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Maintaining Your Desired Brand

By Denise Kaigler

Now that you’ve analyzed the feedback and used those comments and other factors to change, correct or create your ideal brand, it’s time to move into maintenance mode. For those of us who have been on one diet after another (I’ve lost count!), we know that the maintenance phase is the most difficult and the most critical. Like any successful diet, one slip could undo much of your hard work and effort. So let’s not slip. Your brand needs nurturing. Just like your brain and body, your brand is a key part of who you are.

Stay focused on what you want your brand to do for you and your goals. Also keep in mind that your brand can change. As you get older or your professional or personal needs or desires change, you may want or need to tweak or completely overhaul your brand. It’s common to adjust as your life progresses.

Once you believe you’ve created your ideal brand, how do you know it’s sticking? And if it is, how do you make sure it continues to stick?

Ask and Ask Again:Find a handful of people you trust and ask them if they believe you are projecting the brand you want to project. You’ll need to tell them the description of your ideal brand (e.g. decisive). Remember you’re on a different mission than you were on at the beginning of this process so be sure to diversify the mix. One or two can be people you queried earlier (refer to Part 1 of this series). One or two should be people whom you know but who were not part of the assessment process. Overall, getting constant feedback from a diverse group of people is the key to assessing how you are doing.

Maintaining Your Ideal Brand:Congrats! Your Ideal Brand Caught On! Once you confirm that your ideal personal brand is sticking and you are viewed for example as a decisive person, that’s wonderful. Now make sure you maintain it. It can be an action as overt as sending an email or beginning a meeting with the simple words, “Closing the loop on this,” or “After speaking with a few of you, we will move forward with…” or “I appreciate everyone’s feedback. The decision has been made to…”

The point is to literally point out that under your leadership, a decision has been made. You don’t need to go so far as to say that you’re the one responsible for making the decision (unless doing so makes sense or is unavoidable). But being the messenger of that decision is key and helps to reiterate or solidify your “decisive” brand. This same concept can be applied to most other brands as well. If you want to be known as someone who gets the work done, start off a meeting or send a wrap-up email along the lines of, “To All. We’re done. On time and on budget!” You get the point.

Please keep in mind that even if your ideal brand sticks and you’re a step away from nailing the branding quote to your door, it won’t always be smooth sailing. Again, that’s okay and normal. My brand is “Denise gets shit done!” But, trust me; there have been occasions when I haven’t closed out projects during the committed time frame. Sure, those moments don’t feel so good and I accept the repercussions. But I make it a point to understand the reasons and put a process in place that I hope will prevent those misses from happening again.

So what happens when you are not projecting your ideal brand?

Maintaining a Plan to Revamp Your Brand:Yikes! Your Ideal Brand Hasn’t Caught On! This is a more challenging situation. If you want to be known as decisive, but no one sees you that way, find out why. And then look objectively at yourself. Self-awareness is a powerful and undervalued quality. When you’re leading a meeting, or sending an email or having an impromptu café or hallway conversation, really take the time to reflect on how you’re projecting your brand. If it feels off, trust that instinct. Take a deep breath and course correct in a way that is seamless to others. Then check in with a trusted colleague or friend and ask how you came across.

If you are trying to overhaul your brand, you can also consider some more concrete steps such as creating a personal “brand” of directors, using a career coach or participating in personal branding workshops. I frequently conduct these types of workshops and have a success story to share. Following a series of personal branding workshops I conducted for a prominent community non-profit in Boston, I received a sweet letter from one of the workshop participants. She told me that after implementing some of the branding lessons from my workshop, she received a promotion at work! Certainly, her hard work played the biggest role in her promotion, but I was very proud to know that her dedication to utilizing some of the personal branding tools I teach in my workshops enhanced her personal brand and contributed to her promotion. I enjoy spending time with men and women who understand that focusing on their personal brand is as important as education to maintain the health of the mind and exercise to maintain the health of the body: Brain, brawn and, now, brand.

Closing the gap between the brand you want and the brand you have is challenging yes, but not impossible. It just takes time, focus and commitment. It may turn out to be an enjoyable experience.

Maintaining the brand you want is now one of your top priorities. Don’t be discouraged if the brand you want is not the current brand you are projecting. It just takes a little work to close the gap – as long as the gap isn’t as wide as an ocean! Be realistic. That’s the only way your brand will be authentic and sustainable. Good luck and get it done!


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Love Yourself First

By Denise Kaigler

Before you can care about or be committed to anyone or anything, including your job, you must first care about and be committed to YOU. Crafting a strong, authentic and sustainable personal brand is an empowering step in that process.

Know What You Want:When it comes to creating your desired personal brand, procrastination is not your friend. I firmly believe that an individual’s personal brand has an absolute, direct impact on career progression or, dare I say, regression. Before you can take the feedback from your interviews to create your personal brand, think about and decide what you want that brand to project. One of my favorite mottos is: If you can envision it, you can be it! Don’t let others create your image. Take control of your destiny. Define your own brand. Easier said than done, I know. But doable. It comes down to one important question: What do you want to be known for?

• Working hard and exceeding results
• Customer service rep extraordinaire
• Simplifying complex information
• Getting it all done

That last one happens to be my brand! Many years ago, someone said to me, “Denise, you have a reputation for just getting it all done.” I loved hearing those words because falling short of expectations was something I was damn near obsessed with and have embraced that brand ever since. In the summer of 2014, I hosted a series of workshops for the Boston NAACP’s Young Professionals Network. We spent hours writing “elevator” pitches that eventually led to creating each participant’s personal brand. Most had never been part of such an exercise, and every attendee found the process very productive.

Although creating a personal brand is not easy, it’s more difficult to turn around a negative brand. Let me stress – difficult, yes; impossible, no. Very few, if any, go through life avoiding every single pothole or “foot-in-mouth” episode. Most of us have been there. I certainly have. Regular folks, celebrities, it doesn’t matter. Bad “branding” doesn’t discriminate. We all fall. It’s how we pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off and keep on steppin’ that matters most and defines who we are as people – and defines our brand.

Sink Before You Swim:After completing your branding audit, take a couple of days to read through the responses and your notes. I suggest you not do anything the first time you read the feedback. Let it all sink in first. Although some comments may make you feel pretty good, some may be hard to understand and impossible to believe. Once you’ve let it sink in for a while, then swim around in it and reflect. Keep in mind that whether or not you like it or believe the feedback, all of it is important.

In some ways, branding is more about perception than reality. What someone thinks about you as a person may not be who you really are. Or, perhaps it is. But real or not, it’s important to act on the feedback in ways that will solidify a great brand, strengthen a weak brand, or correct a tarnished one. But most importantly, whatever actions you take based on the feedback must be true to who you are – the real you.

Craft to Conquer: Whatever the challenge or opportunity, craft a strong personal brand and let loose the conqueror you know is inside of you. By now, you’ve figured out what you want your brand to represent and analyzed the result of your audit. From this exercise, you’ll clearly begin to see if there is a difference between the brand you want to project and the brand you’re actually projecting. If there is no difference and others see you as positively or influential as you see yourself, that’s terrific. While you’ve validated your strong brand, it’s easy to become complacent and slowly start drifting sideways. Don’t let that happen. Stay focused on what’s working and why it’s working.

But what if your audit results aren’t quite so rosy? Although fixing a tarnished or negative brand is tough, it’s far from impossible. We’ve all witnessed that scene played out time and time again in celebrity magazines. Or perhaps you’ve experienced it directly. Many have. The first step to turning around a negative brand is accepting that you have one. And unless you’re a robot, acceptance is a very difficult proposition.

If you suspect your brand is tarnished, that will show up in the feedback from the audit. So wrap some thick skin around that ego. The good news is that the feedback will most likely help you begin to understand what you can do to fix it. Most feedback won’t just say what’s wrong, but why it’s wrong. Knowing the “why” is the second step and more helpful than you may realize.

You’ve now completed three steps:
1. Determined the brand you want to project
2. Analyzed the results of the audit to see what others think about you and why
3. Highlighted the differences between steps 1 and 2

If there is an alarming difference between the brand you want (i.e. working hard and
exceeding results) and the feedback from your audit (i.e. you don’t appear to work
and you’re not exceeding results), consider creating a personal branding plan with a
timeline.

What do you need to start doing today that will create the brand you want tomorrow? Using the above as an example, start taking on additional responsibilities at work that increase your visibility. Develop an outline of those responsibilities and include metrics. In other words, state the results you intend to deliver. Then not only should you absolutely make sure to exceed those results, make sure everyone knows you did! Distribute a project report that outlines your goals, objectives, metrics, and results. If you do this consistently over a 12 to 18 month period, I believe your brand will be perceived as much stronger and more positive


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Defining Your Brand, Taking Control

By Denise Kaigler

I often ask 20 and 30-somethings whether they can describe their personal brand. Probably not surprisingly, most cannot. But if you are over the age of, say, 25, your image or reputation – positive, negative or neutral – is well on its way to being formed. Chances are, when you join a meeting, participate in a project, or even offer a word or two during a conversation, there is no shortage of opinions about what you said, how you looked saying it or why you even said it! So what can you do to influence or create the brand you want to project?

Having a defined brand puts you more in the driver’s seat than you may realize. Just like a strategic plan you might create at work – one that contains objectives, strategies, goals, tactics, target audiences and metrics – you should consider developing one for your career. What are your personal goals, what strategies will you execute to achieve those goals and how will you know when you’ve achieved them? By not having this strategic plan or roadmap, you risk someone else defining your path. Don’t acquiesce this power to anyone. This is your career – your life. It’s okay to course correct along the way. The key is to make sure you’ve mapped a course to correct.

Know What You Don’t Know: When it comes to understanding your current personal brand, ignorance is not bliss. Embark on a covert investigation that would make Sherlock Holmes proud and conduct your own personal brand audit. How is your brand perceived? What do others think about you? For instance, are you considered a trusted partner? Dependable collaborator? Are you organized or creative, strategic or executional, too serious (work hard) or too lax (play harder)? Are you considered a leader or follower? Do you focus on the details, follow-up in a timely manner, turn adversity into opportunity, develop and mentor team members? Do you have that can-do attitude or do obstacles deflate you? Is your glass half-empty or half-full? You get the point.

I’m not necessarily suggesting you initiate a formal 360, but consider confidentially probing trusted colleagues who have nothing to gain or lose by being completely open and honest with you. Perhaps this feedback is already part of a formal performance review process, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask your own customized questions.

While conducting this probe might be comfortable for some of you, for others, it might be an exercise that requires stepping out of your comfort zone. Start with people who are more familiar with you, but be sure to expand that list so you’re eventually tapping into a diverse pool. Consider asking for feedback from the C-suite, and take whatever you hear in stride. You’ll get props for just asking! Clients, vendors, direct reports, and even personal friends could also provide you with valuable information that will help you develop or fine-tune a strong and sustainable personal brand.

You can ask questions in person or via email. You might also find it helpful to utilize a formal 360 tool. There are many options on the Internet. While an official 360 tool might have its benefits, I wouldn’t go to quite that level of formality for this particular exercise. Crafting a set of specific questions that will help you understand how others define your personal brand should suffice. I listed a few of these questions above.

Remember These 5 Steps to Help Guide Your Research:

Step 1: Understand Why Personal Branding Matters
Understand why personal branding matters. Going through your career without a defined personal brand is like getting behind the wheel of a car with no destination in mind. Yes, it might feel liberating, freeing, and fun for a while. But chances are, you’ll end up someplace you didn’t expect to be (or worse, you didn’t want to go!), and you may not know how to get back on course.

Step 2: Develop a Targeted List (then expand it to include more diversity)
Develop a targeted list of people from whom to solicit feedback about your perceived brand. These can be colleagues, clients, direct reports, vendors, friends, C-suite executives, or peers. You’ll want your brand to be approachable and well received by various demographics so, if possible, expand your list to include people who represent different ethnicities, ages and gender (if not on your original list). The total number of people should be around 15 or so.

Step 3: Create Customized Questions
Create a customized list of questions or utilize a formal 360 tool. Refer to the questions articulated earlier or work with a mentor, colleague, or friend to develop strategic questions. Some companies may also have internal HR Consultants or Counselors who may serve as a good resource for you.

Step 4: Begin Outreach and Share Objectives
After preparing questions, set up time with those on your targeted list and plan to ask the questions in person or conduct the exercise via email. First, reach out to a few who are closest to you, and who you trust the most to give you unfiltered feedback. Make sure you give each person a heads-up about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and why their opinion matters. Explain your objectives and outline the importance and value of their honest and direct feedback. These interviews should be conducted individually, and be sure to take copious notes. One hour should be enough.

Step 5: Follow Up
Don’t forget to send each a thank you card. It may no longer be popular, but handwritten thank you notes and cards are my preference. However, I am always appreciative of the time people take to send a thank you note, regardless of the form or medium.


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