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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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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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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Why personal branding isn’t all about the digital space

throwingsheepI met up with Matthew Fraser last week, author of Throwing Sheep from the Boardroom, during his recent visit to London. We managed to find a quiet spot in the Mayfair out of the glare of the paparazzi (who were there for George Clooney and Elton John, not us!)

Matthew is a fascinating guy who has been fortunate to hold many interesting roles, one of which was as a talk show host on CBC Newsworld. He was keen to point that last one out as he felt it explained why he was asking me so many questions!

mfraserAs a thought leader in the world of web 2.0, Matthew knows a thing or two about engagement and connection. And, with another book on the way that expands on the engagement theme, we could have quite easily just talked all things web 2.0 and engagement. But, intrigued by the fact that I specialise in Personal Branding, he was keen to share his advice, advice that I’m happy to share here.

Matthew was very open about what his advice would be for anyone: if you want to be known for anything, write about it! And he doesn’t mean a blog, but a book. Yes, write and launch a book. As the proud author of five books, this guy knows what he’s talking about.

I know that some of us have probably heard this before but, for Matthew, the book launch is only the beginning. A published book is a great way to position yourself as a thought leader on a topic that you want to own. Not only that, but it is a solid platform on which to launch yourself as a speaker on the international circuit. Within 6 months of his latest book coming out, Matthew, now firmly positioned as a web 2.0 guru, was touring the world doing talks on the social web. And, from our quick chat, it sounds like it’s a nice little earner.

Other titbits of advice that Matthew kindly shared include;

2588186224_b97d6feaa3Differentiate
Obvious, but easy to forget. Review the others books that exist on your chosen topic and make sure that the angle you’re proposing is unique. It can be too easy to just verbalise your content without thinking about how it fits into the competitive landscape.

chinese-takeaway-food-001Make it a take-away!
Publishers love it when you offer the reader some exercises and actions for them to take away. Of course, you might prefer to intellectualise and stick to theory, but exercises and actions are more likely to get you the deal.

Don’t expect to get paid!
Really? Yes! The book is a tool. It’s a marketing brochure, a sample of you. The payment comes afterward in the form of speaking gigs, consultancy and the occasional opening of a supermarket!  You might be offered money, but if you’re not, don’t worry.  Do it anyway!

The thing that strikes me from this whole conversation, is that a thought leader in web 2.0, is encouraging the use of non-web 2.0 methods to build your personal brand. Of course, social media is still critical, but it’s in addition to what we do in the real world. And, we must remember that for most people, you just can’t beat the things that you hear, see and touch.

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Finding your personal brand

There are lot of articles about on personal branding, with the majority talking about how important it is to have a personal brand. The rest of them talk about all the ways that you can increase the visibility of your personal brand in the online environment. But, before any work can be done to raise your profile, you need to be clear as to what your brand is. And working it out is not always straightforward. Well sure, it sounds straightforward when you talk about it

“… a personal brand is a blend of your strengths, personality, passion, values and goals….”

Working all that out takes quite a bit of time and effort. Let me just look at each one of these in turn.

Strengths
How many of us know our strengths? If you’ve been through corporate training, it’s likely that you’ve been subjected to a Myers Briggs profiling or similar. So, for you guys, it’s a bit easier. But for the rest of you, identifying your strengths can be difficult. Why?

  • We don’t always realise that we’re good at something, because for us, it’s natural. We don’t know what we know. Often, it takes someone else to spot our talent.
  • We’re usually much better at identifying our weaknesses.

It’s always worth starting a list on your own, but ask your friends, family and colleagues for their comments. You’ll probably have a few surprises: things that weren’t on your list, and those that were that are questioned. Be prepared for this

Personality
This is an interesting one. I bet that if we were to do a straw poll, we’d find that our ideas about our personality are not that close to the reality. Do whining negative people consider themselves to be so? You might think you’re confident, but others think of you as arrogant. You get the picture. This is one aspect of personal branding that is crucial to get some outside help with. After all, your personal brand is how others perceive you, and your personality is the crux of this. So, again, ask friends, family and colleagues for some hints.

Passion
What are you passionate about? Do you know? Understanding your passion is mega mega important! It could even be the key to your personal brand. If you spend more time than is healthy taking photographs of roundabouts, then you might have hit upon a niche. A niche whereby you could become an expert. Think of Gavin Pretor-Pinney who just loved looking at and taking pictures of clouds. He went on to form The Cloud Appreciation Society and is now a recognised expert in the cloud world. His book, The Cloud Spotter’s Guide, was a best seller.

Values
Your values are those things that are really important to you in life. Things like recognition, honesty, health, love and achievement. You probably have a clear idea of your values. If not, just ask yourself “what has been really important to me in my life?”. Some people find they have around 5 values, while others have five times that. If you have that many, you need to be clear about what the top ones are though, as these are the invisible drivers in your life. The things that control your behaviour, whether you like it or not. So you may as well be aware of them.

Goals
If you were to ask around, you’ll probably find that most people have dreams not goals. The difference? Goals have actions and timelines against them. The other thing about goals is that they are reviewed regularly so you can track your progress. The level at which you decide to clarify your goals is up to you. Some people give themselves a couple of goals to achieve over a few years, while others have 1, 5 and 10-year plans with goals for each sector of their life (financial, relationship, career etc). So, wherever you want to be on this scale, just make sure you’re on it. Because if you’re not, your personal brand is a going to have a great big hole in it.

Having said all this, the key thing to understand is that your personal brand isn’t what you want to project; it’s what others perceive. So a high level of self -awareness is important because no matter what, you will need to be consistent in the application of your personal brand. As with great consumer brands, consistency is key. Your brand represents the promise that you’re making to help others to understand what to expect from you. You keep changing and people won’t know what to expect, and they’ll go elsewhere.

So, have you figured out your personal brand?

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