Archive for November, 2010

Emoticon: Emotion

Monday, November 29th, 2010

emotioconpillowsYou may be thumbs up when it comes to flashing a smiley face or any of the canned emoticons that functionally do nothing for your personal brand image. Emoticons are the equivalent of wearing the same dress or jacket everyone wears. My mother who was a fashion designer had an expression for that: “You see yourself coming and going.” In other words: you’re just like everyone else. Or, worse for personal brands: you are like ANYONE else.

You become a commodity

Not that it’s a fatal error to slip in a snoozing or tearful emoticon from time to time, but it certainly speaks to a lack of effort on your part – or a lack of language skills. Consider this: no one ever woke up in the morning and said, “I hope I get a message with a tiny yellow circle comically trying to express how my friend truly feels.” In fact, our subconscious sees red, and whispers to our conscious brain: “Ouch. Here’s a person using the absolute minimum effort to acknowledge our presence on earth.”

The “Like” button, if you use it consistently to respond to our posts, has the equivalent dismissive effect.

These minimalist efforts are equivalent to a man driving home at 7 PM on Valentine’s Day and in a slap dash, half-hearted attempt to show up with something – anything – so it doesn’t look like he’s forgotten his supposed sweetheart, buys a bouquet of flowers from the guy on the median strip at the last intersection before making it home. The problem is your sweetheart takes the same route home and knows how little effort you made.  Nothing would have been a better choice.

Why do you care if we see how much – or how little – you care?

Because like attracts like: you get what you give. At best, you become “better than nothing.”

I have a housekeeper whom I silently call Ms. Half-Measure. I know she will do the minimum possible to keep the house from crawling away. I have slowly downgraded my expectations to: “Well, at least I can say the house is vacuumed.” I actually learned that coping strategy in therapy. When the earth rotates enough times and the universe pops up someone else – anyone else, I’ll replace her.

Are you the half-measure person?

Is that who you are at work as a consultant or employee? Would we only refer business to you if you were the last accountant on earth? In fact, the most common request I hear when I’m at a gathering with small business owners is: “Do you know a good accountant?” No one ever does. We all have accountants, and it’s not that they’re incompetent. It’s just that they routinely do the minimum required, typically at the last possible moment.

If you have ever met someone loyal to a professional, company or brand – you know the sound of a deep and abiding emotional connection: it’s an evangelist witnessing for the best (fill in the blank) ever.

“OMG, I love my dry cleaners!”

“This is the best book I ever read!”

“You have got to meet my post production guy, he’s a genius!”

“I work with this amazing art director, she actually reads the copy!”

Personal brands: that’s who you are looking to be: a much celebrated resource. If you get our attention, the next step is to make our hearts swell up with pride that we know you.

A celebrated resource

Consider what emotional connections are you making. How do we feel when it’s your name or number that shows up on the phone? How often are you the first person we dial when something significant – good or bad – happens?

There are only three things you need to do, in order to be a go-to personal brand.

  • Spark our attention
  • Ignite our emotion
  • Indelibly burn into our memory

If your thumbs aren’t up to that, consider Skype with video chat so we can actually see your smiling face.

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Personal Brands: Here’s Why You Exist

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

george_clooneyWhat does it take for a personal brand – or any brand – to exist in the hearts and minds of your audience or target market?




That’s it. That’s the big secret. That’s personal branding in three words.

The personal branding equation

Let’s tackle the first part of the personal brand equation: attention. You can’t be successful if you can’t get attention. But, it’s not just any kind of attention you want. You – or your brand image – must be associated with a heart warming feeling, figuratively and literally speaking.

Let’s consider the difference between a waiter accidentally dropping plates and sending them crashing in an upscale restaurant versus George Clooney walking into one. As diners, we turn our attention to both events. One is irritating and one is a delightful surprise.

Even if you don’t like Clooney and feel irritated about the paparazzi lurking outside, who will mark your lack of celebrity by putting down their cameras, it is a kind of personal endorsement that he is choosing the same restaurant you did, because he could and does eat anywhere on the planet.

In fact, it’s hard not to take Clooney’s appearance personally. Your brain does all this work for you, as it does 98% of its job: in your subconscious, out of your control. Yes, only 2% of your brain’s work is done under your direction: on the surface of the deep ocean you live in, unseen to us and you, with the possible exception of what your dreams might be trying to bubble up to the surface.

Our brains pay attention and makes meaning, as much as they can, by taking in what happens in the environment around us, and integrating that with anything potential relevant we’re storing in our associative networks.

The center of our universe

You are not the center of our universe, but you are part of our environment: we the people with whom you work, bump into or otherwise interact. The marks of your personal brand, both online and on-ground are dots on the landscape we inhabit.

For example, your Facebook updates are a huge interruption, albeit one we agreed to when we consented to being your so-called friend. If we find something self-referencing in your posts, something that we can relate to, aspire to or find a surprising and delightful connection to – you are a good interruption – you get positive attention credits.

It’s like George Clooney walking into the restaurant where we’re having dinner. Because his personal brand is cool in kind of a Sinatra rat pack way, his presence elevates the vibe. When you arrive, do you elevate the vibe or suck out its sense of cool?

Have you considered what people think and feel when you walk into a room? Would you get a rousing welcome at Cheers or the deflating reception that a cooler gets when he stands by a successful gambler in Las Vegas?

Consider how we feel when we see your comments on LinkedIn. Do we think, hey, that was really smart! Or do we think: what a disappointment: another doofus made us go look when we got the email saying there was a new post on that discussion. Your waste-of-our-time comment is “Jack, you make a good point.” You go down in flames when it comes to getting our attention. So does your personal brand reputation. Your brand becomes “what a waste of time.” Ouch!

We not only dislike you, we dislike ourselves by association – and that’s all assigned to your brand. Your underwhelming performance sets the bar lower for all of us, but not as in a Club Med limbo, limbo, limbo amazing flexibility way. A superfluous comment makes you a doofus, but so are we for being on the same thread with such a doofus. You not only give us a bad name, but also this discussion, maybe this group and even LinkedIn.

Is that how you are mishandling our attention?

Spend the week measuring the type of attention you get. Look at the comments that follow yours on discussion threads. Is your contribution ignored, and does the discussion go on irrespective of what you said? Or, did five people look you up and ask you to be a connection, because you said something that grabbed their attention and got them to think the three little words we all want to hear in business: Tell me more (about you).

In similar fashion, measure the response you get when people are on the phone with you. Are they glad to hear from you? Do they seek your guidance? Do they feel lucky you called? Or, are they too busy to take your call?

Measure what happens when you get into a meeting. Is the air more electric? Is there a sense of expectation? Does the discussion get richer, do more people join in, or are you a cooler, sending the energy plummeting and the texting soaring?

Personal brands: check the attention units you get this week. It’s like keeping a food diary so a nutritionist can figure out why you are tired, fat or ill-nourished.

Next week we evaluate your emotion appeal. And, finally we’ll evaluate just how memorable you are.

This could be the breakthrough you’ve needed to assess the evidence of what your personal brand is actually doing in the environment. If you like metaphors –a big part of emotional connection, ask yourself: are you the irritating plastic bottles littering the beach, or the sparkle on the tips of ocean waves rising with the tide?

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Personal Brands: You Texted Who?

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

textingMy very good friend and client, who is a corporate team-building trainer, celebrated her birthday last weekend – really celebrated it. With a half-dozen equally hot, smart and funny women in a limo, cruising from club to club, she rang in her personal new year getting smashed. She was ripe for it, since she is almost always the designated driver.

What happens in text, doesn’t always stay only on your phone

Who knew this typically suited up, buttoned down professional could ride a mechanical bull that way? Who knew she was a former gymnast and could easily ace the can-you-pole-dance challenge?

She used her smart phone to help those of us who couldn’t make it, enjoy the show. She captured her hi-jinks in photos, and texted them with a hysterical running commentary of what she was doing – and what she was thinking.

Smart phones are not so smart

Unfortunately, it turned out she really wasn’t thinking. And, the phone? Turned out it isn’t so smart.

Guess who got the texts, along with her inner circle, the crowd of would-be revelers rooting her on? A client.

Enough said.

Did you have that sinking feeling in your stomach? Have you done it? Join the crowd.

Personal brands: the smart phone is a weapon of self-destruction.

So many of us have been DWT – drunk while texting, there’s a new website that’s becoming a Wikipedia of oops-by-text.

To contribute your personal favorites: Text TFLN

In a kind of drunken-texters anonymous, you may now report on yourself, or any one of your contacts. You’ll be contributing to a community that sinned in the same way or been on the receiving end of a sinful text.

There’s not yet a phone app to stop you from betraying yourself, but there is something for the nights when you are drunk with your laptop. It’s Webroot’s new Firefox plugin called “The Social Media Sobriety Test.” The service is aptly described by its tagline, “Nothing good happens online after 1 a.m.”

Before you can Facebook or Tumblr away your dignity, the service intervenes with a short test – like typing the alphabet backwards – to block or unblock your access to your reputation. Undoubtedly, we are just a short while away from a mobile app.

The reputation app

From my fiefdom of business communication, I hope the next killer app will scan our texts and emails for anger, stupidity and any other “quality” we’d like to keep from contaminating our personal brand images.  Won’t it be great to have a “suggest changes” function that proposes phrases that instantly transform rude into concerned, and dumb into curious? Way more valuable than spell check.

Until then, figure out a method – maybe the old sleep on it before you send it – to act as your thought police.

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Personal Brands: Did You Trick or Treat?

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Lady-gaga-corsetInhibitions are gone when the costume is on.

Last Sunday night, you may have taken on a new identity in search of a pillowcase filled with candy. Or, perhaps like 52 million adults, you dressed up in search of a romantic partner in a bar filled with Lady Gagas and Jersey Shore’s Snooki. Those were number one and number two, among the most popular costumes this year.  Given that those two look like it’s Halloween every day of the year, and the endless celebration of their characters (not character) we endure, how could they not be top of mind as you exchange your identity for something bigger, better, or perhaps radically different than you are?

Getting into character

My parents took my sister and me to the theater often, starting way back when they were a young married couple in Manhattan. It was the Mad Men era, or more accurately the time of The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit as author Sloan Wilson sketched the lives of discontented businessmen and their cinched-waist wives. As their children, we were dressed up in miniature versions of that era’s women, with tiny white gloves, small hats and shirtwaist dresses over crinoline slips.

Despite the fact that we were just barely getting by financially, or perhaps because of it: we literally dressed up for an evening of theater. Nothing about being poor then or its stepsister “broke,” ever, has undermined that legacy of a not minor amount of glamour being de rigueur on occasions.

Up until June this year when my mother died, there was never a meeting, presentation, seminar, brunch or evening out where we failed to have the “dress up” Q&A. She would ask, “What did you wear?” And, with all the hopefulness of a person who did everything she could when she was still in charge, came her follow-up query, “Did you put lipstick on?”

My DNA often shows itself when you see me during the occasions where I am on-purpose. I dress in “costume” for keynotes, seminars, and meetings and just about anytime it would serve my standing to look smart. Because it is smart to get into character – which shows your character – when you are creating and taking full advantage of opportunities that make the difference between your getting the gig or applause, or not. I put on a smart-looking suit or dress, and I put on make-up. Recently, I spurge on getting my hair done, since my audiences are increasing larger and so are their expectations, plus there are cameras that record my every word and wrinkle.

As a career coach, I am meeting way too many people who haven’t yet leveraged everything they have, to get everything they want. Now is the time to expand on your brand. Personal Brands: dress the part. That will help you “get over yourself.” That will get you beyond being self-conscious about promoting yourself, and doing it relentlessly.

Are you one of the amazing and worthy people who can’t stand talking about your own brand? With nearly every new coaching client I am compelled to say:

“Okay, if you can’t bear to promote yourself to people who are the gatekeepers to what you want: stop thinking this is about YOU. Think of YOU as a product, something you must package attractively, since you are the ‘product specialist.’ Deal with being a personal brand, because you are also the brand manager.”

Some people have an awfully debilitating “aw shucks” attitude, preventing themselves from presenting a highly polished image, gleaming with strengths and achievements. They don’t see themselves as a proud and hopeful inventor and investor, who birthed and reared this brand – and now deserve the riches that come from other people “buying it.”

Dress the part

Personal brands: if you do only one thing differently as Q4 2010 reels toward its end, dress up for the role you want to play in business. Get a jacket and tie on (it looks cute on women, too), get a good haircut, and gender appropriately wear lipstick or lip balm.

As my grandfather once said, “First they look, then they listen.”

Staging yourself to “look the part” may feel like a trick, but you will love the way you get treated.

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