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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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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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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The 5 perils of personal branding

We can safely say that when the topic of personal branding comes up that most people would agree that it’s a good thing, and if they had the time or inclination, they would probably get round to sorting out their personal brand.

But, is it? Are there any perils with starting such a journey? There are a lot of things in life that start out as a good idea that turn out to be a monumental disaster. Like putting up your party pics on facebook, only to discover that a director at work has seen them and now you’re not getting that promotion. Doh! Now I’m not saying that developing your personal brand is in that league, far from it. But what I am saying is that there are considerations, and you should be aware of them before you jump in.

High visibility high_vis_jacket

Remember the whole point behind personal branding. It’s to stand out and be noticed. You want work to come to you, and not vice versa. But, raising your visibility stakes means, you guessed it - you’re going to get noticed! So, are you happy with that? You may be some quiet shrew who’s damn good at what you do, but you prefer to hide behind your desk. Imagine spending the day wearing a high-vis jacket, does that sit well with you? And, more importantly, can you keep it up?

Transparency

glass-of-water

Developing your personal brand is a beautiful process of self-discovery. For a truly authentic personal brand, you’ll need to work out who you are and what you stand for. Then, you’ll need to be that and stand for it consistently. If you don’t, you’ll be betraying your brand (otherwise known as brand suicide). Some personal branders talk about persona being a crucial part of the personal branding equation. I think this wrongly creates the impression that you have a “persona” and a “real you”. By the way, if you look up persona you’ll get words like role, character, mask, actor etc. These are not words that talk about transparency and authenticity.

Accountability

Devising and launching your personal brand is a big step. It’s a sign you mean business. As a part of the process you would have identified personal goals and ambitions. After all, your brand will be there to support you in achieving these. So, now you’ve put your stake in the sand, you’ve got to be seen to be delivering. You’re accountable. Are you ready to be accountable?

Keeping it up

man_lift_weightsThe need for consistency cannot be underestimated. As with business brands, a personal brand needs to be reinforced and maintained. Consistently, both in terms of the message that you’re putting out there and the regularity by which you deliver that message. It’s hard work. It’s called brand management not brand laissez faire for a reason.

Conflict with employer

Now, for some this is not relevant. But for bundles of you it is. How does your brand fit your employer’s brand. If you’re all about the outdoors, high energy, risk taking, and you work in an accountant’s firm, there might be a slight mismatch. Some companies will only be interested in you being an employee if you reflect the corporate brand. While other businesses may be up for allowing you to be YOU. So, beware of being authentic too soon as it might put you out of a job!

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