility for making ourselves clear to our tribe mates.

This is true even when our tribe is formed ad-hoc, without our qualifying each other, judging each other or knowing anything about each other except that we are all here to do this one thing. In our case, it was defining our personal brands on day one and then tactically planning our brands’ social media campaigns on day two.

How could we each have accomplished so much in such a short time? Is it immersion? Is it competitiveness? Is it the sense of other people in the dark, seeking light?

I think amazing self-revelation demands an audience to share it. Only when you hear the sounds of other earnest voices, the rustling of other’s thoughts been scratched onto real paper with pen, and see others picking out color chips in combinations that would never come from your mind’s eye, do you understand yourself.

I cannot let it go unsaid that having world-class examples and experts as guest lecturers took us all to the summit. Thank you @KarlKasca, @MollyJoRosen, @FrugalDivaAlert Susan Kessler and Jon Weiss Torerk at as well as all the personal brands that came and were made.

You made “camp inward-bound” in a lecture room at UCLA as exciting as the “outward-bound” one that has legendary status. We did not just survive the challenges, we thrived because of them and each other.

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Personal Brands: Give a Shiver to Your Sliver

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

SliverMicromarketing is a weapon in the arsenal of most every big brand that distributes products to your supermarket. For example, the flavors of Philadelphia brand cream cheese available in the dairy case differ, depending on what your zip code eats the most.

That means in my local Ralphs, I can’t find smoked salmon flavored spread for my bagel. Apparently, not a sufficient number of my neighbors find it appealing. But I can drive 10 minutes to a sister store in another neighborhood, that stocks plenty of it.

Personal brands, via social media you enjoy an easier, cheaper channel to YOUR highest consuming audience: people who crave and consume what you offer.

Music marketing expert Bobby Borg recently interviewed me for a sliver of the tribe he leads: indie hip-hop musicians with no budget for marketing. Because his people are so committed to their art and so intensely focused on connecting with their audience, he gave rise to my own same intensity for his people. At a past life in business, this serious consulting was once reserved only for big brands and their highly paid consultants. A sliver of our interview  is on Bobby’s channel.

Unfortunately for most of us in business today, our perspective about success is tainted by the pejorative snorts that someone is “big fish in a small pond.” You’ve heard these joy killers’ snarky pronouncements. These couch sitters deride the gymnast who won her country’s competition, and fails to medal in the Olympics. They snarl: “Well she was a big fish in a small pond, but she can’t compete on the world stage.”

Personal brands: Don’t be afraid of being called a big fish in a tiny pond. It is what all successful people are doing.

The web is comprised of a zillion slivers of the market, aka special interest groups. Each sliver is either organically or commercially created. And, unlike a country’s citizens who feel enraged that special interest groups drown out their voices, their sentiment about being in a special interest group is totally different.

What’s so powerful is these social communities provide the perfect forum for you to express your personal brand, lead some portion of your tribe, and at the same time be embraced by advertisers who want to reach the same people you do.

Sunday’s New York Times Magazine devotes a full page-plus to describe the unbelievably rich veins running through one such group. It’s almost impossible to imagine the deep engagement, unshakable loyalty and commitment to sharing ideas within the community they focus on:

The site is a perfect icon for micro markets, and a hugely teachable moment for personal brands.

Who knew curly hair was the huge self-identifier for such a disparate group of people? The depth and breadth of relationship curly-haired people have with their hair, and with like-burdened or blessed among us, surpass any demographic, psychographic, lifestyle or behavior that market research trained brains could previously imagine. But we know by the web behavior of the curly-haired: the frequency of their interactions, comments, tips and product evaluations, that this is a defining characteristic for a significant group of them. Obviously, if your personal brand includes a philosophy, tonic, or other reason to seek a leadership position in this tribe of the curly-haired: you’ve hit pay dirt.

Personal brands seek, listen, and lead these relevant slivers. We now see demonstrated and repeated studies that show people with a passionate interest, who have self-identified with a subject, cause, personal issue or a zillion other micro characteristics of their lives, are hungry for the ties that bind them together.

Ignore the naysayers who scream, “Stick the landing” when their national hero falters in the face of world competition. Don’t act as if you only are hugely successful if your being or brand is broadcast to more than a billion passive people.

For example, joyfully create and accept offers for YouTube or Blogtalkradio. Great personal brands treat seriously any opportunity to deliver their messages on a defining point to the silver of people who get shivers or giggles just by its mention.

Come on into the small pond, the water’s fine.

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