This is the first in a five part series on maximizing your online brand.

What Does Google Say About You?
Before you put any real time and effort into developing your online brand presence, check out what kind of brand presence you already have. Do an online brand assessment.

Google yourself. Or use Bing or Yahoo or any other search engine.

Come on, you know you all do it anyway. But this time, do a very clinical assessment. We're going to get a little methodical to really see a very accurate account of your brand online.

Tips for an Accurate Google Search
Tip 1.  Don’t just type in your name.  Put “  “ around your complete name. That tells the search engines to search for BOTH your first and last names together. If you just type in your name, let’s say, Joe Jones, without the quote marks, the engines will bring in all the Joes out there AND all the Joneses. 

Try it. I got over 22 million hits for Joe Jones! If you have a very common name like Jones or Smith or Patel, it’s really critical to include the quote marks to narrow the search. Current and prospective employers' HR departments are using this tactic right now to get accurate search results on your name. Beat the to it!

Tip 2. If you still have a huge amount of hits and they are not all about you, you might add a qualifying or keyword word to your search. Perhaps your name PLUS the name of your company or your area of expertise; for example, Jane Jones, chemical engineer.  Or Jane Jones PLUS Oracle. Another option is to add the city or state you are in.  Google LOVES localized searches. Another option is to use a middle initial, or for women, you can add your maiden name.  What you're trying to do is direct the search engines to you, not everyone else on the planet with your first OR last name.

It's also very important that you have a consistent online brand. If you're using a middle initial on LinkedIn, for example, be sure to use it for all your online activities. If your Twitter handle is John Jones III, keep the III on all the sites you log into; it will  help differentiate you and maintain a consistent brand.

Tip 3. Keep in mind you can also eliminate some words from your brand search by adding a minus sign after your name. Is there a person with your name who keeps coming up in a search for your name? Is there a keyword associated with them, perhaps they are an actor or a writer. Set up a Google search with a minus sign. For example,  typing in  "joe jones"-actor tells the search to NOT bring in any results about an actor named Joe Jones. This is one way to eliminate unwanted results and improve the accuracy of a personal name search.

Assess Your Online Presence
When you did your search, did you like what you found? Were there a lot of entries that gave a good and accurate account of your online name? Were there negatives? Embarrassing or unprofessional photos, online comments from family or friends that are far too social? 

There are remedies and ways to proactively control what the search engines list. Our next few posts will give you insights into how to proactively manage and direct your search results.


Is Your Professional Brand Social?

Today’s professionals need more than just a great brand in the workplace. They need a relevant brand online. And that means being a part of the social media landscape.

Having a social media presence is much more than having a Facebook page. Do you blog? Are you on Twitter? Do you have a Google+ profile? Are you on Linkedin? These can be important elements of your online brand.

You might be asking, "Why bother with being social?" Because employers are looking for you online.  What do you find when you do a Google search of your name? Are you happy with the results? Would you be happy with the results your employer would find if they did a search of your name?

Your present employer might be doing a Google search on you right now to check you out for that promotion you applied for. A potential employer for sure is looking at your brand online. As a matter of fact, a recent survey indicates that 91% have researched social networking sites when looking at candidates' backgrounds. 

We don't always think of our brands in terms of virtual brands. But how we appear online is just as, and maybe even more important than our real-world brand. In person, your band can affect dozens of people you interact with on a daily basis. But your online brand can be seen by the world! That's almost 8 billion people!

In our next few posts, we're going to examine the ways you can develop your online brand so it reflects the positive brand traits that can help you professionally, so stay tuned for our five-part series on Developing Your Virtual Brand!


Brand Your Presentations

Ah, the ubiquitous PPT presentation. We all deliver them. Sometimes to large crowds externally, sometimes to small internal teams and sometimes to investors, channel partners and customers. But when you’re delivering your presentation, do you think of it as an extension of your brand? Well, you should, because it is a highly visible part of your personal brand.

Think of the late Steve Jobs or Steve Ballmer.  Each has a very different but clear personality when they present.  Your personality comes across in your presentations as well.

Presentations are Brand Extensions
Every time you speak in public, you brand yourself. Your audience gets to see how you communicate, how you gesture, your sense of humor or lack of it. How you organize ideas and structure arguments, how you handle stress (as if just giving a presentation isn’t stress enough!) In other words, your personality.

So how can you approach branding and delivering a presentation? Have a plan for what you want your public speaking brand to be. It should be a natural extension of who you are, your authentic self, not a “created” character for the audience. Another way of seeing this is to ask, ”What do I want the audience to think of me when I’m done presenting”? Do you want them to think, you’re credible or insightful or logical? Do you want them to see a relaxed and confident speaker? Or one who is "fun" and engaging?

Align Presentations to a Brand End Goal
Then structure your presentation accordingly so that those brand traits can shine through. Think about the gestures you use and how you walk and move; do those movements align with your stated brand goal? Also think about how you structure your slides and ideas and even the type of images and data on the slides: do they also reflect your brand goal? What brand image do crowded wordy bullet-infested slides give vs. a single image on a clean background?

Bottom-line, next time you present, think about aligning your presentation style to your personal brand.  And if you're not sure what brand traits to pinpoint, you can never go wrong with confident and capable! Happy branding and presenting!


Brevity as a Brand Trait?

Blah, blah, blah. Not the best brand to have.

Sometimes I think "blah" is our national business language. Watch CNBC or attend most business presentations. What do you remember from any commentator or speaker?  Probably not much. Now think of the conversations you have at work. How many are memorable?  My guess is, not too many. Why? Because sometimes, we say far too much.

We add layers of detail and go on and on before we make a point. Do you bore your colleagues?

Be A Concise Communicator

One of the traits of a great personal brand is concise and honest communication. Say what you need to say, then move on.  Why bore your colleagues with layers of detail or comments that don't add to the conversation?

Start with the main point you want to make, add one or two details to back it up. You might add a question when you're done to engage with your listener(s), but that's all you need. 

I'm not suggesting you be curt or terse. Just concise. Great personal brands don't waste people's time with unnecessary information. They are respectful and interested in others, but when they communicate, they speak value.

If you suffer from the "blah, blah, blah" syndrome, try practicing more concise communication at home with family and friends. Then move it into your workplace. Your colleagues will thank you for it!


Great Brands Take Responsibility

Did you ever mess up?  Mess up really badly?

Most of us have. But those who have truly great personal brands do something rare these days. They take responsibility for their mistakes. They don't try and erase their error.

Your organization probably likes and honors winners...people who do their jobs very well and don't fail. But realistically, we all will fail at one time or another. The key is what do you do with your failure.

In a previous post, we talked about the actor, Denzel Washington's advice to young graduates: Go out and fail!  But today, our message is, when you do fail, admit it.

Far too often we hear people make excuses:
  • I didn't have what I needed to complete this task...
  • No one told me...
  • It's not my fault, its...
  • I'm sorry, but...
How refreshing to hear someone say, "You're right. I did mess up, and I take full responsibility for my actions. What I can tell you is that I will not make this same mistake again." No whining and NO blame shifting.  That's what makes for a great brand.

Never think that making a mistake will hurt your brand; it's the cover-up or blame-shifting that can tarnish your reputation, not just your mistake.


Does Your Personal Brand Have a Deficit?

Everywhere we look lately, we hear about deficits. Banks, mortgage companies, even countries are in the red.

Is your brand in a similar situation? Are you in "Brand Deficit"?

What is a Brand Deficit?

Your professional brand is in deficit if you have not developed enough positive brand traits to outweigh the negatives.

We all have negative habits, traits and behaviors that don't help our brand. Perhaps we talk too much in a meeting or interrupt speakers when on a conference call. Maybe we are too shy in groups and never stand out. There's only one way to know your brand deficits: do a brand inventory.

Brand Inventory

Start by making a list of all the traits you'd like to eliminate. Think about how you act in meetings, on the phone, how you appear when speaking, how you interact with colleagues.  Do you have behaviors that hold your brand back from being outstanding? Then ask two or three co-workers this question: "If I could eliminate one bad habit, what would it be"?

You now have a game plan: select one trait to work on--only one!  You can't change an entire personality, so zero in on a single deficit! Perhaps you don't speak up on team conference calls. So, make a concerted effort to offer two comments every time you're on a call. Do this for six to eight weeks (it takes time to change behaviors!).

Once you've eliminated that behavior, move on to another, and take the same tactic: a methodical process to change one behavior at a time.

In the end, your goal is to eliminate those traits or brand deficits that hold you back from greatness! You're now on the road to a brand that's in balance, not in the red!


Have a Brand Like Lady Gaga

What do Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga and Bill Clinton have in common? You guessed it: a powerful personal brand.

But how did they get that brand? Were they born with a charismatic brand or did they shape and hone it?

My guess is that Lady Gaga, Bill and Steve all grew up the same as everyone else. They did not come out of the womb with a strong personal brand. They developed it.

Personal Brands Are Made

Most brands are made, not born. That means there is hope for everyone seeking to advance their personal brand.

Not everyone is a Steve Jobs or Lady Gaga or Bill Clinton.  But we can all follow their lead and take a page right out of their playbooks:

1. Differentiate like Lady Gaga.  Love her or hate her, you have to admit, she is different.  She clearly understands how to differentiate. Take a page from her playbook and position yourself in a unique way.  Display what makes you special and different from other employees in your organization. The key is to be unlike everyone else and publicize that differentiation.

2. Think globally like Bill Clinton. Clinton's brand has actually gained more stature and importance since he left the Presidency. Why? He has broadened his scope; he thinks and acts globally. For professionals in any organization what that can mean for you is to take your blinders off. Think about ideas from a broader perspective and connect the dots outside as well as inside your organization. Show your organization that you analyze ideas for implications beyond just your company.

3. Present like Steve Jobs. If there is only one skill you could develop to extend your brand's reach, it should be public speaking. take every course your organization offers. Get a mentor who is a great speaker. Join a local Toastmaster's Club. Consider every opportunity inside and outside your organization to advance your public speaking.

Developing a great brand is a process. You won't get recognition like Lady Gaga right away, but if you take a methodical, process-approach to developing your brand, you will stand out. And who knows, you might have fun in the process!


Ten Tips for Enhancing Your Brand: Tip Ten


You can have the most powerful brand on the planet, but if no one knows about it, what good does it do you?

Our last tip on enhancing your brand is perhaps the most important. Take your brand public. Get visibility both in the real and virtual worlds.

Today, business is a virtual event.  What is your brand doing online? Hopefully, extending your brand traits. But how do you do that? A number of ways:

1.    BLOG. Start creating a presence with your own blog or contributing to your company blog. If your own blog, zero in a specific topic and don’t stray too far. Keep your comments focused to a topic that will help your brand.
2.    COMMENT. Comment on others’ blogs or on online magazines.  Your name should be associated with comments you can be proud of. Don’t comment with a rant or in any way show your brand in a negative light. Comment thoughtfully and precisely on a topic you want your brand to be associated with.
3.    AVOID. Avoid placing your name in forums or sites that will have a negative impact. You might ride a mean Harley on the weekend, but posting to a site called “Big Fat Hogs” might not be the best place to park your brand.
4.    SPEAK. One of the best ways to promote your brand and gain a good web presence is to speak in public. Within your organization, it’s a great way to let your colleagues know your value, but even better at local events, conferences etc. Your brand not only gets immediate recognition, but a web mention gives you an additional boost. If you are uncomfortable speaking in public, get coaching, join Toastmasters or seek a mentor.

Ultimately, it’s your job not only to develop your brand traits, but to publicize them as well.  Be humble and respectful as you place your brand in public view.

Don’t keep your brand in the closet. Get it out there and share your expertise with the world!


Ten Tips for Enhancing Your Brand: Tip 9

Did you have a mentor?  Coming up thru the ranks in any organization is made a bit easier when you have guidance.

Mentoring can help colleagues achieve their personal goals but can also help an organization achieve its objectives.  All around, mentoring is a win-win. Best of all, being a mentor can very dramatically affect your professional brand.

Mentor Profile: On the "A" Team

If you have mentors at your company, take a look at who they are. In general, they tend to be achievers and doers. They have reputations as members of the "A" team.

There are exceptions, of course. But for the most part, people who reach out to be mentors are not the slackers in your organization. They are respected and looked up to.

One of the best moves you can make for your professional brand is to offer your expertise to others on your team.  Volunteer to mentor an up-and-coming colleague or a new hire. You don't have to be a Vice President or CEO to offer your guidance. 

Think about what you do very well: it might be as simple as offering to meet with a colleague struggling to put a PPT together or share your expertise on finance or show others how to use an internal technology.

If you want to make a longer commitment, regular sessions with a high potential colleague can help them advance in the organization as you advance your brand as a leader and mentor.

Let the HR department and your supervisor know that you are offering your expertise as a mentor and watch the impact on your reputation!


Ten Tips for Enhancing Your Brand: Tip 8

A simple handshake can be powerful.

In a world of tweets, texts and blogs, the power of the human element is sometimes forgotten.  We get wrapped up sending emails and texts, and we sometimes get disconnected from the face-to-face contact that happened so often prior to the Internet.

If you are addicted to texting and tweeting and rely too heavily on the virtual world--to the exclusion of the real one--your brand might be enhanced by adding some good, old-fashioned human contact.


What non-virtual steps can you take to enhance your brand?

Things like shaking someone's hand or physically walking into a colleague's office or talking on the phone instead of sending an email can be real brand boosters. Even sending a snail-mail thank you note to an executive can be meaningful. 

In a recent episode of Donald Trump's "The Celebrity Apprentice," a group of executives commented that one of the celebrity teams came to the door and shook hands and greeted and escorted each executive to an event.

The other celebrity team did not. Even Mr. Trump pointed out that no handshakes and not physically accompanying the executives was a big mistake! Human interaction is critical to good business.

Lesson? Keep up with your emails and texts, but keep your brand on target by letting people know that you're a human being first and a texter second!


Ten Tips for Enhancing Your Brand: Tip 7


Failure is good.

That's a hard message for anyone to swallow, but if you approach failure in the right way, it can be a powerful brand enhancer.

Most of us view failure as a negative. We want to avoid it at all costs. But award-winning actor,  Denzel Washington gave a very different take on failure as he gave the commencement for the University of Pennsylvania today. He told graduates that they WILL fail at some point, and asked them, "Do you have the guts to fail?"

When we fail, we might think that our personal brand has sunk to its lowest point, but think again. It's how we recover from failure that shows what our brand is made of.

When you fail big time or small time, your mental script should be:
  • What can I learn from this failure?
  • What can I do so I don't repeat this type of failure?
  • What plan can I put in place to mitigate future situations like this?
  • Who do I need to reach out to for damage control?
Own-up to your mistakes and let your immediate supervisors now that you will not let this happen again. Let them know that you will take definite steps to rectify the mistake, but most of all, let them know that you will use this failure to make even better and stronger contributions to your organization.

That's how you turn failure into a brand enhancer!


Ten Tips for Enhancing Your Brand: Tip 6

One fast way to tarnish your brand is to say "no." It's a real brand killer.

"No, I don't have time for an extra project."
"No, I can't help with your client emergency...I have one of my own."
"No, right now I'm busy..."
How many colleagues do you know who don't get involved in extra projects or don't voluntarily come to the plate? Chances are, their brand will be affected in the long run.

Be a YES Man or Woman! 
The brands that get ahead in an organization are the ones that say, "yes."

Let your manager know you are ready, willing, and able to take on a new project or task.  When asked to stay later, don't make excuses, just do it. When asked to mentor a new employee, jump at the chance. If requested to take on a new responsibility, don't whine about it, embrace it.

Think of the messages you are delivering every time you say, "no." vs. the messages you send every time you say, "yes:"
Yes, I'm a team player
Yes, I have a passion for this company and my job
Yes, I believe in my own abilities and skills
Yes, I am management material

In the end,  all things being equal, when it comes time for a promotion, who do you think will have a better chance, Ms. Yes, or Mr. No?  It's  brand no-brainer!


Ten Tips for Enhancing Your Brand: Tip 5

Social media is here, it's as much a part of our culture as television and movies.  We drink it in everyday.

While you're drinking in all those tweets and YouTube videos, why not take a cue from the social media world and create a social brand?

One of the best moves you can make for your brand is to let it shine brightly in the virtual world.

The first step in creating a great online personal brand is to take an inventory. What comes up when you do a Google search with your name in parenthesis?

Analyze the search results. Would you be pleased if your employer saw everything in that search? What about prospective employers? If you can "fix" some bad brand messages, do so asap. Think of the pictures you have on Facebook, for example. Change any that send bad brand messages. If there's not much showing up in your search, then you've got an opportunity to enhance your brand.

First step, start a Twitter page or a blog.  But, be very very selective about what you say. Think of the brand trait(s) you want associated with your name.  Only post on your blog or tweet about a single topic that will help your audience associate you with one thing. You want your online brand to be professional and focused.

If you're a marketer, don't blog about classic VW cars; blog about marketing. If you're a software engineer, don't tweet about politics, tweet about APIs and SaaS.

Zero in on one topic and one brand trait. And most importantly, imagine the president of your company is reading every word you write! He or she might be! 

Next post, we'll look at further steps you can take to help your online personal brand really stand out.


Ten Tips for Enhancing Your Brand: Tip 4

Brands are not known for twenty different traits. They zero in a select few or even just one.

An easy way to enhance your brand is to be associated with a single idea.  It's one of the basic principles of branding.  For example, think of Mark Zuckerberg. What do you think of? One idea: facebook

That idea can be positive or negative: think of the concept we associate with Martin Luther King Jr. or Ghandi or Thomas Edison or Henry Ford. But being associated with a single idea can go the other way as well. Think Saddam Hussein or Bernie Madoff.

If you asked your colleagues, "What is the one idea I am passionate about?", what do you think their response would be?  If you get a lot of "hmmm...I'm not really sure," then your brand needs a major shot in the arm.

Do a little soul searching. What do you really really like to do at work? What one thing turns you on and gets you really jazzed?

It might be designing PowerPoint decks, or crunching numbers, or coming up with new sales strategies or being an advocate for customers. Define the one thing you are passionate about.

Now, let colleagues know that this is your thing!  If you are a customer advocate, talk about it every major chance you get. Publicize your thing. Not in an arrogant way, but do let colleagues know that you are passionate about this idea.

It will take time and repetition on your part, but after a while, you and this idea will become one. But most importantly, don't just talk. DO it!

You'll get associated with your idea more by doing and acting than by talking.

Ten Tips for Enhancing Your Brand: Tip 3

Enhancing your brand can be as simple as finding a unique way to describe yourself.

How many times do you get asked, "so, what do you do?" It's a common enough question, but how you answer can say volumes about your brand.

Find a Unique Way to Describe What You Do
Most people describe their job in pretty dull terms.  They take the job description listed in the company directory and simply regurgitate it. "I'm a software engineer at company X," or "I'm the Director of Operations for X organization."  Not exactly memorable.

When someone asks me what I do, I respond, "I'm a butterfly killer."  Then I stop. Invariably, they'll look a bit surprised...then I hit them with my job description.  It never fails to make me memorable.

Jeremy Epstein also grabs people, and prospects with his job title. He's a "Marketing Navigator." 

Bottom line, if you describe what you do in the same way as everyone else, how are you differentiating? You're not!  You are a commodity. Just like a product on  a shelf, no different from the others. No distinction.

Software engineer? PR manager? Marketing professional? There are millions of people who would define themselves the same way.

Break away from the crowd, spend some time creating  a unique way to make your job description stand out. Your brand will thank you.


Ten Tips for Enhancing Your Brand: Tip 2

You can enhance your brand by cultivating traits or eliminating bad ones.  Let's tackle a brand killer: definitely a trait you should kill off: complaining.

Call it whining or kvetching or bellyaching or grumbling.


Call it what you will, anyone in an organization who complains or whines may as well take their brand and smear mud all over it.

New project that will cut into your free time. Do you complain to co-workers?
Company initiative you don't like. Do you whine about it to colleagues?
Additional meetings with a difficult client.  Do you grumble to the account manager?

These are just the everyday realities of the business world. Keep your eye on the prize and stop whining!

We all have extra things put on our plate, but the real measure of a brand is what you do when you are overloaded.  The brand on the way out will make a big deal about extra responsibilities. The brand that is on the way up will take it in stride.

Best brand advice: whatever is dished out, don't get the reputation of a complainer.  Take it in stride, your brand will be the better for it.


Brand Lessons from a Master

The passing of a legend often gives us pause. Elizabeth Taylor's passing is certainly no exception. The death of the iconic movie star offers us a chance to reexamine one of her greatest skills: understanding the art of personal branding. 

No matter what field you are in: technology, government, sales, or retail, there are timeless personal brand lessons we can learn from this icon of the screen.

1.    Always show a consistent brand.  Every time we saw Taylor, she displayed the same classy image. No in-between.  Did you ever see her in curlers and a house-dress? Your brand needs to do the same. Every time you have a chance to show a public facing, keep your brand on track.

2.    Surround yourself with things that amplify your brand.  Elizabeth Taylor oozed with class. Her brand amplifiers? Diamonds, furs, Dom Perignon, and jet setters. Think of your office/cubicle, your briefcase, smartphone, and clothes. Do they help publicize your brand or detract from it?

3. Surround yourself with people who amplify your brand. Think of the men Taylor associated with: Malcom Forbes, Rock Hudson, Richard Burton. We are known by who we associate with.  At your organization, who do you associate with? Do they help or hurt your brand?

4. Align with a cause.  Taylor was a tireless champion for those afflicted with AIDS.  She became one of the earliest AIDS activists and was known for her outspoken generosity. What cause are you actively promoting?  Don't jump on a charity bandwagon just to get exposure, but don't be shy about aligning with a charity that is in sync with your brand attributes.

5. Don't overexpose your brand.  Taylor knew the trick to good personal branding: let them want more of you. She did not overexpose her brand. Think of Charlie Sheen right now, so many many people are saying "Enough already, Charlie!" Don't flood your organization with your brand output.  A selected and targeted brand campaign is best.

We can thank Elizabeth Taylor for a truckload of great movies and super brand lessons. So curl up tonight  with  a glass of champagne, some popcorn, watch "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and toast a great brand and a great lady.


More Branding Lessons From Charlie Sheen

The lessons from Charlie Sheen just keep coming and coming...and sadly, so do his rants.

So, let's continue with a few "what NOT to do" personal branding thoughts from the ex-star of Two and a Half Men.

This post we'll concentrate on planning your communication at work.

Monitor and Plan What You Say

One of the biggest mistakes someone can make as they develop their professional brand is to speak off the cuff. That's just what Charlie is suggesting he will do in his upcoming tour. "Sheen Plans to Riff During his Upcoming Torpedo Tour" is a headline appearing this week in media outlets.

From a brand perspective, not a smart move.  Few of us can be spontaneously brilliant and speak off the cuff with clarity and conviction. 

In your professional communications, the simplest way to ensure your brand stays on message is to pre think what you will say and have two or three main points. Make them, back them up, and then be quiet.

This can be your communication in your emails, in tweets, in water cooler conversations, in meetings or in presentations. The key is, your brand stays on message and does not ramble.  And pre thinking the two or three points you want to address helps ensure your brand will NOT take a tumble like Mr. Sheen's. Off the cuff sometimes can mean "off brand."

Stay tuned for more workplace brand lessons.


Charlie Sheen as Your Personal Brand Coach?

Can Charlie Sheen be your new personal branding coach?

If you use him as model of what NOT to do or say, then yes.  There are many brand lessons to be gleaned from the former star of Two and a Half Men.  

Clearly, no one wants to emulate Mr. Sheen's current communications or his erratic behaviors. But think like a contrarian and his behavior can be an eye opener for your brand at work.

Every time you open your mouth, your colleagues judge you and your customers form impressions.  That’s why professionals concerned about their brands in the workplace are very careful about what they say and how they say it. Sadly for Charlie, this basic premise went over his head.

So what can we learn from Charlie Sheen's behaviors?

1. Don't talk about your employer. For Mr. Sheen, comments about his producer and CBS will not earn him fans at the network. Lesson for the rest of us?  Never comment negatively on any aspect of your employer or supervisor.  Even talking to "trusted" colleagues can be risky. You never know if those comments will find their way back to your supervisor's ear.

2. Keep work comments OFF of Twitter and your blog. Sheen is tweeting away. Millions of followers (no doubt just to see the next crazy rant). If you tweet about work or comment on your employer on your blog, at some point you might regret it. Keep in mind that what you tweet today will follow you for years and years to come.  When a new prospective employer Googles you ten years from now, do you want that rant to be what they see?

3. Don't talk about your personal stuff.   Charlie Sheen tells the world he sleeps with his two live-in "goddesses." This might make for great tabloid headlines, but YOUR personal behaviors should not be fodder for the water cooler. The bender you were on, or how you painted your face in the colors of your favorite soccer team might make for great laughs over a beer, but it won't get you into the executive suite.

Sadly for Charlie Sheen, his personal brand is forever tarnished. The only thing he will now be remembered for is acting crazy and deranged. Remember that the next time you want to rant at work!


Ten Tips for Enhancing Your Brand: Tip 1

Universal Brand Traits
Are there brand traits that are universally accepted as brand enhancers in business?

This is a first in a series of posts that will answer that question. And the answer is YES!

No matter what your organization, your field or your position, there are certain professional traits that any organization would find desirable.

Is Your Brand Accountable?
This first post is dedicated to ACCOUNTABILITY.
Accountability is simple to define: responsibility.

We ALL take responsibility when things go well and when we succeed in a task or project.

But what about when you fail? What happens when the project is over-budget and not on goal?  Do you run to the CXO and stand accountable?  You should!

Accountability has three-parts:
1. Own-up to your mistake or failure (here is where your true grit shows).
2. Explain why this is unacceptable and how it will never happen again.
3. Outline the steps you're taking to ensure this mistake will not be repeated.

That's an accountable brand! Stay tuned for other brand enhancers...


Risk Taking

Don't you love them?  The Risk-takers.
They innovate, succeed and make the world move.
Sir Richard Branson, Steve Jobs,  CoCo Chanel, Ford's Alan Mulally.  All great personal brands, innovators and risk-takers.

We admire about them...want to be like them. But few of us realize that you don't have to walk a tightrope or skydive to be considered a risk taker.

Being known as someone who is willing to take risks is a great boost to your personal brand in your organization. But be careful! I'd add the adjective "calculated" in front of risk-taker.  Just taking risks without balance or forethought is not's recklessness. And that's a word no one wants associated with their personal brand.

What is a Risk-Taker?
Do you eat the same thing for breakfast everyday? Wheaties with fruit, decaf coffee and a donut? You might not be a risk-taker at heart. So what makes a risk-taker tick? According to Tom Peters, it's someone who, "tests fast, fails fast, and adjusts fast."

But a risk-taker is also:
1. Open to change.
2. Not concerned with what people will think.
3. An analyzer: weighing the pros and cons.

In our next few posts, we'll look at risk-taking in more detail, but in the meantime, stir it up a bit: go for the bagel instead of donuts and give green tea a try! 


It's a Networked World

Networking. It's all about Connecting, Linking, and Reaching Out.

Networking is one of the most important  keys to advancing your personal brand in your organization.  Every time you make a connection, your brand gets elevated.

We all know that getting our name out there in Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites is important.  So is building up Google hits.

But what can you do within your organization to develop your brand? There are a number of ways you can make your brand stand out in your working world.

Three Tips for Publicizing Your Brand at Work

1. Volunteer. When a project needs a coordinator or someone to take on  extra work, come to the plate and volunteer for the duties!  Your supervisor will certainly take notice, and many projects can span across departments, so it's a good way to get other units in your company to know who you are are what you are capable of. By networking across units, you extend your brand company wide, not just within your department.

2. Be Proactive. Actively seek out individuals outside of your group or unit for conversations and interactions.  This can be at a lunch break, around the water cooler, at company events or meetings, or even in the parking lot.  Take the time to introduce yourself and give a snapshot of your role in the organization. Friendly encounters can lead to solid business results.

3. Ask About Others.  One of the best networking tips is to show an interest in someone else. Actively inquire about a project a colleague is working on, or ask how a meeting with a client went. The key to asking questions is to then offer to help. Asking simply shows you are interested; offering assistance shows you are committed.

One of the keys to networking at work is to keep your name top of mind. The more you reach out, the more your brand stays in the corporate  limelight!


What If You Had No Legs?

Where do you find inspiration for your personal brand?

In my hometown of Philadelphia you don't have to look very far. It's on the river that runs along Philly's exterior.

There, rowers with no legs, or with multiple sclerosis or spina bifida, rowed in the country's oldest rowing event for disabled rowers, the Bayada Regatta.

Want inspiration? Look at 19 year old Kaitlyn Willard who has been in a wheelchair half her young life, or Oksana Masters, who has no legs, or 50 year old Laura Schwanger who has multiple sclerosis. Each of these courageous athletes rowed in the Bayada Regatta and inspired the world.

The Brand Trait of Champions

What's the personal brand trait that each of these fantastic athletes share? One could argue that they have many, many traits to admire, but in the end it's determination that sees them all through.

They have their eye on a prize and they train and push themselves to the limit to make it happen. For them, it's not just the prize of winning, but in some cases, it's just the chance to compete. How many of us have that level of will power, strength and determination? If you want to see determination personified, look at Melissa Wheeler.

Spina bifida (a disease that leaves the spinal cord exposed) left Melissa confined to a wheelchair. Her ability to maneuver and get around even in a wheelchair is a Herculean task. It's so difficult that she requires a therapy dog (a Labrador retriever named Sasha) to retrieve things for her and even hands over her wallet to pay for items at stores. But there she was, on the river rowing.

The next time you feel like giving up on a project, or want to throw in the towel, give your personal brand a hard smack to the face. Just think of all the athletes like Melissa Wheeler and the determination that keeps them going every day. Pure inspiration.


Brand Yourself as Irresistible

Want to be irresistible? No, not in the way that first came to your mind! How about as a presenter?

No matter what field you are in, presentations are the lifeblood of business today, and your ability to present can directly impact your brand and career. How can you extend your brand when you are presenting? By becoming the type of presenter audiences find irresistible. Here are five principles I've seen work again and again to help you develop an irresistible presentation brand.

The Five Irresistible Presentation Principles

1. Make It All About the Audience

The very first words out of your mouth should pull the audience in and engage them. Many presenters begin with thank you's and introductions and background information. Get audience-centered right away. All of the "chit chat" can come a little later in your opening. Audiences don't really care about the presenter; they care about themselves. Think about solving their problems, inspiring them, and opening up new ideas to help them. Make it all about them!

One way to bond with the audience is to ask an intriguing question. Not a superficial question like, '"How many of you are enjoying the conference so far?" Pose a question that addresses a concern they have, or a problem they will soon be facing. By asking this audience-centered question at the top of your presentation, your listeners have a reason to keep tuning in to the rest of your speech.

2. Create a "Hook"

Very few audiences can resist a good "hook." Tease them…get their attention…make them interested and force them to get involved.The opening question you ask can be the hook, or you can create the hook after your question. Get creative and be different. A hook is NOT simply stating, "For the next 20 minutes we'll be looking at innovative selling techniques." A hook might be a relevant and compelling story, or an irresistible proposition: "Let's start off with a quiz: what does selling to enterprise customers have to do with Steven Spielberg movies?" or "What does an iPod have in common with your customer's objections?"

3. Turn Your Passion On

It's hard to resist speakers who are excited and passionate about their topics. Audiences feed off your energy. Especially in the first few minutes, find a way to "turn yourself on." Put all your efforts into demonstrating your passion for the topic. That means your voice, hand gestures, how you walk and move and even your facial expressions. The total you. If you are not passionate about your topic, change it or don't speak at all.

4.Tell a Story

Very few people can resist a really good story. Think of it. Most of us can remember almost all of the fairy tales and stories from our childhood. Why? Because stories captivate us. If you want your audience to bond with you, feel connected and remember your presentation, tell them a story. You can open with a story, build in stories as examples throughout your presentation or create one large meta-story that frames your whole presentation. A well-crafted and well-told story is irresistible for any audience.

5. End With Emotion

Begin strong and end strong. If you made your opening all about the audience, do the same for your ending. Reach out to them with an emotional pull. Get inspirational. Challenge the audience to go beyond the norm. Offer them hope or make them feel good about what they do and who they are. Even in business presentations on somewhat technical topics, you can still pull your audience in. Leave the audience feeling uplifted and they'll brand you as a very powerful speaker.


How PPT Can Kill Your Brand

What's the very worst PowerPoint slide you've ever seen? My guess is if we had a dollar for each bad slide we've seen, we could bail out GM, Ford, Bank of America and the country of China.

Sadly, slides can be pretty boring and sometimes, just downright awful.Think of a slide that imitates Word and is just line and line of text, or a slide with so many effects it just swirls and twirls forever. OK. We all agree we've seen some pretty bad slides in our day. So what do bad slides have to do with your personal brand? A lot!

Your Slide is a Mirror of Your Mind
Presentations can make or break a brand or a career and leave lasting impressions. And the look and feel of your slides is a critical part of that impression: the slides are an extension of you and your professional brand. What are they saying about you?
  • Your overly wordy PPT slide is screaming out to the audience, "This is how my speaker thinks and communicates: blah, blah, blah."
  • The chart-riddled slide with fifty boxes and lines is saying, "My speaker has a very complex way of seeing the world."
  • Your swirling, twirling, flying-in and SO full of special effects slide is saying, "Hey, my speaker just learned animations and is trying to impress you...and failing badly."
What is the image you want to portray? Sophisticated, intelligent, insightful? Design slides with that end goal in mind. Do you want to be seen as collaborative and inclusive? Your slides can reflect that. Innovative and creative? Develop a slide deck that not only contains an innovation story, but one that looks innovative as well.

Worst Slide of All Time

If you want my vote for the absolute worst slide of all time, we need to look no further than our government (couldn't you have guessed this one?).

I submit Ranking House Republican Member Congressman Kevin Brady's chart on the current heath-care initiative as the worst chart I
have ever seen, bar none. Warning: do NOT click on the link. You'll end up seeing the chart blown up, and I guarantee you, you'll reach for an aspirin...or hard liquor.

Here's the brand tie in. Forget how you stand on health-care, think about what this slide says about Congressman Brady and how he thinks, manages, sees the world, and communicates. Scary!

Here's an even scarier thought: OMG! Did out tax dollars pay for this?


A Mickey Mantel Brand

Today, 13 August, is the anniversary of the day Mickey Mantle died. That got me thinking about what this sport legend's brand is, and how we can all take some personal branding lessons from this baseball great.

Mantle, although dead for over a decade, still holds the records for the most World Series home runs (18), RBIs (40), runs (42), walks (43), extra-base hits (26), and total bases(123).

WOW! That's some record! So, taking a page out of Mickey's playbook, how are your hitting home runs for your personal brand?

Do You Have a World Series Personal Brand?

1. Are You hitting Home Runs?
What have you done for your team or organization lately that would be the equivalent of a home run? Did you push yourself to land that really big account? Did you apply innovative strategies to your assigned project so you came in on time and under budget? Did you volunteer for a tough assignment, knowing you could ace it?

2. What is your RBI? An RBI is simply when you're at bat, is a run scored? It could be yours or a team mate's. What did you do to help your team land a deal or complete an initiative or advance their agenda? Get collaborative. Use as many collaborative technologies as you can to help create an open environment that allows you to reach out and assist team members to bring home the prize.

3. How many times did you walk? In baseball, the pitcher throws four balls and you get to advance to first base. Sweet. But in your company, walking might not be that great for your brand. How many times have you "walked", i.e. not proactively done anything, but gotten some advancement anyway? Think about how you would feel if someone "walked' into a promotion or a raise, or a public acknowledgment. If you want your brand to really stand for something, take a very proactive stance on getting ahead, and leave the "walking" for those who are not World Series material.

World-class players like Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson helped define the great sport of baseball and their brands by always playing by the rules, not whining when things got tough and most of all, they executed and brought home the gold for their teams and their brands. Great lessons for all of us seeking to advance our personal brands.


Going to the Dogs: Canine Lessons in Personal Branding

This week a study was released that showed how the average dog is as smart as a human two-year old.

Hmmm. That means that dogs, like their terrible-two human counterparts, can learn between 160 and 250 words AND do simple math! Not bad for a creature who
licks himself, carries fleas, sucks fur-balls, and drools after eating.

It got me thinking about canin
e attributes and human brand traits. Are there any canine lessons we can apply to our personal brand development? Here are my choices for the top three breeds to emulate to enhance and develop our human personal brands.

The Top Three Breeds for Branding Lessons

Border Collie: fast and agile. There is no better Frisbee-catcher in the world than a border collie--they're the dogs that win all those agility competitions. Lessons for human brands? Be fast. That does not mean you're the first one who sprints to the coffee room when the Dunkin' Donuts arrive. It means be the team member who gets the job done with alacrity, does not waste time, and brings the project home before the deadline.

German Shepherd: loyal. Known for their loyalty to both individuals and family, the German Shepherd would die for his master. In most companies, loyalty to a manager or an organization is considered critical. Wave the company flag and never be overly critical of the brand that pays your salary! Let people know you are the Rin Tin Tin of you team. (OK, Boomers and most Gen Xers might know this canine great, but for you Gen Yers, here's a link to the world's most famous Shep: Rin Tin Tin.)

Standard Poodle: super-intelligent. OK, I'm not talking about the frou-frou standard poodle who has puff balls on its head and tail (how could anyone do that to an animal?). But supposedly, the poodle is THE Einstein of the dog world. What can you learn from this canine brainiac? Let people see how brilliant you are. Tap into your creativity...get innovative in your approaches, but the key is to let your managers see and hear your insights. Speak-up in meetings and let your ideas go public. BTW, keep your hair style more like a Shep than a Parisian Puff Ball.

Take a cue from our canine friends and make the sultry months of
August and September your time to polish up your brand and really give the "Dog Days" of summer new meaning.