Is A Personal Brand Important For Me?

OK – I’m a marketer, so I probably already think branding is important. But I think my personal brand is important too. If you start with the idea that a brand is how people perceive a product — which can punish the brand’s performance or enhance it, then it might be safe to assume that it’s important for you as a person to be perceived correctly.

But it might be easier to think about if we go back to why branding is important for products and services, and then come back to the personal branding idea later.

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To put it bluntly — Product branding is important because it creates benefits — getting a potential consumer to take action to benefit the manufacturer or business.

Good branding creates an increased predisposition for a person to know about, try, prefer, purchase, be loyal to, engage with, and advocate on behalf of a product or service. And those benefits therefore create competitive advantage and increased business value (revenue, profits, employment, commerce) for whatever has been branded.

There are a lot of different ways for Branding to confer these benefits, but they generally fall into two broad categories:

  1. Increased familiarity. Awareness, increased recognition, and recall of a product or service (or person) which helps the user identify the product in a crowded setting, and associates it with a function (NAME toothpaste, BRAND cancer drug, LOGO floor cleaner, etc.).
  2. Association of traits or characteristics. Like superior engineering, or reliability, or “coolness.” These traits are conveyed by building up a belief in the mind of the consumer in the increased capability or quality or effectiveness or attitude (like a feeling of alliance or belonging) of the product or service. These traits and the beliefs that support them are derived or created from either emotional or rational bases. Some people might argue it’s never completely rational, but I’d argue it’s never completely emotional, either. Obviously the actual experience of using the product conveys these traits as well, so a brand will have trouble building belief in its durability if it always breaks upon its first use.

All of the above methods can (and should, if properly applied) result in the benefits of branding initially stated above — awareness, preference, trial, purchase, repurchase, etc. Which in turn creates the business value for the manufacturer or service provider.

So if we look at these two items, Increased Familiarity and Association of Traits or Characteristics — it becomes clear that they both can work for personal brands as well.

  1. Increased familiarity. People have to know you before they can prefer to work with you, or hire you. and we’ve talked before about the need (even the internal nature drive aspect of it) to stand out from the crowd. So it’s probably a good thing to create some awareness of you and what you can do.
  2. Association of traits or characteristics. Conveying what you do best. Communicating how you offer benefit to others, and what value your perspective brings –all these things are beliefs in the mind of the other person, and can be derived from an either emotional or rational basis. You create these beliefs through the image you project, the relationships you build, and the performance you deliver. Notice that we didn’t include ‘what you say,’ because it’s more likely for people to internalize what you do, not what you say you’ll do. People may forget even what you do, as the quote goes:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

So the resulting benefit for a strong personal brand is an entrenched awareness of you and the emotional value you bring to that person, which can influence their preference for dealing with you, for hiring you, for promoting you, for staying loyal to you, and for rewarding you.

What do you think? Are these benefits important to you?

 

 

 

You Can’t Show What You Don’t Know

Last week I was writing some bios for a website I’ve been working on, and I ran across one that struck me as odd. One of the team members had written down Time Management as a key element of his working style and a source of advantage for himself.

And this guys was ALWAYS late. Like, to every meeting. So what was going on?

To paraphrase Marilyn Monroe:

To be able to show yourself at your best, you have to know yourself at your worst.

It got me thinking: If you don’t spend the time to explore your authentic self, how will you be able to project anything other than a caricature?

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When I first started working in advertising, I got some criticism that really irritated me. After a client meeting, my boss told me that I was not “bringing my audience along with me.”  I was part baffled, and part offended, because I had always believed that my presentation and performance abilities were strong enough to carry my audience along to the strategic point that I was trying to make. How could they not see the logic and beauty in what I was saying? So I retreated a little to lick my wounds, and thought about it.

And then a year later, it happened again. I got the same feedback. And as much as I wanted to believe it wasn’t true, I had to face up to the fact that I was definitely doing something wrong.

So I spent some time reviewing things, and working with a mentor, and I slowly realized that in those moments when I thought I was doing great, sometimes I was actually coasting. I was using the force of my personality to push across my ideas, and not listening to the feedback I was getting. I had gone into a ‘broadcast mode,’ shutting down my ability to empathize with my audience, and so I didn’t notice that I was losing some of them — missing the signs they were giving me that they had a problem or barrier, and I needed to stop and check in with them to get us all on the same page again.

And once I thought about it, I knew exactly why this critique bothered me, and made it difficult for me to address — My ego. It was painful for me to accept that one of my biggest strengths, my presentation skills, had a flaw in it.

But the beautiful thing about flaws is that you can learn from them and work on them. And I was coming from a place of strength in presentation-giving overall, so I could bring some resources to bear to help refine that skill. I decided to use my confidence (which helps me project my ideas) to encourage myself to be vulnerable in front of my audience. To open up my eyes and ears, and look for weakness — for people that were not on-board with what I was saying. Those voices and criticisms could help me if I could accept them, instead of bulldozing over them. Things got a lot better after that, but it stays with me, and whenever I’m giving a talk I still have to remind myself to listen as well as speak.

Self-exploration was the key for me. I wouldn’t have gotten to the point I am today with my presentation skills if I didn’t take the time to do my internal homework.

I have to know myself, so I can show myself.

Do you?

 

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Yooniko (a brand of Metamorph Corporation) is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more here.

What Are The Ingredients Of A Good Personal Brand?

Someone recently asked me, “What does a good personal brand look like?”

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We could just point to people with strong brands and say “That’s it!”, but that answer doesn’t tell you what exactly makes their brand a strong one. I may be really good at my job, but that doesn’t make me Oprah, or Steve Jobs, or Richard Branson.

No — what I think that person wanted was a way to examine the elements of their brand, and find areas that they could improve upon. With that in mind, I wrote a short list to help them think through the different aspects of the brand they were building, and suggest some ideas about how to make it stronger.

My definition: A good personal brand is authentic, and has a good balance of specificity, authority, emotion, helpfulness, influence, and reach.

  1. It’s Authentic — You speak from your soul, following your own path. Copying someone else’s brand is a recipe for heartache and failure.
  2. It’s Specific — You have a niche that you can own, so people know what you’re known for.
  3. It has Credible Authority — People listen and believe you because you’re an expert — you know what you’re talking about. The topic area is a unique strength of yours.
  4. It’s Emotionally Compelling — You can tell your story in a concise and powerful manner that people connect to in a human way. This also means that you can’t make your brand just about what you know or can do. You also have to know the story behind why you do what you do.
  5. It’s Helpful — You and your content are truly useful to people. You want to help people in some meaningful way, which will reward people for their attention.
  6. It’s Influential — Your opinions can move the larger discussion because people listen to you, react to you, and respect you. This one is tough, because it doesn’t happen through just your force of will, and takes time.
  7. It Has Reach — Your voice travels widely and many people follow you — because when they do, things get better for them (see number 5).

What else do you think makes a good personal brand?

 

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Yooniko (a brand of Metamorph Corporation) is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more here.

 

 

Personal Branding: Why Should Extroverts Have all the Fun?

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Does the thought of speaking up in a meeting give you jitters? Maybe you feel awkward or out of place in large groups, or the last thing you ever want to do is find a way to stand out in a crowd.

If so, you are not alone. Not everyone likes the limelight. It’s estimated that one-third to one-half of the American population feel introverted at times.

Introverts are not energized by intense interaction with other people. Rather than gregariously striking up conversations with strangers, they prefer individual work, reflection in their own space, and they need time and sometimes privacy in order to express their opinions. For introverts, the stimulus to act comes from within.

When you are prone to be more introspective and self-conscious in front of others, you might be less amenable to broadcasting your accomplishments, which can complicate your aspirations at work. It can often seem like the world is run by extroverts, and this perception makes it difficult for introverts to shine when they don’t find it natural or comfortable to talk about their work, their ideas, or their achievements.

But introverts can have strong narratives to share and valuable perspectives to offer. And you should not have to be loud, dramatic, or attention-craving to be able to contribute. Research shows that introverts socialize well, albeit in different ways than extroverts, and they often demonstrate more empathy to others. Introverted leaders are often likable and effective in situations that demand high levels of self-awareness, thoughtfulness and empathy, self-understanding and detail-orientation.

So how can you achieve recognition and success as an introvert when everyone is competing to be seen as experts, and it appears that promotions only go to those who build their reputations?

Last year, a self-avowed introverted friend of mine was given a high-profile assignment that required working across a diverse, talented, and geographically dispersed team of country managers, reporting back to the global heads of sales. Although leading such a visible project may have been a dream come true for someone who wanted to impose their views on others, the assignment was difficult for my friend, who only got lukewarm response from their first efforts.

They had an arduous task at hand to get people to collaborate. Cheerleading and building enthusiasm in town halls and monthly presentations was clearly not going to be a winning strategy for them. My friend needed solutions that could help them establish credibility on the project and deliver exceptional results. They had to find ways to leverage their strengths, rather than trying to follow other people’s strategies that didn’t necessarily fit their working style.

Here are some of those strategies that my friend considered, and that you can use if you’re ever caught in similar situations:

  1. Limit what you have to talk about. You can always start by cutting down the amount of communication and influence that you need to exert. If you’re promoting yourself, edit your personal brand story to just the basic facts and your compelling points of differentiation. Narrow the scope of what you have to talk about and draw out the most concise narrative possible to get your message across.
  2. Limit how many people you talk to at one time, and give yourself rest breaks between them. It can be draining for introverts to build rapport with a lot of people at one time, but they can still build powerful connections with people if they limit their interactions and give themselves a chance to recharge.
  3. Work on a team. Rather than shoulder all the burden of the spotlight, you can use your sphere of influence to form a small team that you’re confident in. Work within the group to communicate your ideas more privately, and then have them help you in spreading the ideas to the wider organization or industry. You can protect yourself from excessive networking, while still playing to your strengths and getting the word out about your work.
  4. Work with a partner. If a team is too intense, you can pick a strong partner who can be responsible for bringing energy and excitement. Proudly stand beside them to present your case or findings, leveraging their skills to supplement your own influence.
  5. Do a video blog or podcast. Maybe live presentations are just too much for you. You can still get your message out through videocasting or podcasting your rich and thoughtful content. You can build powerful connections with your audience by contemplating and sharing issues close to your heart – bringing your authentic point of view from the privacy of your own home or studio. Just be sure you can get the content in front of the right people.
  6. Write, don’t talk. If you can’t or won’t record yourself, then consider that writing and blogging can help you articulate your ideas and thought leadership, without the need for face-to-face confrontation.
  7. Stay in the shadows. For introverts, being contemplative comes naturally. You may decide that you’d rather use your solitude to come up innovative thinking and work behind the scenes. Do your best to remain engaged with your management, however, and continue to make progress towards your goals.

My friend used a combination of #2 and #3 above, limiting the group size and leveraging the team. They appealed to the most influential country managers in one-on-one meetings, building close relationships and trust with them. Eventually they offered these affiliate managers chances to present reports to the sales heads in the headquarters, giving the managers much desired visibility and credit, while showcasing my friend’s ability to lead and persuade their peers across the network. All of which built up my friends reputation and showed the HQ leaders how they could break through silos and align the wider organization behind the initiative.

Career success and building your personal brand doesn’t have to be about loud, brassy showmanship. If you can be authentic and understand how to put your strengths to work for you, introverts can make a great name for themselves, like my friend. 

So take a chance. There’s no better time than the present for making your mark. Don’t leave it to the extroverts alone — jump in! Just be sure to do it in your own way.

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Yooniko (a brand of Metamorph Corporation) is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more here.

No Video For Your Personal Brand? Maybe No Visibility Either.

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Video is, quite simply, dominating brand marketing. Cisco in a recent study shared that by 2019 the global consumer internet video traffic will be around 80 percent, which was 64 percent in 2014. Another piece of research by Hubspot found that over 51 percent of marketing professionals believe video to be the best medium for generating Return on Investment (ROI). So the question is: how can you leverage this trend and use video to help build your personal brand?

The idea would be to share video to showcase and amplify your brand identity. Video is a high bandwidth kind of communication, which means it can carry more information, be more engaging, and convey the finer elements of your story in an manner that we humans naturally relate to. Video communications are proven to have greater ‘connecting’ impact, raising the ‘human connection’ quotient by fulfilling our insatiable thirst for visual stimuli.

The increase in sensory stimulation alone creates deeper impressions, adding the impact of the visual to the audio. Think about it — if you could buy the same amount of advertising for the same amount of money for a campaign, would you purchase a live commentary on a radio station or a live telecast someone can watch on a superior OLED screen?

Since the barriers to entry for creating video have decreased precipitously, it may be time for you to give video a try. Below are some more examples and strategies for using video as a medium to take your personal brand to the next level.

Make Your Profile Introductions More Human

How engaging is your profile summary on LinkedIn? If you’re like most people then it’s flat at best, or embarrassing at worst. But it’s difficult to get your whole self to come across in just a few words, right? Now consider if you could have a video bio embedded in your LinkedIn profile page and you could introduce yourself like you normally would. Wouldn’t that be easier? It’s just talking to someone about yourself (which is something we know we have to get very good at).

You can instruct people about how to navigate your profile, or highlight specific accomplishments or skills – it’s like you’re guiding them through your profile. And they don’t even have to scroll down to experience it.

Make Your Meetings More Productive

Video meetings used to be all hi-tech, with expensive conference room installations and complicated dialing modules. But now they’re commonplace and mostly run from your browser. With the rise in easy virtualization and cheap (sometimes free) video conferencing, we are using video meetings for discussions, reviews, interviews, sales presentations, and so many other things using Adobe Connect, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Lync and Skype etc. And the loosening of this barrier to communicate enables real-time work that can be more effective and powerfully bonding.

It’s not without pitfalls, however. In 2013, I was on a video call at my home office with a Spanish client, using Google+ hangout. I was pretty chuffed that I was using such a new technology, and was feeling a little full of myself. Unbeknownst to me, I had forgotten to lock my office door and my pet decided to barge into the room and jump around and bark during my quite professional presentation.  And if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, while I was coaxing him out of the room, I had stood up and revealed to my client that my crisp blue dress shirt and tie did not match my pajamas. Yep – I had only half-dressed for the call. That’s a mistake you never make twice.

But if you can manage to dress correctly for the occasion, video meetings can bring greater focus and attention for your meetings. After all, on a telephone conference call your callers could be doodling, returning emails, or daydreaming, but for video meetings, they have to be looking at the other person, which increases the level of connection and discourages multitasking. Just be sure you are paying your other callers the same respect.

Increase Your Impact by Sharing Your Expertise

With influencer marketing on the rise in 2016 and emerging as a medium of effective advertising and brand promotion, you can imagine that video could be a powerful tool to build a strong brand identity. Sharing your expertise on a topic of your interest or taking a stand on a discussion via video can get your ideas out into the marketplace, and carry the force of your personality and humanness along with them. You don’t have to become a full-fledged YouTube Star, but you can create your own content and help it spread by linking your videos from YouTube or Vimeo to your other social media profiles and sites. Just be sure that your content remains ridiculously helpful to your network and encourage your connections to share it, just like you should be reaching out and sharing their best content.

Increase Conversions and Connect With Customers

Video streaming apps like Blab, Meerkat and Periscope can make it beyond easy to give product demonstrations and host discussions and Q&A sessions. In many cases viewers can also record these sessions for future reference – further increasing the impact you have with them. You want to use the platform for getting detailed feedback on your ideas, like a live customer support hotline. Most people on these platforms use them for discussions about current events and hot trending topics. To stand out, you’ll want to avoid just, excuse the term, blathering on mindlessly about recent events, however, and instead focus on amplifying your brand and helping you nurture relationships with your prospects and targets. Be sure to put your sights on attracting the right audience for your message, and put less emphasis on just getting more eyeballs.  Quality counts here.

Get Started and Get Creative!

Start with your own computer’s video camera, or buy a simple one to start with. YouTube has a simple functioning video editor that you can use for free. Find innovative ways to get attention in your videos. Record in cool locations, or use props or interesting guests or controversial topics. Video must be engaging to have lasting impact, and time spent in upping the quality and thoughtfulness of your video will increase its stickiness and share-ability.

Where’s the best place to hide a dead body? On page 2 of Google search results.

No one will ever find it.

One stat to keep in mind is that 75% of Google users click on the first page of search results and never scroll to the second page. So you obviously want to rank as high as you can with any content you create. But when you consider that webpages with relevant videos can rank higher on the first page then you have to consider that video could increase your visibility.

And what good is your personal brand if it doesn’t show up?

 

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Yooniko (a brand of Metamorph Corporation) is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more here.

The Number One Factor In Your Job Search Success

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Searching for a job used to be an analog thing — asking friends for recommendations, reading newspaper want ads, perusing bulletin boards, and pounding the pavement. The rise of the internet and social media changed all that, and both job seekers and recruiters now routinely leverage digital sources, and specifically social media platforms, as one of their primary search and placement tools.

Maybe this has happened to you or a friend, but a colleague of mine, a brilliant sales guy, recently went through a layoff when his division was dissolved. That was rough on him, but his network and social presence was so strong that he received a great offer almost immediately — but not through email or Monster. He was contacted through LinkedIn.

While your personal network has always held your best referrals, now social professional networks are starting to take over. And it makes a certain amount of sense in terms of demand for talent, as the visibility of your professional network is presented pretty clearly — so it’s good for recruiters and headhunters. But when it comes to the supply of talent, the question is: Are you set up for success?

Initial screening rounds during interviewing processes have drastically been reduced, courtesy of easy access to candidates’ profiles on LinkedIn and other professional networks. Recruiters connect with job seekers and view their profiles to find the right match for their clients. What used to be a mostly manual process has been reduced to a few clicks.

And that’s not even all of it. Now it’s common for software to be deployed to narrow searches, allowing recruiters to deal with not thousands of resumes and applicants, but a manual review of a short list of only 20-50. Up to 80% of large companies are currently using resume screening software that uses word matching and algorithms to sift out applications that don’t meet certain criteria.

But that’s just the first step. Companies know that when they hire someone new, they are taking a chance on that person’s present and future value to the company, and so they want to know that the prospective employee not only has the right set of competencies and talent, but would also be a good cultural fit with the company. They can’t afford to get it wrong, as the US Department of Labor suggests that replacement costs for a bad hire can be 30% of their salary (US Department of Labor, 2003), even if they are at lower levels in the organization, and some other more recent studies suggest that the figure can climb to as high as five times their salary.  Serious risk is involved, so companies place a high value on getting the right people in the door.

So, given the importance of all the online and social factors in today’s market, it’s clear that having an attractive personal brand can turn out to be not just a contributing factor in helping you land a job, but the absolute most important factor.

What follows are some pointers that might give you the edge to make sure you’re found, matched, and placed by talent hunters.

1.    It’s social, stupid

Some people think that the time of resumes will soon be over – and your social brand and online connections will be all that’s required to identify if you’re right for a job. According to research job seekers are regularly being contacted by recruiters through social media and this ‘social recruiting’ is turning out to be effective for everyone – recruiters and job seekers alike.

Companies like LinkedIn and BranchOut provide easy access to a job seeker’s social graph for referrals. Based on a research by Jobvite in 2014, it was found that 94% of recruiters were active on LinkedIn when compared to only 36% of the job seekers. Social media therefore provides a real opportunity to the job seekers if they only have a completed profile with the right personal brand showcased on it.

2.    Do some translation

The real trick is realizing that in the online world, your personal brand portrays your resume, not the other way around. You have to do your homework and work with a coach or resume writer, including:

  • Outlining what your mission is, your key skills, and your strengths. If you’ve not nailed down what you’re amazing at, then you’ll have trouble convincing anyone else why you’re worth the risk.
  • Now you can analyze your online profile – does it highlight your key strengths? Is all the work you’ve done in the past clearly presented on the profile, or does it need more translation to be understood?

3.    Now look at ‘the fit’

Do you know everything you can about your ideal employer? How does their culture fit with your style and behaviors? If you are looking for a lasting job opportunity, your recruiters will want to understand not just your expertise and value you add to the company, but how well you might mesh with the existing teams and their culture.

4.    Don’t be afraid to promote

As Scott Cook, CEO of Intuit said, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” Your network will only work for you if you give them content, ideas, and thinking that they can interact with and share. Things like blogs, videos, podcasts, and helpful information that your community finds useful and engaging. It’s often said that the currency of social media is what you are sharing, so be sure that if you decide to share content, it is 1) interesting, 2) useful, and 3) unique enough to merit attention.

  • Reach out to create visibility within the connections of your company and to your future employees and employers
  • Share useful and valuable content and be known to your network
  • Engage in network activities to extend your reach and influence.

Social media has evolved into a primary job source and offer platform, above and beyond the job portals that have been around for a while.  If you can build your personal brand and social identity to make it attractive then employers and recruiters are really going to notice.

It’s no longer only just about your resume. Your accomplishments, previous projects, and your network are all part of the path to a new job in today’s market. So if your experience, expertise and recognition from your past work isn’t clear, visible, promoted, and a good fit, then you might be kissing your job prospects goodbye and not even knowing it.

 

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Yooniko (a brand of Metamorph Corporation) is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more here.

Are You Stuck? Could Building Your Personal Brand Help?

 

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Being ‘stuck’ stinks. That scary feeling that no matter what you do, you’re getting nowhere. Like being stuck in quicksand, when you need to move forward in your career and you can’t, you’re bound to feel alone, frustrated, out of control, and sinking fast.

And to think – it might all be because of a weak personal brand!

It was that way for my friend Katrina, who after paying her dues in a creative agency, took over a marketing role for a large multinational that required her to manage marketing activities across the region. Accustomed to working with internal teams and developing creative, Katrina excelled in driving great content. Her newsletters, market guides, white papers and creative for strategic requirements won her praise with the local management. But her boss, Susan, didn’t see it that way. She hadn’t seen any positive metrics about local affiliate satisfaction, because her dashboard was set up only to highlight deliverables in planning, budgeting and executing events, where Katrina had some failings. So even though Katrina was over-performing in one important area for the company, her boss raised questions about her project management and event handling skills, which caused some friction and they eventually decided to part ways.

That would be bad enough, but it turned out she was stuck.

She had a strong reputation for creativity with her network, but her expertise, skill, and value was largely invisible to the outside world. Her personal brand had no metrics to show her talents, or to show what she did better than anyone else. That stopped her boss from seeing her contributions in her present role, and she eventually determined that the same thing was holding her back from moving on as well.

Diagnose What’s Holding You Back: Perception Shapes Reality

Inability to move on in career can be stifling and frustrating, as it was for Katrina. And in matters of your career, perception matters. Your bosses and recruiters both go by the impressions they have of you, which can collectively be described as your personal brand.

Katrina had issues with making her impact on the business clearly shown to her boss, but there are lots of ways your image could be holding you back, like:

  • Maybe your work or behavior has received bad reviews online or with some internal stakeholders; a case of reputation management gone awry.
  • Maybe you haven’t felt motivated enough to put in that extra effort because you’re not in the right position to activate your passion; when this happens people around you might be telling you that you come across as indifferent, or lackadaisical.
  • Perhaps the nature of your job is difficult to put metrics around and be able to point to achievements or victories. When you work ‘behind the scenes’ it’s hard for others to know the value you bring to the table.
  • Or maybe it’s really just your presence. Is it possible that you come across as rough, or difficult, or combative? Do you have difficulty in patching things up with people after an argument? Do you have trouble listening to what others have to say about you?

If you’re not getting traction with a job search, then there could be other reasons why opportunities aren’t knocking down your door, like:

  • Your job description or other aspects of your LinkedIn profile could be under-performing for you, (or just plain poorly written)
  • Your resume could have outdated information and missing some keywords, or
  • Your mission statement might be falling flat for recruiters.

So whatever is holding you back, you need to diagnose it in order to take action.  Katrina knew this, and so she hired a coach who could provide her with perspective on where she could go from there. She also got some needed focus, discipline, and benchmarks to help her understand how to raise her game in terms of promoting herself.

Addressing the Problem: Face it and Erase it

Your next step is to take that diagnosis and turn it around into a solution. You’ve probably identified a weak area in your performance, but rather than just saying “I have to do this better,” you want to try to turn the issue around. How can you use your actual strengths in this situation to eliminate your weaknesses, or at least make them immaterial to the work?

Katrina had a lack of online presence because she didn’t know how to show exactly how her work was contributing to other stakeholders. She also felt that it was difficult for her to highlight her broad project management abilities, when she had much stronger skills in managing creative development and production.

So she changed direction and began looking for a role that directly played to her strengths, which turned out to be driving communications within the larger organization. She was able to point to the stellar work she had previously done, and she recruited her happy affiliate managers to vouch for her skills through a consistent feedback system that tracked her projects and clarified her value to her various other stakeholders.

Promote your way forward

Lastly, you want to make sure that your new direction continues to build your influence from a point of strength. You want to expand your audience base – both internally and externally, if possible. As you capture feedback from stakeholders on each deliverable or milestone you achieve, find a way to document it and disseminate it across the organization or the industry so others can learn from it. Think about how to capture learnings on areas of improvement, or mechanisms and processes that ensure success. You might project the relevance of your work through blogs, case studies, white papers or speaking opportunities.

Katrina broadcast her expertise to a wider audience by sharing her opinions in blogs and posts on industry online forums and the company newsletter. She captured email addresses of those who liked her work, and started posting case studies of everything she worked on, and directed people to follow her on LinkedIn. This showed her bosses and the wider industry how satisfied her customers were and where she excelled in meeting requirements.

Eventually, results started to show – her blogs built a solid industry following, her LinkedIn profile boomed with likes and shares, and she got invited to conferences and seminars related to creative development. Katrina was finally being recognized for what she was — a thought leader with creative talent. And so what if she wasn’t a great project manager? Shifting how she applied herself to her company and the market at large helped her get unstuck and evolve into a better role that gave her the scope she needed to continue to expand and showcase her true talents.

Katrina’s way out of the mess started with recognition of the problem. She didn’t panic or turn bitter and blame others for being stuck. She focused on building understanding and then took a smart path forward.

So if you get mired in quicksand, you have to fight the urge to struggle, which can make you sink further down. Instead, practice patience and get some perspective to determine how you’ll get free and back on the road to your brightest future.

 

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Yooniko (a brand of Metamorph Corporation) is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more here.

 

Anatomy Of A Thought Leader

Anatomy1

What goes into being a thought leader? How would you know that you have ‘arrived’ at that particular designation?

Many of us work really hard at developing a reputation for being an expert in a specific topic area, but being considered a thought leader is a step above just having a good reputation. It involves winning a significant amount of influence in an industry or category and being able to wield that power to drive innovation and change through your own ideas.

So how would you construct a thought leader? What are the essential ingredients to bring you the respect, authority, and fame that a real thought leader has? The steps to reach this goal are not impossible, but it does take more than naked desire to get you there.

What it’s not:

  • Is it boasting or trumpeting your achievements and knowledge? Nope. Though you can fool a few people for a while, it doesn’t get you anywhere that you can depend on.
  • Qualification or experience? Actually no – highly qualified people don’t always achieve it either. You can’t go to school to become a “thought leader,” nor can you complete a graduate program and earn some kind of certificate or formal recognition as such.
  • Position, wealth or power? No – you have to remember the story of the warrior king and the great sage.

There once was a great warrior king who met the great sage — venerated as the ‘Knower of All’ — who had a wish-fulfilling divine cow. Despite his valor and wealth, the king envied the respect and eminence the sage enjoyed, as well as his magic cow. Mad with jealousy, the king ordered his soldiers to seize the cow but failed and had to be pardoned by the sage. The wounded king turned to penance, austerity, and self-control — eventually eschewing his pettiness and excessive pride, which thereby earned him the respect that he so long sought after. He had learned the source of true power and became the new ‘Knower of All,’ even greater than the sage.
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So no – power and position won’t get you there, either. And there’s an additional lesson in there about the need for giving back, rather than taking, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

What it is: 

So what are the elements required? I propose that it is as simple as amassing trust and respect on a wide base. But while simple, these qualities can be really hard to come by and even more difficult to build a following around.

To be a recognized a ‘thought leader’ or guru, the world has to feel that you are one. And to build this trust and respect from others, you start by developing your own passion around the ideas which are close to you — ensuring that your care and heart are palpable to others, and you’ll be able to stay the course and keep going when things get rough.

Then you have to refine your skill sets and expand your professional connections consistently, because while education alone won’t give you influence, you do have to know what you’re talking about or you’ll be perceived as an empty suit. To continue to grow, you’ll need to introduce new ideas on a constant basis, and help others within your organization and industry get to know your ideas. Becoming more of a ‘giver’ is a valuable strategy to get where you want to be. Because the more informed you can be, and the more helpful you can be, then the greater the value you can offer to those around you.

And what you offer is the real secret sauce for becoming a thought leader. Because respect and trust can be built by being the best possible resource for others and an expert educator of both your peers and your prospects.

What You Can Do:

Here are a few ideas for how you can get on the thought leadership track:

  1. Identify and build on your strengths: Commit to build on your passions and strengths to give your skills a chance to shine. Keep focused and stay grounded in who you are. Your authenticity and caring will be the fuel to inspire other people to take action.
  2. Know your audience: True thought leadership is about empathy, so spend the time thinking through your customers’ tensions, frustrations, and unmet needs. For your work to be engaging, direct, and relevant, it should help people do something or give them insight that helps them better understand their job, their market, or their world.
  3. Listen and learn: Successful mentors are the ones who engage people in genuine conversations and connect with them proactively. They invest time and build long-term relationships that flourish on values such as fairness, openness, listening to others’ point of view, and articulation of nuanced responses that are sensitive to where the other person is coming from.
  4. Network like a LION: Crafting good content is great, but you need a community to share it with for it to gain momentum. Those who want to drive change constantly network and seek out new influencers who can amplify their point of view, both in traditional and social media. They write and respond to topics relevant to their field and feed this community with content and ideas.
  5. Be humble: Audiences genuinely appreciate presenters who show that they can be vulnerable. A legitimate, sincere expression of uncertainty can go a long way in building trust, because it shows that you are actively seeking knowledge, pursuing possibilities, and sharing that enthusiasm for exploration.
  6. Give back: True thought leadership makes itself available freely. So share valuable information without the urge to always monetize it, and don’t be afraid to evangelize the top-class ideas of other influencers. These other thought leaders don’t have to be seen as competition, but can become allies who may share your content, too.
  7. Create something truly new: Refine your voice until you can consistently bring forth something new and powerful to the discussion in your community. To lead requires vision, and an ability to navigate a path forward from where your industry is today, to a new place. Until you can articulate to others what this new world could be, and show them the way to get there, you might remain influential, but not a leader.

The ultimate definition of a successful thought leader might be the person who is trusted to be compelling, useful, and meaningful to the largest number of people, and still being able to justify their own ROI. So try to learn the lesson from the story of the King and the Sage, and realize that what you give away eventually can be what lifts you up.

Eventually you’ll have people seeking out your opinion, conferences inviting you to present, and experts looking to you for your input. And even if you don’t think that you’ve ‘arrived,’ you can be sure that you’re on the right track.

 

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Yooniko (a brand of Metamorph Corporation) is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more here.

Is It Time For A Personal Branding Makeover?

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Do you walk by your ratty couch every day and think “When am I going to recover or replace that thing?” Or maybe every time you sit down in the chair at the hair salon and look at yourself in the mirror you think “I need a change. I should just cut it all off.”

Well, big brands do this too. Back in 2004, FedEx launched their slogan “Relax, It’s FedEx” and then in 2009 changed it to “The World on Time.” Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan was introduced in 1984, but in 1990, they changed it to “I Can,” only to switch it back later. And who can forget New Coke? And when they changed how the Wendy’s girl looked?

So yeah — big brands do ‘makeovers’ on their image all the time. At some point in every brand’s journey, they decide that it’s time to revamp their logo, tagline, spokesperson, or some other element of their brand image. It keeps their brand fresh, relevant, and in touch with their target market.

Now think about yourself, your brand and your image. You have a social profile, you tweet, you share, you like and you write, but have you ever considered renovating it? Is your personal branding still relevant and getting the traction you need it to? The question becomes: How do you update your personal brand to fix what’s not working, without starting over or throwing out all the hard work you’ve already done?

  1. A refreshed brand starts with You

First, do a check-in on your goals to make sure nothing has changed in your overall mission. You can quickly do an informal SWOT analysis of yourself, your current position, your vision, and other values that make up your current personal brand. If everything is still pointing in the right direction, you can move on to see if your customer has developed any new needs.

  1. Reach out and touch someone

Has your audience changed? The people on whom you want to make a positive impression can change over time.  Maybe their needs have changed, or something in their environment could change, like a new website that popped up in the last few months, which has taken over all the conversations about your chosen topic area. You could need some Search Engine Marketing advice or support, like an analysis of the new ways that your audience searches for solutions and news online. Maybe the recruiters in your industry are now looking at a whole new technology, and you don’t have the kind of background they’re looking for anymore. If they change, then you need to as well. And the greater the change is in your customer or your customer’s world, the more likely that you may need to make some tactical changes in how or what you’re communicating.

  1. Tweak and test and learn

Lastly, take a look at your current plans to move your brand forward and keep it trending. Are you using outdated communication methods? It doesn’t help to have the best Pinterest account in the world for your business if all your users are on Snapchat or WeChat. Ensure that any actions undertaken to contact and interact with other people progress towards where you want to be. To build a strong brand identity and sustain it for a longer period, you have to know what you want to be known for and project that image. So keep track and evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts, to help you decide what tactics are working, and which to phase out.

David Ogilvy described a brand as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.”  And it’s this ‘intangible’ nature that gives you the flexibility to update your image over time. Since your brand is what others perceive when they think about you, it can be a good idea to show other people the changes that you have undergone as you continue to grow and learn. Remember personal branding is not just flaunting off your profile photo, your certifications or your latest million-dollar sale. It is the way you fit into the world, what you offer to it, and how people visualize you and the value you bring. And as the world changes, the way that you fit into it can evolve as well.

When it comes to transforming your personal brand, it can be a tough task but it’s not something unachievable. Take your time, have patience, and invest a little in your own personal brand makeover. Because although renovations may take time and money, they can also pay you dividends in the new value they can create.

 

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Yooniko (a brand of Metamorph Corporation) is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more here.

 

You Can Become A Personal Branding Rock Star

rockstar personal brand

Sam Fiorella, co-author of Influence Marketing, describes influence as “the swaying of beliefs, behaviors or actions.” This concept of influencer marketing can apply to brands, companies, individuals, salespeople — just about everyone! Until recently, big brands would rely on celebrities and popular bloggers to promote and market their brands but today the wave is shifting from companies and corporate accounts to users and consumers, who are playing a new key role as the influencers who control the very markets that they shop in.

And there are probably lots of examples of this happening in your daily life. Maybe you tried a new airline on a recent trip because your friend said it was an amazing experience or a great deal. Think of that new gadget that you never planned to buy, but when you saw your coworker using it in a meeting, then suddenly you knew you had to have it! This is the power of authentic influence and it’s not a celebrity playground anymore, just us, the common folks, who wield greater power than ever, due to our use of social media.

And brands are taking notice. A recent McKinsey study states that marketing involving word of mouth generates twice the sales of paid advertising along with 37% higher customer retention rate. Of course, the rise in social media has played a crucial role in this shift – since it acts as a shared platform where peers actively recommend and share details on purchasing decisions. This growing role of peer recommendations, likes, shares and retweets on social media provides more evidence of the importance of influencer marketing. As Scott Cook, CEO of Intuit said, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” And in 2016 we are sure to witness the continued acceleration in the use of influencer marketing.

But it’s not just about products and big brands. We can also be influenced by people, and we can influence other people ourselves. Maybe you call this being a thought leader, or maybe you call it becoming a ‘Guru,’or a ‘Social Media Rock Star,’ but whatever you call it, it can be a way to expand the reach and influence for your personal brand.

We’ve talked before about how to get in contact with influencers who can help you build your personal brand, but just imagine what it would be like for YOU to be the influencer. You could be the one using social media to plant the seeds of your ideas in the minds of your followers — creating raving fans and a loyal audience for your viewpoint.

So it shouldn’t surprise you that the principle behind influencer marketing isn’t rocket science, but it can be as simple as:

Know -> Share -> Track -> Revise

  • Get to know your community: Identify your audience and start to understand what’s important to them, and what they need and think about. In order to show that you care, you’ll have to know the things they care about and invest time in them – so that they can see the value in following you and engaging with you. And don’t be afraid to start small. It can help you stay focused and carve out a niche space. Go for quality when starting out, and worry about increasing your follower count later. 
  • Share quality content: Give people substance when you interact with them. This means writing and reading quality content in your topic area of interest. Generic likes or shares won’t cut it anymore, if you plan to be an influencer. So put in the time to find cool new blogs, videos, podcasts and information that your community finds useful and engaging. Put together a shortlist of the most important topics of the day, and maybe the most controversial! Then start working on your viewpoint of them, and what you think could be or should be done. If you want your audience to eagerly await the next big thing from you, you’ll have to pull out the big guns, i.e., get good research done, and find the right angle for your content, to make sure your voice can resonate. When you’re ready, move beyond social spaces, and get into speaking engagements. And you can even decide to write that book that you’ve been thinking about.
  • Track your reach: Use social media measurement tools like Buffer, or Hootsuite, or Mention, that can help you track and understand the buzz you make in the social media space. You can use these tools to judge the level and depth of influence that your personal brand has, and respond to conversations with your followers and fellow thought leaders. Be part of the conversation, and commit yourself to always pushing the thinking further.
  • Revisit your results and learn from your mistakes: Since you’re using the latest analytics and tools to measure your progress, occasionally you’ll want to step back and see if you’re still on track. What kinds of content worked, and got a lot of positive response from your community? What kinds of topics did you participate in where you maybe didn’t come across as an expert? Or maybe someone else stepped in and answered a difficult question better than you did. Don’t take these “mis-step-moments” as set-backs, but instead look at them as chances to learn, and improve your content.

2015 saw a real time deployment of influencer marketing by brands like Jaguar and Capital One. And a new group of consumers-as-influencer-marketers are just now emerging who have the power to become ambassadors of brands, products, services and even themselves. Since you are the most important product that you work with everyday, you will need to grow your personal brand and its reach in meaningful ways to establish yourself as a real player.

And that’s how you’ll unleash your inner Rock Star.