Posts Tagged ‘business success’

Where Have All the Elves Gone?

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

AA004822I had plenty of “they should get coal in their Christmas stockings,” thoughts when it comes to customer no-service at Macys, Bloomingdales, Mercedes Benz, and the City of Beverly Hills with its pothole on Sunset, as I was attempting to finish my holiday shopping on Sunday. I started out with a reasonable budget of money, time and patience. I was worn down and pretty shocked by day’s end.

Similar stories

You are probably having similar experiences, whether you are shopping or just running errands around this time of year.

What strikes me the hardest is the contrast between the “haves ” versus the “not haves.” Not when it comes to the attitude of billionaires versus the rest of us. The hardest attitude to stomach is from people who have work, especially holiday employment. In large measure, the people who have jobs don’t seem to be happy about working.  How can this be, when there are so many people who are out of work right now?

Haves and have-nots

I am an ardent advocate for working people at all levels, in part because I am the daughter of a milkman and a homemaker. I worked three jobs to put myself through UCLA from the age of sixteen. Believe me, I understand the service sector job stress. I worked in admitting on overnights at the UCLA emergency room, sold class notes during the day, and had a stint as an activity coordinator for the local board and care home for mentally ill patients – while I was earning my degree. Sleep was optional.
I have always worked for a living, and been glad for the work even when it was hard and my feet and smile were tired. I am disappointed in myself because now I am finally in agreement with nearly everyone else on how horribly consumers are treated.

Succinctly put, as my fiancé said after listening to my Sunday ordeal: “Service is just terrible these days. No one is nice and it’s nearly impossible to get someone to help you if you’re looking for something at a store.” What feels shameful about our attitude is that we both come from backgrounds where there weren’t money trees in the backyard. We are not “Good help is hard to find people.” We are “Get this economy going so everyone can take care of their family and build their careers” people.

How are you doing on either side of the buying and selling or service relationship? Are you snarling at anyone at work? Are you diffident about whether someone buys something from your company? Do you resent answering some version of the question: “Could you look to see if you have any more in the back?”

Every moment counts

You may not be under the best working conditions right now. You may wish you were home by the fire or skiing in the Alps. You might be like me where taking off Christmas Day and New Years Day will suffice as my winter vacation this year – so every free minute counts.
I know we are not elves, born to be happy toiling all day and night. I do know if we are in business, either for ourselves or someone else – we are lucky to have work.  And, that attitude should show up when you do.

Consider that every time a sales person is rude to a customer, we all lose one more chance to build companies that will survive, much less thrive. Consider what you do on the job may be sucking the life out of your company, your customers and this economy.
Even if you are far from Santa’s workshop in the North Pole: try to make magic in this economy – just by pleasantly doing your job. Smiling shouldn’t be reserved for payday.

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No kidding: There’s Danger in Anger

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

TeenAngerCynicism, hostility, and anger are going to kill you. Actually, if they don’t kill you, they will definitely kill your career. Or, if you don’t have a career, these three demons may be what’s killing your chance of getting a job offer.

Demons that kill your chance

Author Redford Williams’ book, Anger Kills, documents how heart disease, blood pressure, and assorted health risks correlate with what I think can be distilled down to one word: hate. Now you probably don’t think of yourself as a hater. You think you are simply impatient. You think you are just smarter, faster and better at doing whatever it is you that irks you about waiting in a line or not being picked to lead that new project. Maybe you don’t think a word comes out of your boss’s mouth that isn’t stupid. After all, we all know that the higher up the ladder, the less in touch with what’s happening on the ground – and you may be the guy on the ground.

It’s an odd time of year to be talking about hate, anger, cynicism, and hostility. Isn’t it the Grinch who stole Christmas – and you like Christmas! The time off, the drinks, the office party (which is making a small sized comeback this year)…oh and the end of the year review where you’re told your bonus this year is you have a job next year. Some bonus.

If there ever were a good time to talk about your darker side, this is surprisingly a great time for two reasons.

Holiday’s darkside

One, everyone else believes that no one is hiring, promoting, or even working during the last two weeks of the year. So, that means if you are looking for work or looking to trade up the ladder or looking for a freelance gig, you have the least competition that you will see until next year around the holidays. Yes, pretty much everyone else has kicked it. But, if you are making calls on December 24, guess who will be in the office? The boss, certainly if he or she is a business owner. That’s when we get our work done along with New Years Eve day, weekends, and all the official holidays. The assistants and receptionists are home under the mistletoe or at Best Buy. So, calls come directly into our offices.

Two, you are about to make some sort of New Year’s resolutions. Oh, you might not make them official. But your brain feels one door closing and is looking to see what other doors you might open. So, it’s a good time to give you brain a really serious talking-to.

I had a coaching client in the office last Friday. Joanna had great experience in marketing and advertising. She had gone back to school to get a degree in interior design. She is now credentialed, capable, and experienced to create environments for brands, so consumers and prospects can experience the brand personality. This plays to hotels, museums, pop-up stores – the list is nearly endless.

What’s stopping her? Why is she only getting to the third and fourth stage of every job opening set up by her recruiter? I didn’t know, because she is so perfect in almost every way. So, then I had her talk about her past job experiences to me. Although she is a lovely person, she goes through her resume with a witty but catty, cynical or sarcastic comment on each job or boss. Each one accompanies the reasons why the company is great but there’s always this whiplash – always funny – but always angry.

Did she know that? No. Not at all. I might as well have told her she had a turnip on her nose. She had no idea. She didn’t even feel angry – it was just her “sense of humor.”

Discover what’s killing you

Her homework now is to write all of that down. Then, tear it up and throw it away. Her next assignment is to write down pages and pages of why she loved each job, what she learned and why she admires the people she worked with and for.

If you can’t afford any other gift for yourself this holiday, give yourself the gift of time. Write away the thoughts that are killing you. Then, celebrate all that you’ve had and all you will.

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Your Personal Branding Trinity

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

868auditoriumIf you have been following this Tuesday column over the last two weeks, you know we are considering the trinity of personal branding:




Get Attention: Raise your hand, say something insightful and move the gaze of the audience to you. I do this everyday on the LinkedIn discussion groups that I tend during my 20-minute per day regimen of social media maintenance for my personal brand. To keep it interesting, I belong to 26 groups and I let the emailed discussion updates drive my participation.

Most often, I seek out posts that I can take a contrary position to. I use a very polite tone. I approach the topic with salient facts and typically cite a recognized source so it appears I am just weighing in – not arguing. Every single time I do, another member of that group sends a request to be a connection of mine – and they almost always write a note that tells me what I said that made them want to reach out.  About every fifth time, someone in the thread mentions me by name; often acknowledging that I am a pivot point in the direction the thread was going. Super ROI, because it’s always people that I want in my “tribe,” which is why I’m in those groups.

Test out different methods

I test different methods for social media success all the time. In the last two months, this approach to LinkedIn posting is how I am getting the most positive attention from my target markets. You might try it in your groups and see if it gets you the type of attention you require for your business goals.

Ignite Emotion: Be generous, share your resources and get the crowd rooting for you. My area of expertise is communication. I watch for discussions and posts where I can offer some of my intellectual property (IP).

Recently I offered to send anyone in the group a list of values that form the foundation of a personal brand. Whatever I’ve offered, I tell them what their subject line should say so I know what to send. Every single time at least one person has reached out to request what I’ve got. This open-hearted, open-handed sharing ignites a positive emotional connection, and we continue to dialogue. Often this results in a business relationship I otherwise would never have. So far, the only downside seems to be erectile dysfunction spam, which is easy to recognize and ignore.

Developing IP is part of my work because I teach, train and write. I continually research and develop new material that I use in my coaching and consulting practice. You might not have those demands (and benefits) for your work, but you may want to take stock of what you know. I use Evernote to collect and organize all the bits I glean from a variety of sources during the week. Every Sunday afternoon I take some time to gaze at it, kind of like looking at tea leaves. Inevitably I have a light bulb moment that I jot down, and that helps form a new piece of IP that I can share in many ways.

A link to another thought-leader’s material that’s on point would also work, although that says more about your interest in a topic than your expertise.

Be Memorable: Stick with one topic, stay in your authentic voice and be relentless. I persist in propounding there is no problem that cannot be solved by people having superior communication skills. I concede that an earthquake can level a city, but I insist we are all safer if we can say clearly, crisply and compellingly what we need to put society back together. When people think about me, they remember that I encourage them to use their words to tell their stories and get exactly what they want.

In social media forums, I don’t stray from that position: I talk about communication in all its forms. That includes learning what to say to successfully make career transitions, get media coverage, develop sales, attract business deals, produce best selling books, create successful teams, and more.

From my earliest recollection, I have been engaged in reading, writing, grammar, and later: the sociology of conversation, linguistics, media, speech writing and delivery, sales presentations, advertising and marketing, broadcasting, publishing, and just about anything that has to do with the power of language. I don’t have to remember what I’m representing – it is in my bones.

What is it that we remember about the authentic you? What is it that indelibly defines you in our minds? What word, job opening, consulting gig, or life opportunity would immediately pop your name into our brains?

Consider what your personal trinity is.

  • Why are you getting our attention?
  • How are you making emotional connections?
  • What personal brand are you burning in our brains?

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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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Personal Brands: Anti-Social Media

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Bad EmployeeApparently, it is impossible to police every member of your company when it comes to stopping rude, disgusting, or ridiculous behavior. I think it’s fair to say that no matter what policies your management establishes, there are some people who remain too depraved or too stupid, or simply have too much time on their hands.

And, I don’t mean entry-level employees, junior managers, the wacky creative people, or the account executives on the road. Those are the usual suspects when we think of poor social media behavior, or the dark elves who forward off-color jokes and send pornography from company owned computers. We constantly lecture low-level and mid-level employees about what you may email or post, since everything becomes public at some point in time.

Of course, pundits like me worry aloud that your personal brand is permanently corrupted because you’re tagged dancing with a bear in Cabo.

They walk among us

Well, stupid is an equal opportunity employer. Sometimes, it’s the guy at the very top that ruins it for everyone. Consider Randy Michaels, CEO of the Tribune Company – at least until last Friday.

Michaels created a “fraternity house” culture. Sounds like a fun big brand to link up with your personal brand, huh? No. At least not for women, and anyone with a sense of decency – much less the laws about creating a hostile work environment.

Just in case the Tribune Company, which has been operating under bankruptcy protection for two years and is crushed by a failed $8.2 billion buyout, doesn’t have enough real problems, we now have bad behavior at the very top, dripping down.

“A top lieutenant sent an internal memo with an Internet link featuring a racy video that included a bare-breasted woman pouring booze down her chest. The executive, Lee Abrams, resigned as Tribune Co.’s chief innovation officer,” per the Huffington Post, Friday, October 22, 2010.

With a title like “chief innovation officer,” you’d guess that social media and marketing and online distribution had to be part of Abrams’ assignment. Well, he clearly understands the concept of an email campaign. He just has no judgment when it came to the content of an email campaign.

The Tribune Co. publishes the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and owns more than 20 radio and television stations.

Reputation woes

Here’s why Michaels and Abrams ruin it for all o f us. Our news outlets are shrinking. Every major news operation has cut back and many have folded. That means we know less and less about what is going on around the world, in our own countries and in our communities.

Could there be a worse time to put the US on a news deprivation diet? No. In the face of the historic credit meltdown that we served up for the world and the evils we face: terrorism in Europe, genocide in the Congo, someone who claims she was a witch before running a neck and neck race in Nevada with the current Senate Majority Leader in the US Congress…..well, the list is pretty long when it comes to what we need to know that we can’t see with our own eyes. That would require news, real news.

I was hoping that Jon Stewart, tweets in Iran, and the Ashton Kutcher-Demi Moore family were not going to be the funnels through which I understood the world.

But with morons at the top of two major US newspapers sending pornography to each other rather than working on staying solvent, I’m now getting my news from Tweetdeck and the Daily Show.

Personal brands: you are often accused (sometimes by me) of forgetting how you hurt your reputation as well as the companies you work for, when you act imprudently.

That doesn’t mean your brand has to include prude. It just has to rise about emailing pornography, apparently. 

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