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Talent and HR News Weekly Roundup: Your Brand + Culture

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Talent and HR News Weekly Roundup: Your Brand + Culture

Company culture and employer brand are inextricably linked. A company culture is the foundation. It's what's accepted and what is not. An employer brand is the whole experience and the strengths you leverage to position your company among competitors. This week, we're sharing some pieces on both hot topics. Enjoy!

1) How Company Culture Drives Digital Transformation And Business Adaptability from Forbes

"I don’t think companies put enough stock in their cultures. Company culture is like an employee’s attitude; it will make or break you. Your company’s culture is a strong determining factor in its adaptability. We’ve established that the only constants in the future of business are change, agility, and the ability to pivot in response to market shifts—and that technology is essential to the success of a company. Your organizational attitude is marked by your business’s aptitude to change. Are you prepared for the future?"

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What Happens When Marketing and HR Fall in Love

Brands are valuable. And organizations spend nearly half a trillion dollars every year to introduce, promote and manage their brands. In 2012, Procter & Gamble spent over $4.8 billion on advertising. Selling is an expensive proposition. But it doesn’t have to be. Brands are finally starting to reap the value of social media and, as the 2013 Super Bowl proved, the brand value of one tweet can exceed the $3.5 million per-commercial ad spend.

Traditional advertising isn’t dead, but brands continue to look for ways to save money and use existing assets creatively.

Enter the workforce.  Talent and HR leaders know the value of an employer brand—essentially the reputation of your brand as a place to work. But in my previous role leading the employer brand function for Marriott International, I had to do much more that that. Branding the workforce is telling a great story and getting future employees to want to be a part of the tale.

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Meet exaqueo

It's often said that companies -- especially consulting firms -- don't take the advice they dish out. Well, we've broken that mold at exaqueo. We have core values and work rules just like we build for our clients. And as we grow our team, you can bet we'll build our own employer brand that accurately captures what it's like to work at exaqueo. Until then, we're thrilled that MeetAdvisors has profiled our business in its community blog. Take a look and learn more about our successes, our failures and our passion for helping startups and high-growth companies build cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. MeetAdvisors: exaqueo

 

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Why You Should Care About Candidate Experience

We're marketers. That's what we are. Talent acquisition is about promoting opportunities. Driving brand loyalty. Evaluating customer sentiment. Participating in the conversation about our brand. Whether you like it or not, if your game is talent, your playing field is strangely similar to a marketer's. And that because it's all about the experience. Ever find yourself running to post a review on Yelp, TripAdvisor or OpenTable? And when you do--you're always talking about the experience. That's why marketers live to transform the brand experience. It's an operational exercise.  You want to look at every step of the process, get feedback and then look at it again. You want to think big too--how does the experience make the customer think and feel? Would they come again? Is there loyalty there? Would they recommend you to a friend?  Marketers live, eat and breathe all of these things. And so should talent acquisition leaders.

Enter the Candidate Experience Awards. Designed to showcase companies delivering the best in the experience job candidates receive, the Candidate Experience Awards provide insight into an often overlooked part of the talent process--the experience.

I'm lucky to be joining a great collection of HR professionals as part of this year's Candidate Experience Council.  As the Council elevates the importance of candidate experience, we'll be encouraging your organization to apply--because get this--it's not about the award. It's about the experience. "The CandE Award process is a competition, but it is also designed to provide every organization that chooses to participate confidential and specific feedback on how they can improve their candidate experience." Winner or not, you'll get valuable feedback you can't always attain from inside the organization.

Whether you're hearing about this for the first time, or sighing and thinking "Is this really worth my while?" We say yes. Want to know more? Ask me or any of these fine folks joining me on the Council:

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Your Employees Are Your Brand

A company's brand is only as good as its perception in the market. And the same goes for an employer brand. This week my former employer, Marriott International, moved up to #57 on Fortune's Best Places to Work (#1 in companies with more than 65,000 employees). And Sainsbury's, a UK grocery store, promotes being the "first ever food retailer to be awarded a gold accreditation from 'Investors in People'."  And my cousin, a junior in college, told me her professor was handing out these lists in class for internship and job seekers. Don't get me started on lists. Instead, I'd rather talk about action.

Lists are great but to really know a brand and know an employer you need to see it in action. For Sainsbury's for example, the gold accreditation is one thing, but what matters is how the training, support and efforts employers make manifest in the living brand.  Like with Sainsbury's Chris King who responded so cheekily (and lovely) to a young child's letter:

(Full story and bigger image here.) Note the store manager included his age (27 and 1/3). Love that.  Sure, Sainsbury's has a strong commitment to its employees and actually details its progress online. But the real evidence is in actual manifestation of the brand by the employees. Are they acting the brand? Or are they the brand? Chris is.

I'm always looking for those living examples of the brand. And tonight, I saw it again in another Fortune Top 100 regular--the Container Store. Man, do I love the Container Store. A few years ago, we lived in a condo in the city ABOVE a Container Store.  It was a small condo, but I seriously contained everything I possibly could. There was nothing left to contain.

Now we're in a bigger house. And since I have things to contain again, I made my way back to the Container Store in Arlington, VA, and picked up a few things, including a bookcase. I went back to my car and headed home.  Once home, I opened the trunk and...no bookcase. Two sets of golf clubs mind you, but no bookcase. I got back in the car, retraced my steps back to where I thought I might have lost it. Again, no bookcase.

So while my better half drives all the way back to the Container Store (he volunteered, bless him), I call to see if maybe I never put it in my trunk. Maybe I rested it on the sidewalk and someone found it and returned it? Marnie answers the phone, and I embarrassingly explain my dilemma. Sweet as can be she says: "I'm so sorry that happened to you."

She immediately checks to see if anyone returned it and then comes back to the phone apologetic and offering other suggestions for what I could have done with the bookcase. Finally, when I thank her and get ready to end the call, she says: "well, if you decide you want to get another one, you can order it online, and come back, park in the garage and we'll put it in the car for you."

I smiled, laughed, and thanked her profusely. What a nice way to say they'll help ensure that doesn't happen again. And what a living example of the brand.

That's the thing--you can create all the marketing collateral you want and have the best careers site possible. But the employees are the best representation for the company brand and the employee brand.  Companies who solve that equation for both layers of the brand win. I'm not talking testimonials. I'm talking living examples, storytelling that defines the brand in action. Connect the employee to the brand and the brand to the prospective employee. An inextricable link. That's the win.

All of that said, I still have one more piece of furniture to buy for my home office. I guess I have to go back to the Container Store. You're going to have to force me [insert sarcasm here].

 

 

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8 People Who Changed My Life in 2011

I could and should be looking ahead and making resolutions for 2012. But before I do, I’m looking back. And for good reason. I’m about to return back to my entrepreneurial roots as a talent strategy and brand consultant.  Like any brand shift, it happened slowly and evolved over time as I thought about where I can best make an impact in a way that fits my talents and work style the best. But change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And as I look back over 2011—a year of many firsts for me, I realize there are some key people who’ve had a serious impact on my life, my thinking and my work. These are people you should watch, follow, listen to and take note of. They’ve changed my way of thinking and can impact your world too.

Francisca Martinez

Her official title is Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition, Marriott International. But for the past five years I’ve known her as my boss. A driver, Francisca isn’t about pushing for the best, she’s focused on pushing for the best in you. While most executives want to remind you how much they know, Francisca’s all about finding out what she can learn. When I first brought up social media five years ago while we were working together at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, she didn’t balk or see it as a fad. She asked me to tell her more, share more and then carefully helped me educate other executives and make our case. Four years later, in Summer 2011, as I watched her give a Spanish interview with Univision on our new social recruiting game, My Marriott Hotel™, I sat back in awe. While I had no idea what she was telling the reporter in Spanish, I knew that her style, leadership and focus—being a driver—worked for us both. I can’t wait to see what she (and the team) do next.

Rehan Choudhry

I first met Rehan in business school. He was a technology and government consultant looking for something new and better. Now, almost five years after we finished those MBAs, Rehan’s leading the brand activation charge at the country’s coolest and most popular hotel: The Cosmopolitan. As the hotel’s Director of Special Events and Entertainment his Facebook photos rotate between posing with Adele and Mumford and Sons. I’ve watched his meteoric rise and along the way provided him some humble advice on brand strategy. And this year I’ve marveled at this amazing career change and success he’s had in such a short time. He’s a complete reminder that anything is possible if you work really, freakin’ hard.

John Sumser

Have you ever met someone who makes you smarter every time you talk to them? That’s John Sumse rfor me. I might call him the leading “independent HR technology and recruiting analyst” or really just refer to him as the smartest guy I know in recruiting who doesn’t take any BS from me.  The founder of HRExaminer, John’s unique combination of innovation and honesty and beyond appealing. Rarely do you meet someone who really gives you frank advice and feedback because he wants to see you succeed. Rarely do you meet someone who makes your brain hurt. In a really good way. In 2011, John’s done that for me.

Andy Goldman

Earlier this year, I spoke at Media Bistro’s Career Circus and I was struck by the guy who spoke after I did. Andy Goldman, Vice President, Program Planning and Scheduling for HBO had a bright smile, a strong presence and a great message. Sure, I’m HBO-obsessed. But after that day I couldn’t stop thinking about Andy’s gracious and selfless style. Here’s this important executive for an incredibly popular brand, and he couldn’t be more interested in just helping people. He graciously agreed to a brand interview for my blog in which I learned that his altruism was as genuine as it gets. Sure, he’s busy, but he’s so open with his candor and advice you can’t help but marvel at how he stands out in a dog-eat-dog industry. We should all be at least, a little like this.

David Kippen

One Tennessee afternoon in 2006, I cold-called David Kippen. I was living in Nashville for business school and decided the hybrid of HR and marketing was something really intriguing. I Googled “employer brand” and the results were all David. He was the guru, the expert. He took my cold call that day and opened his doors and his mind to me. His eloquence and gracefulness of thought introduced me to the strategy and research behind employer brand that so many people overlook. Over the next several years we stayed in touch and —I became his client and his fan. As I worked with him on multiple projects through his firm, Evviva Brands, in 2011 I was keenly reminded, no one knows or does employer brand strategy better. No one.

Christa Avampato

I met Christa in the summer of 2006 when we both started working at The Home Depot’s corporate office. We bonded over many things that summer, but I was in awe of her deep focus and passion to do something with meaning. In 2011, I wasn’t surprised when she started writing every day, (for 364 days as of today) focused on curating a creative life. I’ve been inspired by her daily musings and passionate pleas to find the best life has to offer. It culminates in reaching an aspiration of her own—founding the non-profit Compass Yoga providing yoga and wellness programming to people who have mental or physical health challenges. Not only did reading her blog encourage me to take up yoga again, but her ‘breath-of-fresh-air’ writing is just what a girl like me needs.

RecruitDC

Nothing sparks passion like seeing a grassroots initiative come to fruition. And over the past year, I’ve been thrilled to watch RecruitDC take serious shape here inWashingtonDC. Led and influenced by Ben Gotkin, Kathleen Smith, Kelly Dingee and numerous others, the grassroots designed to create networking events for recruiters by recruiters here in DC has already had numerous, sold-out events. I’m constantly motivated by people who want to advance their field or industry in an unselfish (and unpaid!) yet important way.

Peter LaMotte

Full disclosure here—Peter’s my better half. But when I think about my work in 2011, his creative and genius leadership of the aptly-named GeniusRocket (GR), had an incredible influence on my thinking. Peter joined GR, a creative crowdsourcing agency, only a few years ago as their Director of Marketing. And as their President in 2011, he’s completely turned the business on its head. Peter takes customer, client and partner feedback in a way like no one I’ve ever seen. He was nimble enough to turn that feedback into a completely new type of model with a new name: curated crowdsourcing. Having a vision like that and a belief in that vision is something I can only aspire to.

And that’s my goal in 2012. Continue to work, partner, learn, meet and connect with people who help energize me to make my aspirations a reality. That transition, that change, that’s what works all about. Happy new year, people.

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Follow List for this post: @JohnSumser | @RehanC | @ChristaNYC | @PeterLaMotte | @David_Kippen | @RecruitDC

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8 People Who Changed My Life in 2011

I could and should be looking ahead and making resolutions for 2012. But before I do, I’m looking back. And for good reason. I’m about to return back to my entrepreneurial roots as a talent strategy and brand consultant.  Like any brand shift, it happened slowly and evolved over time as I thought about where I can best make an impact in a way that fits my talents and work style the best. But change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And as I look back over 2011—a year of many firsts for me, I realize there are some key people who’ve had a serious impact on my life, my thinking and my work. These are people you should watch, follow, listen to and take note of. They’ve changed my way of thinking and can impact your world too.

Francisca Martinez

Her official title is Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition, Marriott International. But for the past five years I’ve known her as my boss. A driver, Francisca isn’t about pushing for the best, she’s focused on pushing for the best in you. While most executives want to remind you how much they know, Francisca’s all about finding out what she can learn. When I first brought up social media five years ago while we were working together at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, she didn’t balk or see it as a fad. She asked me to tell her more, share more and then carefully helped me educate other executives and make our case. Four years later, in Summer 2011, as I watched her give a Spanish interview with Univision on our new social recruiting game, My Marriott Hotel™, I sat back in awe. While I had no idea what she was telling the reporter in Spanish, I knew that her style, leadership and focus—being a driver—worked for us both. I can’t wait to see what she (and the team) do next.

Rehan Choudhry

I first met Rehan in business school. He was a technology and government consultant looking for something new and better. Now, almost five years after we finished those MBAs, Rehan’s leading the brand activation charge at the country’s coolest and most popular hotel: The Cosmopolitan. As the hotel’s Director of Special Events and Entertainment his Facebook photos rotate between posing with Adele and Mumford and Sons. I’ve watched his meteoric rise and along the way provided him some humble advice on brand strategy. And this year I’ve marveled at this amazing career change and success he’s had in such a short time. He’s a complete reminder that anything is possible if you work really, freakin’ hard.

John Sumser

Have you ever met someone who makes you smarter every time you talk to them? That’s John Sumse rfor me. I might call him the leading “independent HR technology and recruiting analyst” or really just refer to him as the smartest guy I know in recruiting who doesn’t take any BS from me.  The founder of HRExaminer, John’s unique combination of innovation and honesty and beyond appealing. Rarely do you meet someone who really gives you frank advice and feedback because he wants to see you succeed. Rarely do you meet someone who makes your brain hurt. In a really good way. In 2011, John’s done that for me.

Andy Goldman

Earlier this year, I spoke at Media Bistro’s Career Circus and I was struck by the guy who spoke after I did. Andy Goldman, Vice President, Program Planning and Scheduling for HBO had a bright smile, a strong presence and a great message. Sure, I’m HBO-obsessed. But after that day I couldn’t stop thinking about Andy’s gracious and selfless style. Here’s this important executive for an incredibly popular brand, and he couldn’t be more interested in just helping people. He graciously agreed to a brand interview for my blog in which I learned that his altruism was as genuine as it gets. Sure, he’s busy, but he’s so open with his candor and advice you can’t help but marvel at how he stands out in a dog-eat-dog industry. We should all be at least, a little like this.

David Kippen

One Tennessee afternoon in 2006, I cold-called David Kippen. I was living in Nashville for business school and decided the hybrid of HR and marketing was something really intriguing. I Googled “employer brand” and the results were all David. He was the guru, the expert. He took my cold call that day and opened his doors and his mind to me. His eloquence and gracefulness of thought introduced me to the strategy and research behind employer brand that so many people overlook. Over the next several years we stayed in touch and —I became his client and his fan. As I worked with him on multiple projects through his firm, Evviva Brands, in 2011 I was keenly reminded, no one knows or does employer brand strategy better. No one.

Christa Avampato

I met Christa in the summer of 2006 when we both started working at The Home Depot’s corporate office. We bonded over many things that summer, but I was in awe of her deep focus and passion to do something with meaning. In 2011, I wasn’t surprised when she started writing every day, (for 364 days as of today) focused on curating a creative life. I’ve been inspired by her daily musings and passionate pleas to find the best life has to offer. It culminates in reaching an aspiration of her own—founding the non-profit Compass Yoga providing yoga and wellness programming to people who have mental or physical health challenges. Not only did reading her blog encourage me to take up yoga again, but her ‘breath-of-fresh-air’ writing is just what a girl like me needs.

RecruitDC

Nothing sparks passion like seeing a grassroots initiative come to fruition. And over the past year, I’ve been thrilled to watch RecruitDC take serious shape here inWashingtonDC. Led and influenced by Ben Gotkin, Kathleen Smith, Kelly Dingee and numerous others, the grassroots designed to create networking events for recruiters by recruiters here in DC has already had numerous, sold-out events. I’m constantly motivated by people who want to advance their field or industry in an unselfish (and unpaid!) yet important way.

Peter LaMotte

Full disclosure here—Peter’s my better half. But when I think about my work in 2011, his creative and genius leadership of the aptly-named GeniusRocket (GR), had an incredible influence on my thinking. Peter joined GR, a creative crowdsourcing agency, only a few years ago as their Director of Marketing. And as their President in 2011, he’s completely turned the business on its head. Peter takes customer, client and partner feedback in a way like no one I’ve ever seen. He was nimble enough to turn that feedback into a completely new type of model with a new name: curated crowdsourcing. Having a vision like that and a belief in that vision is something I can only aspire to.

And that’s my goal in 2012. Continue to work, partner, learn, meet and connect with people who help energize me to make my aspirations a reality. That transition, that change, that’s what works all about. Happy new year, people.

------------

Follow List for this post: @JohnSumser | @RehanC | @ChristaNYC | @PeterLaMotte | @David_Kippen | @RecruitDC

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8 People Who Changed My Life in 2011

I could and should be looking ahead and making resolutions for 2012. But before I do, I’m looking back. And for good reason. I’m about to return back to my entrepreneurial roots as a talent strategy and brand consultant.  Like any brand shift, it happened slowly and evolved over time as I thought about where I can best make an impact in a way that fits my talents and work style the best. But change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And as I look back over 2011—a year of many firsts for me, I realize there are some key people who’ve had a serious impact on my life, my thinking and my work. These are people you should watch, follow, listen to and take note of. They’ve changed my way of thinking and can impact your world too.

Francisca Martinez

Her official title is Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition, Marriott International. But for the past five years I’ve known her as my boss. A driver, Francisca isn’t about pushing for the best, she’s focused on pushing for the best in you. While most executives want to remind you how much they know, Francisca’s all about finding out what she can learn. When I first brought up social media five years ago while we were working together at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, she didn’t balk or see it as a fad. She asked me to tell her more, share more and then carefully helped me educate other executives and make our case. Four years later, in Summer 2011, as I watched her give a Spanish interview with Univision on our new social recruiting game, My Marriott Hotel™, I sat back in awe. While I had no idea what she was telling the reporter in Spanish, I knew that her style, leadership and focus—being a driver—worked for us both. I can’t wait to see what she (and the team) do next.

Rehan Choudhry

I first met Rehan in business school. He was a technology and government consultant looking for something new and better. Now, almost five years after we finished those MBAs, Rehan’s leading the brand activation charge at the country’s coolest and most popular hotel: The Cosmopolitan. As the hotel’s Director of Special Events and Entertainment his Facebook photos rotate between posing with Adele and Mumford and Sons. I’ve watched his meteoric rise and along the way provided him some humble advice on brand strategy. And this year I’ve marveled at this amazing career change and success he’s had in such a short time. He’s a complete reminder that anything is possible if you work really, freakin’ hard.

John Sumser

Have you ever met someone who makes you smarter every time you talk to them? That’s John Sumse rfor me. I might call him the leading “independent HR technology and recruiting analyst” or really just refer to him as the smartest guy I know in recruiting who doesn’t take any BS from me.  The founder of HRExaminer, John’s unique combination of innovation and honesty and beyond appealing. Rarely do you meet someone who really gives you frank advice and feedback because he wants to see you succeed. Rarely do you meet someone who makes your brain hurt. In a really good way. In 2011, John’s done that for me.

Andy Goldman

Earlier this year, I spoke at Media Bistro’s Career Circus and I was struck by the guy who spoke after I did. Andy Goldman, Vice President, Program Planning and Scheduling for HBO had a bright smile, a strong presence and a great message. Sure, I’m HBO-obsessed. But after that day I couldn’t stop thinking about Andy’s gracious and selfless style. Here’s this important executive for an incredibly popular brand, and he couldn’t be more interested in just helping people. He graciously agreed to a brand interview for my blog in which I learned that his altruism was as genuine as it gets. Sure, he’s busy, but he’s so open with his candor and advice you can’t help but marvel at how he stands out in a dog-eat-dog industry. We should all be at least, a little like this.

David Kippen

One Tennessee afternoon in 2006, I cold-called David Kippen. I was living in Nashville for business school and decided the hybrid of HR and marketing was something really intriguing. I Googled “employer brand” and the results were all David. He was the guru, the expert. He took my cold call that day and opened his doors and his mind to me. His eloquence and gracefulness of thought introduced me to the strategy and research behind employer brand that so many people overlook. Over the next several years we stayed in touch and —I became his client and his fan. As I worked with him on multiple projects through his firm, Evviva Brands, in 2011 I was keenly reminded, no one knows or does employer brand strategy better. No one.

Christa Avampato

I met Christa in the summer of 2006 when we both started working at The Home Depot’s corporate office. We bonded over many things that summer, but I was in awe of her deep focus and passion to do something with meaning. In 2011, I wasn’t surprised when she started writing every day, (for 364 days as of today) focused on curating a creative life. I’ve been inspired by her daily musings and passionate pleas to find the best life has to offer. It culminates in reaching an aspiration of her own—founding the non-profit Compass Yoga providing yoga and wellness programming to people who have mental or physical health challenges. Not only did reading her blog encourage me to take up yoga again, but her ‘breath-of-fresh-air’ writing is just what a girl like me needs.

RecruitDC

Nothing sparks passion like seeing a grassroots initiative come to fruition. And over the past year, I’ve been thrilled to watch RecruitDC take serious shape here inWashingtonDC. Led and influenced by Ben Gotkin, Kathleen Smith, Kelly Dingee and numerous others, the grassroots designed to create networking events for recruiters by recruiters here in DC has already had numerous, sold-out events. I’m constantly motivated by people who want to advance their field or industry in an unselfish (and unpaid!) yet important way.

Peter LaMotte

Full disclosure here—Peter’s my better half. But when I think about my work in 2011, his creative and genius leadership of the aptly-named GeniusRocket (GR), had an incredible influence on my thinking. Peter joined GR, a creative crowdsourcing agency, only a few years ago as their Director of Marketing. And as their President in 2011, he’s completely turned the business on its head. Peter takes customer, client and partner feedback in a way like no one I’ve ever seen. He was nimble enough to turn that feedback into a completely new type of model with a new name: curated crowdsourcing. Having a vision like that and a belief in that vision is something I can only aspire to.

And that’s my goal in 2012. Continue to work, partner, learn, meet and connect with people who help energize me to make my aspirations a reality. That transition, that change, that’s what works all about. Happy new year, people.

------------

Follow List for this post: @JohnSumser | @RehanC | @ChristaNYC | @PeterLaMotte | @David_Kippen | @RecruitDC

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What's Your Place?

I had a great discussion over dinner last night with some friends about the "place." The one place that makes you feel most at home--the place that is the core of who you are. For one it was Prague, because that's where she fell in love. For another it was Vienna because that's where he was born and spent his formative years. For me, it might be Nashville or Geneva for two very different reasons. But the core of the conversation, was about where you feel most you, most impactful or most impacted.  What if we took that sentiment and applied it in another way? Let me explain. I was in Nashville to get my MBA. I'd been living in DC for nine years until then--in the city, taking public transport everywhere. I hit museums, bars and restaurants on a regular basis. When I applied to B-School I was at a crossroads personally and professionally and decided I wanted to apply to schools all in places I thought I'd never live (Raleigh-Durham, Nashville, Ann Arbor). And Nashville won out.

I thought it would be funny, a great joke to later tell at dinner parties: "I lived in Nashville for two years, ha!" But then it became my place. For the first time in nine years I was a full-time student again. In a laid-back city full of culture, live music and great food. I fell in love with learning, new music, new people. It became my place.  Now when I go back to visit, I literally long for those days.  I was at my best, in my place with life.

What if we did that with our careers? What if you stopped and asked yourself, "what's my place?"

Do it. Think back throughout your career. What's your place? Are you there? Were you there? When (if ever) did you feel most at home in your career. When (if ever) have you looked around and said "I can't believe my luck?"

I'm in the middle of looking for my place. And that's how I came here, with Exaqueo. It's mine, and I'm at home. I'm working with individuals to find their home through personal brand creation and management and career coaching. I'm working with companies to help them define their talent and brand strategies.  And I'm slowly coming back to my place.

What's yours?

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Brand: Jerry Leo

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.

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Jerry Leo's Bio (courtesy of NBC):

Jerry Leo, Senior Vice President, Program Strategy and Acquisitions for Bravo, is responsible for all phases of program planning for the channel including long range planning, scheduling of programs and stunts on the network, and all acquisitions. Based in New York City, he also works closely with the development and production departments as well as ad sales.Prior to Bravo, Leo held a number of positions at VH1/MTV Networks, most recently as Vice President, Program Planning. In this capacity, he was responsible for scheduling all programs, series, stunts, theme weeks and cornerstone events. Prior to that, Leo was at MTV, where he was Manager, Program Planning and Acquisitions. Previously, he worked in MTV's Production department as a talent coordinator as well as in MTV's Series Development department. Before his tenure at MTV Networks, Leo began his television career at NBC. He held the position of sales assistant at NBC's Prime Time and News Sales department, and also held positions in the Corporate Communications and Entertainment Programming departments.Leo holds a B.S. degree in television, radio and film management from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

 

 

 

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It's You.

“Why do people want to work with you?”  “I have significant experience in these types of projects and demonstrated evidence of execution from start to finish.”

“Great, now why do people want to work with you?”

So went the conversation I had with a branding client recently looking to build a personal brand and execute it in preparation for an eventual job search or entrepreneurial venture.  When I asked the question a second time to my client, let’s call her Trina, she was stumped.

“Honestly, I’d never thought about the question.” And she’s not alone. So much of job searching, especially for the practiced, is about the job description, the technical questions—the typical proving ground of “I can do this job.”

We tend to tie our strengths to the physical things we have done—programs we launched, people we managed, strategies we created. But how did we get these things done?

Well, we rock. We’re…

  • Creative
  • Unbiased
  • Reliable
  • Energetic
  • Detail-oriented
  • Intuitive
  • Organized
  • Thoughtful
  • Eager
  • Smart
  • Political
  • Mindful
  • Instinctive
  • Plucky
  • Efficient
  • Trustworthy
  • Eager
  • Honest

Each of us isn’t all of these things—but it’s the set, the collection that makes you unique. You need to know these things—and not just for your resume. You need to be able to set yourself apart for promotions, business development, marketing and personal brand purposes. I've always called this pairing your adjective to your nouns. 

For example, Jose  may be a great presenter, but so is Trina. Jose may be great because he is very planful, he puts a great deal of thought into preparing, planning and understanding his audience. Trina, on the other hand, is very intuitive and flexible. She waits until she's in the moment and adjusts accordingly. Two great presentations, but two different strategies and personalities behind them. You may have a situation where Jose's presentation style is best, or where you really need Trina.

So get yourself an ego.Figure out why YOU rock.  Then manage that ego carefully. You don't have to shout it from the mountaintops but you should be able to respond immediately and with confidence when someone asks "why should I hire you?"  As Laurie Ruettimann puts it, everyone can be awesome--your biggest competition is yourself.

Tie your strengths to your experiences and your personality. That’s the magic combination someone’s buying. It’s you.

 

 

 

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Consider Paella

Really, it's a great dish. Tomatoes, seafood, flavorful rice.  What's not to love? Okay, maybe the ridiculous cost of saffron (it takes something like a million flower blossoms to make one saffron thread), but other than that, it's fantastic. I finally learned how to cook paella with my friend Rakhi in a Culinaerie cooking class last weekend. It was a Catalan cuisine class with dishes from that famed region of Spain. And famed it is.Spain in general is really well known for its food. And as the chef instructor talked about why and why in particular she prefers Catalan paella, she told us the story of how she drove five hours from Barcelona to Valencia to try the Valencian paella and then turned around and immediately drove five hours north it struck me that people go out of their way to verify the reputation of a brand. Catalan PaellaThink about the last restaurant where you tried for ages to get a reservation.  Either you read a stellar review, or read a friend's tweet about their fantastic meal.  When you finally get a table, you're expecting greatness. And the restaurant either solidifies or breaks its brand.

It's like a recommendation, or a referral--hallmarks of brand growth for both people and products.  Social media has dramatically changed the way we share what we like--and what we don't.  So when the chef waxed poetic about the Catalan paella, I was expecting greatness as we cooked. And greatness was delivered.

No one knows exactly why the Catalan region of Spain has such a great reputation for cuisine. It might be that it's really close to France (where cheese and wine reign supreme), or have to do with the region's weather and ability to cultivate certain crops.  But it has a reputation for amazing food. Just ask any chef.

This is where brands get tricky. The greater the reputation, the more auspicious the brand, the bigger fall you take.  After all the cooking class hype, if the paella was, at its best, decent, it would have failed the test. That's because I was expecting greatness. 

So consider paella. And consider how "great" you want your brand to be. Delivering greatness is one thing, but the expectations it creates is another. Just be sure you're ready to live up to the hype.

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The Brand Experiment

Social media means that for the first time, consumers can be so honest and open. They can tell you when you suck and that can spread everywhere.  Their CEOs hate it, but in actuality, it's gold.  Marketers truly know how their products and brand are perceived and the can re-market and re-brand if needed. And that got me thinking. About me. If ask someone flat out: "what do you think of me?" I'm likely to get a vanilla, bland response. Few people have the guts and honesty to tell me the truth. My years in HR have made me pretty self-aware. I know what I can and can't do.  But as I was working on re-branding my website I realized I don't have a good sense of what people really think about my brand.  Brand isn't just skill--it's the entire package, the perception, the "who you are in a moment."

These days, companies seem to be moving away from 360-degree feedback.  They're focused on engagement which is often a measure of managing upwards.  You may get to give feedback on who's above you but you don't have a true sense of those around you. And these days, 360 isn't about the circle, it's 3-dimensional.  Who's in front of you, paving a path for you to follow? Who's behind you with a better idea or solution? And what can you learn from it all? That's where social media comes in.

Social media makes it even more complicated.  It takes who knows you to exponentially new levels.  More feedback, right? Sort of. You can measure who follows you and how often your content is shared. But unless you're Lady Gaga soliciting a reaction from the crowd, it's really hard to measure true sentiment. Honest, real, sentiment that's not a reaction to an incendiary blog post.

I love working. If I didn't I wouldn't have started at 14 and never stopped. I get real value from helping, teaching, innovating, strategizing, problem solving and making sense of chaos.  I get feedback every day--at work, from friends and family and online.  But it still leaves me wondering: what do people REALLY think of me?

It's simple really. There are ten questions. It's totally anonymous. All I ask is that you keep it professional, and keep it honest. Here goes...

commence The Brand Experiment: tell me what you think.

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Brand: Andy Goldman

Brand: YOU. What do you stand for? What makes you, you? Starting this week, I'll be posing that question to great professional brands, like HBO's Andy Goldman.  It only took minutes for Andy to capture the attention of a recent MediaBistro crowd, his brand clear, his intentions pure.  Let's talk personal brands (and TV) with Andy. Brands aren't about having the basics.  Every cable channel has a good mix of programming from movies to reality to comedy. But it's not the basic ingredients that make a brand. It's what stands out beyond the basics. It's what surprisingly draws people in (The Wire), what people can't get anywhere else (boxing) and what you're known for (The Sopranos). Finding that right combination is key.

Andy Goldman, vice president, Program Planning and Scheduling for HBO has done just that.  Sure, he knows his technical stuff, and has the experience to back it up (see his bio at the end), but so do a number of people in the industry. His brand is all personality:  it's warm, welcoming, high-energy, honest, and funny. It's all Andy.

The best way to build your own person brand is to examine the elements of someone else's brand to see what makes it unique. What do you hang your hat on? Andy was kind enough to answer a few brand-breakdown-ish questions and give you a glimpse inside what makes his brand.

(Susan) So Andy,When you first meet someone, how do you introduce yourself? (Andy) I look the person in the eye, extend my hand (for a handshake) and say “Andy Goldman—nice to meet you”.

Ok then, well let's say I'm reading an article about you. If you had a headline, what would it be? Life is not a dress rehearsal.

Nope, definitely not, unless it's a show (even a reality one).  Let's get technical here. What consumer or product brand would you most compare yourself to and why? I know this sounds like shameless self-promotion, but HBO.  In a ever-changing world, the HBO brand continues to be something that resonates with people of all demographic backgrounds.  It connotes a image of out-of-the box thinking and strives to be the best in everything it does.

After hearing you speak that makes sense. I've always admired HBO for that.  Have you always been that way? When you were in college, how would your friends describe you? A very loyal person who could also be a wise-ass.  I was (and am) a person who knew what he wanted and either knew how to get it or figure out how to achieve my goal of getting it.  I love puzzles.

I'm more of a Words With Friends gal, myself. But puzzle solving's a great metaphor. To get what you want there's always some solution-finding in order which can evolve a brand. Are those descriptors the same today? Now, how would your team now describe you? Here’s a few directly from them (I am humbled):  “Knows the TV and movie business better that anyone”, “Funny”, “Calm under pressure”, “Don’t get on his bad side”, “Great teacher”, “Smartest person in the room”, “Forward thinking”, “Loyal’, “Will do anything for his staff if he believes in you”, “Great husband and father”, “Knows everybody in the biz”, “Loves to help people”.

No need to be humbled. Knowledge of your brand is power. As you mentioned before, HBO's got a great brand. What HBO program is most like you? “Entourage."

Hmm. I don't really see you as an Ari, a Drama or even Lloyd. But I can see how you've got Ari's drive, Drama's passion and Lloyd's likeable nature. But that personality, that brand, didn't just evolve, right? You've done a number of things to develop and strengthen it.  What's the most important thing you have done to strengthen your own personal brand? Do not be afraid of change—embrace it.  Know what you are supposed to know, and know more.  Learn as much as the groups you are dealing with on a daily basis.  Also, network with people in your industry and other industries.  All people, all fields.  Take any/all speaking engagements.  And be sure to always find time to open your door to someone who reaches out to you.

And that's surely worked for you. What advice would you give to young professionals who are just starting to build a personal brand? Be fearless, not reckless.  Network-network-network.  Reach out to people in a proper manner and ask for informational interviews.  Envision a successful career strategically.  And once you get a job, continue to network.  One of my mentors said, you do your job from 9-5, but your build your career from 5-9.  It’s absolutely true.

What a great line. And ending on a great line is great for show business and the business of brands. Andy, thanks for guest-starring today. You're welcome.

Stay tuned for our next Brand profile.  Want to suggest someone fab?  Let me know.

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Andrew Goldman's Bio:

Andrew Goldman is vice president, Program Planning and Scheduling, HBO/Cinemax, for Home Box Office, responsible for the strategic planning, acquisition and scheduling of programs for Cinemax’s eight multiplex channels. In addition, he oversees the development and management of new ventures, such as SVOD and Hi-Def, and supervises HBO/Cinemax’s film library analysis and inventory management.  He was named to this position in April 2003.

Goldman joined HBO in 1986, first as a kit coordinator and then senior guide coordinator, responsible for planning and supervising the design and production of the HBO cable guide.  In 1989 he was named media listings manager, Guide Publications, where he oversaw the implementation of the monthly guide information packet. Goldman moved to Scheduling and Program Planning, Cinemax, in 1992 as an assistant manager and was promoted to manager in 1994.

He briefly left HBO in 1998 to work at Showtime Networks, Inc. as director, Program Scheduling, where he managed and executed long-term programming strategies for their multiplex channels.  He rejoined HBO that same year as director, Program Planning and Scheduling, Cinemax.  Goldman began his career in 1985 as a screenplay analyst at Warner Bros., where he worked with various studio-based producers. He holds an MA in Cinema Studies from New York University’s Tisch School of Arts and a BA in Political Science from Syracuse University.

He is a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS), the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS), the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE), the British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA ), East Coast, and has been appointed to the Board of Governors at the Friars Club and the Alumni Council at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.  In addition, he has been an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Film & Television at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts since 2006.

 

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Marketing Moves

My mom’s often mistaken for June Cleaver. Or a track star. In high school I’d come home from practice and find my friends around the table being fed some delicious treat. They didn’t come to see me. Driving around town, she’d often stop the car to pick up someone else’s trash that had blown in the street. Let’s just say my propensity to start baking at 11pm or to clean my house using a patented four-step process comes from this woman who never stops. For a minute. Levitra PillSo it didn’t surprise me when she invented a marketing term.  Let me explain.  Friends of my parents have a son-in-law who’s a doctor and he gave them a few pens. The pen was courtesy of Bayer Pharmaceuticals, maker of Levitra, a competitor to Viagra.  And we all known what those drugs are for, right? They're for the well-known medical issue: E.D.  It’s not just a pen, though, it’s marketing genius.

To see exactly why, you have to think about the product as you watch the video: Levitra Pen.

Turns out, this pen has been around for years. I found video as early as 2006 and commentary since then. So it's been making people talk for five years now.

And after we laughed and laughed (like five-year olds), I remarked to my mom what brilliant word-of-mouth marketing it was (you got the joke, right??). Here was a product we’d normally never talk about (she's really June Cleaver in that sense) and yet there we were talking (giggling) about it.  My mom responded quickly with what she thought was just a comedic gem: “It’s not really word-of-mouth marketing. It’s word-of-motion marketing.”

The thing is, as quick of a retort as my mom has, she’s quick with almost everything she does. And she had a cogent point here.  What gets people talking? Something to watch, movement. Viral content isn’t just about words—something has to move us to watch it. And for us to watch it, something has to move.  Motion means attention. Attention means sharing. And isn't that the point these days? Mom, I think you've just invented a new focus on marketing. It's all about the word-of-motion. Congrats mom. That's your term.

 

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Looking the Part

I once went to get my haircut at an Aveda salon, because my usual girl was booked solid.  Aveda products are some of my favorites so I figured I could rely on the brand.  But when I got there, the Aveda hairdresser looked like she just rolled out bed. Her hair was a complete disaster and she was chomping away on her gum. I hesitated, had her cut my hair anyway, and then begged my usual stylist to fit me in to fix it.   The Aveda hairdresser didn't look the part, and I shouldn't have trusted her.  Thank god I am not a haridresser. On days like today, when the DC humidity is at its most awesome heights, I'm begging my straightener to help save me.  But I am trying to play a part most days. If I am going to give career advice or coach clients on talent or brand Twitter Logomanagement, I better be a ridiculously great walking example, right?  I use Twitter extensively as part of my personal brand.  I had two handles (@DailyCareerTips and @SusanDStrayer). The former was more for business purposes--for career coaching clients, media and discussion and content on job advice, recruiting etc.  The latter was meant more for inside the business--sharing content back and forth with fellow recruiting and career-type peeps, as well as some of my snarky sarcasm.  The only network I kept mostly personal was Facebook.

Well, those days are done. I'm managing one brand, one persona, and one @SusanStrayer.  And that works for me.  If you followed my on @DailyCareerTips, you're now following me automatically @SusanStrayer.  If you followed me @SusanDStrayer, I hope you'll hop on over and minus the D to @SusanStrayer

Many brand experts argue the benefit of separating your profiles, your networks and your commentary.  But I am who I am--and I do censor myself in public on some things (I tend not to curse, talk politics or super-personal issues).  This way I'm not managing several versions of myself. Now, you might find you like the idea of multiple personalities---and being able to be on version of you with one circle, and another with another circle or platform. Totally fine. Just be prepared to manage to that.

But for me, this is what you get. Plus, it's all easier to manage from a logistics perspective. It's like a one-stop Susan Strayer shop. (Except it doesn't sell stuff by the poet Susan Strayer.  That's not me.)

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Peachy Marketing

I lived in Atlanta one summer and peaches were everywhere---from signs to license plates. Their primary home, Peach County, produces fruit from 2.5 million trees every year. But Georgia is only the third largest peach producing state in the U.S. behind California and South Carolina. In fact, South Carolinians are downright defensive about it and the debate can get pretty hot, ya'll.

I spent the past week in South Carolina, a place I've grown to love, and it's peaches are at their peak. The photo here is a McBee peach which one local proudly told me: "precious, they just don't get any betta' than this." And they don't.

So why does Georgia get all the credit? How is it that a state has made itself synonymous with a fruit to drive both business and tourism? Well sugar, it's all about the brand.

First, Georgia made it the official state fruit after earning the moniker informally in the three decades after the Civil War. Then they just promoted the hell out of it. The Georgia Peach Council is responsible for marketing the industry, so much so that a 2006 consumer study showed that 80% of consumers prefer Georgia peaches.

That's the beauty of branding. The state of Georgia took ownership of the peach and incorporated it into their brand. And South Carolina didn't. So many products have similar qualities and can even be equal in terms of quality and taste. Often it's only marketing that sets it apart.

The lesson for you? Instead of looking at your talent competitor and inwardly fuming that you're just as good or better, focus on the brand. If only locals know about you, you'll only be popular locally.

I have a friend who's exceptionally well known in a specific industry in one city. He changed the brand of his organization and made it what it is today. But when I Google his name, I only find press clips for his organization. He's relying on the locals to save him, and that could be a career branding mistake.

If you only want your brand to be local--by all means, think South Carolina. But if you want to be known, you have to think popularity. Think Georgia peach.

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Quitting Is Good For Your Brand

I can say no to camping, spicy food and bug retrieval.  But yet I can't seem to say no to work.And when I take on something else, the only thing left to cut seems to be sleep.  With toothpicks propping open my eyes today after a paltry 5 hours of sleep last night, I'm reminded that quitting can be a good thing.

In 2005 I went back to get my MBA at Vanderbilt. Two music, bacon and case-study filled years later, I finished but had a hard time letting go of Nashville. This Philly girl loved, loved, loved the city and being back in school. So I couldn't resist when they asked for my help leading the Alumni Council.  I give back, looks great on a resume, and I have the privilege of attending the Alumni Board meetings with some pretty amazing alumni. But I just quit. Yep, I am a quitter.  I was feeling bad about it until Stephen Dubner told me (and all of radio land) that it's not such a bad thing.

Inn my role as Alumni Council President, I launched an alumni-led survey and gave some fantastic feedback to the school. I reached out to my own class and shared some cool ideas to energize others. But this year, frankly, I've sucked at my job. I'm taking longer to respond to email requests for help, and I haven't been innovative, interesting or proactive in the least.

I felt bad about quitting, but after the Freaknomics therapy, I realized it's actually better for my brand.  When you overcommit, you take away from something. And no matter what that something is--family, hobbies, day job--you feel guilty about it. And that hurts your brand.  For me it was sleep. And when I'm tired, I'm super cranky and I don't think well.  Which is important since a big chunk of what I do involves strategy and innovation.

So while I hate to let the responsibility go, I know in the long run it's better for me, better for my brand and for Vanderbilt. I can sleep tonight knowing that giving up breadth of focus means I'm getting much more depth.  And it's the depth of the brand that matters. Sounds caffeinating to me.

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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10 Tips for a True Expert's Personal Brand

This blog post is co-written with the super-smart Pete Radloff, recruiter, talent leader and all-around nice guy. The internet. For all its beauty and brawn, it’s like candy to a kid.  There’s always room for more. Unless you’re managing a personal brand, meaning, you’re calling yourself an expert and purport to be the “industry’s leading…” or the “foremost expert on….” The field in which we work, human resources, has it’s share of experts—from recruiting to Gen Y to organizational design.  But for every expert, there’s an online personal brand and many of them are painfully obvious.

It may be a lost cause for those floating in the ego clouds but if you’re looking to make a career as a subject matter expert (or if you are one and you’re willing to listen for a wee second), here are ten tips to brand yourself as an expert while keeping it real. And bearable.

1) Let your experience speak for itself.

As an expert, you don’t need to continually remind everyone with every post, promotion and page on your Web site, that you’re the expert. Headlines and promotional materials may be a necessary evil, but let the work speak for itself. Share a client list. Blog regularly. Provide feedback and testimonials from clients that matter. Your experience and expertise isn’t about what you say it is.  It’s what your reputation says it is.  Self-promotion has a tipping point and humility can be a beautiful thing.

2) Show that you’ve worked in the corporate trenches.

Expertise is earned best through experience.  And while consultants get great, often long-term, experience from client relationships, there’s no substitute for having been a client yourself at one time. To be an expert is to say “I’ve been in your shoes.”  There’s credibility and understanding to having managed a Fortune 500’s budget or gone through an RFP or vendor selection from the inside. Relationships are built on common understanding and the "I've been there before" is a great place to start.

3) Don’t spam - have a target audience have concise useful content.

It’s not to say don’t market. But a surefire way to make sure that your audience tunes you out quickly is to focus only the “Look at ME” factor. We’re in a society constantly inundated with this offer or that new shiny toy.  Break from the herd and offer clear content that is rich, focused, and stirs debate among the readers or followers that you are targeting.  Aside from promoting yourself, and marketing your brand and services, you also have to provide a value-add to the audience. Always ask yourself “what can they take away from the content I’m delivering right now?”

4) Speak on topics you have real experience with, not just pure opining.

Looking at the profiles of “gurus” on LinkedIn, and their bios on their websites, there are repeated patterns in many of the profiles – little to no experience in the field that they are allegedly “experts” in. There are pedigreed educational experiences, and then once off into entrepreneur-hood – an expert is born.  While there’s almost always a segment of the experts that have tenure in the field that they opine about, the law of averages doesn’t allow for them all to be experts. Your credibility is, in the long run, ultimately based on the wisdom you can share from deep, genuine experience and research into your topic.

5) Don’t assume you know everything about said, expert topic.

Even if you’re the go-to guy (or gal) in a particular niche, you have a perspective based on your experiences, your education and your age. Not only do you not know everything, but you’re not in a place to predict every trend either.  Pay attention to up and comers in your field or industry and publicly highlight what you learn from them. It shows that you respect the full range of thought and debate any area of expertise needs to stay vibrant and energized.

6) Stop with the “thought leader” crap.

“Thought leader” – say it aloud. These two words are pure marketing gold. Gold plated that is. It’s an incredibly overused term, and usually misappropriated in its use. The definition of thought leader is a “person who is recognized for innovative ideas and demonstrates the confidence to promote or share those ideas as actionable distilled insights”. This is a fine definition, but it explicitly says "innovative ideas." And much of what is out there is far from innovative, but rather recycled and repackaged as new. Only truly innovative, unique ideas can make you a thought leader. (And we have to be able to come up with a better catchphrase or label for it, right?)

7) Don’t let your life become your brand.

Social media has allowed experts to become more personable, sharing more insight into their personal lives and interests. But your life can’t become or overtake your expertise.  If it does, you’re not an expert in your area of expertise. You’re an expert in your personal life. And we're not in the market for that. If you decide to open up all of your thought streams to your public, do so carefully.  Then take a count. We want to know who you are at your core, but when your wisdom starts being outweighed by Tweets about your pet peeves and Facebook posts about your unhygienic neighbor, your credibility sinks. Fast. There’s no doubt that social media means a professional and personal profile is often merged. But you’re managing a brand here and authenticity isn't digestible when you're sharing everything that comes to mind.

8) Don't throw others under the bus that you "compete" with and don’t attack others that disagree with you - your side is only 1 half.

The internet means the world is much smaller now.  With that comes responsibility for the brand owner. You’ll always have supporters and detractors. Not everyone will see your ideas as right, some will be flat out competitors, and others may even call you out publicly. You must be willing to engage all parties professionally and with mutual respect.  It’s evident to an audience when you are in attack mode, as opposed to when you are in competitive, but substantive debate. Part of being a leader is respecting the ideas of others, even if not always agreeing with them.

9) Don’t be untouchable.

Now that you're big and branded, find new talent to mentor. When you start getting dozens of calls for informational interviews, you've hit the big-time. Just remember you too were once unknown and someone helped you. Pay it forward and offer a talented up and comer a chance to guest blog on your site or join you as a guest at a big conference.  Share something you learned from someone much greener and younger than you and answer as many emails and tweets as you can to stay connected.

10) Age often equals wisdom.

You may be rich and a expert in your own right in your 20s, but respect that some learning only comes with time (and gray hair). There are certainly outliers, those who are wildly successful and experienced early. However, the vast majority of people need to have an array of experiences both good and bad over a long period of time and have navigated many different situations to truly be considered an expert. Take time and be patient. Immerse yourself in as much of your industry as you can. Have an open-minded approach. Know what you don’t know. You've got plenty of time to learn it and plenty of time to be the expert.

So, are we experts with perfect personal brands?

We’re not professing to be perfect.  But from where we sit, we see hundreds of experts' brands just by reading, blogging, working and traveling. And all we want you to do is help you take a fresh look in at your own. The foundation for your brand is your credibility. Credibility built through the efforts that you have made to immerse yourself in your field, industry, the experience you have gained, and the continual ability to listen.

Keep your brand lean and let it lead itself. If you find yourself having to constantly work at your brand, then you’re not doing enough of the real work that gets you to be an expert.