Archive for April, 2011

What’s In Your Life Raft?

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

219806494_970d6b6c4c_mThe Screen Actors Guild has a program called Life Raft. Without knowing too much more than that, tonight in Los Angeles at SAG headquarters I am speaking about personal branding to a few hundred actors under the auspices of Life Raft, and moderating a panel featuring the CEOs of several database sites that centralize casting of movies and self-promotion by actors. The panelists’ companies include IMDB (also a preloaded free iPad app for civilians to settle bets about who appeared in what movie), nowcasting, actorsacess and datatv.

The best part of this story is how I got asked to speak. About three years ago I somehow hurt my back on my birthday weekend at Bacara. It’s the uber cool resort spa in Santa Barbara that was so boring the most interesting experience was finding an unusual-looking lizard on the beach and considering whether I could take him home to stay with a friend who raises snakes. In the interests of not upsetting the local ecosystem, lizard stayed.

The hurt back has led to all kinds of misadventures in the US healthcare system, so after being Rolfed on and off for the last year, and now training with a certified strength and conditioning coach at BioMechanixLA (where there is a manageable amount of celebrity and CAA talent agent traffic), I also get a massage every other Sunday.

Because virtually everyone in LA is somehow associated with the entertainment industry, Toloria Milner (my masseuse) works at SAG during the weekday as an administrative assistant. She is an amazing person who runs a bodywork business, models plus size fashions, and does the SAG thing. Proof you never know whom somebody might “really” be. And, that none of us is the job description we bear at any given time.

Of course after two sessions, I knew her life story and she knew mine. Thus she knows that personal branding is a central part of my business. As it happens, with all the promotion, marketing, SEO-ing, social networking, media coverage and hoopla associated with me, turns out SAG had no idea who I was. Toloria overheard staff planning this Life Raft program on personal branding and pining for just the right person to headline it. So of course she made the connection. The program director went to my site, watched some video, and that day signed me up for tonight’s SAG Foundation event and another in June.

Just think about the events that led up to this speaking engagement and the cascade of new business it will mean to my company.

Have you ever played the “how did this happen game” with something good in your life?
In my case, I guess you could say that the hurt back has a silver lining. Or it’s a good thing I was scared way from the surgeon who wanted to remove portions of my spine and put in metal cages. Or that BioMechanixLA is open on Sundays. Or that BioMechanix’ business attorney only had time for massages on Sundays, and thus found Toloria who could only fit him in then. Or, that I trusted this attorney because he represents me on a business matter, which is partly why I trusted his advice on a masseuse… and so on.

I don’t know how far you trace back the good things that change your life’s course.

I do know that without having a website, blog, book and a substantial amount of the right stuff popping up on search engines about me, this gig would not have been offered to me. I also know despite so much focus on making sure my presence got me global, in my hometown it took one human being standing at work chatting with another human being to spark an interest in finding out more about me online.
Here’s a takeaway. If you are in a life raft or under a sheet on a massage table, there’s not much you can pretend about yourself or your situation. In either instance, you have the voice in your head telling you why you want to go on, despite the conditions or odds you’ll actually get where you want to go.
Toloria knew foremost among the drivers for my getting back to normal was being able to regularly stand and deliver on the topic of personal branding in front of audiences. After an hour with me, that purpose is as clear as the scars on my back from surgeries past. As brand evangelists and angels do, she’s taken on managing my pain and my message, both with excellent results.

What is so obviously driving you to take on the odds you face?

What is indelibly memorable about you to everyone who meets you: the bus driver, former schoolteacher, the woman at the post office where you mail off books and the like?

Will they say YOUR name when the opportunity arises to get you exactly the thing you want most when that appears in their lives?

This is personal branding in action. You being absolutely you, wherever you are.

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Around the World at UCLA

Thursday, April 21st, 2011


This weekend, I held my twice-yearly personal branding boot camp at UCLA, brilliantly guest lectured by Jeffrey White, the SEO/reputation management genius and attended by a full complement of fired-up attendees from around the world. The intellectual endurance athletes hailed from Japan, Germany, Venezuela, the US and beyond.

Personal branding knows no bounds

The group’s lack of any shared, defining demographics shocked and impressed me. Apparently, personal branding matters whether you are a patient’s advocate who was nearly killed by flesh eating bacteria or a street musician who just shot a film about the solar eclipse in Mongolia. We also had a professional organizer plus the guide dog she was training for the blind and a college administrator bravely making her way from enemy territory (our rival school that used to have a football dynasty). If you wanted to ask how to get a ticket for the Kentucky Derby, where to hear G-rated comedy or what media really delivers the best CPM for your local business, you missed out on meeting all the right people.

What does this tell you?

Whether you were on campus with us or not, you are among the futurists. That is, you are among those people who are not just on social media. You are among those who by virtue of thinking about social media are shaping it. That crosses a lot of cultural or occupational barriers and binds you to people with whom you might not share any other interest. Isn’t that interesting? It gives you so many opportunities to lead a truly global tribe.

To us it matters that Facebook is selling our posts to advertisers, who then target the newly engaged among us with wedding trinket promos or the like. Not that we necessarily mind the targeted attention, mind you. What’s important is we are aware that social media is evolving before our eyes and under our thumbs.

Awareness in personal branding, like with substance abuse, is a giant first step toward controlling how your life turns out.

What you do brands you, whether you take action with intention or by accident. As personal brands, we choose to live our lives or at least our careers intentionally.

At boot camp, we build strategies for life before we build strategies for LinkedIn profiles and presence. Before impulsively liking Pinkberry or broadcasting your devotion to the Beebs, consider what that means about you to your 650 friends on FB and the roving recruiter checking out how you spend your free time. You are branded by the brands (companies and people) with which you surround yourself in clicks, pics and posts, after all. In reality, there are neither surefire privacy settings nor BFFs.

If you leverage social media for a living – not just use it as a place to leak your good news or frustrations – give some thought to your life’s mission and purpose, at least as far down the road as you can imagine. At camp, our work for the first eight hours was to decide on those qualities and traits that made us or betrayed us, given what we each want to accomplish and be known for during the balance of hours we will be here – and I don’t mean at UCLA.

Have you asked yourself the big life questions yet or in the very recent past?

A personal branding boot camp (which you can do at home instead of a Shark Attack marathon) needs to include your taking your life’s inventory, divulging some true stories, getting inspired revelations, and surviving the surprising pain of accepting your limitations.

When you have a grip on you are and where you might like to go, only then does it make sense to dig into social media details, like in how many languages you need to translate your FB posts and what to do with that drunk friend who keeps tagging you holding beer. Both really good questions to address – once you’ve asked and answered some larger ones about your life.

And, what did you do this weekend?

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Shut Up!

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

mouth-shutI wish there were a better way to say this, but you have got to stop talking all the time. You know who you are. You’re the one who can answer a three word question like, “How are you?” with an essay longer than the Gettysburg address. You’re the one who takes the floor in a meeting and wipes it clean with the rest of us because you suck all the oxygen out of the room. It’s you – the person who is supposed to give your expert input on one aspect of the topic and you proceed to insert yourself into every other item on the agenda.

Take a breath for goodness sake. Have you been practicing underwater? You must have the world record! You put everything good about your personal brand at risk, when you run off at the mouth.

Sound bites, please

First of all: we can only take in 30 seconds of information at one time. After that our brains explode with chemicals, trying to fasten all your incoming bits onto what’s already stored. Give us time to associate, store and refresh the screen, will ya?

Second: what if you are wrong? It’s one thing to weigh in with bad information. We forgive you. It’s another thing when you’re a wave machine of misunderstanding, mistaken judgments, and malodorous opinions. You present us with a “now what?” problem, because in order to go on and be productive – we have to point out that you are wrong. Awkward.

Third: this is a conversation. A meeting. A phone call. That means more than one person is supposed to be speaking. If you want to deliver monologues, get yourself a one-person show and take it off Broadway (or at least off the premises).

Why the useless chatter? Why the recitation of minute detail? Why the deep dive into arcane facts and endless asides like you’re a tour guide and we’re seeing the Titanic for the first time? The feeling of drowning or at least being set adrift in a sea of words is deadly to your reputation, relationships and career.

Even if you are the smartest person in the room, consider it’s a hostile act to dominate others with your words.

Of late, something has happened with live interactions. I go to more and more meetings with people who have stored up and spew forth all the words they can’t fit into their tweets. Or is it the reality television effect, where we see boring people who lead meaningless lives being given the spotlight? Lamar Odom’s biggest complaint about Khloe Kardashian is that she never stops talking – and she got a show!

So, think before you speak. Spare us the detail. Cut to the chase. Give us the headlines. Wait to see if you get the “tell me more” signals before you tell us more.

And, I don’t really mean you – not only you. We are all guilty of this from time to time. And, like bad breath, it’s really hard for other people to tell us we’re offensive. So, consider this a public service message.

Now think how easy it will be to hit the “Like” or one of the “share” buttons, and put someone on notice that you’d love to say: shut up!

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