NOTES, INSPIRATIONS + MOTIVATION


Your Brand is Built By Association

Smart Money magazine’s September issue shared a fantastic fact published by Careerbuilder.com.  It stated that 63% of hiring managers did not hire a candidate because of what appeared on a social website.  They were not referring to a blog the candidate wrote, not even a You Tube video or a publicized chat gone badly.  They were referring to pictures and comments posted about the candidate from someone they knew – like a son or daughter, friend, cousin, mom, sister or brother.

Comments like: “she always lies”; “I can’t believe he got the whole meal paid by his company”; “she drinks too much”; “he cheats at everything”; “my mom was wasted last night and drove home”; and “he just brings supplies home” have deterred hiring professionals from ever contacting the candidate.  The study also included negative feedback from fraternity or sorority parties found on the web, to fishing trip photos and personal videos online.

Believe it or not people are “searching” you on-line when they first meet you.  They’re seeing what comes up whether it’s you or not and whether you posted it or not.  It’s online “identity theft” of a different sort and the time to start managing it is now.

Personal Brand Association

It was almost ten years ago when Tom Peters wrote the article, A Brand Called You.

Before then and still, even in some circles, branding is seen as something only for large corporations, companies and products.  And, that’s a myth.  Organizations and professionals understand the importance of reputation management and the ability to differentiate themselves from others.  I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “it’s not what you know, it is who you know”.  Let me take that one further, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know and who knows you WELL.”  Whether it’s companies, organizations or for profits, people become involved because of other people.

Being built by association happens online and offline.  Managing your own brand means managing, how people describe you when they introduce you face to face and monitoring what’s being said about you in cyberspace.

So, first let’s start with your online brand management.  Take the time to “Google” yourself right now.  Put your name in quotes, (i.e. “John Smith”) in the Google search bar.  Check out what comes up.  Is it you?  Other forms of you?  Or, someone totally different?  Look not only at website – checkout images, too.

Next, sign up for “Google Alerts”.  It’s a free on-line service that will email you every time your name is used on the web.  You want to know when your name appears anywhere on the web immediately.  You can then actively deal with it and lower its ranking on the Google search.

Most of the time, the first three pages of a Google search are the ones most often read.  After the first three pages, interest wanes in searching the person further.  Your job is to make sure that the first three pages are the real you and that you “push further down the list” anyone or anything else listed about you.

There are several ways to do that.  You can hire a service to clean up or restore your on-line reputation such as reputationdefender.com or defendmyname.com yet if you set up a time, for example once a week, you can do it yourself.

Here’s how to do that.  First, create a blog.  There are many blog sites that are free to nominal cost to use.  The one I highly recommend is wordpress.  It’s easy to navigate and there’s no software to download.  Each blog post is seen as a page on the web.  The more pages that appear with your name on it the more the search engines pick up your name and the higher you list on Google.

What would you blog about?  What is of most interest to you that you value and are passionate about?  If your seeking place in the world of work, then write about what you’re good at, ask questions online and post information and answers shared from others, even posting conversations and interviews that you have with mentors or potential employers will get you far in both the digital and analog world.

Post comments on other blogs, too.  Find some that are of interest to you and your area of expertise and subscribe to the RSS feed so that you’ll stay in the know of what are the most up to date conversations.  Cocomment.com is a useful tool that automatically tracks your on-line footsteps and provided reciprocal links between your blog, those you like to comment on and those who like to comment on your blog.  Make sure you respond with your real name so that when you name is searched these are the type of comments that will appear.  If you’ll set aside a certain time to do this, you’ll see that you’ll start doing this consistently and make a significant impact to your online identity.  For example, I post on one blog every night.  I know that I will read something online every night so it’s a part of my routine to post a comment on one when I’m reading.

Review books on amazon.com.  Again, utilize your real name. Review only books that are of interest to you such as self improvement, cooking, design or comedy.  Those associations with books that are consider providing expertise in a field that your interested will associate you with the good reputation of those publications.

From Online to Offline Connections

Offline is a little bit different because you have to show up and can’t just post to develop your brand face to face.

First, I recommend that you look at who you know already.  Most people think that in order to develop and get their brand known by others that they need to immediately begin “gripping, grinning and grazing”.  When I’m coaching a client, my first response is to not go meet new people until we take care of who we already know.

I call this the database cull.  It’s looking through and making sure all the information that you possess on someone is accurate and up to date. From email to phone number and addresses, spend the time gathering information on who you are already “in the know” with.

Secondly, look at what you know about each of them.  Do you know where they spend their free time?  Do you know where they work?  Who they know? Where they spend their free time?  Wayne Baker, in his pivotal book, Achieving Success Through Social Capital, found that each person knows about 250 other people.  Knowing this, when you know more information about someone you know who they know and who they influence.  When you’re out there looking for assistance on a project or seeking employment, doesn’t it make sense to be introduced by someone that person you want to meet already knows, someone they trust?

Borrowing From Another’s Credibility

I like to start my connection with people much higher up by borrowing from the credibility and the reputation of the other person.  It saves time and yields better return.

The only caveat is that people will not introduce you to people who know, like and trust them unless they have “know, like and trust with you”.  In order for them to have that with you, they must sample your character and competence.  And, in order for them to do that you must know what makes you so unique.  You must know what your vision is?  What you value?  What your purpose is? And, what you’re passionate about.

In order, to move a relationship from merely visibility to credibility and then eventually to profitability you must know what makes you stand out and is your unique talent.  That is where the branding process is extremely key because extracting what is authentically you will help you know what makes you unique.

Have you ever seen those long and lavish mission statements on a plaque of the corporate wall?  Or, inscribed on a company’s stationery?  Other popular places are on the back of business cards, on websites, brochures, and annual reports.  Yet, it’s the person who is “belly to belly” with the customer that is that company.  It’s not the corporate crafted mission statement that defines that company’s image.  It is the stock clerk, the teller, the barista, the ticket taker and the sales representative who has direct contact with their clients.  Even in the non-profit world, many will become involved for the cause, yet the majority become involved because of a person – either someone they know, someone affected or a special someone who asked for their help.

And, as organizations are built by association, so are you.  I believe that having great command of the “rules of engagement” and a good understanding your core value will help you put together a brand communication plan that engages others.

No Fail : Own Your Connections

Your connections begin in your own database.  When I’m asked about how to “own your game”, or dominate your niche, the first place I begin asking about is what do you know about your database?

Even those born within this last minute, already have a handful of people in their personal database.  From the mother that carried them, to the physician that delivered them, to the nurses in the delivery room, the pediatrician and the nurses in the nursery – the newborn even know somebody!

How can you make the most of who you are already connected to?

First, clean your list.  Start going through to see whose email, phone number, cell phone, address, and employment information is up-to-date and who is not.  Your first focus is to make sure you have the most current, effective information for those people who already know you.

Second, grade your list.  No, I’m not talking about judging people yet I am talking about categorizing them in a way that makes sense for you.  Who really knows you well?  I mean they have spoken positively on your behalf, they know your hopes, dreams and aspirations.  They may even know the good, the bad and the ugly!  They know you.  They know what you do for a living.  How many close contacts can actually say that?  Often we’re connected with those who “kind of, sort of” know what we do so they could never repeat it to anyone or effectively explain it or even speak to a prospective employer or prospect about how you can help them.

Start first with those who really know you well.  And, then work through your list seeing who you really know.  Again, use the same criteria.- do you know their hopes, dreams and aspirations?  Do you know their strengths?  Do you know what they really do for a living (not just their title)?

Third, of those who really know you – what gaps do you see in the information you have on them?  Maybe you don’t even know if they’re currently married, divorced or single.  Maybe you don’t know where they graduated from?  Or, you might have their work number yet you don’t have their email address or cell phone number.  Focus on where you have gaps and make a plan on garnering some of that information.  It might be that you’ll find out at the next ball game or happy hour get together.  Whenever it is, make sure that you flow your information gathering into the conversation and not sound like you’re going through a checklist.  To do so, would surely shut down conversation.

Lastly, who on that list really supports you?  They have been “your brand advocate” all along.  They cheer you on and sing your praises!  Do any of them fall in the following categories?

  • People who have mentored you?
  • People you have mentored or taught?
  • Former managers, supervisors or instructors?
  • And, yes, even co-workers?

These are the foundation of your brand advocates and you must identify them first to own your connections.

Meet the Dean of Innovation – Jeff DeGraff

Too many people who should never be out of work are out of work.  What if you treat yourself and your personal brand like a business? What if you were a business with shareholders, a board of directors and budgets?  How would you operate differently?  Or, as Jeff DeGraff posed, “how would you differentiate who you are?”

Your personal brand is what makes you unique so of course, I enjoyed every moment of the interview/conversation with Jeff.   He’s enthusiastic about how rapidly the world, the employment, communication and engagement environment changes.  His newest book, Innovation YOU, focuses on how personal brands can use a four-step process to becoming “new and improved”.

First, according to DeGraff, you must rethink innovation.  See it as a bridge you walkover.  Instead, we tend to “hang out” with people who are similar.  Innovation requires deviation.  In innovation you run experiments, diversified experiments that are small with low risks, quite like venture capitalists often do.

Then we need to revise our approach.  We all have a dominant logic and often that taints the window with which we see the world.  Through that lens, we will never see some of the things we need to, to get a different perspective.

DeGraff outlines four things to break that:

1.  Have high quality targets. Seek out people who are “deep domain masters” which he defines as people who have spent their life learning their trade.

2.  Focus on being active.  If you operate in reactive mode, you’ll be a victim of the universe. Seek out opportunities for constructive conflict.  Look for people who have an expertise in an area yet a deep difference in the way they think from your or others you connect with yet have the genuine spirit and focus to do something and create something constructive.

3. Take multiple shots at a goal. The classic mistake is for people to gather too much data.  The information gathering phase is often a form of resistance of its own.  They delay doing something because they’re “still collecting” information.  Most people don’t make room in their life for variation.

Innovation is not an amateur sport.

4. Learn what works.  Actively do after action reviews.  Likening it to walking up a mountain, he shared that as you get smarter you cover as much ground yet ascend more.

Maria: What’s the greatest challenge you see personal brands encounter?

Jeff:  People don’t like change. And, that’s because change is moving away from something. People don’t like to leave something.  Innovation is not change.  Innovation is moving towards something.

Personal brands must undertake the arduous task of discovering what is unique about them.  What is their deep domain experience? Where are they in the learning process?

Often you can tell where someone is at, by just looking at their business card.  If you can’t tell what they do from their business card, then they don’t know.

To discover your uniqueness, ask yourself these questions:

1. What gives you energy? What takes your energy?

2. What are you really good at? What are you really not?

3. What are you pulled towards?

4. What is it about you that you are masterful at?

Digging even deeper, DeGraff poses these questions:

1.  Is it valuable?

2.  Is it rare?

3.  What is it about you that is difficult to imitate?

4.  Are you organized to take advantage of the first three questions?

I had the great opportunity of connecting with Jeff for this interview which was originally published in the Personal Branding Magazine.