Archive for July, 2013

Will Your Personal Brand Mature in 30 Years?

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

looking-through-binoculars-future-predictionsIn last Sunday’s New York Times, journalist Jessica Grose proudly proclaims her status as the childish sound of the Millennial Generation. She has been repeatedly criticized for sounding like a twelve year old, which is a problem for the audience listening to podcasts she appears in. Not just any podcast: at Slate magazine’s podcasts. This would be an appearance most personal brands would like to nail down, button down or whatever you consider “doing your best.”

Her point is: in thirty years, when Millennials are in power at corporations and media posts, her sound (which she identifies as Valley Girl – with lots of “ums” and “y’knows”) is going to be the sound of upper management. So, she rejected the counsel of a communications coach, who recommended she literally tone down her voice, and speak up like a professional.

I wondered how this rejection of the current norm, would be eventually considered a status symbol. Perhaps hippies and yuppies once felt the same way. After all: the preponderance of these populations generationally came to power in the last couple of decades.

Perhaps there are hippies and yuppies in those teetering, corner offices: but I have not met them. I have met people who seem pretty conventional, even though they have clearly matured beyond the Mad Men vision of management that preceded them. Would one day, we want to hear the editor of our most prestigious publication or Global 2000 company, say “Like, y’know, he goes and then she goes?”

Jessica notes the “upspeak” in her sentences: the way she ends her sentences sounding like she’s looking for approval, rather than making a point. Perhaps, she is right? Would you hope that management will sound like that? Would you feel more comfortable? Do these questions seem annoying?

Yes. It is annoying. The linguistics are annoying. And, that is trans-generation. Trans-culture.

At the risk of being conventional: do it the way it’s done now with a twist that makes it your own. Whatever your “it” is. And, don’t wait thirty years to have your chance – or your say. Have it now, which might mean do it “their way.” Sorry Burger King.

In any case: the Millennial sound is at its best when it’s diverse, with a side of seriously: we’re all grown up.

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Why Don’t People Follow Good Advice?

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

adviceDo you ever feel like your good advice is wasted on the people you give it to?

In a recent research project, visitors to McDonalds and Subway restaurants were given slips of paper letting them know their recommended daily calorie total. Actually, the way the research project was run: some were handed a paper with the daily total, some got a lunch or dinner total and some got nothing at all (the control group).

Turns out the people made aware of precisely what would be best for their health at that meal, ate the most calories. They ate significantly more calories than they should – and more calories than the people who were given no notice.

There was just one exception. People who were at their ideal BMI (body mass index) ate what they should.

Isn’t that the way? People who are already doing well, get information that they are doing it right (or need to make a course correction) and continue to do well. People who are doing it wrong, persist in doing it wrong, even when they’ve been given better information than they’ve been using. They get the results they’ve been getting (and complaining about).

I feel very much like those researchers feel. For example, take profanity in personal branding. Really. Take. It. Away. I have advised some hugely successful, high profile celebrities and business leaders. I tell them: if you want to be carried in mass media and reach audiences that are G-rated, then can the profanity. They do. Their sphere of influence grows, they get television shows, they travel around the world doing intensives with their clients for tens of thousands of dollars (and more), and they get helicopters and islands in Fiji. Or, whatever floats their proverbial boat.

I have other clients who persist in using profanity as if we’ve never spoken. They complain when they are not asked back to speak, guest on a show or get referrals.

It’s not just profanity that sinks personal brands. Another stop-before-it-destroys-your-career? Lack of preparation. Yes, personal branding as a career or business builder requires us to cram more work than most people into a finite amount of time (24 hours each day). And something does give. It shouldn’t be a live audience. Be kind to your audiences. Think about them and they will laugh and applaud in the right places. They will not do that if you have not written and practiced before you expect laughs and applause.

Simple advice that is complicated to follow, if you have not been doing this personal branding thing for awhile. Unfortunately, you really don’t get the chance to make a better impression, once you’ve made a poor one.

My best advice (if I may) is to work in these good habits as part of your regular life. I’ve not met many people who were cursing up a storm with their friends who could shut it off when they were at work. And, I haven’t met many people who really could pull off a presentation without preparation.

If you find yourself following this advice on personal branding: you’re probably like the people who followed the researchers advice about calories. You already have some good habits in place, and maybe a small reminder keeps you on track.

PS. If you like advice about the do’s and don’ts of engaging an audience, and want more: I’ve got more! Email me at [email protected] Subject line: Advice.

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Personal Brands: Are You An “Is, And, Also?” Ok!

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

ManyHats“All the best people are!” That’s what we would have said had we met at an upper crust luncheon still roiling at 4 PM, when too much to drink caused us to wave white wine glasses as we made dramatic, inclusive gestures and generously greeted one another’s secrets. It’s under those country club settings that people of means and leisure have always let the truth slip, only to be told there was nothing shameful about whatever was admitted.

Such is how I would like you to feel about the fractions of work you do that add up to about the time or wages of one full-time job. Or, how you might choose to acknowledge you work full time, and yet “moonlight” at one or two other compelling endeavors, ventures or whatnot. In service of your personal branding and business or career goals: you might be doing more than one thing to actualize yourself, gain experience and make enough money to live, or live out your dreams.

There’s an arcane expression that may have discouraged you from speaking up with these details about your professional life, and it has an even more ridiculous acronym: KISS. Keep it simple, stupid. Actually, if you ARE talking to stupid people, I’m sorry that’s part of your day or night. And yes, you really should keep it simple for simpletons. Stupid people dot the landscape for sure; however, don’t let them diminish how you tell your story to the rest of us. We are capable of understanding you and what you do. Speak to us intelligently, albeit crisply and confidently. We will respond accordingly.

Sunday morning, as almost always, I was enjoying the New York Times Style section, because it provides a window back in time. There was a pretty fancy life I used to lead, and I led it in Manhattan. Now I’m out in enviable weather of Southern California, at least most of the time, so I don’t make the fashion changes or pages as I once did. Still, I love peeking at the carriage trade and I love reading the wedding announcements.  I think they are the last untapped new business lead source, since they give the couples’ names, occupations and city.

But today, I was struck by the number of these fancy people who do more than one thing. Here is an example.

Mr. deBary (left), 30, is the bar manager for the Momofuku restaurant group in New York and a bartender at Please Don’t Tell, a New York bar. He is also an assistant editor of a cocktail book published by Food & Wine magazine.”

Get the point? He earns his living doing three different things! He is a bar manager at a restaurant group. And, he is a bartender at a club. Also, he’s an assistant editor.” He is an “Is. And. Also.”

Have you been embarrassed to be doing one thing, supplementing your income by doing another thing, and doing a third thing on the side that’s the most relevant to the career or business you really want?

It’s OK!  All the best people are!

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Eliminate the Negative in Your Personal Brand

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

stock-footage-hispanic-business-partners-good-news-via-tablet-informal-meeting-modern-officeMost people dwell on what’s wrong. It’s just a human tendency to discount the positives and accentuate the negatives, whether you’re discussing your childhood, your high school experience or the last job interview (where they failed to see your greatness).

The craziest negativity in personal branding is when you speak about yourself and your experiences. Not that you have to be Polly or Paul Positive all the time, that would actually be annoying and create some animosity among us regular people – but you do need to have a powerful way of discussing what you do, how you do it, the results you get, and why people come to you in the first place.

Then practice speaking positively about yourself and your experiences about 85% of the time you are with ANYONE: your parent, partner, friend, stranger on the bus, and neighbor. Allow yourself 15% of talk time to concede the difficulties in life and mention a dip, lull or mistake in your life: but don’t talk yourself down too long or too dramatically.

Here’s an example. As you may know, I am in the “fixing to start” a renovation of my home in Los Angeles. I say “fixing to start” because I spent a good bit of time in Dallas where this expression was introduced to me by the local citizens. Fixing to go about doing something is the “before I get going” time. It’s the collecting your things, or thinking about collecting your things, so you can get in the car and actually go somewhere.

So, I am in the collecting magazines, pinning Pinterest, asking friends and family for advice, and ideating on how to convert my mid Century modern into something that looks more like a spaceship with Japanese gardens. I know, it needs refinement, but after all I am just fixing at this stage

It so happens that I was standing outside the house ideating, when a neighbor lady came by with a tiny miniature pincher. I leaned down to kiss the dog who was terrified by the 200 pounds of Labrador retrievers standing in my garage. I mentioned that the labs were doing demolition (both are under a year and one-half) in service, I supposed, of my future renovation. The lady said, she was a general contractor, and totally understood where I was mentally, emotionally, physically and probably financially. What a great personal brand, I thought! She totally is focused on her audience (me) and she is letting me know what she does in a very friendly way.

Then, she gets negative and blows me away (in a bad way). “You have to watch out for architects. I’ve had four different architects on my last four jobs, and they each went more than 60% over budget. I couldn’t control them!” The neighbor lady lost the job. Right there. Because right before she went negative, I was thinking: “Wow, she lives in my neighborhood on this hill. She will understand the geology issues, the weather, the building codes, the …”

She ruined my fantasy and her next gig standing on the street while I was kissing her dog, even after she knew I was a qualified prospect.

When are you going negative? Do you get comfortable and too casual? Do you think you are only going after what you want, when you are in the office or on the phone with a referral source or prospect? Don’t you know that all around you are people who could be your next great gig and the job you have always wanted? Or the collaborator or investor you need to jumpstart your venture?

Stay positive. It’s the only way we can connect with the personal brand you want to promote – and we want to hire.

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How Do You Increase Your Personal Brand Value?

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Hand-with-brand-and-goal-bar-graphThe value of the companies in the top one hundred big corporate brands are up as much 129% in value (Apple) and down as much as 16% (Nokia), according to Interbrands’ research. If you looked at these conveniently competing companies, you might say it has to do with innovation. Samsung is up 40%, so that too would speak to innovation’s heavy hand in creating corporate wealth.

What if innovation is the single greatest factor in attracting and retaining customers? It would mean there is nothing more important to a brand than the conscious undertaking of self-criticism, the lack of being complacent, and never milking the old thing rather than stepping up to risk doing the new thing.

New of course, isn’t enough. There is a museum of losers in Ohio (the patron place of beta testing fast moving consumer goods, like spaghetti sauce). The museum is filled with new and improved products that were launched, and then crashed for lack of any takers. These are products like salmon scented baby wipes and French onion soup mix with candied soy cheese. Actually, those aren’t real products but they are good placeholders for the forlorn innovations displayed at the museum.

Just like big brands your personal brand value will likely increase if you innovate in a meaningful and sustainable way, with your customers unmet needs in mind. For consultants and business owners, that often means innovating YOU, perhaps along with products and services. For employees and jobseekers, it means focusing on you and the company (and its customers) you keep (or aspire to keep).

Great innovation is at the crossroads of your underutilized capacity and underserved market needs.

If you have taken an assessment like the Gallop Strengthfinders test or DISC, you have a really good idea of your capacity. It might be time to look at what you have been hiding or holding back while you have been trading on qualities that feel most comfortable to you.

Here’s an example. My business partner Famous Alice Linesch has begun writing an email marketing campaign, with 100 emails in the series. She is by training a graphic artist, with decades of experience and success. She never wrote copy. She was a creative director who worked with writers and producers, as a great “big idea” person. Her own work was largely visual and she works in every media.

But in the absence of a proven writer available for a new campaign we wanted to launch, Alice started waking up even earlier in the morning (and she is a 6:30 AM bike ride by the beach person, already). She has now racked up 45 emails: stunning, perfect, funny, smart, interesting, content rich-with-an-attitude emails. She says it’s like waking up twenty years after college and finding out she can sing opera, professionally. It feels great.

Her personal brand is hugely more valuable. Our enterprise is more agile and hence more valuable. And, my life is enriched because she reads her newest emails to me at some point every day. I laugh, applaud, appreciate and marvel at her talent. As an internal “client” of hers, I feel relieved, grateful and filled with trust in her ability to lead.

What does your company need, or your prospects and clients need, that you are not providing, but could? How could your personal brand be re-defined, better recognized and rewarded by innovating on what you currently deliver? What is your version of waking up and finding out you can sing opera: professionally?

What’s the risk you have not been willing to take that could transform your career or business? Let me know and I will provide some feedback for you. Email [email protected]. Subject line: Risk.

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