Personal Branding Digest, October 30, 2015

The 7 Personal Branding Mistakes that Can Ruin Entrepreneurs
(The Huffington Post, 27.10.15)

Every company has a brand—an image, a reputation, and a persona that defines that company’s character and reputation. What most people don’t realize is that you can also establish and build a personal brand—an image, a reputation, and a persona that defines your own professional character and reputation.

3 Infallible Principles for Personal Branding from Pope Francis
(Entrepreneur, 05.10.15)

A brand has captured the hearts of people around the world, and its enthusiasts are responding with religious fervor. It isn’t Apple or Google. The brand is a person, who happens to be the Pontiff — Pope Francis.

5 Ways to Rock Your Personal Brand on Twitter
(Business2Community, 01.10.15)

You started your blog, recorded a few podcasts, event attended an event or two. Yet people are still not 100% sure who you are. Kinda hurts, right?

Trump’s Brand Bonanza
(Forbes, 29.09.15)

Forbes employs a consistent policy of not giving members of The Forbes 400 goodwill for their personal brand, on the theory that their net worth already incorporates any value derived from it. That means you, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg–and Donald Trump. But as an academic exercise, it’s a fair question. If you separate it from what it already contributes to his net worth, how valuable is Donald Trump’s brand? He says it’s $3 billion or more. Is he right?

“The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique.” —Walt Disney

How Salt Lake City and Utah Became the New Gold Standard

Boston Public Library

[Originally posted on]

Austin envy is alive and well, especially on the heels of another jam-packed SXSW, but suddenly Utah is looking like the new benchmark for business and quality of life. A rash of new studies and rankings is proving that the Beehive State, and especially Salt Lake City, is increasingly the place to be.

Continue Reading →

Corporate Branding Digest, Aug. 25, 2014

Most Managers Think of Themselves as Coaches
(Harvard Business Review, 25.07.14)

As a manager, do you think of yourself as a leader or as a coach? Do you, for instance, feel it’s important that your staff see you as an expert or do you prefer to create an egalitarian environment? Are you the person who solves problems or helps your staff come up with their own solutions? Are you more comfortable being directive or collaborative?

If You Want to Win, Stop Focusing on Winning
(Entrepreneur, 25.07.14)

It seems counterintuitive that you could actually win more (in sports, life, or business) by focusing less on the win, but it’s true. Let me explain. Coach Bill Walsh (named the second greatest coach in NFL history by ESPN) celebrated every well-executed play, whether or not that play resulted in a score or a win.

7 Shortcuts Every Boss Should Know
(Inc., 10.07.14)

These common-sense tips and techniques will make you a better manager.

Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi on Why Women Can’t Have It All
(Forbes, 03.07.14)

Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi weighed in on the provocative work-life balance debate at the recent Aspen Ideas Festival, telling audience members that it remains difficult for her to manage both her intense personal and professional demands. Ranked #13 on Forbes’ Power Women’s list, Nooyi candidly shared her journey leading one of the world’s largest corporations while also trying to raise her two children and remain present for her family.

“The best way out is always through.” —Robert Frost

Five Steps to a New Brand

Brand strategist Karen Kang puts the importance of personal reinvention bluntly: “Consider yourself a free agent—no one else is looking out for your best interests but yourself. You need to be crystal clear about who you are and the value you bring to a world where constant change is the only norm.”

That’s the premise of her insightful and occasionally provocative new book, BrandingPays: The Five-Step System to Reinvent Your Personal Brand. It’s very much worth reading.

Kang’s resume—make that her brand—is impressive. A brand strategist for two decades, she spent years as a principal and partner at Silicon Valley marketing leader Regis McKenna’s firm, which put the Apple, Intel and Genentech brands on the map. She is hailed by her former boss (McKenna) as “the master of personal branding” and has consulted for more than 150 organizations in the United States, Europe and Asia, from Forbes list–level companies to startups and nonprofits. As the founder and CEO of BrandingPays, Kang offers consulting, training and coaching, and she is a sought-after speaker at business schools and professional organizations.

She had a method for personal branding long before anyone else was even thinking about it. Her approach is based on translating well-proven Silicon Valley branding lessons and applying them to “companies of one.” It’s a way of thinking that has helped everyone from newly minted MBAs to long-established entrepreneurs accelerate their career success (yes, established leaders need to reinvent their brands, too; no one is immune in this hypercompetitive, constantly changing business landscape, and they are often the people who have the biggest challenges in defining their image and brand).

One of Kang’s most important truths is that people who aren’t actively defining and marketing their personal brands (i.e., thinking of themselves like startups) are holding themselves back. Old-style beliefs such as “great work equals a great reputation” or “my boss will market my brand for me” no longer apply. And for anyone who thinks self-marketing seems egotistical or unseemly, Kang explains how it’s less a matter of promotion than education—teaching your colleagues, supervisors, clients and would-be business partners what you’re all about and what you (and only you) can do to help them.

Her central metaphor is cake and icing: The cake is your rational value—what you stand for and why that matters—and the icing is your emotional value.

Around that, Kang has built her five-step plan to help individuals reinvent themselves and articulate their new and improved brands:

  1. Define your unique “cake,” or rational value.
  2. Develop the key messages that consistently and clearly support your positioning. Keep in mind that people will remember only a few things about you, so it’s up to you to try to influence what those things will be.
  3. Put your “cake” and “icing” together. Your core values, strengths, personality and image should all drive toward delivering on a brand promise.
  4. Define your ecosystem. Know whom to talk to, what to say and when—remembering that it’s what those people later say about you that will define your reputation.
  5. Develop a two-part action plan: a brand improvement plan for your “cake” and “icing,” and a brand communications plan so that you can be known and recognized. But don’t jump into social media without a clear strategy.

(You can watch her articulate all this and more on her YouTube book trailer.)

As Kang points out again and again, anyone who doesn’t step up to the plate and become his or her own brand manager is going to miss out in 2013’s “reinvent or die” job market and economy.

Her former Regis McKenna colleague Geoffrey Moore, now a sought-after speaker and adviser, puts it quite well in his foreword to BrandingPays:

“In the new business order, everyone is a contractor all the time. To be sure, you may at present be giving 100 percent of your capacity to a single client—your employer—but that in no way lessens your self-marketing responsibilities. Your boss is your primary client. Your colleagues are partners in your value chain. The company’s customers are your customer’s customers. And your job is to communicate to all these constituencies who you are, what you do and why that is of value to them…. The new business order does not in general have time or patience to discover the real you. You must take the lead here, regardless of how extroverted or introverted you may be. It is simply part of your job.”


Shape Up

This is the ninth in a series of 10 posts about different aspects of CEO branding.

This is not another piece about how a majority of Americans are overweight or obese. Nor is it a description of the way weight problems bear down on employee health and productivity. There are plenty of articles out there about corporate wellness programs and the great ROI they deliver, and you already know all that stuff.

The focus of this post is the impact of a CEO’s own physical shape on the brand image of the CEO and of the company. If you see two CEOs together, one overweight and the other trim, which one gives you the better impression?

You might well feel the urge to say that a person’s weight has no effect on your impression of him or her. As an enlightened, modern person you probably aspire to be fair-minded and inclusive on all the sensitive equality issues of our time: race, gender, age, sexual orientation, height and weight. Plus, in a country where way over half the adult population is overweight, you’ve probably adjusted your view of what’s normal.

If the sight of an overweight person doesn’t trigger any stirrings of prejudice in you, you’re in a minority; weight prejudice is rampant. A study of workplace discrimination around obesity found that Americans tend to think weight problems are caused by lack of self-control and that obese people, in the words of the report’s conclusion, “must be deficient in other areas … performance of duties, social interactions and appearance standards.” Cleveland Clinic’s president and CEO, heart surgeon Delos Cosgrove, caused a massive stir in 2009 when he told a New York Times reporter that if there weren’t legal issues, he would stop hiring obese people. This year a hospital in Texas went further and banned potential employees with a BMI over 35 (a body mass index higher than 30 is considered obese).

I’ve been writing and talking about globesity for more than a decade now, and I’ve heard every shade of opinion about what causes it. Strip away the intellectual shadings and, at a gut level, most people are on one or the other side of the old nature versus nurture argument. Some people think weight problems are mainly caused by factors beyond control, such as genes or viruses; others think it’s down to poor lifestyle choices and lack of self-control.

Whatever the causes, there’s no doubt that one effect is prejudice and negative perceptions—and that’s a potential worry when you’re a CEO embodying both your own brand and your corporation’s. You owe it to yourself and to your company to show how you care about healthy habits for work, starting with your own. One big incentive beyond improved health is that it gives you great latitude to express your creative and/or entrepreneurial chops with the programs you choose. You can devise your own or tap outside expertise.

Virgin HealthMiles provides employee health programs that pay people to get active and make measurable improvements to their health. Company CEO Chris Boyce has smartly figured out incentives for himself and the whole company by challenging everyone to competitions. In one version, anyone who could rack up more pedometer miles than Boyce in a day got a free day off. That not only set an example and a challenge to other staffers but also kept him stepping hard, too (otherwise, his workforce would be getting too many extra vacation days). In another competition, he challenged the CEO of a client company, plus the two respective workforces, to burn more calories than he did over two weeks. Boyce won with a count of 58,951 calories.

CEOs who like the burn and relish the challenge will probably get around to a marathon sooner or later. Take inspiration from them. India’s fourth-richest billionaire, Reliance Group CEO Anil Ambani, is not only a much-admired CEO but also an inspiring runner. He first trained for the Boston Marathon in 2003 after someone questioned his weight at an investor’s conference in New York. Now he goes on early morning runs in Bombay with his bodyguards, routinely runs marathons and is even the subject of a Bollywood movie tracking his transformation from flabby to front runner.

Of course, running is just one outlet. The CEO Challenges organization (motto: “When business competition is not enough…”) arranges a slew of activities including triathlon, cycling, baseball, basketball, hockey, skiing, tennis, golf and sailing. It’s serious stuff but designed with the standards and needs of CEOs in mind—five-star accommodations and networking events with fellow CEOs, plus a bio of each CEO on its website.

For CEOs who prefer less blood, sweat and tears in their approach to fitness and well-being, yoga is an attractive option that’s totally aligned with the growing mindfulness trend that is making gentle waves at places such as Google. Yoga is famously linked to top CEOs such as hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, who credits the practice with allowing one to “slow your life down so you can see the world.” Writing in Forbes, Stanton Kawer, CEO and chairman of Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide, described how doing yoga regularly helped him realize the importance of setting intentions each day and recalibrated his outlook on life to make him a happier person—and thus a happier CEO.


Trendspotting: Waking Stream

With 89 million Americans tuning in to online radio each month, you’ve likely not had a Spotify-free Facebook feed since … well, September 2011, which is when Mark Zuckerberg officially integrated the streaming music service with Facebook. (Spotify, too, is run by a young entrepreneur: “The most important man in music,” 28-year-old Daniel Ek.) Hot on the heels of Spotify’s American debut—only one month before it permeated Facebook—came, a streaming music site turned virtual party; meanwhile MOG and Rdio rolled out free versions, and Pandora amplified its free streaming. The exponential success of streaming radio—its popularity has doubled every five years since 2001—has made it a magnet for digital ad dollars from top auto and retail brands, restaurants, banks and telecom marketers. Online radio netted an estimated $800 million in advertising in the U.S. in 2011—and this figure doesn’t even include Spotify or Pandora. Still, with royalty fees absorbing most of the dollars brought in from advertisers and subscribers, streaming music isn’t yet proving profitable; Spotify earned $99 million in 2010 but paid out a bit more than it earned to cover royalties. There has also been something of a backlash toward streaming radio from listeners and artists alike. Adele, Coldplay and the Black Keys all notably withheld their latest albums from streaming music services. And the play seemingly worked out: Coldplay debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart and the Black Keys at No. 2, while Adele sold more albums than any person on the planet last year. That’s another old adage turning out to be true: Somebody’s gotta pay the piper.