If all I watched was Top Chef, The Millionaire Matchmaker and Inside the Actors Studio, I'd be a happy couch potato. And, I'd only need the "Bravo Channel" package from Comcast. From a channel that brands itself as every show being the next big thing (and then delivering) comes the brand of Jerry Leo. The Senior Vice President, of Program Strategy and Acquisitions for Bravo, Jerry has the enviable task of figuring out what happens next. How did he get here? A great personal brand for starters. Susan: Thanks for taking the time to chat--I know you have many things on your plate right now. So let's get right to it. I've been thinking about how selling yourself and angling for that next job or promotion is really, in essence, a pitch. If you were a show, how would you pitch yourself?
Jerry: "An energetic, fast paced, competition reality show with high stakes on the line."
S: High stakes can be risky, but it can be good to be known for taking risks too. What else are you know for? When people talk about Jerry, what do they say?
J: They say I am a "Pop Culture savant" and that I have my finger on the pulse of what's popular and trending. [People] also think of me as creative, [always] craving new information and trying to figure out what's next. [I'm fond of] rolling up information to analyze what's happening in the big picture. I'm also a loyal friend, a teacher and mentor and high-energy.
S: I like your confidence and that you know what you're known for. It's absolutely key to a strong personal brand. You've had a pretty amazing career trajectory from NBC to MTV/VH-1 and now Bravo. Has what you're known for or your brand evolved with those different businesses?
J: I don’t think my specific brand has changed drastically throughout my career. While each brand that I’ve worked at have differences, my brand in its core has remained the same from my days at MTV through Bravo. I’ve scheduled for, and targeted, an audience and demographic that I am a part of and have grown up with for the last 15 years. In my 20s at MTV, the audience was young and fickle, and the challenge was staying ahead of and keeping up with them. In my 30s at Vh1, we were celebrating “retroeclectic” and our shared pop culture nostalgia. Now at Bravo, my audience is more precisely affluent and educated and we target them through five passion points in our unscripted programming – food, fashion, beauty, design and pop culture. At my brand’s core, tracking and forecasting pop culture has remained a constant thread throughout my entire career.
S: It's amazing that your career has aged along with you..like a fine wine! One of the important brand lessons I try to showcase to people I work with is managing those common career threads alongside what's new and different as your personal brand evolves. Has your brand evolved with the increasing responsibilities and leadership roles you've had too?
J: In that respect, no. My core brand values have remained constant even with my increased responsibilities. I still conduct business with the same passion, enthusiasm, creativity and strategic focus. However, as my career progressed and responsibilities increased, there becomes a greater volume and scope of challenges that present themselves.
S: Core values--really setting who you are at the core is such a key part of the brand foundation. So when you think back to your early days as a sales assistant at NBC, do you remember thinking about your personal brand then? If not, when was the first time you realized that your personal brand matters?
J: Yes. I had several role models, mentors and training. I think the personal brand begins the first day in any job.
S: So true. It's not just a first impression. You're planting seeds of reputation and how you are and will be known. Now, I'm a huge Bravo fan. And "Watch What Happens" is a great tagline for Bravo, but it also strikes me as a great personal brand tagline too. Does it describe you? Or is there another headline that's Jerry?
J: Maybe “Imagine Greater” (SyFy's tagline). I’m always looking for the next big thing by thinking creatively and out of the box. It’s very important to me to always be trying to do something new and exciting and to grow to be a better strategist/businessman.
S: Thinking ahead is a hard thing to do. But brand management (both for consumer and personal brands) is about juggling both the current and thinking about the future. I appreciate that you have that mentality as well as the perspective of always trying to be better. On that note, what's your advice for people who want to have a good reputation in the workplace and have a strong, well-known brand?
J: Be loyal. Always hold yourself to a higher level. Aim to EXCEED, not MEET expectations. Carry yourself as if you are the level you want to be. Make sure all actions are congruent with your goals.
S: Sage advice from someone who's clearly a walking example. We'll all be imagining great things for you, for sure Personally, I'm already excited for the premiere of Top Chef Season 9 (Nov 2. 10pm EST)). Thanks for taking the time Jerry.
J: Thank you.
Stay tuned for our next Brand profile. Want to suggest someone for the hot seat? Let me know.
Jerry Leo's Bio (courtesy of NBC):