Personal Branding

Mike ThreeSixty: Body Language is the Key to Video Success



What Are You Known For?

This Thanksgiving, as we reflect on all the things we’re grateful for, let’s also take a minute to think about the one thing we’re known for. It’s the principle of it shines.

Driving by the Flying Saucer Pie Company in Houston, TX, I saw “The One Thing” principle in action. Here is a small, unassuming shop that sells only one thing: pies. And, judging from the line on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, they do that pretty darn well. Driving by this line of people waiting to buy pies, I thought to myself, “Next time I need a good pie, I’m going to try the Flying Saucer Pie Company.”

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Ten Things I Learned From the 30-Day Blog Challenge

On July 18, one month ago, I committed to the “30-day Blog Challenge” with my friends and colleagues, and members of my new Mastermind Group, Crystal Washington, Bambi McCullough, Danielle Forget, Cecilia Rose and Karen McCullough.  Since then, and it has been exactly 30 days, I have actually learned a few things.  That’s what I find so incredible.  In just one short month, this one challenge has taught me remarkable things.

1.  That I can commit to something rather difficult and fulfill my commitment!  I am proud to say that I have logged in 30 entries in 30 days.

2.  That I enjoy writing.  I’ve always known this.  In college, I minored in English Writing.  Creative Writing was one of my favorite courses at Boston University, followed by Script Writing, and then followed by Journalism.  So why have I not been writing all these years?  Instead of wondering why, I am happy I rediscovered it. The main fact is that I had to push through the difficult part to get to the enjoyable part.

3.  The first part was difficult.  As was the middle part and the end part.  But after each entry, I felt an amazing little feeling of accomplishment….and that little feeling lasts a long time.  It really helps to get me through the day.  No matter what happens each day, I can look back and think, “Well, at least I wrote in my Blog today!”

4.  The process of blogging with a group of people, and then Tweeting about each other’s blog posts, creates miracles in the Social Network.  Since I started blogging, results.

5.  The act of blogging has gotten me into online networking.  Every morning, after I blog, I spend a good hour on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin…saying hello to new friends and followers, spreading news and reading news.  This has really kept me connected to the world and to my colleagues, peers and friends.  In the process of doing all this, I have been strengthening my personal brand.

6.  Blogging means Learning.  In order to blog every morning, I need to do a little research.  That never hurts anybody!

7.  I have gotten to know my blogging buddies even better.  What a pleasure it has been to read Crystal Washington’s blog every day.  She is truly a miracle in my life today, and I am so grateful to have met her.  Of course, I am always interested in what Karen McCullough has to say…we are basically connected at the hip.  And I have enjoyed getting to know Bambi, Danielle and Cecilia in a different way, as well.  They each contribute to my day, each and every day.  That is such a blessing.

8.  I have connected with people I never dreamed of “meeting”.  Just by writing a post about Apple and how the Apple brand can help each of us as we form our own brands, I had the chance to “connect” with Steve Chazin.  And when I blogged about Klout, I got to “meet” Brian Ambrozy.  This was great, but on Twitter some of my Social Media and Professional Speaking idols started to follow me:  Connie Podesta, Mari Smith, Ed Primeau, Trey Pennington, Gina Schreck, Loretta LaRoche…just to name a few.

9.  I have been inspired many times.  Great ideas have come to me from blogging every morning.  Creativity just flows now.

10.  I am excited to keep on keeping’ on.  Blogging has rejuvenated my entrepreneurial spirit.  And that is worth gold.

Are You Getting the Micro-Message?

Are you sending out secret personal brand signals?  Yes, you are, and you are doing this without even knowing it!  I was just reading David Hoskin’s blog and began to think (obsess?) about my own brand signals.  Which ones am I sending out?

By now, most of us are aware of the value of personal branding and how our personal brand can enhance or devalue our professional brand.  But are we really aware of all the micro signals we are sending out everyday?  This is a sobering thought, but something many of us need to take to heart, especially in this era of self-promotion.  With the internet, we are each capable of pushing out content on a daily basis, and this content will undoubtedly help to form our personal (and thus professional?) brand.

Back to the micro signals.  Here’s a hypothetical scenario. We’re in a busy office, lot’s of interaction, many daily status meetings of various different departments that all interact.  Phones are always beeping, assistants are constantly tromping here and there with bundles of paperwork to be signed, and people are standing in office doorways chit-chatting as they conduct their business.  Then lunch comes around and many employees pair up or join small groups.  Some floors have lunch-and-learn workshops where pizza is served.  Some V.P.executives have business lunches with colleagues and new clients.  There’s a lot of interaction.

In any given moment, you have the opportunity to make an impression on many people, and visa-verse.  Somebody is standing in your office door just minutes before you are to meet another colleague for lunch, and they are completely unaware of this as they talk to you about their “busy” day.  They go on and on about the many little tasks that need to be completed, all the while thinking you will commiserate with them.  Instead, in your head, you are making a judgement.  “I wish they would shut-up so I could get out of here!”  That is a strong brand message.

You finally get to leave the situation and meet up with your lunch dates down the hall.  The first thing you say to them is something like “Wow, that so-and-so just wouldn’t stop talking!  He’s a nut!”  Moments after these words leave your mouth, your co-workers are making judgements about you.

As you make your way to the lunch event, you notice that one of your co-workers shoe is untied.  You look more closely at his clothing, and you see that his shirt is wrinkled.  Then, while you are eating, you notice he is talking with his mouth full of food.  At every point during your interaction with him, you are making snap judgements.  All of these judgements throughout the day are forming personal brands.

Now let’s move all this judging over to the social network. The same sort of personal brand building is going on there, but in a much more nuanced way.  Every Tweet you send, every photo you post, all the words you choose to use in your comments…they are forming your personal online brand.  Some of my Facebook friends are not aware of the micro messages they are sending with comments like, “Ugh! So busy today!”  or, “That business needs to learn about customer service! I just wasted an hour in the store!” or “It’s Friday!  I can’t wait to get out of here!!!!”  All of these seemingly innocent posts will eventually add up, maybe in a negative way.

On the other hand, I know a lot of online friends who are hyper-aware of the messages they send.  Some of them, send out inspirational messages every hour on the hour.  This approach can actually backfire, because they come across as being inauthentic.  It’s a fine line between being honestly you and artificially managed.

I realize that I’m probably freaking some of you out.  Don’t get discouraged, because this is what we do.  We’re human beings.  But there is a lot of power in what we do and say, especially when it collects to form a personal brand.  Harness the power of your personal brand by being aware of your micro signals.  It’s a daily practice and it actually improves with your awareness.  Start thinking about the brand messages you are getting in real life and online.  By noticing the personal brands of others, we can start to work on our own personal brand.

(For more info on Personal Branding, my colleague Karen McCullough and I are working on a four-part online series.)

 

 

You: The Greatest Show on Earth

During my days as an Event and Promotions director for a large company, I learned many lessons.  I likened those days to working in a circus, because of the many varied types of performers and stage set-ups we had to contend with.  On one day, we were preparing for fine dining and silent auctions; on the next, we were setting up for fire-eaters and disco dee-jays.  There was never a dull moment.

Although it sounds worlds away from the concept of personal branding, the lessons I learned while working in that capacity could easily be applied to my personal branding rule-book for professional speakers.

  1. Always have a ring-leader. This is a person who is hyper-aware of all that is going on in your three-ring circus. He or she can take keep your target audience focused on the main event, without letting our eyes stray from what is important.  Even though there are serious preparations going on in the other two stages, let those preparations continue in the dark, behind the scene, while the spot light shines on what is front and center.  Focus is paramount in this arena, and we should never be led astray.
  2. Let your trapeze artist weigh in.  This is the vantage point you will need every so often to keep things on the right track.  Where is the audience focused?  How much energy is coming from one area and lacking in another?  Your trapeze artist will need to shout out orders and cues to keep every other aspect of your brand in place.  Strategy comes from a clear view.
  3. Clowns are important!  What would a circus be without clowns?  NOTHING!  I can’t imagine any circus without this component.  Why?  Because humor is a pre-requisite, even if your topic or main focus is very serious.  People need relief from intensity and gravity, even if it comes in small and unexpected packages.  Poodles are always popular, as are clown cars.
  4. Everything should look good in the ring.  There’s an audience on every side.  An act cannot flourish if it is directed only at the audience seated in the front.  What about the folks on the sides?  Parade your talents around so that everyone can see them, not just the special few.  I have found that social media and the social network has really helped in this regard, especially for those of us less likely to go out and press the flesh.
  5. Change with the times.  Haven’t you heard that circus animals are no longer cool?  Don’t let the way things have always been done interfere with your success.  Be willing to change and grow with the times.  Try to foresee new trends and style changes.
  6. Good lighting is very important, in no matter what you do.  Whether you are creating a video blog or shooting your new head shots, the second most important element is the lighting. (You are the most important element!)
  7. A good poster always helps.  When considering advertising and promotions, a well-designed campaign really does wonders.  Don’t leave your design needs and challenges up to the folks at Kinko’s or to a family member who can fulfill school credits by completing your work.  No offense to Kinko’s or to your family members. Get professional advice or help.
  8. Keep them entertained!  Try hard not to be boring and irrelevant.
  9. Practice, practice, practice. Nothing goes over better than a well-executed tumble or trick.

There is one thing that the Circus cannot help you with.  You cannot be all things to all people, and you cannot please everyone.  You will need to pick a lane.  Chose one act and concentrate on that!  Explore and expand your niche.  The circus has too much going on at one time, and can leave us feeling overwhelmed.  I know it left me feeling that way, and I eventually had to change careers!

Good luck with the greatest show on Earth:  You!!!

Celebrity Endorsements Can Actually Hurt

When we go into business, and we create a website and some marketing materials, the most enticing gimmick is to use the endorsement to sell our products or services.

Who wouldn’t want to put up a glowing review from a previous and satisfied customer? It gives your audience or customer another vantage point from which to view your business. If so-and-so says they liked it, it must be good, right?

This is generally true for speakers. If you check out the average professional speakers’ website, you will undoubtedly see a set of quotation marks and a highly charged endorsement or testimonial referring to the greatness of the speaker in question.  There will most likely be a “testimonials” page that contains nothing but perfectly worded positive reviews.  It’s considered standard practice, and even by some a requirement.

In a post last week, I even made mention of the benefits of video testimonials, and how they tend to ad a layer of realness or authenticity.  Unless they are poorly made and obviously fake, video testimonials take the written testimony one step further.  But for sake of simplicity, let’s focus on a general endorsement.  This would be the approval of your product or service by another, perhaps a notable person or a celebrity.

Can this tactic ever backfire?  Of course it can.  It all has to do with staying true to your brand.  Be absolutely sure that the testimonial or endorsement you are featuring in your marketing is in alignment with your brand.  For example, the circus would never use a quote or testimonial by PETA or visa versa.  That being the obvious, what could be an unwanted endorsement? Something that might actually take away from or tarnish your brand?

First of all, there could be the spokesperson that has suddenly become famous for something unsavory or inappropriate.  Think those could hardly be called “unwanted” since the advertisers for those brands intentionally courted those celebrities to be a part of the advertising campaigns.  I guess it’s a risk you take when you hire a celebrity to endorse you. You can’t control their personal life.

Here’s a short, auto-biographical story about an unwanted celebrity endorsement:

I can remember time when my Mom was actually given an unwanted endorsement.  When she and my family were living in Panama back in the mid 1980’s, my mother was working on putting together a showing of her most recent artwork.  (My Mom was a painter and is now an accomplished printmaker.)  Our family was stationed there because my Dad was working for the U.S. Government at the time.

Because of my Dad’s professional career, the “president” of Panama, Manuel Noriega, was well acquainted with him and our family from political functions and events.  He knew the name Svat.  It was just a matter of  propriety that on the opening day of my Mom’s art show, General Noriega sent her a giant, human-sized garland wreathe as an ostentatious sign of appreciation for her work.  It would have been considered rude not to display the floral arrangement outside the gallery on the sidewalk where everyone could see it;  like slapping Noriega in the face.

My mom was really torn up about this since any association with Noriega felt slimy (since he was a ruthless dictator).  Yet, on opening day, that ugly horseshoe wreathe was propped up next the the gallery entrance.  Anyone who did not know of my Mom’s relationship with my Dad, and thus her relationship to Noriega, would have simply associated the show with the General and his ruthless regime.  Her art show suffered because of this.

When looking for the testimonial to bolster your product or service, give it careful consideration.  And when courting a celebrity for an endorsement, excellent conduct basic human kindness is not always a guarantee.

Your Video Editor is Your Coach

If you are just starting out in the speaking business, if you’ve been doing it for decades, or if you are an executive who needs to speak in front of an audience, I have a technique for improvement that is as good as any from a professional coach.  Use video to record and evaluate your style, technique and content.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be included in a Mastermind group.  It was my first meeting with the folks whom I admire and respect (Karen McCullough, Bambi McCullough and Crystal Washington), and I was soaking up the discussion and information like a sponge.  When the conversation got around to me, we began to discuss the success I’ve had with certain speakers who have used my video services over the years.  By working closely with their videographer, these speakers actually improved by leaps and bounds over a very short period of time.

See, the trick is that they had someone videotape almost every presentation they gave, and after each presentation they sat down together, with their video guy (me), and went through the footage frame-by-frame.  I’m sure the technique would have had value even if the speaker didn’t use a videographer but recorded the presentation themselves.  However, reviewing the footage with another party is where the lightbulbs started to go off.  In my experience, when working with speakers this way, we have found gold by mining unexamined content…things like:  great jokes where the punch line was hidden, ideal places for pauses so that audiences could process important points, the identification of unnecessary gestures that detract from the message, annoying tics and blunders, voice modulation and variation, etc.

By going through the material piece-by-piece, sometimes the speaker will even see major thematic errors that, when corrected, make their entire presentation come together and make sense as if it were given for the first time. There was one speaker I worked with who had a wonderful, stream-of-consciousness style that was unique and enjoyable to the ears. Yet, when we watched the footage together, we realized that there were no pauses that made  sense within the material. This realization might have never been made were it not for a video editor’s eye.

See, as the video editor, I was also looking for places where I could ), and I was soaking up the discussion and information like a sponge.  When the conversation got around to me, we began to discuss the success I’ve had with certain speakers who have used my video services over the years.  By working closely with their videographer, these speakers actually improved by leaps and bounds over a very short period of time.

See, the trick is that they had someone videotape almost every presentation they gave, and after each presentation they sat down together, with their video guy (me), and went through the footage frame-by-frame.  I’m sure the technique would have had value even if the speaker didn’t use a videographer but recorded the presentation themselves.  However, reviewing the footage with another party is where the lightbulbs started to go off.  In my experience, when working with speakers this way, we have found gold by mining unexamined content…things like:  great jokes where the punch line was hidden, ideal places for pauses so that audiences could process important points, the identification of unnecessary gestures that detract from the message, annoying tics and blunders, voice modulation and variation, etc.

By going through the material piece-by-piece, sometimes the speaker will even see major thematic errors that, when corrected, make their entire presentation come together and make sense as if it were given for the first time. There was one speaker I worked with who had a wonderful, stream-of-consciousness style that was unique and enjoyable to the ears. Yet, when we watched the footage together, we realized that there were no pauses that made  sense within the material. This realization might have never been made were it not for a video editor’s eye.

See, as the video editor, I was also looking for places where I could cut (a cut was needed to splice, as we used to say back in my film school days) the footage into two separate clips. Sometimes we need to cut the material into smaller clips for video snippets that stand alone, for either the speaker’s demo video or for short clips to go on their website. But when watching the footage together, my client and I couldn’t find any good places to cut the material. This may have never crossed the speaker’s mind before had they not sat down with their editor, simply because audiences were always responding positively to their material. However, because the speaker was open to suggestions (by their editor), suddenly their material was kicked up two notches in effectiveness and quality.

I remember another time when I worked with a  speaker who was asked to speak on a topic that wasn’t in his repertoire.  The material was new to him, so he wasn’t as polished as he would like to have been.  He had me film him, nonetheless.  When the presentation was over, he was ecstatic, on cloud nine.  So much of his presentation was improvised, yet he was getting huge laughs from the audience.  None of those laugh points would have been remembered were the entire presentation not recorded for posterity.  The next day, he and I sat down and carefully extracted all the “jokes” from the material…the things that he said off-the-cuff that had elicited such big laughs.  From that point forward, that particular topic, which had never been in his roster of topics, became one of his most requested programs.  A major factor in this success was that we were able to mine the comedy gold from his “stand-up” bits and integrate them into his new speech.

Think of how video can help you with your next presentation, even if you have to speak in front of your team at the office.  The review of your footage can help with other areas you might not even think of, such as:  eye contact, your energy level, your facial expressions (are you smiling enough?), how many times you say a particular word as a way to catch your thoughts (um, like, etc.).  All it takes is a video camera, a video editor and an openness to suggestions.

The Case of the Missing Red Dress, or Personal Branding 101

The first shot of the film Miss Firecracker is an old, grainy 1970’s home movie clip of a young girl wearing a fuzzy yellow hat and a huge smile, waving at someone. It is a complete expression of joy; someone who seems unfazed by her own awkwardness.

The plot of Miss Firecracker, a slightly  flimsy story played by very good actors (screenplay adapted by Beth Henley from her own play), in a nutshell:  A woman named Carnelle (Holly Hunter) lives by herself (or with her cousin Delmont played by Tim Robbins?) in a huge, dilapidated mansion in a small town in Mississippi.  Both her parents are dead, and we learn she was raised by her cousin, Elaine (Mary Steenburgen), who now lives in Atlanta and is on her way to visit Yazoo City to give a speech at the Fourth of July Miss Firecracker Contest.  Elaine won the beauty contest in her youth, years earlier.

Carnelle is an unfufilled girl with very low self esteem who has probably slept her way through all the young men in town just to feel good about herself.  She is an innocent at heart, and we like her right away, because she’s got so much life in her.  She’s kind to everyone, and believes everything she hears.  She just doesn’t love herself.  And unfortunately the town doesn’t really love her either, as she is the laughing stock of the area.

As she is getting older, this is the last year she is eligible to enter the Miss Firecracker Contest, and she sees it as her big chance to rise above her circumstances, and maybe even find a way out of Yazoo City. She really wants to follow in Elaine’s footsteps, and hopes her cousin will help her by letting her wear the red dress that Elaine wore when she was crowned Miss Firecracker.  Unfortunately, Elaine is also getting older, and is trying to hang on to her beauty queen title, so she pretends she forgot to bring the red dress for Carnelle.  Elaine comes across as very superficial and self-obsessed.  She causes Carnelle to seek the help of Popeye Jackson (Alfre Woodard), a local seamstress, to help make her a dress.

This is a story about finding happiness and joy in the things that make us who we are, and the freedom we can feel when we stop trying to be someone else.  I happened to watch the film again recently, and I was reminded of this message. Holly Hunter is wonderful as Carnelle, desperately trying to tap dance her way out of her own prison.  At the end of the film, we are treated to a lovely moment of self-fulfillment by Carnelle, as she remembers herself as a child in that fuzzy yellow hat.  I really loved how we weren’t beaten over the head with this, but it was slowly allowed to sink in, without dialogue or pandering.  It reminded me of my the process of personal branding, even my own process, and how I’ve had to really learn how to embrace certain parts of myself that I never knew were assets…and to let go of always trying to be something I’m not.

Although the movie isn’t award-winning, it does touch on some nice themes.  What are our good qualities that we don’t see as assets?  Could it be that we sometimes try to build up or attain recognition for traits which really aren’t our strengths?  Many of us spend years obsessing and dwelling on accolades we haven’t yet achieved, instead of looking inward at our own greatness.  It’s an inside job, folks.

OK, I’m done.  That was my momentary lapse into feel-good cheesiness.

What are Your Core Beliefs?

I’ve been talking to some of my speaker friends who attended the NSA World Convention in Anaheim last week (Karen McCullough, Crystal Washington, Mike Lejeune), and in our conversations, one recurring phrase has caught my attention.  It is “core beliefs.”  My mind grabbed ahold of an idea: make a video of speakers I know or have worked with, each of them telling the viewer one of their core beliefs. The idea came from an earlier post I had written on Scott Stratten and his video for Motherhood.

So, I’ve decided to make this video.  Here’s the deal, in a nutshell. If you are a professional speaker, please videotape yourself with your iPhone or Flip Cam or any video recorder speaking directly to the camera and saying one of your core beliefs.  It should be only one belief and it should be short.  You know… around ten words or less.  You can ask me questions here, in the comments section of this blog post.

But that’s not what this post is about.  I really want to focus on this idea of core beliefs.  This may be a good time for me to revisit my own core beliefs.  I’ve been operating on the same ones I discovered over 6 years ago, and I think it’s time I addressed them.  Here they are:

  • I believe in simplicity and clean design.
  • Story is important, and each of us has one.
  • I want to love what I do, and have fun doing it.
  • I want to continue learning, and to be challenged.
  • From  failure, pain and  hardship come growth and success.
  • I want to use my talents to the best of my ability to create quality work.
  • Life is about creativity; each of us can create the life we want, everyday.
  • I want to watch my customers and clients grow, and to be a part of that growth.
  • I believe personal branding involves self-awareness, self-respect and a desire to be better.
  • I believe in  being authentic and having my work be authentic, shedding any unnecessary elements.
  • It is important to be original; not to succumb to conformity, rigidity and always meeting the status quo.

I’d like to know yours!

Book Cover Design as Part of Your Personal Brand

If you are a speaker, or any kind of small business owner where your company brand is associated with your name and image, then self-publishing a book is an excellent way to really assert your brand. (Companies like CreateSpace and LuLu make this process a little easier than you would think.)

The most obvious way is that you can strengthen your area of expertise, and the perception that you are an expert, a book will give you opportunities to research and dive deeper into your subject matter. It will ground your brand in a point of view. I think this is particularly useful if you happen to be a public speaker. Perhaps you speak on the topic of “Leadership.” By writing a book on how to become a strong leader, you quickly will establish the perception (or fact?) that you are an expert on this topic, and the angle you write from will convey your point of view. Maybe you have a unique and radical way that you look at leadership. Or, maybe you have a pretty traditional way to look at it, but that way was how you became a success, and you just want to relate your success story and study the process.

The second way is to associate yourself with other authors and experts. The single most effective way to do this is to write a book, and then to have others give glowing testimonials of your work. It is a common practice, and not that hard to accomplish. Testimonials sell more books than any other information on the back cover.

Those two points seem pretty clear. The third point, and the one I feel more qualified to comment on, is the most visual element: the book cover. This is the most instant way to relay to your reader, or potential reader, your personal or business brand. If you understand your customer, and you understand the market for your book, then you are in a good place to start. Then, of course, is the difficult task of branding your title. This is just as important as the visual design. Both of these steps are prerequisites before you begin working on the cover art. It is important to get support in this area, perhaps from a branding expert or a group of trusted colleagues. Really take your time with this step, because it will be your foundation. The book title and cover will need to be a stand-alone brand as well as align with your own brand.

From there, ideas will spring forth. Use a competent graphic designer to help you brainstorm, and keep in mind things like color, fonts and typography, clean visual balance, simplicity, and photography or illustration. These are the elements that go into good book cover design. I’ve designed a few covers in my branding career, and the way I like to start is by going to a bookstore and immersing myself in the section of the store that relates to the project I’m working on. Whether it be Self-Improvement, Business, Women Studies, Health and Fitness…keep to your subject matter. Narrow down your area for inspiration. I bring my notebook and take notes. What is the current trend in cover design? What colors seem to really pop out, or what colors are closely associated with your topic?

7-women-cover

I worked on the cover design for The Seven Women Project. There were many decisions that went into the design of the cover, but the most important elements were the bracelet image and the font. We made a conscious, group decision to have the bracelet be a representation of the Seven Women (with seven beads), because it was feminine and simple. Then we played with the idea of an illustration and gave that a try. The idea to photograph the bracelet stemmed from a marketing idea : if we found a bracelet we could sell, then we could use that as part of merchandising and marketing the book. The font we chose was reminiscent of fashion magazine typography, and that was another important marketing angle for us.

As for Lori Siegel’s book pictured above, it was important for us to show Lori and make her the main focus. She was the expert, and she was also launching her speaking career. People needed to see her face. Portrait photography became a very important element, as did the color palate.

It takes 15 hours, on average, to design a book cover. The cost of a professionally designed cover ranges from $500 to upwards of $4,000. By working on some of the elements and issues presented here, you can really shave some money off that higher-end fee.