January 30, 2010 § 4 Comments
In the last couple of years I’ve found myself steering more of my time, attention and business towards something I’m very passionate about: that is helping people to get a handle on the things that they have to offer that are truly different, special and valuable, and then helping them to connect with a community, a market, an audience that values the very difference they bring. Then we work on how to tell the story so that those who value what you have to offer don’t miss you or overlook you because you haven’t made that story prominent or clear enough. I want everybody to have the opportunity to do more of the work that they are excited about – the work that stirs up their energy, that taps their skills and brings out their best. That also means I’d like to liberate them from having too much of their time filled with the work that they are just adequate at – the stuff you say yes to because you need to pay your bills or because you’re too polite to say no, but it’s not the stuff that gets you jazzed, the stuff that taps into your particular flavor of awesome.
I think that words can help people steer their vehicle away from the merely adequate (or worse yet, the suppressed and oppressed) and get on a course toward the awesome. But the words don’t just drop out of the air. It takes introspection, it takes reflection, it takes a search for patterns, habits, values and often a process of giving yourself permission to change. In my personal branding practice I help people through all of that, and then I capture the words that become the identifier, the entry point to make brand connections. It’s an intensive process, in fact that’s where the term brand therapy came from – I didn’t make that one up, it was one of my clients who said it first, but I loved it – it stuck. And you know what? I LOVE MY JOB! But I can’t work with everybody. There isn’t enough time, and I realize that unlike a big corporation, individuals be they business people, freelancers, artists, entertainers, coaches, consultants, or folks in career transition, aren’t all going to be in a position to enlist the one-on-one attention of their own personal brand therapist.
I’ve decided that this year I want to develop some offerings that are more accessible – entry points, if you will, that will allow more people than I could reach one-on-one to explore the concepts behind branding and learn how they can apply them to their own goals, businesses, and talents. I’ve got a few things in production that I will be releasing over the course of the year, but the first offering is a teleseminar: Personal Branding Fundamentals: Be a Beacon. In this three session class I will explore the fundamentals of personal branding, go over why and how the Internet has changed your opportunities and some of the risks of sitting on the fence, and then we will dive into the Beacon Principles to give you a foundation for effectively restating your personal brand. If you’ve been struggling with how to tell your story, if you know you’ve got something great to offer the world, but aren’t getting recognized for the value you could bring, then I hope you will consider beginning the process of exploring your foundation and clarifying your message. You can’t just aspire to reach your dreams. You’re going to have to perspire too.
And remember, when you shine you make it easier for all those around you to shine too.
January 5, 2010 § 2 Comments
OK you know Julie and I have pet rabbits, right? Well when you share your home with rabbits “cute” is never in short supply. Breakfast is especially cute. I come down the stairs in the morning and they get excited – they dart around in their little pen (cute), they nudge each other excitedly (cuter), they stand on their hind legs and sniff (cutest), and sometimes one of them might even do a binky – a special little twisty twitchy hop that bunnies do (cuteness extremis). The point is they know what’s coming.
In the world of personal branding this is one target market that I have truly conquered. To the rabbits of the Cohen household my unique value proposition is clear: I am the bringer of parsley. There is no doubt in their tiny little rabbit minds. My consistent behavior in the marketplace has cemented my brand reputation. When it comes to the question of providing a leafy breakfast, every twitch, every binky says “I believe in you”.
So your product isn’t parsley and your market segment isn’t rabbits in the all-important 1-5 year old demographic. Maybe you’re looking for a job, or you offer consulting services, or you just opened a boutique… you know you’ve got something special to offer – are you hearing “I believe in you”? More importantly are you getting an “I believe in you” reaction? The bunnies never use the words, but their actions make it clear. And for that matter, it’s not what I say, but it’s the consistency of what I do that has won them over. (they may have big ears, but they don’t always listen)
Are your behaviors reinforcing your message or confusing it? Are your actions aligned with the brand image you are seeking?
The whole point of embarking on the personal branding journey is to focus what you offer that is unique and genuine, and then lower the barriers of understanding between you and the market segment that will find what you offer to be interesting, necessary and valuable. The first step is to believe in your own differentiation. The goal is an enduring and oft-repeated “I believe in you”.
December 31, 2009 § 4 Comments
Well I thought I would slide one last post under the door before saying goodbye to 2009. It’s been a hectic year, but in some ways a great one for solidifying thoughts, testing theories, falling flat on my face, dusting off and most importantly meeting some amazing people. People, in my view, are beacons. They may not always be switched on, but when they are they can do amazing things. They guide, they warn, they show the way. Sometimes they’re in lonely places, but that’s part of the price when your job is to shine.
Look at another beacon, a lighthouse: It stands out from the shoreline, jutting up from the rocks, clearly different from the surrounding landscape. It’s context gives it meaning – put the same building in a city skyline and it becomes lost and unable to function. Move it to the middle of a field and it loses purpose. And what is that brilliant beam that emanates from the beacon? It is focused energy – energy with purpose, a purpose clearly understood by all, but for some an absolute necessity.
Understand the beacon principles and you understand the essential questions you need to ask yourself to build your brand:
1) How are you different? Difference is the soul of branding. Where you’re different your competitor can’t touch you. Different is what makes you memorable and can even make you indispensable!
2) What’s your context? Context is what gives meaning to your difference. Context is understanding that your difference might be irrelevant to some, but essential to others. Identify the core market, the defining context that makes you essential!
3) What’s your focus? Focus has two faces: where you put your energy and where you put your audience’s attention. Emphasize your strengths and be conscious of the expectations you set – they are the criteria by which your brand will be judged. Do what you’re good at and get help with the rest. Start a fire by hyper-focusing your energy – once you have ignition you can spread the flame, but you’ll never catch fire if you don’t begin with focus.
As you tuck 2009 to bed and begin to the live the excitement and promise of a new year, I hope you will ask yourself the beacon questions: How am I different? What’s my context? What’s my focus? I hope you will be a guide.
I know you will shine.
Happy 2010 everybody!
October 23, 2009 § 4 Comments
“Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red ‘S’? That’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. THOSE are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume.” ~Quentin Tarantino
I love that because I believe that we all have something authentic to offer, something that makes us special, something that can make us a beacon to others if we would just let that light shine for all to see. However we don’t always trust that talent, that passion, that superpower – we hide it behind a job title, we bury it underneath professional conformity. We’re taught to fit in, not stand out, but branding is about standing out. Branding requires the risk of being noticed, especially when it comes to personal branding. If you’re not noticed then your brand never has that seed from which to grow. You may be awesome, heck I’ll even go out on a not-so-skinny limb and say that you are awesome, but if we don’t know you and don’t know you for your awesomeness, well then we can’t help you and sadly we’re not going to give you the opportunity to help us.
My ambition, my purpose, my superpower if you will, is to help others to identify their difference, to give their powers a name – to accept the mantle of their inner superhero. Yes, I’ve got a soft spot for the mavericks who were born on Krypton, but there are plenty of Earth-born humans who are mutating, who took the super-soldier serum, who’ve been
bitten by radioactive spiders and feel that light burning inside. I see them all around me. I meet them every day, but they haven’t all yet come to recognize their powers or to trust them.
Kryptonite! Poisonous vapor of doubt. Kryptonite! Energy-sapping force of the dont-make wave (believed to emanate from meteorites made during the explosion of planet Me-Too). Admit it, it’s not easy to give yourself permission to stop being a face in the crowd. The life of a superhero can be super-risky, even super-embarrassing.
Have you ever worn a cape? It’s a tough look to pull off. Even Clark Kent can’t work that look because it clashes with the briefcase – it is not part of the costume, but when you dare to shrug off the Clark Kent disguise and reveal your authentic super self that’s when the cape fits – it’s not a costume it is a part of who your are. That’s when you’ll pick the color of that cape, stock your utility belt, build your secret lair… and name your powers.
“Look! Up in the sky… It’s a bird… It’s a plane… It’s you!” Super.
October 1, 2009 § 1 Comment
My good friend David Bailey shared the following with me. He begged me to edit it, but I liked it in its raw form:
“Human problems, top and bottom:
Top: call it the ‘kitten syndrome’.
People who find themselves with no path down from where they’ve gotten themselves in life. Even the soft ground below looks like a fatal drop, so they climb higher and higher and the problem gets worse. How to find yourself where you need to be without breaking your neck?
Maybe it’s the tree itself – the tree syndrome.
Your job is to be a tree. That’s pretty daunting, since you’re a seed.
1) What do I need at this stage?
What do I need at this stage? Water is your limiting nutrient. If you don’t soften that outer core and fill yourself with a medium for reactions to take place, you’re going nowhere. So you need water now, but what you need will change.
2) Oh, crap, where did I end up? Which direction now?
There’s no light here. Fortunately in this story, you’re not just one seed, but several.
1) Good. Got water.
2) Got light. Lucky.
1) Need soft soil for roots.
2) Okay, reach down a little to the left.
August 27, 2007 § Leave a Comment
A friend of mine has taken to closing his email with statements like “I’m having a great day, because I chose that.” or “Have the day you choose.” At first it struck me as a little bit of a heavy dip into the self-help genre, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I know for myself there have been times when how I chose to react to an event or obstacle made a huge difference in the eventual outcome. My friend’s email salutation helps remind the folks that he interacts with that choosing to take a positive view and to separate stimuli from disposition are habits that we can learn and practice. The more people who put the habit into practice, the better the world becomes. It’s a prosumerist’s “Have a nice day”. And it just might be viral: today my morning status update on Facebook was “David Cohen is choosing to have a great day”, and it may seem corny, but I have to say that typing it in and hitting submit felt pretty darn good. Now here’s the tricky bit – a few moments ago, I had a lousy phone call, and learned some disappointing news. Instead of sulking I decided to write this post, and in doing so I got back into that positive mindset that I felt when I wrote that status update this morning. My great day is back on track – because I chose that. Pass it on.
August 16, 2007 § Leave a Comment
Have you ever written a love letter? You know, that perfectly crafted, written and re-written missive intended to communicate the depth and sincerity of your affection? Not just the simple “I love you” greeting card, but a serious Cyrano-esque, sophisticated dispatch on fancy-shmancy paper? Of course you have, but have you ever sent one to your customer?
It’s a business cliche, “we love our customers”, but how do you show that love? Is it in your pricing? Your products? Your quality? What do you love your clients for? Their loyalty? Their referrals? Their zany customer service calls? Do they know how you love them? Can you express all the little nothings you do to make their lives easier? Their applications simpler? Their teeth brighter? Their apples shinier?
Why not sit down and write a love letter to your customers? You may find out a little more about yourself and your business.