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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Hey job seeker! It’s not about the CV stupid!

The world of job search has changed. This might seem pretty obvious, but a scary few haven’t quite noticed. Not only has job search changed, but it’s been completely and utterly transformed into something entirely new.

It’s these same people who when they join linked in, think that it’s sufficient to merely input their company and job title. And possibly, their responsibilities. But that’s OK, they have a job. They’ll sort it out once they need to find a new one. Oh please! Wake up and smell the coffee! Are you serious?! You’re not going to get a job if you can’t be bothered to make an effort. All the time. Whenever you do get round to looking for work, the first thing recruiters are going to do is Google you. And putting positive content online is not an overnight process.

In case you haven’t heard there are a shed load of people just like you looking for work. You might be unemployed or, or on the verge of redundancy, or maybe just bored of being treated like crap in your current job. Whichever it is, if you want to find work, you’re going to have to make an effort.

OK, so you think you have. You think you’ve done a pretty good job with your LinkedIn profile. After all, your CV has been perfectly re-created in the LinkedIn environment. You struggled a bit with the summary, but other than that, you’ve managed to fill it out quite nicely. Well, I hate to break to you, but you’ll never get that time back.

Now some of you are probably thinking “No! Hang on a minute! My summary rocks! I spent ages writing that – it’s awesome!” Well I’d like to invite you for a moment to see if you have included any of these words in your LinkedIn profile

~ Extensive experience ~ Innovative ~ Motivated ~ Results oriented ~ Dynamic ~

~ Proven track record ~ Team player ~ Fast-paced ~ Problem solver ~ Entrepreneurial ~

Well, have you? Did you check?

If you did, punch yourself. These phrases are the top 10 most used phrases in LinkedIn profiles. And that means that they are meaningless. Meaningless because every other lemming is using them which means you all look the same. And if you all look the same, you don’t stand out. And if you don’t stand out you don’t get picked. You don’t get picked you don’t get the job. Got it? So, if this is you, you need to overhaul your profile.

I know. I’m beginning to sound a bit harsh. But, life’s like that. Right now it’s competitive out there and if you want to stand out you need to start taking notice of the best ways of doing that. And to start with that means that you need to ditch the idea of a CV and think more along the lines of a marketing campaign. What’s your headline? What value do you add in a team? What can you be relied upon time and time again? For those familiar with marketing, you’ll notice how all these things are pieces of a brand. Yup! You need to start thinking about YOUR personal brand. And every good brand needs a good story.

So what’s your story?

If you can tell your story in an interesting, compelling and engaging way then you’re more likely to stand out. You want to know why? We all love a good story. Stories engage on an emotional level in a way that dry facts don’t. Coming up with your story isn’t a quick process. A great story will help to communicate your values, what you’re great at, who you do great stuff for and what you’re aiming for. When you have a great story you’ve then got the beginnings of what you need to stand out both online and offline.

If you want help transforming your online profile, there’s a great product that can help you do that. It was developed by @walterakana and @carolross .

If this piece has inspired you to sort out your LinkedIn profile, that’s great. But before you do, you might want to see what other people are doing out there to get a job. Like Kyle. Hopefully, you’ll realise how much the job search game has changed. And how much more you need to be doing to stand out and get chosen.

If you would like to receive articles and tips on personal branding then you can sign up to my newsletter. There’s a FREE 9-page guide to your personal brand waiting for you if you do.

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Has the digital world dented your personal brand?

Have you done anything that you later came to regret? We all have, right? We squirm a bit when we think back, but after enough sweeping under the carpet, eventually we forget and hope that everyone else has too. But what about doing something online? Have you shared or posted anything that you later thought “ooops! not sure I should have done that”. Like this….

When you lose control for a tiny moment in the real world, the only people who witness it are those in your immediate vicinity. But when it happens online, not only do you have a potential audience of thousands (unless you’re a celeb), but your faux pas stays there forever. Spare a thought for this poor guy…

“…He used to be a solicitor; back in 1994 he was suspended for six months at a tribunal following accounting irregularities.

Following his return to work he became fully rehabilitated by the Law Society, and the escapade became but an embarrassing memory, an unfortunate slip in an otherwise distinguished career. But recently, a legal periodical digitised all its back issues and placed them on its website; useful for the legal profession, but for the solicitor in question it was, understandably, a shock.

The report of his tribunal was now on the first page of results when you searched Google for his name. An indiscretion, 15 years ago, for which he’d paid the penalty, but which was now distressingly visible because of the online popularity of the periodical in question….”

Yikes! Not good. In situations like this, the best advice is to start creating new positive content. Things you might consider include buying your name web domain, setting up your own website or blog and posting comments on blogs and forums. But what if you can’t be bothered with all that. I have great news! You don’t need to. Yes really! My solution? Buy a new service called “Delete me”. Delete me is a new service launched by Abine where you pay between $10 to $100 to remove photos, blog posts, videos, and search results, delete old accounts, and stop companies from selling private data to advertisers.

Thank you thank you!!! I know, I’ve just saved you a heap of time in bothering with all this personal branding – digital presence malarkey!!

I think these guys are going to make a tonne of money!

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What’s the cost of not being digi-savvy?

An article I read in The Independent also asked the same question. It seems as though the idea of creating and owning a digital presence is seeping more and more into mainstream. Some of you reading this will think I’m stating the obvious. And you’re probably someone who spends a lot of your time in the digital space. But, it’s easy for us lot to forget that there are masses out there who’s only foray into the digital space is checking their Facebook page once a month. And even then they don’t post anything, they just have a peek about. They don’t engage.

These people are in their thousands. And, I’m going to push the boat out here: I’d be prepared to bet that most of them are either over 50 or employees. Employees, it seems, are the least likely to be digital savvy. Why? Because they have a cushy job. And because they have a cushy job, they don’t feel the need to connect with others in the digital space, because they get to do it at work. But also, their cushy job gives them very little time to explore, play and discover all this new stuff that’s happening online. And, their employers have probably banned access to most of the social sites.

When you run your own business or are a freelancer, connecting online is an essential part of business. So being digi-savvy is crucial. Big brands are a bit late to the party here, but they’ve been able to trade on their brands’ awareness for a bit to buy them some time to watch and learn. Now they’ve realised that if they’re not online, then they can’t assume that it’s business as usual. But how long will it take individuals to get digi-savvy.

A fact I’ve already mentioned is relevant again: in 2017 all 400,00 of IBM’s staff will become contractors. The implications of this for employees is staggering. The time will soon come when most workers will be freelance and be hired on a contract basis. So how are they going to get hired? Well, it’s not from having a polished CV and really nice chap at the recruitment agency to talk to. NO. It will be from being well connected in the digital space and being visible. But more importantly, for being known for something.

So, individuals had better smarten up at working out what their uniqueness is, and getting themselves noticed for it. And in the words of @thomaspower, because, if they don’t, they’ll starve

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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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What’s authenticity got to do with onions?

We’re a lot more like onions than you think. Yes. Really.

If you’ve recently started working for yourself, one of the challenges you’re likely to come across is finding your true voice, your authentic self. Connecting to who you really are and what you really want is not always a straightforward process. One thing I have realised working with my clients is that the people that find it the hardest are those that were working in corporate environments that didn’t encourage them to be themselves. They’d spent so long trying to change who they were to fit in that they lost site of who they really are. This might have been because the organisational values and theirs were not aligned, or maybe they were doing a job that didn’t fulfil them or make use of their talents and strengths. Whatever the reason, once you’re free of the corporate machine you’re next biggest task is to do decide what to do next. And in doing so you’ll need to define yourself. In other words; develop your personal brand.

In making your next move, the chances are that you’ll use the online space to do so. Whether it’s on LinkedIn, ecademy or if you end up with your own site or blog. If you’re going to present yourself online, you’re going to need to make a call as to how you want to appear and what you want to say about yourself. That’s in addition to being clear about what you’re trying to achieve so that you know who you’re trying to talk to.

So, back to onions… like onions, when we’re an employee in a hostile environment we develop a thick skin to protect ourselves. It protects us nicely from the dirt that surrounds us; you know the politics, the falsities and all the other corporate BS. Then, when we get plucked free, the bit that people really want is the juicy fleshy bit. But to get to that, we need to shed a few layers first. How many layers will depend on how hostile corporate life was. Over to you Shrek…

Shedding these layers can take quite some time. I know personally, it took me well over a year to find my true voice. And believe me, the journey isn’t over!

The thing is, once you’re well on the way to finding your story you are blessed with the ability to really carve out a niche for yourself. Because in discovering your authentic self comes with it a renewed sense of confidence. This confidence enables you to inject your personality into what you do in a way that you’ve not done before. And once you get to do that, you’re on the road to uniqueness. The one thing that you can be sure of is that no-one else has got your personality. So, no matter what you end up doing for a living, if you do it YOUR way, then you will be unique and stand out from others. One of my favourite examples of this is Danielle LaPorte of White Hot Truth

Once you do this you will naturally attract others with similar values to you, which means you’ll probably enjoy working and being with them. And when you get to that, work doesn’t feel like work. And that my friend is success!

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How to zag authentically

I don’t know about you, but I think that the term “personal branding” is a bit over used. And, not being used correctly. When I worked in marketing, even marketers struggled to understand the meaning of “branding” so expecting non-marketers to get it is a big ask. I think one of the best definitions I’ve found of personal branding is from Kelly Cutrone, the PR Maven:

“Personal branding is about figuring who you are and what turns you on and then monetising it”

You can read about her other insights into personal branding here.

The other thing about personal branding is that when ever you come across articles telling you how to build your personal brand, they all say the same thing! So, how on earth are you going to stand out if you’re doing the same as everyone else. So, it was refreshing to read a brilliant piece by Robin Dickinson “35 ways to profit by doing things differently online”. I would definite recommend you pop over to his blog to take a peek.

He’s essentially pushing two of my favourite philosophies;

1. The first of which is “when others are zigging, you should be zagging”.

2. And the second is BE YOU!

The need for authenticity right now is more important than ever.  But I think the reason that we are seeing so many copies out there is that finding out who you are and what you’re about isn’t as easy as it sounds. But once you’ve cracked it, success is surely to follow.

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What have fire-breathing dancers, shops and airhostesses got in common?

I wanted to be them all when I was a little girl. Yes. Really.

But this post is about talents. We all have them. Some of us are lucky enough to know our talents and are using them every day. But the rest of us are still searching. I remember when I was trying to sort my life out and I was mulling this one over for quite a while. And, out of all the exercises that I came across there’s one that stood out for me that really helped. And it was this.

Think back to when you were a kid and people asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up.

What was on your list? Now, the trick with this isn’t taking the answer to the question literally, but reading between the lines. What do I mean? Well, maybe if I shared my story it might help to explain what I mean.

When I was little I went through a few phases and wanted to be many things. Didn’t we all?

Of course, like everyone, I wanted to be a pop star. My mum sent me to ballet and dance classes and I loved doing all the shows we put on. My friends and I would diligently re-create the dance routines from Fame in the playground. As it happened, I was a professional dancer for while and loved it – but the money was crap! And I thought I’d better make good use of my business degree. But I will never forget the feeling I got from being on stage.

I travelled a lot as a child between the UK and Paris to see my family and was often the little kid on the plane wearing a big badge accompanied by the airhostess. I think it was this made me want to be an airhostess.

And finally, I wanted to have my own shop. I would spend hours working out what I’d call it but never got any further than “Chez Alexia” or “Alexia’s shop”. I clearly still needed to work on my creativity back then! I couldn’t tell you what I was selling in the shop, but it was MY shop. Now, again, I did end up working in the retail industry. I worked at a retailer and for brands that are sold in retailers. And I really enjoyed it; seeing an idea that you’ve come up with or a product you’ve created be distributed around the world is pretty cool. Especially when the press go mad for it and you see it in magazines!

Now you’re thinking so what? Well, the point is to look at what it was ABOUT those things that I liked. If we can work out what that is, maybe we can find a way of still doing that but in a slightly different way. So, looking back at my aspirations…

The pop star thing: well I can’t deny that being Leo I do like being on stage, but it was a specific moment on stage that I liked. I used to be part of a tribal fire-breathing dancing trio that would dance at music festivals and clubs (we were VERY cool!). DJ’s would hire us to help them get the crowd going, and that’s what I did – got the crowd going. And THAT is what I loved; when my actions on stage would bring about a massive shift in the energy of the crowd below. Playing with the crowd in that way was epic awesome-ness. Not the pre-rehearsed routines, but responding to the DJ and going with the flow. Being in the moment of it all. Of course doing that now would be a bit inappropriate. But what I can still do is to bring about a state change for the better in my audiences, whoever they are. If they come away energised and feeling great then I’m buzzing.

Now the airhostess bit is pretty obvious. No, it’s not the mopping up after people; it’s the travelling. I just love travelling and seeing the world. And have not done enough of it.

Now, onto the shop. It’s not so much the physical concept that interests me but the broader idea of selling my things, my ideas. Specifically selling ideas that were mine and not someone else’s. I guess that’s why I was never that happy as an employee; I wanted to do MY thing.

So, if I just finish by distilling these. I want to sell my ideas. I want to share my ideas with audiences in a way that leaves them feeling energized and buzzing. And, I want to see the world as I do it. And, that’s what I’m doing now and I LOVE it!

So, think back to what you wanted to be when you were a kid. What was it about those things that you really liked? And, are you doing them now?

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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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