Storytelling and your personal brand

We all love a good story don’t we? That’s because we are hardwired to tell stories. Did you know that 70% of everything we learn is through stories? Such is the power of storytelling.

If you want your personal brand to have impact, a great way to achieve that is to wrap it up in a story. All great brands have stories. A great story can be engaging and memorable. If you want a strong personal brand, you’d better get yourself a great story. So, what’s your story?

“But what am I going to do with a story?”

Think of your story as your personal pitch or your elevator pitch. So, in the same way that you would use those, you story is a great thing to share with people that you meet. It’s a great way to get a conversation going. And conversations are the beginning of great connections and relationships. And who doesn’t want one of those?

I strongly believe that there are a lot of missed opportunities out there when people meet each other and they are asked to describe themselves or what they do. Mike Brown tackles this in his post “Personal Branding Decision – how do you describe yourself?”

In my view, too many people choose to identify themselves through their job title. Seriously. You are MORE than your job! There must be so many things that you’ve done with your life that you could share other than your job title. It’s do devaluing. How can you stand out and be remembered when you used a job title to describe yourself. A job title that zillions of other people have. You’ve just put yourself in a box! What a lot of people don’t realise is that when they’re asked the question “and, what do you do?” the asker doesn’t actually want to hear the answer. They’re just trying to make conversation. So it’s your job to create the platform on which that conversation can flourish. And while you’re at it, why not make it a memorable one?

On January 25th I will be giving a talk on Storytelling and your Personal Brand at the Personal Branding UK meetup. I will share my ideas on how storytelling can be used to enhance your personal brand and what I believe are the key ingredients for a great personal story.

I will also be running some “What’s your Story?” workshops in London and Nottingham in February and March. Details will be launched very soon.

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The rise of the digital coach?

Yesterday I attended a session run by Ecademy’s Thomas Power. They’re in the middle of recruiting what they’re calling Digital Coaches for their Ecademy Digital School.

Digital Coach is a term that was coined by Seth Godin in few years back. I’ve only recently come across it. If it sounds new to you, then let me take a few moments to share with you how they define such a person;

• A digital coach teaches you how to do things digital and how to get those things done.

• They help you to use value and optimise Twitter, Facebook, Ecademy, YouTube, LinkedIn etc

• A digital coach understands the difference between personal branding and company branding

• A digital coach is a friend, ally, support service, professional lifesaver, protector and brand guardian.

• They are someone who is a companion and change agent who helps businesses transition and benefit from the Digital World.

During the session Thomas spent a lot of time delivering a very clear message:

if you do not define yourself you will starve

If you can’t define yourself, then other people won’t be able to either. And, if they can’t, then they can’t recommend or refer you. Bummer eh? But you know what? Working that out isn’t a quick process. I have the T-shirt!

Thomas shared a great quote from Penny during the session

“Network value happens when others talk about you when you’re not there”

This quote is very similar to another great quote by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos

“Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not there”

So, what we’re talking about here is the same thing, we just can’t agree on a good name for it.

The old adage, it’s not what you know it’s who you know has never been more relevant than today. Thomas rammed this point home several times. Generation Zero have grown up having hundreds of friends, connections and followers. For them, having a network of people who know them for being them is natural. It’s everyone else who needs to worry. Everyone else needs to start thinking about growing their network. Not only that, they need to ensure that their network know who they are. And by this I mean, know what they stand for and what they can be relied on. Oh look! Now we’re back to branding!

So, both Penny and Jeff are talking about the same coin, just different sides. Yes, you need to know what you stand for and can be relied upon for, but then you need to leverage the power of the network. And today, that network is online. If you’re not engaging and publishing online, then you’re not visible. If you’re not visible, then you won’t be chosen.

Oh dear!

And that’s where Digital Coaches come in. They can help you to both these things and walk with you on the path to discovering and defining who you are.

If you’re reading this and thinking “I’m an employee not a freelancer or a business owner, I don’t need to worry about this sort of thing”

WRONG!

Just ponder this; in 2017 all of IBM’s 400,00 employees will become suppliers. How do you think that is going to affect other employees?

In the current climate of austerity and cutbacks, many businesses are moving to using contractors and virtual teams, so now more than ever, defining yourself clearly is a matter of survival.

Have you defined yourself?

If you want to have a chat about discovering and defining YOUR brand, give me a call!

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Choosing a name. Would you choose yours?

I came across an article today saying that parents-to-be in the States are hiring baby-namers to come up with baby names for their new arrival. For the princely sum of $350 they get “…a baby naming consultation that includes phone interviews and packets of name options with name histories, linguistic origins and personality traits.” Wow! All stuff you can find online, but when they put it like that….

As a parent-to-be myself I can’t help be interested in an article like this. But it is in my capacity as a personal brand coach that I’m really interested. After all, people’s names are their brand names. And, a brand name is the beginning of a conversation: a great brand name means that a great conversation follows which inevitably leads to a deeper level of engagement and a slight chance of making it into the memorable brigade.

As someone with a great name (if I do say so myself!), I can testify to the benefits of having a name that can be the beginnings of many an interesting conversation. I usually get “Ooh, that’s a pretty name. Where is it from?” And, coupled with the fact that I don’t look terribly British, this can quickly be followed by “Are you Greek?” At this point, I may have been known to delight in sharing my mixed breed of a background that takes in France, Wales, England & Eastern Europe. As we sail past the initial moment of awkwardness, the conversation then picks up momentum and direction and we inevitably journey onto a flurry of great moments and exchanges.

So, for me the idea of choosing a name for my baby, I can’t help but think of the ramifications of getting it right, or heaven forbid, wrong! From my days in corporate branding, I know that when we were picking new brand names, we had to be very clear as to what we were trying to achieve with the brand (our goals & objectives). We also had to be clear as to who our target audience was so that the name appealed to them. And, who we were competing with, so that we knew how to stand out. And to help us out, we would often hire external agencies to help us with this erroneous task. Now, this is all great branding stuff, but nonetheless very important when creating a brand for maximum success.

But tell me, how do you do this for a little person who hasn’t yet decided what their goals and aspirations are? Or indeed who they’re competing with (perish the thought!). It’s like putting the cart before the horse.

For now I think I’m going to follow in my parents footsteps and pick a name that makes a great conversation starter and gives them a story to tell. And combining my background with that of my Maltese partner, there should be plenty for them to talk about!

Unless you guys have any suggestions… I’d be pleased to hear them… they say I might be having a girl!

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13 personal branding insights from Kelly Cutrone

If you want to read a straight-talking overview on why you need to think seriously about your personal brand, you should grab yourself a copy of Kelly Cutrone’s book If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You

Cutrone is one of fashion’s most successful publicist whose business People’s Revolution has offices in New York, LA and Paris. Known for her renegade, ballsy and honest approach in an industry full of falsity, her reputation is unparalleled. Her book reveals her journey from small-town US school girl to NY PR maven told in a reverent, funny shooting-from-the-hip kind of way.

But that’s enough of the intro. The reason I’m sharing this with you is because she has dedicated a whole chapter to personal branding “YOU are the brand: normal gets you nowhere”. Her insights and stories should be enough to persuade anyone who needs to earn money that personal branding is here to stay and should be taken seriously. What happens if you don’t take it seriously? Well… you go nowhere, fast.

But there are some of you out there who would prefer the shortcut right? And, as someone who loves giving everyone else shortcuts, here is my list of personal branding insights as shared by the wonderfully inspiring Kelly Cutrone.

1. Personal branding is about figuring out who you are and what turns you on then monetising it.

2. The people who are actually making a difference in the world are people who are not like everyone else.

3. People become successful because what they’re selling is authentic and consistent. They found jobs that aligned with their skills and passions, and they brought their true selves – idiosyncrasies and all – to work every day.

4. Everyone is selling something these days, and if you don’t have a clear point of differentiation – something that makes you special, unique, effective – you won’t get far in fashion, or any other creative industry, and you certainly won’t succeed as an entrepreneur.

5. It’s time to figure out what you are selling and how you are going to make people want to buy it…. Consider your whole self, and don’t be afraid to embrace everything that makes you unique.

6. Your point of differentiation does not need to be edgy or groundbreaking, it just needs to be different, and it just needs to be you.

7. Follow you inner voice away from what feels wrong and towards what feels right.

8. When you find something that feels right…. commit to it. Doing one thing well will open doors for you. A plant won’t grow as high if it’s reaching toward five or six suns.

9. Successful people, and brands, are usually highly specialised. They do one thing, and they do it in a better or more interesting way than anyone else.

10. Every successful brand has a message, and that message must be painstakingly driven home, in both appearance and substance.

11. Good brands are authentic, consistent and focused.

12. Be careful not to let your personal brand overwhelm your expressed desire to learn. The point is, after all, to make people want to work with you.

13. Don’t think that creating and promoting your brand is a 6-month programme. I’m forty-four years old and I continue to build my brand… and it is much more powerful than it was when I started.

Nothing there I’ve not already said, but it’s always nice to hear it from someone else, don’t you think?

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The problem with branding is …

When I work with people on their business or personal brands I inevitably end up sharing a variation of this quote.

“A brand should strive to own a word in the mind of the consumer.” Al Reis and Laura Reis

The problem is, for people not used to working in branding and marketing, this is actually quite a hard thing to grasp. Once you’ve worked with many brands and wrestled with this problem, you have the benefit of hindsight. And the trouble with hindsight is that it makes everything always looks so obvious.

zen-quote

I think the problem with identifying the idea is that it’s just too simple. And simplicity is difficult to achieve. Simplicity requires some brave decisions. It requires you to eliminate elements and ideas that dilute and distract. It’s far too easy to try too hard. The result of this is trying to appeal to everyone. And you know what Simon Manchipp said about that. “A brand trying to be all things to all people = blanding”.

Making a decision on what idea you are going to own can happen in one of two ways. You can either plan on the idea that you will own, or you look back and ask your customers what it is that they think of when they think of your brand.

The first route can come from the gut, or from lengthy reviews and analyses of what else is happening in the market. Either way, once you’ve identified your idea, you need to build your whole strategy around it.

The second is more interesting. You might have been doing X for a while, but when you finally get round to asking your customers what they remember you for, they tell you Y. Depending on what Y is, it can be a great opportunity to start building on what you’ve already established without realising.

This article by Brand Strategy Insider sums up the whole issue quite nicely, as well as showing what happens to big corporates when they ignore this simple piece of advice. And you’d think that they would know better!

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Don’t hire a Personal Branding Pro until you’ve answered these 5 questions

If you’ve considered hiring a professional to help you manage your personal brand, there are some things to bear in mind.

Personal brand management involves considering all aspects of your personal brand: your strengths, your results, your appearance, your knowledge and experience, your objectives and all collateral about you in the media - in the press and online. Large companies hire Brand Managers to manage their brands so why shouldn’t you?

Here are 5 questions you should ask yourself before you decide whether you need the help of a Personal Brand Manager, Consultant, Advisor or Coach.

1. Do you have what it takes?

Managing your personal brand requires a strategic approach, a plan and knowledge & experience of the various aspects of brand management. If you happen to be an ex-Brand Manager then you are very well suited to managing your personal brand. But if you’re not then you might find yourself having to learn many new skills and ways of working. These new skills and habits may be in conflict with your natural style.

2. Can you afford to be distracted?

Too much workManaging your personal brand is no small task. Depending on your line of work and your levels of activity, your personal brand management could be quite time consuming. Surely your main focus should be on what you do and doing it well, and not managing your personal brand. It’s all very well coming up with great plans, the real magic is in their timely execution. Your personal brand will suffer if there isn’t a consistent approach.

3. Do you know what you want to achieve and what’s possible?

Clarity around your goals is an important aspect of managing your personal brand. But equally important is knowing what’s possible. You may be familiar with what leaders in your field are doing, but by copying them you are not going to stand out. You need to be aware with what leading people outside your field are doing.

guardian angel4. Who’s keeping an eye on you?

It can be all too easy to come up with big plans for developing your personal brand. And, it can be even easier not to follow through. After all, if you’re doing it yourself, who’s going to find out? Right? Wrong! Who’s there to push you and keep you to task? Having a great team around you is more likely to lead to success.


pot-o-gold5. What are you missing out on?

Have you taken the time to consider how much you personal brand might be worth in the future? Do you know how your brand is worth now? Let’s say that that you’re brand is currently worth £60K (what you are able to earn in a year). Your future brand might be worth £500K. If mismanaged, you may take a lot longer to get there, if at all! Is it really worth not getting outside help to get you there?

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Social media: what’s your excuse for NOT taking part?

geek_party_3It used to be that the only brands that got involved with social media were tech brands. Brands whose very premise was technology and web. So for them, the very idea of NOT taking part in social media was not an option. If there was a party, they had to be there. Fast-forward a few years, and the party is still alive and kicking, but it’s not only full of geeks. There are some bigger better-known types turning up. After all, everyone is invited; it’s an open door policy. But for some reason, brands are still slow to the party. Lame excuses probably include “…not sure what to say”, “…might look stupid”, “…do I have to?” blah blah blah.

But these excuses are starting to wear thin. There really is NO EXCUSE. A report out last week confirms what many have known for a while; engaging with your audience through the use of social media pays. Oh yes!

Money“… the most valuable brands in the world are experiencing a direct correlation between top financial performance and deep social engagement…”

So now we’ve got that out the way, let’s just get our heads around what engaging really means [clue: it's a lot more than just showing up].

Being seen in the right places

Well as with most things marketing, first you need to find out where your audience is hanging out. Once you know that, you can make a decision as to which channels you want to be seen in. But remember, to take part in a channel doesn’t mean you have to own it. It is OK to just hang out. Let me explain. Blogging might be really important to your audience, whether they read them or write them. But you don’t necessarily need to have your own blog, you can actively take part in their blogs; make comments, give prominent bloggers a preview of new products, submit articles and news. The important thing is to take part, and not just have a presence.

Listening

catjobphase4As I’ve said, just being in your chosen channel isn’t enough, you have to take part and interact (this bit is so important I decided to repeat myself - it’s for you skimmers out there) And most importantly, you have to listen. This is quite new to a lot of marketers, who usually too busy spouting outward. Used to focussing on getting their message out there, now they’ve got to learn to listen and converse. Before I hear too many marketers shout in protest, when I say listen, I mean listen as a daily activity, not an annual one. Listening needs to become part of the fabric of the business and not just an isolated focus group attended by a solitary marketing exec.

Make a commitment

This is really important. For a brand to engage with its audience, it needs to commit to it. Once you’re in, you’re in. So make sure you have a plan and a resource to deliver that plan. Sure, the plan can evolve. But at the very least make sure that someone owns social media in the business and is listening to the conversation. Ideally, social media needs to become part of the culture, right up to the top. But, one step at a time is fine at this stage.

So, what’s your excuse?

state-newspaper-excuses

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Why personal branding is relevant to business

When you talk about personal branding to employers, many are not interested. For them, they consider personal branding all about making the employee more valuable, which means that the employee may become more expensive and look to move elsewhere. Hardly something they want to invest in.

But what they fail to realise is that every time a customer interacts with their business through their staff, the customer is interacting with a person who has a personal brand. Now, that employee may not be conscious of their personal brand, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t have one.

What impression does the employee create? Are they presenting themselves in a manner appropriate with the business and its brand? Are the employee’s values in line with the business values? If the company values customer service highly, is this reflected in the behaviour of the employee? Whenever you have negative experiences with a business it is usually down to your interaction with a person and their attitude. Often, if senior management are made aware of the problem it is quickly addressed. And let’s not forget, customer service isn’t something that is restricted to the customer service department. Internally within a business, every employee has customers. Their customers will include their fellow team members, other teams they interact with and suppliers.

Look at it from a different perspective. Let’s say your business is one of many in a highly competitive market where there is little differentiation in the service or product offering. For example, professional services such as accountants or lawyers. Typically in these businesses, the professionals will all have similar qualifications and backgrounds. By the nature of what they do, it is standard fair. So, what helps them to stand apart? The people! People do business with people. So, it follows that the most successful people will be those that have great people skills and act authentically and consistently. Isn’t that the sort of person you’d rather have in your team?

So now tell me that Personal Branding isn’t relevant to business.

Branding in a business is often thought of as belonging to the marketing department. But in fact it straddles the whole organisation. Everyone in the organisation has a part to play in bringing the corporate brand to life. A brand breathes through its people. It’s the X-factor that separates the stars from the wannabe’s.

Staff attitudes, what they say, how they look, what they do, what people say about them, and their office environment. These factors will not only influence what you think of the individual, but the company they work for. It all contributes to the overall brand.

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When Branding and Marketing collide

With news this week that Ryanair are considering making some of its passengers stand during flights in a bid to squeeze as many as 30% more people on board, I couldn’t help but think that Ryanair must be getting a little bit confused.

ryanair468x286On the one hand they are trying to make more money. Well, you can’t have a go at them for that. That’s what all businesses are trying to do. And, in this current climate, the airlines are having a tough old time. But on the other, each action they take to bring them closer to the money is moving them away from the long term win; a brand that inspires loyalty and trust. That is where the real money is.

There appear to be two forces at play here so let me introduce you to the terrible twins; Branding and Marketing. Twins because they are often confused for one another.

But first, let’s just go back to basics for a moment. What is Marketing anyway?

The Chartered Institute of Marketing, which is the world’s largest marketing body, defines marketing as “The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.” Notice that last word, “profitably“. Also, notice the word “satisfying“. Mmmm.

ryanairSo, in the name of profit, Ryanair have come up with a load of ideas to generate more money;
Charge to use toilets on board
Get passengers to carry all of their own luggage onto planes
• Abolish check-in facilities and demand that all passengers check in online at a cost of £5.

Our favourite is the 2-in-1 sick-bag cum send-your-film-off-for-development envelope. Genius!

But what about the other twin, Branding? Well, a company invests in branding because of the benefits that come with a good brand. A good brand:
• Delivers your brand message clearly
• Gets your audience to think that you are the ONLY solution to their problem
• Confirms your credibility
• Connects to your target audience emotionally
• Motivates your buyer into action
• Builds loyalty over the long-term so buyers keep coming back

So, in the name of marketing, O’Leary is doing everything he can to squeeze more profit out of his operation. And he’s being quite innovative with it. The trouble is, it’s not the sort of innovation that wins brownie points (a.k.a. happy paying customers). It seems that when Ryanair had their brainstorming away day, the branding team weren’t invited. If they were, someone would have been standing up for the poor paying customers. Someone would have been asking some tough questions about why the customer experience is being destroyed. Destroyed so much, that there are now masses of travellers that will do anything they can to AVOID travelling with them. One angry blogger has even gone as far as setting up www.ihateryanair.co.uk.

It seems as though Ryanair just don’t get it. The whole branding thing I mean. If they could successfully engage their customers on an emotional level (preferably nice positive emotions like love and delighted, not emotions like anger and hate), then customers would choose to travel with them. Some might even pay a little bit more. Imagine that Mr O’Leary?

ryanair-staff-nappingSo, we thought we’d come up with a few ideas of our own. After all, it looks like he needs all the help he can get.

• Ryanair Express store selling over-priced packed lunch ingredients and sandwich fillings for customers to make their own lunch before coming on board. Advise customers that if they require a preparation surface they can use the baby-changing facilities.
• Sell customers oxygen masks and a choice of getaway devices, from slides to parachutes
• Charge customers a monthly subscription to access the website
• Oblige customers to undergo steward training, in preparation for the no-staff service.
• Sell customers Ryanair uniforms in Duty Free, in case the staff are free of duty and absent
• £100 soiling charge if you wet your seat from not paying the £5 toilet charge

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King - A Branding Genius?

shaving bond home pageYou would have been hard pressed to get through the weekend papers without escaping any reference to the King. And, I’m not talking about Michael Jackson. Instead, I’m referring to Will King, founder and CEO of King of Shaves. The reason for this is that last week, he launched the Shaving Bond. This is a corporate bond that aims to attract funds for their marketing war chest in their fight against Gillette.

This brand building idea is ingenious on so many levels. So many levels that I’m not quite sure where to start, so in no real order…

A brand you can trust

In the current climate of dishonest and untrustworthy politicians and banks, choosing where to put your money is tricky business. And yet, here is an opportunity to put your money behind one of the fastest growing brands around. Not only that, but Will King is proven when it comes to building assets. After all, he knows how to manage money as he’s built a hugely successful business over the last 16 years. Politicians and banks can’t claim that one very easily. So, in terms of trust, he’s got that one nailed. That’s no mean feat; give the guy some credit.

It’s a win-win!

Will King is predicting that his business will double in the next year. For those of you that struggle with percentages, that’s +100%. So, to offer a +6% return on an investment means that he is going to be quids in. But so are the investors. The majority of investors out there would be hard pressed to find a better return than 6%. Especially one that comes with free King of Shaves products. The free product bit is so neat. For KoS, giving away free product is nothing, but the perceived value to the consumer is massive. Consumers love a bit of FREE.

willI saw King speak recently at the British Library and he was asked how he measured his marketing spend on advertising. The response quite simply was “Sales! We sell loads of product”. King knows that lack of awareness is their biggest barrier. He calls it their “biggest competitor”. So, King knows that if he could just spend more on advertising, then sales will follow. The problem is, he needs to the cash. So, what are his options?

Get your customers to pay for it!

Well why not? Most brands pay for their marketing through their premium prices. Taking this route allows King of Shaves to keep their prices competitive during these “tough times” while offering consumers a return in more ways than one. I also think that the transparency is going to be respected. They’re quite blatant in telling us that they’ll spend the money on marketing and advertising. And so, consumers get to choose as to whether they take part in this. You don’t get that choice with many other brands. You pay or go elsewhere.

Now, back to the lack of awareness issue. What better way round this than to get your name out there? Mmmm… now let’s think, how could he do this. Well, you could try and pull a big PR stunt that gets you into all the papers.

A PR stunt?

the-sun-230609The press coverage for the Shaving Bond has been pretty impressive. Oh sure, it helps that they’ve been spending a little cash on advertising, but nonetheless. To secure coverage in wide ranging publications like The Sun, The Times, Brand Republic, Management Today and Marketing Week makes for a great PR stunt. The value of the PR alone will make this exercise worth it, even if no-one signs up. But, the reach achieved with this coverage would probably surpass anything they could hope to pull off with any ad campaign. And that coverage was despite the other “King” that hit the news this week.

Consistency of message

I can’t help admire the PR aspect of this initiative. Having worked on PR stunt campaigns, I know how hard it can be to ensure that when your story gets out there, the journalists are saying the right thing, consistently. After all, you have no editorial control. But, for this campaign, the message that keeps coming through is “It’s not just a better way to shave, it’s a better way to save”. And that comes straight from King himself. Great brands are built on consistency, and these guys clearly know what they’re doing.

And finally…

What a great name!

This name is a marketer’s dream. It’s just so perfect! I won’t go on as Shaving Bond speaks for itself.

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