Your Brand – Are you Authentic?

I think I  know him!

Unfortunately, there are a lot of them out there in the speaking business.


Are  you still falling  for the “Be a Millionaire in 30 days  seminars?”


How about the “Four-Hour Work Week?”


Today the audiences are smarter. Many of us (thanks to Gen X) can spot a phony a mile away.

So, please don’t  be that guy.

This doesn’t mean I don’t believe in living your dreams…

and it all starts by Growing your Expertise-

Mixed with a lot of Passion, Patience, and  Persistence

Read more, question more, and get involved.

Being Unique Matters in Personal Branding

 As you proceed on your Personal Branding journey your focus should be on identifying what makes you unique.  What differentiates you from all the other designers, speakers, employees, managers, entrepreneurs or ______________ (you fill in the blank)? What is it about you that is interesting, relevant, and still totally you?

Tom Peters the father of Personal Branding wrote a Fast Company article more than a decade ago (1997) called A Brand Called You. In the article Tom says:

We are CEO’s of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer of the brand called you.

then later in the article he says…

Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors — or your colleagues. What have you done lately — this week — to make yourself stand out? What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength? Your most noteworthy (as in, worthy of note) personal trait?

To help you get a clearer picture of  Personal Branding I embedded a slideshare program by branding and marketing expert  Kristian Anderson. I  love his graphics, style and message on personal branding.
A few days ago I asked you to ask others how they would describe you to someone who was never met you, trying to see the “brand” others have attached to you.  I did that exercise years ago when I was 4 years into my speaking business.  I asked many of my clients what they remembered most about my presentations.  The two words I got back over and over were-High Energy.
I was upset. I wanted better words…like Fantastic Delivery, or Great Information, or even High Humor…but I did not get those words- I got over and over High Energy.
I took those words and went with them…I decided that  it was easier to go with what people already saw in me rather than trying to change me or re-engineer me. Hey, back in school they called me the Energizer-Bunny!
So I looked at High Energy in a better light. Politicians call it spin…my spin is that I energize people- I ignite  their desire, I get people started,I move you into action, I stimulate, motivate, and excite…WOW pretty cool…now I have to do this ALL THE TIME.
So I named my blog…A Shot of Energy
Who are you? What is it about you that is totally unique to you? Can you incorporate your uniqueness into your work, your message,and

Closing the “Brand Gap”

Although I am mostly a keynote speaker, last week I presented a full day workshop on Personal Branding /Social Media to 65 Helms Briscoe professionals – on the west coast at The Westin St.Francis.  I partnered with a Gen Y social media expert, Crystal Washington, and together we delivered, ” Getting the word out about YOU!”

We told the audience that establishing a strong brand connects you to your customer and that social media is the tool that will help you build your brand and spread your brand message more quickly.

The audience got it! They quickly discovered that your personal brand is not your logo, or your business card. It’s not your title or job description. Your personal brand is what others think of when your name is mentioned; it’s how you are identified.

Did you know that you already have a brand?

You already have a brand because people already have a perception on you.  Often though, there is a gap or a discrepancy between what we think we are known for (our brand) and others perceptions of us.  The only way to identify this “brand gap” is to ask others (your customers, supervisors, colleagues) what they think of when your name is mentioned.

Today is the day to take control of your brand.

(this is the part the Helms Briscoe team loved the most… getting up out of their seat and asking their colleagues these 4 questions.)

Here are four questions. First answer them yourself with words that you want people to think or say when your name is mentioned. After you have your brand identifiers send the questions out to your customers, decision makers, and colleagues and find out their perceptions of you.

Honestly, you can’t control what others say – and it takes a thick skin to absorb all of the responses –

Find out what others would say in a one to three-word response for each of the following questions:

1.       What do you see as the dominant trait of my Personality?

2.       What Value or Principle do you most closely associate with me?

3.       What do you see as my Area of Expertise?

4.       How would you Describe Me to Others who have never met me?

Once you have received many responses back you will be clear on how you are perceived and decide if you need to take better control of your brand. Remember the quicker you establish a strong brand the quicker the customer or decision maker is going to connect with you and your product or service.

We buy products and services but we attach ourselves to people!

Keeping it Real – Authenticity Matters

Photos by 360 Design and Production

Transparency, Humanness, Keeping it Real, and Authenticity – are the 2011 buzz words to success.  We are being told that the more  authentic you are the better you are a relating to and influencing others. Mike Robbins tells you to be  yourself because everyone else is taken!

So I am asking:

How comfortable are you in your own skin?

Are you able to laugh at yourself?

Are you OK with some of your imperfections?


You hear it from Gen Y, Social Media experts,  and you hear it from Oprah, “Authenticity is where it’s at! ”

So the big question is, how do you get to the place of authenticity without spending $5000.00 in a sweat lodge?

Here’s a simple, fun way to begin your journey to  self-awareness.

At your next photo shoot reject the standard phony poses. You know the ones where you are  resting your chin gently on your fingertips! Or, cocking your head ever so slightly. Or,  looking over one shoulder with that demure look! You get what I am saying…

Let loose and show different emotions. Show your vulnerable side. Who knows, you may even meet the real you!

“We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.”

 Anne Lamott

Personal Branding Lesson Learned from American Idol

Robin Creasman is marketing expert and a branding guru especially  in my world of keynote speaking. Robin is a rock musician and business speaker  who  uses the Rock Star brand as his differentiator and it works!  I read his blog the other day and I asked Robin if I could share it with you because I  he hit on something HUGE when it comes to success.  If you want to make it BIG you have to give it all you’ve got. Playing is safe is doesn’t make it. Living in the middle is a very dangerous place to be… step out onto the edge!

“Success is easy…It just takes All you’ve got!” Karen McCullough

                                             Here’s Robin’s post before we found out last night that Casey James is not in the final two…


Over the weekend, I had the privilege to see Casey James return to his hometown in celebration of being one of the Top 3 Finalist on American Idol. It’s one of the perks of being in the top 3 to come home to a cheering crowd and bask in the glory of your fans for achieving this reverend position.

The highlight of the event was a 15-minute appearance at the already scheduled Wildflower Festival in Dallas. Casey is from Cool, TX – a small town outside of Dallas and this event was the last stop on his hometown tour. There were about 10,000 fans at the festival to hear a number of acts and Casey was to go on right before the B-52s closed the show.

Now here’s the deal, you would think that after several months of competition, grooming, coaching, mentoring, and experiencing the judges wrath for your live performance you would have a good understanding of what it takes to “grab the spotlight and rock-the-house with your 15-minutes of fame”. This was not the case for Casey. He was very low key, a little unorganized, not sure of what songs he was going to perform, and not in any “hurry” to deliver the goods, BUT was very likeable – which is interesting.

All throughout the season of American Idol Casey has been thought of as the “likeable” one. He’s cute, humble, soft-spoken, talented and the girls LOVE him. But he’s not yet rocked-the-house or had a WOW moment as a performer and that’s what American Idol is all about. Taking center-stage selling your performance with sizzle to the point of your audience going “Wow, that guy rocks!”

So here we are at the Wildflower Festival and Casey has a chance to WOW his crowd and to validate his position in the finals, but it didn’t happen. Yes, he’s good and no doubt people like him, but is that enough?

I believe his likeability has kept him in the game up to this point, but he may be running out of time. For me likeability is a very positive character trait that each of us needs to own more of. But in the end if we don’t seize the moment and rock-the-house when we get our 15-minutes of fame, then we lose the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and impact our audience in a positive way.

In watching American Idol last night I was curious to see if Casey would use this life-changing performance opportunity to stand out and rock-the-house or just blend in with another “good” show. Unfortunately, he did the latter. All the judges said he sounded good, but there was nothing special about his song choice or performance. And I totally agree. 

It’s going to be interesting tonight to see just how far Casey’s likeability will take him with the voting public. Personally, I don’t think either Chrystal or Lee (the other 2 finalists) are SO good that they automatically knock out Casey’s likeability factor to eliminate him, but it probably will in the end. 

So here’s the take-a-way… first and foremost each one of us needs to be the best at what we do when the opportunity arises. We need to take the stage with confidence, having fully prepared for what we’re about to do, and then rock-the-house and sell it with sizzle! Period! If we don’t then we just blend in and people will forget about us.

Second and almost as important, we need to be likeable, humble, and fun to be with. No one wants to hang with someone who is arrogant, cocky and a jerk!

 Now here is the best-case scenario… combine the two ideas and you win! If you are great at what you do, confident in who you are, ready to rock at any moment, and sell it with sizzle AND you’re likeable, humble and fun to be with… then guess what… you’ve just moved from average to awesome and became a Rock Star in your world. How cool is that!

Personal Branding- The Discovery Can Be Fun

Last weekend I got the chance to let my hair down and spend some time with my breakfast club friends at our annual retreat. This year it was  in Galveston.  This  was my first retreat  as a member – last year I was their speaker and I enjoyed them so much I decided to join.  We call ourselves The Professional Group – TPG – and it’s an organization that truly embraces all the generations, from the Traditionalists, to the Boomers, to the Gen Xers and the Gen Yers and since I speak on the generations I love connecting with all the Gen’s.


This year I was asked to find the Saturday morning speaker. Our theme was Thriving in the Jungle and because I am so motivated by the power of a personal brand I asked branding expert and my marketing and branding coach, Julie Haralson to speak to us on personal branding. Julie comes from a corporate perspective. She has worked with some of the top brands like HP, Disney and Texas Children’s and she knows her stuff.


Friday night is traditionally skit night. To prepare for Julie’s program we broke into groups using jungle animals like lions, monkeys and cougars as the group differentiators.  Everyone was asked to list all of their attributes and talents and then discuss their list with the group members to find the one attribute and the one talent that they all shared.  (This is a  really fun way to demonstrate the discovery process in personal branding).  Each group then created a product around the talent and the one attribute and presented a brief commercial.  It was a lot of crazy-fun!



After the skits we all went to dinner!


We were up early Saturday, anxious to learn more about branding. Julie opened her session sharing with us her perspective on personal branding. She said that in the past branding was a topic relevant only to corporate giants like Coca-Cola, Nike, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Apple, IBM, and Prudential….  Remember the Rock of Gibraltar logo?  Back then many people got jobs in companies and stayed  there forever  – a few  people  even hid out (office space) and they didn’t need to promote themselves with anybody except maybe their boss; today people are on the move and they need to develop their own personal brands that projects their strengths and value in the marketplace.

Julie made the point that “Branding is not what you think…  It’s about what others think and say about you!”    That resonated with me.  My daughter Meredith and I just completed our book, The Seven Women Project. When you read the book you will see that each of the seven women has personality traits that can be perceived in either in a  positive light or a negative light – it all depends;  on the receiver and the context.

To explore our own personal brands, Julie took us through a discovery process that helped us to see what we look like in the eyes of others.  Each of us had to ask another member of our group  to describe – in only one word – 1) our dominate personality trait, 2) our core value and 3) our skill, ability or talent.  I found out something really positive. I was told that  I was inclusive- I liked that and you know, now I am going to be more inclusive!


Notice the book Sue Howard is holding!

Then – having discovered how others described us – we did another exercise that helped us to understand what we think about ourselves.  We had to decide what we would be, if we were a car, a breakfast cereal and a dog. I  have to say that the audience really got into this and  I saw  as a presenter, how important it is to get the listener engaged.

So what’s your personal brand? What are your strengths, skills and talents?  What do you care about?  How do you behave?  And since branding is what others think and say about you, try and ask a few people what they think you. Oh and what cereal would you be? Julie said Lucky Charms – and she was just that!

Personal Branding is Hot! Hello…

tom-petersI consider Tom Peters the father of Personal Brand.  Back in 1997 he wrote a controversial piece for Fast Company Magazine, a Brand Called You, and that article changed the way I looked at myself and my career.  Early on, I saw the importance of developing an authentic brand that would build “Brand Equity” and I am really happy I did!

“Regardless of your age, regardless of your position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are the CEO’s of our own lives & careers: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the Brand Called YOU.”  ~Tom Peters

Back in 1997 the concept of personal branding was thought to be a disloyalty to your company, employer and your coworkers.

“Some traditionalist bosses may see the Brand You notion as institutionalized disloyalty but nothing could be further from the truth. Brand You is about people profoundly committed to personal growth — and it goes without saying that people committed to growth are by far the most engaged and valuable employees.” ~ Tom Peters

Back then, many felt that if you were creating your brand you were putting yourself above and apart from your teammates. After all, there is no “I” in team.  Corporate America didn’t look fondly on the concept of personal branding,  but I did!  I have always been fascinated by  the power of perception.  My retail background (and specifically the 20 years I spent selling traditional Ralph Lauren style clothing ) helped me realize that power is largely a matter of perception. If you want people to see you as a successful, powerful person you have to look like and act like a credible leader.  When I transitioned from a retail CEO to a speaker back in 1999, my topic of choice was personal branding.  Back then it was not a “hot topic” and I found myself explaining the concept to meeting planners and speaker bureaus, and they didn’t get it! I was ahead of my time.  I strongly believed, in the power of the brand and never gave it up.

Fast forward to today! It’s April 2010

We have been in the mist of tremendous change and we are now beginning to accept that things are not going back to the way they were. Dan Pink way back in 1997 was right! We are in the throws of becoming a Free Agent Nation. No longer are organizations taking care of their people.  Today each of us must manage our own careers and our futures. I just heard on morning news that there is a glimmer of hope as the job market may be opening up.  The reporter encouraged job seekers to update their resumes, opening with a statement about who referred them  rather than the position they are seeking.  Today it’s not who you know but who knows YOU and what they think and say about YOU.  Personal branding can help!

Your personal brand

Simply stated, your brand is the way people who know you think of you (including all perceptions and emotions about you) – Your brand is the words that others think and say about you when your name is mentioned.  Your brand is how you are seen by those who know you and how you are remembered by those who first meet you- in person or online.
Today more than ever, thanks to the internet and social media we all have control what and how our personal brand is .

In my next few posts I’ll share the branding process.

Personal Branding is HOT!

Great Leaders Cut through Tall Grass


One of my passions is studying great leadership and great leadership styles (personal branding 101).  I was very excited to attend a breakfast meeting last week, where the speaker was a division president at a prestigious corporation.  She opened her presentation telling her “career story” (Branding is all about your story). A few years ago she was asked to leave a very stable high paying positing to lead a poorly managed, ego driven, executive team out of chaos. Excited about the opportunity and also concerned about the many challenges she would be facing, she called on her trusted mentor for some advice. He told her that when you work where the grass is tall, it is much easier to see where you’ve mowed and the path that you are creating. When you work where the grass is manicured to perfection, no matter how great your accomplishments may be, it is more difficult to see your impact.

If you are finding yourself in some tall grass these days remember that this is your time to create the path not only for you but for the entire team, division and your entire company. Today more than ever, we need strong leaders who can lead us through the tall grass.

Re-Branding YOU- the Trend Is Your Friend


The worldwide economic downturn has everyone worrying about our financial futures. Some of us, including our family members and friends have lost their jobs.  And, if we haven’t, we have it in the back of our heads that we might be next.  Small business owners are worrying about cash flow.  Newspapers and magazines see a dwindling markets. In my world, the meeting’s industry, we are concerned about the future of meetings and travel.  Everyone today feels the uncertainty of the times. What can we do to help ourselves?

The trend is your friend!

Everywhere you look today you will find programs, articles, tweets, and sound bytes about a new trend- rebranding ourselves.  Last week, Dr. Phil got in on it and did and entire show called Reinvent Yourself. Reinventing or rebranding yourself is not a new concept- Madonna has been doing it for over 20 years- And  right now, at this very moment many of us are feeling the need for an upgrade. Honestly, we’re all a little  concerned that our expertise has an expiration date. Do we need to upgrade our personal brand?

Personal Branding

I use to say, six months ago, that you already have a brand and that your brand comes from what others think and say about you. Your personal brand is  the words that others think of when your name is mentioned; it’s  what you are known for. Your personal brand is so powerful that is determines your success and your future.  Personal Branding is the place that you occupy in your decision maker’s mind relative to your competition.  The big question now is, “Are you relevant?” Yesterday’s news and expertise may not work tomorrow.

Rebranding- because today there is no room for complacency!

Here are some thoughts if you are thinking about Rebranding YOU!

1.     What’s your NEW vision? How do you see yourself and how to you want to now be perceived?  A really good example of this change in perception is Angelina Jolie .  Remember back to her days with Billy Bob Thornton?  Angelia’s  perception was that of a wild and adventurous character  living on the edge. Today her perception with Brad and all the kids, is that of a person who is caring and loving to her children and the world at large. She rebranded!

2.    What is at your core? Use everything you already have and use it in a new way. Recently in my Jazzercise class we danced to  a song by Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin rocker) and Allison Krause(Icon of  bluegrass) called  I’ll Be Gone… Robert,  who knew?  In an interview Robert said that they created something that he had never imagined, a ventured into a new territory-  Plant and Krause’s harmonizing made it all happen.  They both took a risk, they connected to their core talent and together they created a new sound.  They rebranded!

3. Your Actions Speak volumes about who you are and your brand. Michael Eisner once said that your brand is a living entity- and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time.  Your brand is the product of a thousand small gestures – What are you doing? What action steps are you taking to create a more passionate and relevant you?

4.     Want a different brand? Then Change the Conversation. Your conversation escalates the brand. My good friend Bambi McCullough, no relation,  told me that the best way to be seen differently at work  or in your community is to stop complaining, stop saying what you don’t want to be remembered for and start talking about what it is you believe in. It’s simple. We hear you, we remember your words, and we get your tone.  We are making the connection between you and your message- what you talk about says volumes about who you are.  If you listen, people will tell you what they value and what they are made of. Want to change your brand? The start by changing your conversation.

5. Refocus on Innovation and Continued Learning. Today you have to read, you must go to blog posts, go to forums, watch youtube, take online webinars, learn what’s  relevant by using, and then, you need to pump out content. Content, ideas, bold concepts, and yes innovation are the brand -makers!  Sure you will have to reallocate your time, and turn off the TV. I didn’t say that this was going to be easy.

6. Social Media – The big shift that will Explodes Your Brand. Gary Vaynerchuk , says that If you have a passion blog about it, tweet about it, write a facebook status about it, video it, and just get it out there- it’s all about you and your new brand Exploding!  There is a slow shift happening  and the shift is all about how we  get the messages out! Social media is changing the way we spread the word- your word.  Twitter and facebook are the tools that you use to spread your brand.

7. Remember that the internet is the Game Changer. Today you can talk about your expertise and spread your passion for FREE!!!! Never before have we had a message vehicle as powerful as the internet. Today, the gatekeeper, the producers, the editors are no longer in control of getting the messages out.  Today, we can deliver our message through new technologies- all it takes is your time!  Are you willing to put the time into building your brand?

Rebranding is about YOU getting real with who you are, what you want, and then testing your message to see if it is relevant. Oh, and a new jacket and hair-do might  also help!