Everyone Sees the Shoots, Not the Roots

shoots not roots New-Life

You may have thought long and hard, hesitated at times, and finally decided to plunge into the business of perfecting your public image. Well, that’s great! A powerful, unique personal brand has the potential to command respect and generate genuine interest in you within your peer networks and beyond.

But it doesn’t come easy, and like many good things in life, building a healthy personal image or brand is a consequence of noble intentions, a strong will, and lot of effort. Which means that you’ll probably run into moments where it’s tough to keep going. But at these moments, it’s good to remember that, like a sapling that has been planted takes its time to germinate, your personal brand requires proper nurturing for it to mature, grow vigorously and yield fruit.

Working on developing yourself demands timely care, nourishment and attention. So a part of it will include spending some time thinking, planning, practicing, and taking stock on your progress. And this time and work is significant effort that other people are not going to be able to see or appreciate. It’s like the roots of a plant reaching deep into the earth and providing stability to the highly visible shoots and leaves above.

shoots not roots flourish

By stretching this analogy a bit further, you may realize that the roots from which the plant draws its vitality could have taken years to spread, and an abundance of nourishment was required through the right mix of soil, water and sunlight. Similarly, in order to nurture your image, you will need to invest in perseverance, a commitment to the end goal, a willingness to explore new things, and a positive attitude.

The process of building a long-lasting, vigorous, and vibrant personal brand is like a journey, and it is one that takes time to navigate. As doubts assail you and work makes increasing demands on your time and energy, you may find that the going gets tough. Things may not go as per your plan and your own struggles with procrastination may add to your frustration. You may be tempted to revisit the very purpose of the work you’ve begun, and feel like you’re unable to map your progress against any meaningful milestones. But rest assured that you are on the right track.

The fact is that it takes time and effort to achieve something valuable. After all, ‘nothing worth having is entirely free.’ You wouldn’t expect to have a high-paying job without putting in the work to develop critical skills – and the same is true for your personal brand. Studies about delayed gratification have shown that the ‘grit’ to stick to your guns when you’re down can make all the difference in achieving your goals, surpassing even the advantages of superior talent.

As Calvin Coolidge said:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is filled with educated derelicts. Perseverance and determination alone are omnipotent.  — Calvin Coolidge

But it’s easier said than done to build up to and sustain this tempo. You have to live your brand every day – delivering to a set of expectations that you have set forth for yourself and those whom you serve. So don’t be discouraged!

But if you do lose your way and get frustrated, here are a few tips to keep your focus and get back on track:

1. Think about the long game: It’s easy to lose sight of why you started, and so make sure to take a little time to reflect on the outcome you’re hoping for. It can often help to pause and lift your head above the ruckus – to glimpse the finish line and start anew.

2. Keep your interest up: When you consider what your ultimate goals are, remember how intimately tied to them you are. They should include topics and causes that excite you, and sustain your interest over time. This tactic should help to keep you genuinely interested in connecting with the people and issues that can drive you forward.

3. Get a coach: I’m not saying you have to hire an expensive personal job coach (although you may want to anyway), but you could probably use someone to talk to who has a different perspective on your situation. They can be a friend, colleague, or mentor. Just be sure they’re someone who can keep you grounded and assured that you’re on the right path.

4. Make molehills out of mountains: Break down big project steps into smaller steps that are easier to accomplish – this will help you stay focused. The satisfaction of winning each small battle nudges you forward, while failures can give you the scope to study, learn and recalibrate your response without much risk attached.

5. Stick to a schedule: Associate the activities related to branding with some sort of pleasure, indulging in things that you love doing. While you sit down to strategize, write, or blog, listen to your favorite music or dig into your favorite dish. This way, you may be encouraged to set aside time for yourself daily.

6. Be your own biggest fan: No one is fully aware of your work, skills, experiences and contributions better than you yourself. Find your motivation within you, by feeding yourself supportive messages, like a cheery post-it on your bathroom mirror. Reflect upon your successes that you’ve had so far. If doubts still persist, draw sustenance from the fact that you are doing your best as a means to self-improvement. Which means that every effort undertaken contributes in some small way to your success.

It’s said that nature blesses man when he seeks it with reverence and care. So it shouldn’t surprise you that great results may not be imminent immediately, but the toil you put in should yields its fruits inevitably. And consistency can magnify the rewards you can anticipate.

So keep going! Focus on the roots, and let others enjoy the shoots.

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MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more.

What a Facebook ‘Dislike’ Button Means To Your Personal Brand

dislike button

It was a long time coming, but it looks like it is inevitable.

The moment that advertisers and retailers have feared is upon us.  Facebook is adding a ‘dislike’ button to their platform.

We’ve had a glorious ride of nothing but positive feedback metrics (or only deletable posted feedback) but from this point forward, people who use Facebook to reach consumers will have hard metrics about detractors — about people who don’t like what you’re saying, offering, or selling.

But does this mean anything to me? What about my own personal brand?

I think that the dislike button could be revolutionary, for bringing more reality, health and utility into our social engagements. It can expand our depth of communication and learning about the things we do and how we could be better behaved.

“Wow — I never thought people didn’t like my pictures of baked goods.”

Feedback is real

You’re getting a reaction from people who see your content now — you just don’t know it. When we speak to each other in person we get all kinds of visual cues about the hearer and their emotional reaction to what we’re saying. We might not take on their feedback and change what we’re doing, but at least we have the chance to consider it. Without a dislike button, there was a breakdown in the transmission of any reactions that could help us know how the message was being received.

Feedback is healthy

It’s a knee-jerk reaction for us to believe that everything we have to share is valuable — it’s a kind of confirmation bias where we believe that what we think is awesome, is truly awesome, and others will confirm our opinion. But it’s healthy for us to hear a different perspective from time to time, and gain a less biased view of the things we’re engaged in. Just to balance the scales.

Plus, there are truly things that we often want to share with others that are definitely NOT positive, such as deaths or sickness of friends and family, or national or local tragedies. For these items, a ‘dislike’ shows more compassion than a like.

Feedback can help

And lastly, I think that we learn more when we get honest feedback. If we don’t get some correction every now and then, we’re in danger of assuming that we’re on the right track with our personal brand, and if we’ve learned anything from successful people, it’s that they tend to value their failures for the lessons that they teach them about how to succeed next time.

Now Zuckerberg himself has mentioned that he’s not that interested in a straight up-or-down voting like Reddit, and would prefer something that gives other alternatives to simply “Liking” something. So it might not even come to pass that we get an actual button that says “Dislike.” But my point is that it’s not the end of the world. It could actually be helpful in some ways.

And don’t get me wrong — I’m not naïvely assuming that this one new button will unleash a grand, new era of honesty and open dialog. Would that it did! But it’s not a death-knell for positivity in social networks. Because without real, two-sided feedback we’re not really communicating.

Without hearing the negative, we’re shouting into a crowd and looking for only a ‘thumbs up.’

5 Steps to Using Influencer Marketing to Promote Your Personal Brand

When you think about influencing people and drawing them to you, it’s easy to get a picture in your head about some kind of Svengali character that hypnotizes and fools people through mind control. But influencer marketing is really more about creating visibility and affinity for you through the most human of methods — relationships.

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Big brands have used Influencer Marketing for years to build demand for their products. They typically identify a highly-visible and respected person (or just someone who’s really well-liked) and integrate that person into the marketing of the product. They use the influencer to build awareness and trust around the brand.

Social Selling Maven Koka Sexton wrote:

Being able to tap into the social networks of an influential person or thought leader in an industry and have them share your message usually exceeds expectations from normal marketing campaigns.

Sometimes they would give them the product and show them talking about it and using it, like the Proactiv commercials did with Katy Perry, or Activia with Jamie Lee Curtis. This method uses the celebrity or expert to enhance the brand’s reputation with their own credibility and/or likability. It also can humanize the brand, and disarm the inherent skepticism that all we have for hard-sell marketing.

Influencer marketing can be powerful for you, because it taps into behaviors and relationships that your customers already have with influencers in the communities that you work and live in. You’re basically putting forward a 3rd party that your customers already know and respect as a credible authority on the brand you’ve built around yourself. Then the influencer helps you extend your ‘reach’ by tapping into their network.

The core idea of credibility for your influencer is super-important, however, and it’s important to know who to pick, as you don’t just want to reach anyone, you want to make sure that your influencer will be effective for your specific audience. So part of the trick will be not just looking around to see who the most popular person is (which would make it more like celebrity marketing, or just kinda like high school), but instead looking deeper to see who has the right relationships with your target audiences or communities. Anyway, you’ll want to find someone you like, too, since your relationship with them needs to be genuine.

So What Does This Have to do with Personal Branding?

We’ve written about this before, but it’s really important to know what your personal brand is, and the reasons why you’re undertaking this work in the first place. As Jeff Bezos once said: “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room” so it’s clear that you’ll want to be clear about who YOU are before you set out to use influencers to help you build your brand further.

And this personal brand is probably already shaping your success. Maybe it was unintentional at first, but your boss, your team, your clients, and even folks that you don’t work with all probably have an idea about what constitutes the ‘essential you.’ It’s just a consequence of the increased use of social media and the habit of ‘googling’ anyone you’re about to meet — people form their first opinions about you, based upon what they can find online. One Quicksprout study showed that 40% of B2B buyers say LinkedIn is important for researching purchases, and the job search and recruiter network ExecuNet famously found that 77 percent of recruiters were screening candidates using online searches, and 35 percent of them found something online that made them eliminate at least one candidate. (And that’s an old stat from 2006; it’s probably higher now. FYI: If you’re a data geek like I am, you’ll love this compendium of 106 Social Media Marketing Statistics.)

So these two ideas come together (Influencer Marketing and Personal Branding) when you form solid personal relationships with influencers in the areas that you want to conquer. And those people help you build your brand’s value in that topic area. After all, Ogilvy/Google/TNS teamed up just last year to prove that 74% of people look to other people’s opinions and experiences for informing their purchasing decisions. So why not get some help reaching the people that matter to your success?

So How Does This Thing Work?

Focusing on your personal brand instead of a product pivots this kind of marketing away from the classic celebrity endorsement idea, because you’re not going to have an influencer hold up a picture of you and say “I’ve worked with Michael and he’s Freaking Great!” That’s clearly not going to fly for anybody. It makes the influencer look like a shill, and you could end up looking pathetic.

So the influence will need to be planned to be more organic and authentic for the both of you, like having an influencer endorse you for a skill on LinkedIn, or recommend you to other people as a credible source, or invite you into their discussions on blog forums.Or maybe they could write a guest post article on your website, or a hundred other ideas.

And, just as you might imagine, success is dependent upon influencers properly and positively raising awareness around you and your personal brand in the right group of people. So, it’s best to work from a clear plan that allows for some improvisation, but puts guardrails around what outcomes you’re focused on.

1. Start with clarity. Make sure that you’ve got a clear niche carved out for what topic or industry or authority area you’re aiming for. The more you can zero-in on a specific focus, the easier it will be to take all the next steps. This is no place to be a master of all trades. Don’t pick a topic that has the most fans in it – it’s often better to pick a topic that has the most passionate fans!

2. Know the terrain. Investigate the landscape for where your customers are (or your boss is, or client, or whomever you’re trying to influence). If the people you care about are all hanging out on Pinterest, then you’ll want to get to know that space pretty well. If they instead frequent a blog or a social community site, then spend some time there to understand how things work and who’s involved.

3. Find your expert. Is there already an effective and respected influencer in the field? Who seems to have the zeitgeist, or offer a sound response to most queries. Or who is just well-connected or saying smart things? Do they meet the requirements for being a good influencer for you?

4. Reach out and be humble, but clear. This is where the real improvisation comes in. You’ll want to make contact with the influencer in a way that shows that you’re looking for help, and why you’ve decided to contact them, specifically. It’s best to be honest here, and don’t hide the fact that you want to better yourself in the process. But try to make the contact about them and their needs too — you don’t want to come across as a jerk who’s only out for yourself. Think about what you have in common, and how to talk about those shared interests that can get you both engaged and excited to continue the relationship. And don’t forget to ask a lot of questions! They got where they are due to their knowledge and expertise, and you can learn a lot from them, if you’re willing to listen.

5. Be ridiculously helpful, and pay it forward. Don’t stop your external focus once you’ve forged a good relationship. Keep participating and connecting with your influencer and their community. Ultimately, you want them to be an asset who’s in your corner, so that means that ‘it’s not all about you.’ You’ll want to keep their respect and appreciation by contributing to the community’s content, and helping other people along can be a great way to reinforce the position that the influencer is building for you.

Influencer Marketing isn’t just for big companies. If you know who you need to influence, and in what areas, then it can be a critical tool in your personal marketing toolbox. Just stay genuine (and leave the hypnosis to Svengali).

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MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more.