- Who & Why?
In Part I of this blog, we discussed the concept of signal versus noise and the questions to think about when you are seeking branding collaborative advice. Today, let’s look at what you can do to use noise to make sure your brand shines.
Growing up, I used to get frustrated when I was trying to communicate, what I felt was, a really important point. Someone would come along and interrupt me and start talking about a useless topic. I felt like I had to defend myself and my topic by getting louder and yelling. I was skinny and small and my front two teeth were missing for a couple of years (felt like an eternity). So who was going to take this little girl seriously? I felt brand-less!
As you probably guessed, my yelling never worked well. The person interrupting me (noise) drowned out my message and specialness (signal). Looking back, what I think I was missing was a way to really distinguish myself from the noise of the situation.
I see many professionals do the same things with their branding. They are trying to compete with the noise. What if instead, you chose to not compete with the noise? What if you instead stuck to your signal and message and really differentiated your brand?
How, you ask? Here’s what to avoid:
1. Talk about what you do for a living– while what you do for a living is important, it is not competitive, necessarily. In other words, everyone can tell us what a fantastic lawyer, dentist, (fill-in-the-blank professional) they are. Who cares? At the end of the day, we know you can get the job done. Don’t bore me with the “hows” until I ask. If you do, you just become part of the noise.
2. Thinking you’re not interesting as a person– most of us assume our boring lives are just that– boring. Why would others care about our stories of childhood, triumphs or failures? Don’t they want to hire us purely for our substantive know-how? I hear so many clients say this. Guess what? They all have personal stories that fascinate me. Let your audience be the judge as to how interesting you are as a person. Don’t fall for the trap. Don’t become part of the noise. Be the signal. Tell me about your personal stories.
3. Let your ego rule– Our ego plays games with us during our highs (“I’m so fantastic and smarter than others, I just beat out 3 other people for a high-paying job”) and our lows (“I am the worst lawyer, dentist, financial adviser, human in the world. I can’t seem to get prospects to become my fans and hire me. I stink”). Anytime you let your ego run away with your thoughts during your highs or your lows, your giving in to the noise and forgetting about your true signal. Your true signal is that you are a unique and fabulous human worthy of the best. You’re a top-notch brand. End of story.
If any part of this worked for you, please share this post with others and be a contribution to them!
Ah the holidays are here. That time of fun and frolic. And madness. You may be a rare bird like me who really enjoys the holidays. However, you may be like the majority of the population and have deep angst around the holidays. This isn’t a blog about therapy, so we won’t delve into what your issues may involve (ie, family). For that, I highly recommend we all regularly see a licensed and qualified counselor who can hear us out and offer support and guidance.
Whatever your angst around holiday time, one thing is for sure: if we can master our own internal control regulator, we will be a much happier and effective brand.
Looking back, as a kid growing up in Indiana, I guess I always loved the holidays. It was festive, fun, filled with sugary foods and lights. Plus, I just adored everything Santa related. I still recall my world crumbling when I found out the truth about Santa. But the holidays were, and still are, filled with one more thing: frantic, hurried rushing.
As a practicing attorney, I often felt at a loss around the holidays because of the time factor. Not only did the work load not get less, but the holiday festivities (aka “obligatons”) became more! How was my brand to survive November and December?!
Long ago, I took a hard look deep inside and realized it was all up to me. You see, it’s all about control. I realized that I was desperately trying to control my life and everyone else around me to survive. The end result got me the exact opposite of what I wanted: a crazy brand where others saw a lunatic AND I never enjoyed it.
One of my staff members said it just the other day- she’s overwhelmed with her volunteer obligations during the holidays. I asked her why she doesn’t ask for other volunteers to help her out. She flat out said it’s because she likes to be in control. Let’s give it up for her deep self-awareness and honesty. She gets a gold star in my world for sure.
The next step to help her brand out would be to do something about the need to control. It clearly didn’t leave her with a happy and effective brand. How?
Here are my top three tips for keeping your brand in tip top shape during the holidays:
- Lookie, Lookie– We can’t control anything except ourselves. So take a deep and honest look at what I call your internal control regulator. How much are you “in control” of your life? That of others? Is it really working for you and your brand or are you fooling yourself? How to know, you ask? Are you happy with yourself? If not, then it’s time to consider choosing to look at your life differently.
- Give It Up– You really can’t do it all by yourself. If you think you can, just know you won’t do it well by yourself. If you got some help, then perhaps things would get done better AND you would be happier with a better brand. More importantly, why do you think you can do it all better than others? What happened in your life that set your internal control regulator so high and led you to want to control everything external, too? If this question makes you squirm, that’s wonderful. Stay with it and squirm until you find an answer.
- Be Curious– If nothing I say even remotely makes you want to take a look inside yourself, why is that? Ignorant brands are failing brands. No question about it.
Ten years ago I realized that after thirteen years of practicing securities law, I was done. I knew there had to be a better way for me to be of service to professionals and those around me. I no longer felt the joy I once had about being a lawyer. I was no longer of service the way I wanted to be.
Eight years ago, I realized that my natural talents (and real passion and joy) was in developing brands for others. In other words, how can others put forth their natural talents and abilities in a way such that they shine and attract business and positive attention with ease and grace. No resistance. Ever.
So I called the business “personal branding” because I really didn’t know what else to call it. What I do isn’t traditional marketing and it doesn’t involve products, so only the term “personal” made sense when it came to branding.
About four years ago, the term “personal branding” became really hot. Everyone realized that, post-recession, they needed to define themselves differently- and better. As a result, the term “branding” started gaining more press and usage.
The problem was that everyone (and their brother) who had anything to do with marketing (of anything) started to say they are experts at personal brand development and branding, in general. I was clear on what I was doing, but I began getting a lot of confused people asking me some very good questions. They couldn’t distinguish the real branding experts from the fly by night wanna-be businesses that were after the fast buck until the trend ended.
Here’s the deal. Personal branding and branding are not trends. The concept will never end, nor should it. After all, if you want to figure out how to attract business (or a date or a friend) to you with ease, then you need to figure out your brand.
Here’s the problem. It’s a concept called signal versus noise. The brilliant lawyer, Patrick Lamb, who runs Valorem Law Group, writes about this concept in his popular blog at patrickjlamb.com. I had the pleasure of meeting Patrick a few weeks ago when he was a speaker at the ABA Lead Law event I helped organize.
Patrick explains signal versus noise in the following manner: Signal to noise ratio refers informally to the ratio of useful information (signal) to false or irrelevant data in a conversation or exchange (noise). Why this happens is that if someone is putting out there an attractive message with merit (signal), then others try to drown out (or detract attention from what’s right/has merit) with lots of noise that is useless. This method works because it causes distraction and confusion.
What does this mean for you? If you are working on defining and developing your brand so that you present yourself in the best light possible, you’ll need the assistance of a branding expert to serve your objective partner, consultant and expert. Don’t allow the noise of non-branding folks to confuse you.
Here are the top 3 questions to ask anyone who claims to be a personal branding, or branding, expert. If they can’t answer the questions well, then consider that they are likely all noise and no signal:
- How long have you been in the business of personal branding/branding and WHY?
Since the notion of personal branding and branding didn’t really gain steam until about 7 years ago amongst the common public, if the answer you get is that they have been doing branding for less than 8 years, consider going elsewhere.
The answer to WHY they have been in business isn’t as cut and dry. Really listen for their story of how they ended up running a personal branding/branding business. Do you hear passion and purpose in their story? Are they really a life or business coach or PR company that has tacked on “branding” to their list of services? Or do they really “get” the distinction of branding people and their complexities?
- What exactly do you do for your clients to develop their brands?
Listen hear to make sure they really focus on YOU the person and not just the overall business. Personal branding means getting in the trenches with people- often just one person at a time. It’s not about logos and websites or PR. That’s the easier stuff in my book. Personal branding comes first and sets up the logo, website and PR for success.
- How do you compare/contrast yourself from traditional marketing?
Here’s your chance for you to see if they really understand the true notions of marketing versus branding. Are they making you feel like they think outside the box and are creative? If so, that’s what they’ll do for your brand. That’s a good thing. Or do they make you feel ho-hum because they keep regurgitating the same old tired marketing concepts (ie, network, publish, listen, be nice, stand out, etc)
If you have particular questions individual to just you, I’m happy to be of service. Please feel free to send me an email: email@example.com
About two weeks ago San Diego went through a nasty heat wave. The high temperatures were relentlessly in the 90s for that entire period of time. Normally, I would manage to get through it, but it was October. I yearned for Fall. I was sad and angry. Once again, I was rethinking living in San Diego, much to the chagrin of my family.
In that two-week stretch, all I wanted to do was to wear a sweater, pull a fleece blanket around me and snuggle under it with a cup of HOT tea. Without getting heat stroke and making my husband fear my sanity, I couldn’t bring myself to wear the sweater and cuddle under the blanket. But, I did have a cup of hot tea (well, more like tepid, but I pretended it was really hot) every evening. My husband was very kind and just looked at me funny from the corner of his eyes. Mostly because he knew how happy it made me to drink my hot tea and pretend like it was Fall outside.
So am I crazy? Why do I yearn for the coziness, hot tea and sweaters? Am I just an East Coast gal transplanted on the West Coast? I dare say not.
In developing peoples’ brands, I always preach the happiness factor: if you are not happy, you cannot sell happiness. Happy branded people are the only brands others notice and buy/hire.
So what does this happiness have to do with getting cozy? Well, for years I’ve had a theory that people who live in four weather climates are happier brands. Why? I now have the answer.
It’s called Hygge’. This is a Danish term for the notion of getting snuggly in the winter, spending time with family, relaxing, enjoying life- even if it is cold, dark and wet outside- much like it is in Denmark for about 5 months out of each year. As Suzanne Nilsson, a hygge’ teacher, explains the term hygge’ is “the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things.” These things include candles, tea, family/social gatherings.
These things are also all the things we would all tend to do more of in climates that have that fourth season of winter. My friend Pam is from New Hampshire. She has said on too many occasions that there was such a sense of community in New Hampshire, particularly during winter. Pam notes that in winter, neighbors just knock on each others’ doors, go in for dinner or for a cup of (get ready for it…) tea!
So could there be truth to my belief?
There are definitely many studies linking gratitude with happiness. Gratitude does not rely on material things. If you’re not yearning for more “things” to buy, then your gratitude cycle is more likely to continue meaning you are more likely to stay happy longer, making you a more attractive brand.
As if I needed more proof, I got it on Friday when I was having lunch with Ian McDougall, the General Counsel of LexisNexis. Ian noted that he had worked in New Zealand for a while and had noticed that despite the fact that people in New Zealand had higher cost of living with lower compensation, they seemed happier. Why? Ian noted that New Zealand (much like Denmark, perhaps?) was full of breathtaking outdoor life. It appeared to Ian that most residents found happiness, not in spending their money buying more things, but in spending time outdoors. So happiness is a function of “being”, rather than “having”. Folks in New Zealand sound much more likely than not of being happy brands (yes, I’ve met many of them and they were all much happier than the general US population, if I may generalize). That sounds like hygge’ to me.
What does this mean for you? Consider, if you want to be an effective brand that attracts others to you emotionally:
- Take time to just “be” and do nothing. When was the last time you sat around with a cup of hot tea and spent time with friends?
- Perhaps not buying so much in terms of material things, but consciously look to create opportunities for yourself to be with others in situations that require more of you “being” rather than “doing”.
As humans, we are not very good with change. Of course, we all know why. What’s known is comfortable. Anytime we have to give up our comfort zone, we get stressed and scared.
Looking back on my change in career, it was scary. Once I knew that I wasn’t meant to practice law anymore, but to do something else with my natural talents and abilities to be of service to professionals, it still wasn’t a fast and easy change/transition. It too me so long to really “own” that I wasn’t practicing law anymore- and that I didn’t want to practice law anymore. It required me to give up identifying with being a lawyer. It was like someone had stripped my identity, not to mention my cushy income stream.
If I wasn’t a lawyer, then who was I? It wasn’t until the day that I stopped identifying with what I did for a living, and started identifying with who I AM, that I started to love the change. It took several years to get there, though. You know what they say about overnight success.
Brands that are open to change and flexible with change are dynamic brands that endure. These people also have brands that draw in others to them for this very same reason: if someone fears change, they’ll love being around those who are braver than them.
What does this mean for you, your brand and your business/career? Stop and ask yourself:
- How often do you face change and just move forward, trusting your gut that you are on the right track, instead of living in fear?
- How often do you implement change at work? If you have employees that respond to change by saying, “are we changing that again?” or “we liked the old way”, then you need to rethink your employee pool. Either re-train them or get new employees that are more flexible and can go with the flow of change.