From Brainerd to Brexit: Local Just Got Real

Originally posted on The Huffington Post.

A few weeks ago, most people probably hadn’t heard of Michigan’s Macomb County, the small cluster of suburbs outside Detroit, much less considered that it could determine the fate of the world. Continue Reading →

Personal Branding Digest, October 16, 2015

Tips for a Personal Brand on a Budget
(Branding Magazine, 29.09.15)

In the modern world of business building a brand is a pure necessity. With a great variety of business models concentrated entirely on the World Wide Web, and entire trades moving online, acquiring a representative image that will portray your company is an essential factor. If you are an advisor, a personal coach or a consultant, and you are looking for a way to promote and conduct your business online effectively, this is a necessary read.

Personal Branding: What Does Your Email Say About You?
(Business2Community, 28.09.15)

The scandal over Hillary Clinton’s “homebrew” email system has brought many issues to light. The majority of these are political. But for the purposes of this blog post, let’s have a look at one aspect we can all learn from regardless of political affiliation: what does your email address say about who you are and where you stand? What makes an email address a coveted sign of status—or not? What impact does this have on your personal branding? And what, if anything do you need to do about it? Here’s some advice.

Personal Branding Made Easy for the Busy and Overworked
(Forbes, 09.09.15)

When I kick off a keynote and share the benefits of personal branding, audience members get excited. They are enthusiastic about the potential of increasing their success and happiness at work, and they are motivated to align who they are with what they do and how they do it.

6 Steps to Improve Your Personal Brand on Google
(Entrepreneur, 26.08.15)

The beauty of living in the digital age is that we have constant access to information right at our fingertips. If you want to learn about a bike tour in San Francisco or a new recipe for your anniversary dinner, Google and other search engines make it easy to find these queries with the click of a mouse.

“Your personal brand serves as your best protection against business factors you can’t control.” —Dan Schawbel

Personal Branding Digest, March 20, 2015

From Hillary Clinton to Jeb Bush: The Importance of Personal Branding to the U.S. Presidential Hopefuls
(The Drum, 10.03.15)

Wally Krantz, worldwide creative director at Brand Union, asks if the usual rules of branding can be applied to the way the US presidential hopefuls are presenting themselves.

Build Your Personal Brand Website Along with Your Business
(The Business Journals, 06.03.15)

Although business owners spend a great deal of time promoting an enterprise through the company’s website, a recent study notes that personal websites can be just as important for branding.

10 Reasons Why Your Personal Brand Sucks
(Entrepreneur, 02.03.15)

I always tell people—entrepreneurs, executives, business leaders, anyone who will listen—that their personal brand doesn’t really matter. I tell them that customers pay for products and services, not them. Do they listen? No, not really. That got me thinking about why.

Why Introverts Excel at Personal Branding
(Forbes, 16.02.15)

Gregarious. Big personality. Chest-pounding. Outgoing. Braggart. Center of Attention. These are the words people shout when I ask them to describe the characteristics of someone who is good at personal branding. These words reflect a misconception that persists today, despite the evidence; countless successful personal brands have been created by people who consider themselves to be introverts.

“Social media is changing the way we communicate and the way we are perceived, both positively and negatively. Every time you post a photo, or update your status, you are contributing to your own digital footprint and personal brand.” —Amy Jo Martin

Did Obama or Your Boss Overstay Summer Vacation?

[Originally posted on]

Every August, millions of Americans take vacations. And every year, the most powerful of them, their president, takes a lot of heat just for taking his—and also for where he goes. Powerful business executives, too, take hits for their choice and length of retreat.
Continue Reading →

Why Sarah Palin Needs A Branding Makeover (Unless Her PBI, Personal Branding Idea, Is Kook)

[Originally posted on]

When Sarah Palin stormed onto the scene in 2008, there was no denying the power of her brand. Whether you loved her or hated her, whether you thought she was the future or rolled your eyes at her big-game hunting and comments like being able to see Russia from Alaska (or “see Russia from my house,” said Tina Fey when she was impersonating Palin on “Saturday Night Live”), you knew what she stood for, and you had some begrudging respect for her positioning as a hockey mom who didn’t believe in wasting a civic nickel. (You gotta remember the stuff on pigs and pork?)
Continue Reading →

“Bad Girl”? Great Branding

[Originally posted on]

I recently received an intriguing email from a former branding executive who now runs a small marketing consulting company. Nancy Shenker, whose new venture is called theONswitch, found a way to build a personal brand by breaking rules, being rebellious and tapping into her self-professed “dark side.”

It sounds like a risky strategy in an age in which women still all too often combat stereotypes (bitch, shrew, etc.) if they dare be anything but demure in the workplace. Our heads butt against a glass ceiling much more often than we’d like. But Shenker didn’t let that hold her back. When she worked as a “change agent” at major brand companies in mostly male-dominated industries, she wrote in her note to me, she was “constantly getting hauled into HR for breaking rules and being ‘anarchistic’ and snarky and tenacious.”

But at the same time, she was “heralded for always innovating and delivering great results.” That—and the knowledge that getting hauled into HR wasn’t the end of the world, especially not when her work was strong and she was constantly proving her own worth—helped give her the confidence to start her own brand-consulting business at age 48, in 2003. Along the way, she defined, honed and redefined her personal brand in ways the rest of us can learn from.

Shenker says her role models include women rock stars and historical figures who “didn’t care if they were perceived as ‘naughty,’ ‘rude’ or ‘disobedient’ as they revolutionized their fields.” She herself has turned those seemingly negative traits into brand assets by continuing to deliver results and making sure her clients value her directness, irreverence, candor and sense of fun. She’s now sharing that empowering philosophy on the speaking circuit and in the line of books she wrote called Bad Girl Good Business.

I asked Shenker if she could share five lessons a bad girl can teach good women about personal branding. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she didn’t follow my instructions—she sent me seven instead.

So here is her advice for aspiring bad girls, or anyone who’s being a good girl (or boy) but would like to do better:

  1. Do not be afraid to be the “weird kid” (no matter your age). Just following the crowd leads to mediocrity.
  2. No one has ever been fired for innovation. Use your imagination.
  3. Confront the bullies (bad bosses, clients, mean girls). They will usually back down if you stand up.
  4. Use logic, facts and statistics to sell your ideas. Smart bad girls are compelling.
  5. Be a bit provocative in your choices of words and speech. It gets attention. But be sure to use outrageous stories and emotion—not profanity.
  6. Bribing people with food and other treats always works.
  7. When dealing with other women, rise above the gossip, bitch slapping and emotional crap. It’s not personal … it’s business. And remember that if women are talking trash about you, it’s probably because they are jealous.

All true, but bullet points and marketing-speak get you only so far. Sometimes it’s easier to let all that go and focus on people you identify with. So I asked Shenker about her role models. Here are her replies:

  • Hillary Clinton. Perhaps not classically “bad,” but she’s tough when she needs to be—but always kind and compassionate.
  • Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette. They rock out (and sometimes curse) with the boys.
  • Nancy Drew. She was clever and resourceful and went places she probably shouldn’t have gone, just to solve problems.
  • Nancy Sinatra. Her boots were made for walking. (She was a tough girl but really glam in her day.)
  • Tina Turner. She marches (and sings) to her own drummer.
  • Betty White. Timeless and feisty. And inspirational to most of this generation’s successful women comedians—Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and others who prove girls can be funny and irreverent without being ditsy or nasty.
  • Any woman who fought for women’s rights and racial equality and was willing to do time in jail for what she felt was right.

In addition to Shenker’s role models, I’d add book publishing’s bad girl, Judith Regan. Judith made “bad” a good art form and a voice.

I also like how Shenker describes the attributes of bad girls who are good leaders. She says they will:

  • Come up with creative and innovative ideas to solve problems and not be afraid to fail.
  • Treat others (especially women) with kindness and respect—no trash talking, gossiping or petty jealousy.
  • Never underestimate the importance of math and science.
  • Learn how to succeed in what might still be largely a man’s world. Good leaders will know the facts, learn how to negotiate and be competent in their jobs, and they won’t rely on bad-girl flirtatiousness and tantrums to get their way (although those things can help occasionally).
  • Stand up and speak up when they see injustices.
  • Not feel they have to sacrifice family for a career. We need more women in the world who are great leaders and great mothers.
  • Mentor other women and teach them to be a bit fearless.

I couldn’t agree more. Many of my professional accomplishments are a direct result of being tutored by someone who zigged when the world zagged. I learned to reduce the ties that bind me to convention—in essence, to see and think differently, to be rebellious. Now I’m an award-winning CEO of a top 10 PR agency, author of 15 books and sought-after blogger, with a full global speaking engagement calendar. Seems “bad girl” has worked brilliantly for my brand.


Branding’s Winners and Losers, from Ms. Clinton and Madonna to Monica and Mitt

[Originally posted on]

Some people have the brand elasticity to not just survive crises but also transcend them, rising up out of the proverbial ashes newly empowered and invigorated, remaining in the spotlight because they want to be there. Whereas others simply can’t seem to bounce back, no matter how hard they try to reinvent themselves. Are some people born winners and others less likely to rise when the going gets gritty?

Consider Hillary Clinton, who went from headband-mocked presidential candidate’s wife to wronged first lady at her husband’s side after Monicagate to U.S. senator to serious contender for president (and way-paver for the female president we’ll likely see soon—maybe Hillary herself) to effective and well-regarded secretary of state whose statement of responsibility for a deadly attack in Benghazi has been hailed as a rare example of effective discourse and diplomacy during a spectacularly uncivil campaign season.

Meanwhile, Monica Lewinsky—whose role in the scandal was admittedly less innocent than Hillary’s but who deserves some sympathy for being a young girl seduced by the most powerful man on the planet—can’t seem to regain her footing, no matter how much she pivots to new ventures and personal brands. After a few years of trying to define herself as a New York handbag designer, she decamped to London, where she earned a degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science and has been trying to lie low, declining requests for interviews.

Speaking of England, Queen Elizabeth’s brand seems to be bulletproof. She has weathered some storms this year: attending her Diamond Jubilee alone when her husband, Prince Philip, was hospitalized; watching a son and a daughter-in-law get photographed in compromising circumstances. Through it all, she has held her head high and showed her ability to laugh—including at herself, as seen in her memorable entrance to the opening ceremonies of London’s Olympic Games. Likewise, Camilla has managed to rebrand herself by taking her lumps and sticking with it—with an assist from the queen, who invited her to meet in 2000.

Two other good examples are Madonna and Sean Penn, who struck some very low notes together but came out relatively unscathed and have, in fact, gone on to reinvent their brands in impressive ways. Madonna is proving that women don’t have expiration dates and can rock as hard and be as provocative at 50 as at 20. She remains the original chameleon, inspiring Lady Gaga and many others (including Britney Spears, who herself is back, with Simon Cowell as her biggest brand advocate). Penn, meanwhile, through genuine passion for helping Haiti, has rebranded himself as an effective, generous activist.

So how do these trends translate to the commercial sector? Reinvention winners share traits that can be applied to company or personal brands that could use some polishing:

  • Working hard
  • Focusing on goals
  • Turning a deaf ear to criticism
  • Pursuing meaningful achievements (Haiti, not handbags)
  • Hunkering down for the long haul
  • Staying in plain sight

And this week’s questions: After the billions spent, what will come of Mitt Romney? And how and where will David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell land? (Just between us chickens, it’s hard to imagine Broadwell as the next Monica Lewinsky.)

[photo: Embassy New Zealand]