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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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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How social media can help your personal brand

Here is an article I wrote as guest blogger for Smarta.com that you can find here.

Let me ask you this: when people ask you what you do, do you have a response that is clear, compelling and engaging? How you answer this question is a key part of your personal brand. It’s your story and should help you to be memorable and stand out, so that people know who you are and what you stand for. After all, we all know that the best form of marketing is word-of-mouth, and what better way than to inspire others to share your story. When you do this right, it won’t be too long before you hear the words “Oh yes! I’ve heard of you”.

Your personal brand is a combination of many things: how you present yourself and engage with others, your past results and achievements, your values and strengths, your goals and ambitions and what you’re known for. Developing and refining your brand takes time and effort, as it is crucial for your brand to be authentic and YOU. Anything else will be sniffed out. But overarching all this is the need for consistency. All strong brands can be relied to deliver upon their promises, consistently. And this is something that you need to think about.

Having a clear personal brand will not only improve your confidence in yourself. You will be able to attract investment more easily. As your profile improves, potential investors will hear about you and know whether or not you’re the sort of person they want to invest in. You are also more likely to attract the right staff for your business. Your personal brand and your business brand will be very closely linked, and your actions should be driven by your core values. As such, when you communicate your values through what you do, those people with similar values will be attracted to you. Of course, the same goes for attracting customers!

Social media is a great way of enhancing your personal brand. In this digital age, it is most likely that people will first come across you online. If not, they will certainly Google you after meeting you. So how your present yourself in the digital space needs to be consistent with your brand. Personal websites, blogging and active social network participation can all contribute to a strong online presence. But, don’t forget to show people the real you. After all, people do business with people. Twitter is a great way for showing your human side as well as engaging and forming new connections. It can be too easy to be “professional” and this can sometimes come across as cold and distant, not to mention boring.

So, what are you going to do today to enhance your personal brand?

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3 reasons why you should NEVER use video on your site

1. Your livelihood does not depend on selling you as an individual.

So you might be an employee with a guaranteed job for life who sits behind a screen all day with no need to interact with anyone, ever.

Or, you’ve made your millions and spend your days either re-arranging your vast collection of fast cars around the estate, deciding where to berth your yacht next or pestering your butler for another Cristal.

If on the other hand, you’re in the business of selling you, (and who isn’t?) then video is an absolute MUST for your site.

There’s an even narrower list of people who ABSOLUTELY DEFINITELY need to have video on their site. And these are those folk that are in the people business where your business is essentially you and your clients or customers interact with you directly. I’m talking to you entrepreneurs, business owners, consultants, coaches, trainers, speakers, mentors, PA/VA’s, therapists, counsellors, actors, porn stars, etc… you see where this is going?

2. You don’t want to progress in your work, earn more money or grow your business.

This is perfectly reasonable. With the planet running out of resources and space, buying & selling more things and using up more stuff is clearly going to end in trouble. So good for you by not wanting to contribute to the inevitable disaster that’s heading our way.

3. You’ve got 2 heads and think that people may be put off working with you.

This is wholly understandable, and to be quite frank, you should probably seek professional help.

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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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Why using the same status update is a bad idea

With use of social networking becoming even more popular, apps are springing up everywhere enabling you to update all your social networks in one go. This feature is even being incorporated into certain social networks. For example Twitter enables you to update Facebook and LinkedIn simply by adding #in or #fb to your tweet. Great news, right? Wrong!

But before I go on to explain myself, let me first ask you this. I want you to think about the following question: 

whatpersonareu1“What sort of person are you?”

Now, you might find it tricky to answer this question. Well, for a start, who’s asking? Do they know you already? How well do they know you? What sort of person are they? How long have they got? Your answer will very much depend on the conclusions you reach in answering these questions. Not only that, what is the reason that you’re answering this question. Is it conversational, or are you trying to sell yourself or are you trying to get rid of someone? Again, depending on your objective, you will have different answers.

Put simply, your answer will depend on your audience and your objective. So, now, think about who your audiences are on each of your social networks and what your objectives are for each network.

Facebook is likely to be your friends. If they’re not friends, then they’re at least people that you’ve met. LinkedIn on the other hand is going to be people in your professional network. You may have worked with them, met them at networking events or linked up with them through a group. Twitter, well, who knows who follows you on Twitter. They could be anyone, but essentially they’re interested in what you’ve got to say.

It might be easier to think about how what we say differs based on where we are. So, if we were to try and draw an analogy with real places, you know in the real touchy-feely non-digital world, what would that look like?

nottinghamyeoldesalutation

Well, Facebook is like being at the pub with your mates. LinkedIn is like being at a networking event, and Twitter is like being at a social event where you don’t really know many people, you might even be on a long train journey!

So, you’re in the pub. Your mate next to you is wittering on about stuff he always witters on about. He’s pretty dull when he gets going. But, you’ve known him for ages, and, he’s a really nice guy, so you put up with it. If you were at a networking event and you didn’t know him, you’d be making a beeline for the drinks table. The same goes for the social event. So, back in the online world; on Facebook, this means your status feeds are full of boring dross (sounds familiar?) But you can’t un-friend them, because they’re your friends. On LinkedIn, maybe you don’t care, because you only visit it once or twice a week and you probably miss most of it. On Twitter, you un-follow. Period.

Now the same applies to you. Speaking in a networking stylie at the pub will make everyone roll their eyes. They probably don’t even know what you do let alone care that you pitched to such-and-such and presented to whoever. On Facebook, you’ll share certain stories because people know you already. You feel safe saying certain things, offloading your crap day, because they’re your mates. And you’re not trying to impress in the way that you might be on LinkedIn. But, you whinge too much on Twitter and you come across as a whinge-bag. Your followers haven’t met you and don’t know that you’re usually the life and the soul of the party.

Now let’s go back to the real world. Imagine you’re at a wedding. Maybe you have some friends there. But if not, you think it might be a great time to meet some new people, you might even pick up some new work contacts. To avoid being sat on your own all night, you might be keeping your ears peeled for some interesting conversations that audienceyou could join in, or you might just strike up some random conversations. Either way, your goal here is to come across as interesting, so that you get to meet people. After all you never know who you might meet. The things you decide to say in this environment will be very different to those that you talk about at the pub, or indeed at the networking event.

Thinking about your environment, your audience and your objective is crucial in forming your response to a question.  So, the next time you answer the questions “What’s on your mind?” or “What’s happening?” are you going to give the same answer?

You might want to read these other posts on personal branding…

Personal Branding and your digital identity

Why Personal Branding isn’t all about the digital space

Why Personal Branding is relevant to business

3 reasons why you should NEVER use video on your site

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

The 5 perils of personal branding

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7 ways that social media can damage your personal brand

A report out today has highlighted just how careful employees and job-seekers need to be in their use of social media.

With more than half of recruiters saying that they check social networking sites as part of their research.

Interestingly, 43% stated that they had information that had caused them NOT to hire the candidate. Top reasons include:

  • no_jobLying about qualifications - 38%
  • Demonstration of poor communication skills - 31%
  • Making discriminatory comments - 13%
  • Posting content about them drinking or using drugs - 10%
  • Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information - 9%
  • Bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers or clients - 9%
  • Sharing confidential information from previous employer - 8%

Glancing through this list, it’s easy to see why employers would react in this way. The transparency of social media means that you need to be very clear as what you stand for and what you want to be known for. If you choose to undertake questionable and unethical behaviour (lying, bad-mouthing, leaking confidential information) and live your life in the open, then you need to accept the consequences.

bothways

Social media can be incredibly powerful in helping you to build a strong personal brand, but it works both ways.

So, if you’re an employee or a job-seeker, here are some top tips for avoiding personal brand meltdown online:

  • Be honest about your achievements and your experience. The truth is easier to remember.
  • Decide who your audiences are for your personal brand and ensure that what you project to those audiences is consistent.
  • Don’t be negative, deliberately provocative or discriminatory in public. This is just bad form wherever you are, online or offline.
  • Seek out testimonials for work that you’ve done and show them off. LinkedIn is great for this.
  • Check your public photos! Make sure that all the embarrassing ones are removed, hidden or private.

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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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