The Best Places for You and Your Brand to Be Seen

Crossroads Foundation Photos

Originally posted on Forbes.com.

For all the massive growth in the power of digital and virtual, face time still matters. As hard as anyone works to rack up thousands of followers on Twitter, Instagram and even Snapchat, it’s all still no substitute for making sure you are physically in the right places to ensure a relevant personal brand.

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Corporate Branding Digest, Nov. 14, 2014


Why Purpose-Driven Innovation Trumps All
(Forbes, 03.11.14)

Innovation that sticks is purposed-driven—led by someone on a mission to do good for others. It doesn’t matter if the innovation succeeds on its own or leads to another innovation by someone else that does succeed. What matters is that the innovator is committed to a cause and is compelled to innovate to overcome a barrier keeping people from realizing their purpose.


Think You Can’t Find Anyone but White Men to Speak at Your Conference? Look Here
(Fast Company, 27.10.14)

Most conferences feature a seemingly endless array of white men. There are the white men who have written bestselling books. There are the white men who are CEOs. There are the white men who have mastered the academic world. Every few months, an article or a social media post points out the egregiousness of the white male overload at a specific event, and the organizers come back with a familiar defense: They simply couldn’t find anyone to speak who wasn’t a white guy. That’s usually not a lie; people just often fail to look beyond their immediate networks and the usual white male speakers that make the conference rounds.


How the C-Suite Can Ace Their Social Media Presence
(CMO.com, 31.10.14)

Social media is playing an ever-expanding role in nearly all business areas. As a result, the importance of a social media presence extends far beyond the role of the social media manager. People look to companies on social media to connect with the human side of a brand, and who better to embody the corporate image than the executive leaders?


Today’s Most Satisfied Employees Demand These 4 Things
(Entrepreneur, 02.09.14)

The employee landscape is changing, and with it has come new needs, desires and areas of importance for employees. This means employee development is no longer just about career development, but also goal alignment, non-monetary offerings, and simply, opportunities to prove themselves.


“There are no dreams too large, no innovation unimaginable and no frontiers beyond our reach.” —John S. Herrington


Ideas Conferences as Brand Builders

[Originally posted on Forbes.com.]

We’re in an age of ideas conferences—not just such stalwarts as Davos and TED but also upstarts like All Things Digital’s D conferences (D11 is next, in May)—and attendance is increasingly seen as a mark of legitimacy. They’re the ultimate see-and-be-seen gatherings. Smart talk is today’s hot commodity, whether you’re speaking, listening or, perhaps most important, hobnobbing after the formal sessions.

“It’s easy to think that money is the currency of the world,” TED staffer Duncan Davidson told New York earlier this year, “but there are other currencies.” Davidson was being interviewed because three years earlier, a well-dressed mugger had tried to steal his all-access TED badge in Long Beach, Calif. That’s the significance these confabs have taken on.

But what do they say about your personal brand? Are Davos people different from TED people different from SXSW people? What about the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and Renaissance Weekend? Is there a big half-dozen in conference-going that lets you borrow for your brand (today’s equivalent of name-dropping) and build it up? And if there is, do you have to attend all of them (who has time?), or do you need to decide what each stands for and how it helps make a person a brand? Does your choice of conference send a message about what generation you see yourself in?

That same New York article includes a helpful history lesson:

“At least since the early seventies, when Davos was founded, there have been exclusive gatherings that mix fizzy ideas with major-league networking. The eighties gave rise to Renaissance Weekend, for a largely political crowd; Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley retreat, for media machers; and an early version of TED, for the titans of the converging worlds of (as the organizers had it) Technology, Entertainment and Design. But recent years have seen a furious proliferation of these status events. There’s PopTech, FOO Camp, the Clinton Global Initiative, Solve for X (Google’s conference for ‘moonshot thinking’). And beyond the higher-profile events, a lengthening tail of gatherings you’ve never heard of like the Feast, Do Lectures, the 99% Conference and Techonomy. All promise much the same thing: a velvet rope to keep out the attitudinally unwashed, serendipitous interaction, quirky content and at least the illusion of egalitarian elbow-rubbing.”

But I’d argue that some conferences are becoming so ubiquitous and trendy that their velvet ropes are being pulled back. TED has gotten so democratic—not just in making its 18-minute edited TEDTalks available online for all the world to see, but also in its increasingly frequent TEDx gatherings (270 events in 58 countries last month, according to the TEDx website)—that it’s more the brand of might-bes than überachievers.

Production company executive and Atlantic contributing editor for tech and media Michael Hirschorn coined the memorable term “clusterfuckoisie” to describe the tribes that pile on in hopes of proving or improving their social rank. A blogger at the Jane Dough asks if all the conferences have lost their mojo, simply because there are too many of them.

I don’t think they have, but it’s increasingly hard to know which conferences are really relevant to you. A forum on Quora about which conferences someone “needs to attend to meet world and industry leaders” has a few recurring answers—Davos, TED, CGI—but not much consensus overall.

And so, like Deadheads 40 years before them (but with espresso as their drug of choice), a new tribe has formed to follow the route from Sun Valley to Aspen to Austin to Switzerland. But following the knowledge takes its toll, and these conferences are eating alive the would-be thought leaders who join the circuit, traipsing around the world in search of ego food and new smarts, one quick bite at a time.

If they’re getting anything from this, it’s primarily that they’re strengthening their networks. Davos still seems to make careers—the others, mostly connections.

When you are managing your brand, it’s unbelievably important to remember that co-branding is vital: You are the company you keep, and that also means the conferences and events where you are seen and seeing. Unfortunately, in our reality-TV world, perception is reality and reality can be insanely demanding.

[photo: creativecommons.org/veni markovski]