The phrase personal branding sends shivers down the spines of many fine people. I can’t say I blame them. The world of personal branding is surely the domain of motivational speakers, real estate spruikers and the crass corporate soul soulless types who seem to be sharp of suit and hard of heart.
Trouble is, the people who find the term “personal branding” cringeworthy are precisely the kind of people who lose out from not cultivating a personal brand. These people forget that a personal brand will help them go further, achieve more and take more people with them.
Personal branding is about creating a reputation for yourself; staking a position, being associated with certain skills, traits or characteristics. Personal branding is about establishing a profile for yourself that will serve you, your campaigns, your companies and your causes for years to come.
Those with stronger personal brands earn more, are offered more opportunities and as a result contribute more. (They win.) No one has ever been hired or heeded, referred to, respected or supported by people who did not know them.
He is more discomforting news for those who believe that branding is for the brash – we are all brands whether we acknowledge it or not.
Everyone has a reputation and image whether that be among a small group of co-workers, a slew of clients or an electorate of voters.
How you are perceived by the people with which you deal will decide the opportunities you are offered, the degree to which you can persuade others to your way of thinking and go a long way to deciding your career trajectory.
Personal branding is for everyone: even librarians and philosophers who seem to benefit from a high profile.
I regularly speak about establishing personal brands. In every audience there are individuals who have already established themselves as leaders, thinkers, contributors, mentors. Equally there are others in every group who have established themselves as disinterested, unhelpful, uncommitted. These ‘personal brand values’ may be justified or not but they already exist and they are working to the advantage or disadvantage of the individuals concerned.
What ‘sort’ of person can build a personal brand?
Rightly or wrongly there are some characteristics that play well in Western working life: confidence, competence, humour, eloquence, attractiveness, mild eccentricity, extroversion, affability. This are terrific default characteristics for anyone seeking a strong personal brand.
So what do you do if you aren’t similarly blessed?
It’s easy – too easy – for the introverted among us to presume that the world of personal branding, career building, profile-raising is the domain of the extrovert, the charismatic, the strong-of-jaw. I am not going to lie to you – this stuff is easier for some folk but there is nothing stopping shy, introverted, reserved people from deliberately and effectively creating a brand for themselves.
Just ask TED talker Susan Cain who explores the life of the introverted and the benefits that introversion may bring the world. Her TED talk has been viewed millions of times and she has exposed her sensitive self to the world, all while remaining an introvert. She is far from alone. Every day in the media, in politics and in public life I see people who have secured household-name status for themselves despite a fundamental introversion.
Introverts – you can create a profile though you will have to work harder to overcome your fundamental reticence. Remember that behaviours are more powerful than attitudes. Eg: asking a question at your next meeting shows curiosity and engagement whether you felt comfortable asking the question or not. You had the attention of the room, if only for a moment.
There are plenty of ways to build a profile and make a mark that don’t require face-to-face communication, strutting the stage at conferences or making small talk to strangers over drinks. (Though would any of these kill you?) We’ll list many simple behaviours later.
Can’t I just “be myself”? Nope.
The recommendation to: “Just be yourself” is pretty much the oldest advice in the book. It’s a parenting and family sitcom staple and it is solid. Pretentiousness and fakery are the hallmarks of someone who holds the wrong end of the personal branding stick.
That said, I believe we need to be the best version of ourselves so that we can achieve more. If most of us were ‘ourselves’ at work we would quickly be bogged down in conflict, sexual advances and snack machine burgalry. Hell – most of us wouldn’t report for duty in the first place.
We need to constantly evaluate ourselves, improving a little bit at a time. We shouldn’t just “be ourselves” forever. Yes, we can improve. People who believe themselves to be coachable, improvable, fluid in skills and personality tend to evolve and improve more than those who don’t.
Individuals with a more rigid view of personality and skills tend to count themselves out of opportunities to watch and learn, model successful saviours and adapt to ever-changing context in which we find ourselves.
Do you feel uncomfortable approaching a boss who barely knows you with a pleasantry or an idea? Maybe that’s just the way you are, have always been and always will be. That’s you being you. But that discomfort is limiting you.
If you’re the sort of person who could never call a stranger for career advice, think again. If you can use a phone, you have all the skills required to call a stranger and asked for help. If you are one of those people who never stays in touch with former colleagues I’ve got news for you – you could be. It’s up to you. So don’t just “be yourself”. Be a constantly evolving best version of yourself.
101: the basics
Let’s talk basics, by which I mean the essentials that all of us need to master if we are to create the right impressions with our peers, bosses, clients and customers. What you’re about to read was allegedly taught to all of us though about half of us have forgotten the basics entirely and most of us could do with a brush up.
Make it your business to know your business
There is no excuse not knowing people across your team, your floor, your building and your organisation. Discover how teams and individuals fit into the masterplan. (Assuming that there is one.)
When I meet people who can’t explain their company from a broad perspective I know that they lack curiosity. Some people don’t really know how their organisation is funded or which products are most profitable.
When I meet people who know only the names of senior colleagues I assume them to be … unegalitarian.
Make it a point to know the names, roles and purposes of as many people as possible. Be a social butterfly and find ways to engage with your colleagues.
Particularly in the early years of your career say yes to every opportunity to raise your profile that comes your way. This might be as petty is organising the Melbourne Cup sweep or KrisKringle. It might be about helping less tech savvy members of the team put together a PowerPoint presentation. If you tackle these errands as opportunities and use them as an opportunity to meet new people, ask lots of questions and gather insights you will be well rewarded for your time.
This LinkedIn post created an enormous number of comments. Sadly most of the comments are politically correct. Here’s the gist: a business owner expects staff to be professionally attired at all times. The boss believes that his staff never know when they might bump into a prospective customer so they should be dressed in shirt and tie, ready to impress, even when flying.
I do not adhere to this rule myself but I was taken aback at how quick people were to claim that clothes make no impact on how they perceive others and that their appearance should have no impact on their career progression. What politically-correct bollocks.
The next time someone tells you that clothes are irrelevant to how they judge people, pause the conversation and strip off to your underwear. You will see how little attention they pay to your clothes. Alternatively ask them to swap their navy blue jacket for an exquisitely tailored pink and purple polka dotted alternative. See how they like that.
I have blogged about this before – people do pay attention to what you wear. Clothes and appearance send signals. To pretend otherwise is to be wilfully ignorant. The difficulty is that the signal you attempt to send with your appearance may not be interpreted as you expect.
You may wear a designer suit hoping to impress people with your taste and affluence. However the beholder may take you to be just another “man in a suit”. Your version of relaxed, creative and individual may look to the beholder to be slapdash and sloppy. You just can’t win. The best advice I have is to dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable and confident. If you must lean to one end of the scale dress up.
Some people have a distinct fashion sense which they use to brand or distinguish themselves from the pack. Good for them. You may not care about fashion to that degree but be aware that people around you are subjectively judging you. Just as you are judging them.
From fashion to race and gender
As with your choice of fashion, people will perceive your race, gender, ethnicity or sexuality according to their own worldview. Sometimes this will work for you, at other times against you and there’s not much you can do about that. We live in an ageist, sexist, Islamophobic, ableist, secular, homophobic, shallow, unfair world. Sometimes you can be too attractive, young, successful and hardworking for some people’s tastes. (That’s the story of my life!)
That said, there are people of every persuasion who have successfully created a brand for themselves that serves them well. Sometimes they have been helped by their demography at other times hindered but my point remains: don’t let any of that stop you. And don’t use any of that as an excuse not to set forth.
First impressions matter. How do you like to be met? I’m guessing your answers are utterly conventional. You’d like a firm handshake, eye contact, a smile, a warm hello and some friendly chitchat that seems to be sincere. You may not expect a lasting conversation though you’d like to feel that you had that person’s attention for a brief moment.
Perhaps, if your new friend is skilful enough they will search for and find common ground based on your jobs, employers, mutual acquaintances. Perhaps you’ll be asked for an opinion on something that appears important to this new person. If you’re really fortunate they will validate acknowledge and respond to your thoughts. My, what a socially skilled person you’ve met!
And there you have the basics of good introductions:
- Eye contact
- Firm, handshake willingly extended
- A smile
- Common ground
Is it really that hard? It must be because good introductions aren’t common. Master this 101 level skill. Make people feel as if you really want to meet them.
Here’s a little test: find a volunteer. Pretend that you are they strangers to each other and that you are meeting for the first time at a meeting. You have sat next to each other and have a few minutes to kill before the formalities begin.
Introduce yourselves to each other as you normally would. Don’t try harder than you normally would.
Now try it again, greeting them each other as if you are happy to meet them. Not happy as in long-lost-ageing-rich-aunty type of happy. Just as in “oh yes – I’ve heard about you” sort of happy. Turn up your human warmth by 10%.
Was there much difference? Which greeting was more pleasant to receive and give?
Want a conversation starter? Skip the weather and commuting comparisons and try these:
“Can I ask you something?”
“What did you think of that last speaker? Last month’s meeting? The agenda?”
“You work for X? What are they like to work for?”
“What’s keeping you busy at the moment?”
“Did you see [famous serious person] on [respectable current affairs program] last night?”
“What are you hoping to get from today?”
Body language (still) speaks loudly
It feels dated to talk about body language – very 1980s. That said, we do communicate a lot with the way we stand, how we place our hands, the degree to which we make and hold eye contact. I test this during my presentations on personal branding by asking the audience to shift their posture and change their body language to give me the impression that they are more engaged and entertained than they currently are.
100% of 100% of audiences are able to change their body language to express greater interest in me in three seconds. They sit up straight, lean a little forward, shift to the edge of their seats, lift their cherubic faces towards me. Smiles break out across the room some heads even turned at an angle to indicate desire for more of my wisdom.
That is how easy it is to signal interest, presence and respect with one’s body. Even though this is utterly false, I am touched.
As the speaker I hope that I return the favour by standing, moving, pointing, nodding, gesticulating. This comes naturally to me but I hope it underlines my energy, movement and care.
I’m not suggesting falsifying your interest through posture. Just be sure that you look alert, engaged and reasonably respectful.
Confidence should be on everybody’s list of brand values as it is highly rewarded. One key way to express self-confidence is through your body. Are your looks furtive or do you maintain eye contact? Are your shoulders slumped? Are your handshakes weak and reticent or firm and friendly?
If you use your hands as you speak, never rein yourself in. If you have an expressive face use it to express what you feel.
Body language speaks volumes about how you see yourself. People respond accordingly. Speak wisely
Bad news! You will spend an extraordinary amount of your time on Earth in meetings whether they be around a board table, standing in a corridor or via Skype.
How you perform in these situations will go a long way to branding you in the minds of others – just as their performance influences your opinion of them. Some tips:
Prepare: if there is an agenda, familiarise yourself with it, if there is reading to do, read it. Also – this is vital – prepare a comment, observation or question for the meeting. This preparation is even more important for the introverted.
Some meetings are important enough to justify contacting a fellow participant beforehand. Not only will this benefit you in the meeting, it signals to others that you take the meeting and the objective seriously.
Do some research about an issue that will be discussed at the meeting. Spend 10 minutes Googling news articles about the issues at hand or hunting a relevant case study. This will improve the quality of your contribution to the meeting and show you to be willing to go the extra yard.
Speak: do not waste your time and others by attending a meeting without making a contribution. Ask a question, make a comment or ask for clarification. No matter how introverted you are or out- ranked you feel, if your presence in the room is required ensure that you justify it with a contribution. You should NEVER leave a meeting without contributing something of value.
Encourage others: generosity is a great characteristic and a good look. If you find a legitimate opportunity to introduce someone else into the discussion do so with a quick: “Sophia didn’t you tell me that you experienced that at your last workplace?”
Stay awake: make sure you are alert but not alarmed in your meetings. Genuinely listen to what people are saying rather than simply waiting your turn to speak. Don’t forget to display your level of interest via your posture, eye contact and lack of plaintive sighing. Take notes!
Follow-up: find a semi-legitimate reason to contact one of the fellow attendees and asked her a question, request clarification or make a comment. Or pay them a compliment. I have noticed a distinct correlation between high performing young people that I meet and their propensity to pay a compliment. Whether it is sincere or simply a technique to ingratiate themselves – it works.
Yeah, I know you knew all that. Later on we’ll take it up a level but now is the time to consider:
What’s my brand anyway? Well it’s a lot like jam and chips…
#1: Look like you belong, then look different
This photograph by Andreas Gursky is an expensive piece of art photography highlighting the banality of consumer culture. I use it as a way to represent the crowded marketplace in which you find yourself.
Within each category of product – jams, biscuits, chocolates, chips – each brand tries desperately to look like a bottle of jam so that jam buyers will consider it.
Have you ever purchased what you thought to be a bottle of jam only to discover that you’d selected a packet a biscuits? Of course not.
At the same time each bottle of jam is trying to distinguish itself from the competition.
Within the world of jams there will be brands claiming to be upmarket, budget-friendly, traditional, contemporary, healthy, low-sugar, local and imported. Some of these claims will be true, others false but each brand is attempting to have a ‘position’, a ‘personality’.
I have bad news for you – it’s the same with humans. No I am not on drugs as I write this, stay with me here.
You need to look like you belong, especially if you are a newbie, then distinguish yourself among that category.
If you’re a prospective chief finance officer it is unlikely that you’ll be offered a position as chief marketing officer. That’s a different category of job and not your concern.
Your concern is to first look like a CFO and then to distinguish yourself from the alternative CFOs.
Sadly the producers of fast moving consumer goods pay more attention to distinguishing their worthless products than the good people like you.
Like the jams and snacks, your personal brand should be a deliberate decision that you have to made based on your default settings and the ideal characteristics of someone who would have great success in your desired career.
Recently in a presentation there was one chap described by the others as an alpha male with a great sense of fun, an extrovert nature who was very helpful to others.
Another person in attendance told us that he’s once been described as “reserved, friendly, a finisher and one of the good guys”. “My goodness,” he said. “I realised I was a brand.” Correct. We all are.
If you have a reputation, you have a brand. If people think of you in a certain way – and they do – you are a brand. That brand might be well known to thousands of people or vaguely understood by handful nevertheless you are a brand.
Building a strong personal brand takes time. You will need to be persistent and consistent in your efforts to position yourself.
What will you be?
Open to new ideas? Maverick? Willing to stick up something you believe in? Supportive of new employees? Resistant to change? Cynical? Thoughtful? Happy to pitch in? Polished? Here for the long haul? Party animal? Money focussed? Big picture thinker? Decisive? Consultative? Organised? Client-driven? Volatile?
What skills do you wish to be known for?
Killer presentations? Tender-writing extraordinaire? Training guru? Social media czar? Able to soothe angry clients? Mediator of rivals? The list goes on…
This back-of-envelope exercise may help you establish your brand.
Divide a piece of paper into six columns. From left to right title the columns:
In the Me column write down words or phrases that you feel accurately describe you. Throw in the skills you have. Write down situations that you deal with very well or very poorly such as giving feedback, approaching bosses, asking for help. Be realistic, detailed, thorough.
In the Others column write down words or phrases that others – colleagues, bosses and clients – might use to describe you. Again, throw in the skills with which they’d associate you. You could ask them for their opinions but most of us will simply go on instinct and perhaps seek input from a trusted ally or two. Again, be thorough.
In the Ideal column write down the descriptors and skills of someone perfectly suited for the career and role you want. What’s their CV look like in terms of education and referees? What are they known for? As always, detail is good.
Now let’s populate the remaining three columns:
Scanning your three completed columns I hope that you note positive / helpful attributes appearing in all three. Any positive items featuring in all three should be listed in the Keep column as they are working in your favour.
Any negative / unhelpful items featuring in all three should be listed in the Lose column for obvious reasons. Likewise throw items that feature in the Me and Others into the Lose column if they don’t feature in the Ideal column. (This is a tough one for most people.)
Any positive items featuring in the Me and Ideal columns should be listed in the Develop column. Your colleagues need to see these displayed loud and clear.
Any positive item featured in the Others and Ideal column should be listed in Develop as you need to believe that you have this characteristic within you.
The items that comprise your Keep column are your current brand values (along with the soon-to-jettisoned Lose column items). The Ideal column is what you are working towards.
201: your empire builds
Stay in touch
Size matters. The more you are willing to invest the time to stay in touch with people you meet along your journey, the more likely you are to have a great career. That cannot be overstated.
Think back to former colleagues, fellow students, people you have met at conferences, networking meetings and the like. Admit it – you’ve already lost touch with people with whom you had established a positive working relationship. They have forgotten you and what you have to offer them and vice versa.
The Internet age has made staying in touch easier than ever. Use social networks – LinkedIn in particular – to maintain a strong collection of weak ties. Weak ties are the connections we maintain with past colleagues, university friends and the folk we meet at conferences and such. You don’t have to be their best friend nor should you bombard them with minutiae of your life but do maintain connections to people.
The wise Eric Barker recommends sending five different types of emails.
Find a mentor, many mentors
There is an overwhelming correlation between people who achieve great things and people who are willing to ask for help. High achievers don’t stop seeking mentors, even as they themselves are sought by others for advice.
In a sense this is counterintuitive – people with the skills and the wherewithal to achieve great things shouldn’t need help – but of course they do. You also need to identify people who can further your knowledge, connections and career.
Be sure to reach out to those people in person, on the phone or via social media. They needn’t be top dogs in their field. They should just know stuff you don’t.
You needn’t seek a long-term relationship. Don’t expect life-changing walks along bodies of water. You might just need some advice.
Where do the mentors hang out?
Conferences, in the media, at your current or former workplace, via your peak body. Many people will be flattered to be asked and others will donate their time and expertise out of goodwill. Here are some tips to make these opportunities happen:
Richard Branson is busy and Steve Jobs is dead. Find mentors that are likely to be available. CEOs and sports stars are busy people.
Be pithy with your request. Don’t write them a novel or bore them with small talk on the phone. Get to your request simply and swiftly. Remember – this may seem weird to you but it’s unlikely to be weird for the target.
Don’t use the word “mentor” which is akin to using the word “marriage” when proposing a first date.
Make your request so small and reasonable that it would be unreasonable to refuse. Ask someone if they can email you a response to 3 questions. Ask for 10 minutes of their time on the phone. Ask for a quick cup of coffee with them to chat about two specific issues. Don’t be vague – no stranger wants to become your bestie. They are more likely to be willing to offer simple advice.
When you get face time with someone who is important to you, do more than simply listen and nod. Take some notes to underline the value you place on the information you’re receiving. A little research beforehand will be well received by who’s ever helping you.
Afterwards send a short, sweet message of thanks. This is a great habit to into and increases the likelihood that you will receive more help from the person down the road. Follow them on LinkedIn or Twitter. Stay lightly in touch.
Online: I spoke to a room full of recruiters recently. Each and every individual confessed to researching candidates online behaviour. Most simply Googled and entered names into social media platforms but some went further.
If you wish to establish strong and credible personal brand your social media and online habits will have to be aligned with the way you wish to be seen.
Do not expect people to ignore dubious disclosures online no matter how separate you think work and personal life are the distinction barely exists any longer.
On the other hand if people researching you see that you’ve made regular, thoughtful contributions to professional forums on LinkedIn or that you follow a high quality Twitter cohort they may well give you bonus points. Hell – you may even learn something via all this social media business.
You’ll often be asked, in one way or another for your backstory. How you tell it goes a long way to how you’ll be perceived. People with a strong personal brand often have interesting back story.
Sometimes selectively edited, good back stories distinguish the individuals from the competition. The best back stories explain why the individual was born with a destiny to be where they are and where they want to be. Some of common elements of back stories:
- the rags-to-riches tale;
- the I was a chronic underachiever at school tale;
- the I just started doing this for my friends who encouraged me to do this as a business tale;
- the my parents raised me in a peculiar way to be just like this tale;
- the I am so nerdy about a certain topic that I went to extremes tale.
Ensure that your back story distinguishes you and shows that even many years ago you were on track to be where you are today.
You might mention how you were always interested in your current field of endeavour. How your family instilled these values into you. How you went broke studying your expertise around the globe. How you sweet-talked your way into an internship. How you have read every book available on your passion. Get it? Show passion. Position yourself apart from the pack. Here’s mine:
I’ve always loved media and politics. My earliest memory is the day of the dismissal.
I could hum all the themes from all the news bulletins by aged 10.
I started a photocopied magazine for my tennis club aged 14 which lasted three editions.
I used to fake being sick just to listen to Derryn Hinch on the radio. 25 years later I used to fill in for him on the air.
So when I got the chance to work for peanuts as a cadet at Truth newspaper I jumped at it. I haven’t stopped since. I became a tabloid journalist at New Idea, publicist with the Seven Network and a talkradio host on 3AK. Then Jeff Kennett bought into the station and decided he wanted my breakfast timeslot. That’s showbiz.
These days I use my media and marketing knowledge to help nonprofits and businesses. It’s a perfect fit – media, marketing and campaigning.
Is it true? Yep. Selective: a tad. Designed for maxmium kudos? Of course! It shows that I have media and communications in my blood.
Alongside your back story your CV demonstrates why you and you alone are the right person for any task that you choose. Beyond simple academic qualifications ensure that your CV is full of interesting optional, experiences. These may not be directly related to your chosen career. Consider involving yourself voluntary project or overseas volunteering. Learn a skill that will jump off the page to the next person perusing your resume – unicycling, Latin or the Tango.
In an era of opinion, general knowledge is hard to come by. There’s a lot of dumb out there so the ability to refer to a school of thought, book, historical incident or even a recent tweet that is germane to the conversation is still a great look. There is no shortage of information available but it is up to you to filter out the riffraff. Twitter can be a great way to keep abreast of more than just celebrity gossip. Follow the New Yorker or The Economist and you will soon find your horizons expanding and IQ rising.
At risk of sounding old and grumpy I believe it’s fair to say that eloquence has dropped off a cliff. The ability for people to speak fluently with nuance and – heaven forbid – flair has always been rare. Now it is downright endangered.
People’s ability to explain, summarise, compare and contrast has been replaced by a smaller vocabulary both verbal and emotional. This is harsh but I stand by it. This is great news for anyone who can express themselves with aplomb as they will stand out from the crowd to an even greater degree.
People wishing to attain eloquence are in for some bad news – unlike other characteristics mentioned here eloquence is hard to fake and slow to achieve. Your information diet is vital – turn off FM breakfast radio and switch to ABC. Turn off the commercial reality shows and engage in news and current affairs and documentaries.
Indulge in quality print journalism. Just as junk food dominates our kitchens, junk information is dominating our minds. People not exposed to quality reasoning will not magically display quality reasoning skills.
Marshall Goldsmith the thought leader on leadership recently told me (and several hundred other conference attendees) that he has learnt at least one thing from his decades of coaching top CEOs around the globe: people rarely improve without structure.
He takes this advice so seriously he has drawn up a spreadsheet listing 15 or so daily considerations ranging from the personal (Have I been a good husband today? Have I exercised?) to the professional (Have I developed new any intellectual property that I can use today?)
He gives himself a mark out of 10 on a daily basis across the criteria. That’s structure. But that’s not all.
Not only does he have a spreadsheet, he pays a woman to call him each day and go through the questions. Structure on top of structure. He knows that without the structure of the spreadsheet and the daily phone call he would not monitor himself and his ‘performance’ would weaken.
This may sound extreme but if there are characteristics that you wish to develop to create a stronger personal brand you need to have those characteristics, behaviours and attitudes listed on paper and regularly assess yourself against them.
By the way Marshall is a personal branding master – he is known to almost always wear a green polo shirt and beige chinos. His backstory takes us to Kentucky’s poorest country and a mother who believed in education. He presents himself as an unaffected chap who didn’t know who Bono was until after they’ finished chatting for an hour. He’s also the least likely Buddhist one might ever meet. His brand inspires respect, interest and no small amount of envy.
Take to the stage, develop your presentation skills
Those of you wanting to build your profile should find every opportunity to publicly present.
Strong presentation skills go a very long way to marking you as a smart, significant person. Happily these skills can be learnt. A great presentation casts you as an authority. Even for introverts the basics of public speaking can be learnt rehearsed and refined. I can help via my workshops or free eBooks.
Some workplaces – particularly those which are more progressive – allow staff to make a lunch time presentation. Your workplace would probably say yes if you had the courage to suggest it.
Making a short sharp light-hearted 20 minute presentation about a topic in which you have expertise will instantly brand you your workers are someone who is confident, knowledgeable and willing to grab some attention. Sure some people will see this as speaking above your station – so be it.
Similarly seek or create speaking opportunities at conferences that are relevant to you, your career or interests.
Consider writing an opinion piece, case study or article for trade publications or even mainstream media outlets. A letter to the editor maybe less demanding and stands a higher chance of publication.
Blogging, podding et al?
For those of you who are willing to go to any length to create a brand for themselves feel free to enter the world of blogging, podcasting and online video. A word of warning though: these options are hard work once the initial buzz has worn off. Finding regular content on a regular basis is difficult and the rewards may be slow.
If you are comfortable seeking conference speaking opportunities and perhaps penning a letter to the editor it may be time to hit the big leagues and seek media coverage. This may be easier for the sole traders among you but regardless, nothing will build your profile and brand faster at less cost with more fun than media coverage. Oh yeah – it also carries more risk.
Finally: Career building is a long game. Play it well and you’ll go further, have more fun and likely make more money. You’ll enjoy more choice and security. Enjoy. Just use your personal brand for good, not evil.
Brett de Hoedt is a hell of a speaker. He recently delivered a 90m session on personal branding to the Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program. Here’s the feedback.
To have Brett deliver a challenging, memorable, practical presentation on personal branding call him today on 0414 713 802.
Good news: the media needs you.
Too many organisations, companies and peak bodies think that gaining media coverage is for someone else. It’s not. I guarantee that you are sitting on untapped media potential. What a waste.
The media really does need you.
Without organisations just like yours actively participating in the process of identifying story ideas, contributing talent and helping to facilitate the media’s own ideas, the media would collapse for lack of content. Grant yourself a licence to participate.
“But the media only wants bad news stories.”
No matter what some people will tell you; good news stories do get coverage, so too do bad news stories, sad news stories, complicated news ones. There is lots of space to fill with issues of every persuasion. Go get yours.
So what does media want?
NEWs: tell the media something it doesn’t know. At least a little new. New to them doesn’t mean it is new to you. It’s more likely to be re-packaged news. Spotted a trend? Unveiling a product? Launching an event? Excellent; that’s news.
EXPERTISE: Every journo has a black book. You must ensure that you feature in these lists of expert spokespeople and contacts. It’s not easy to dislodge an existing go-to contact. Generally speaking, a journo will keep going to the one contact until that contact moves on, gets boring or, heaven forbid, says “No”. Be ready to interpret and comment on data, reports and breaking news AS IT HAPPENS. That’s what experts do.
VISUAL: weak stories (and downright non-stories) can be run simply due to strong visuals. Go to great lengths to create compelling visuals. You have yourself a story as .
DATA: whether it be a small survey or a national longitudinal study, media loves something that crystallises an issue. You are sitting on data – the sort of thing that you send to members, investors, funders. Or grab a clipboard and ask 100 people three questions. It can be that easy.
SENSATION / CONTROVERSY: You don’t have to slander and lie but bold statements, strong opinions and contrary views make more impact and engage media.
IMMEDIACY: media wants everything ASAP. First in is best dressed; even if not necessarily best informed.
PRE-PACKAGED & SELF-SAUCING STORIES: Journalists are busy people working under a lot of pressure in a harsh working culture. Also; they are as lazy as the rest of us. Thus a fully rounded story suggestion – one with expert, data, case study, visual angle and even a media-friendly opposition spokesperson is much appreciated. Do the work for them.
ACCESS: to case studies and real life examples via you. This is vital. They also love access to visiting overseas experts. You are the insider, help them in. Let them tour your facility, meet your client, review your data.
PREDICTABILITY: journalists rarely make calls to find out what an organisation thinks about an issue. Media wants to know what you think about issues before they arise. Do you have your opinions / demands / plans listed on your website?
CONTEXT / TOPICALITY: media wants stories that tie-in with bigger issues or happenings; positive or negative. That youth crime wave terrorising the city is an opportunity to talk about: sentencing, parenting, home security, funding for youth sports, policing and more. Get on board.
RESONANCE: media wants appropriate stories that resonate with their audience. Try to make your story relevant – perhaps to parents, new parents, fathers, first home buyers, a geography, a profession. Do your potential stories relate to a niche audience? Good – now approach media that targets that audience.
SPECIFIC SOLUTIONS: propose a specific answer or solution. Don’t just commentate or whinge. Media wants your proposals so that it can hold decision-makers accountable to it.
TIMING: You will always do better if you pick a slow news day – weekends, public holidays, post-football, Summer. Choose to unveil your survey / poll / report / study at a time that makes it more topical to maximise the appeal.
FINALLY: Don’t think that your story isn’t newsworthy. Look at the bollocks they will print! A LOCAL ANGLE works a treat.
Brett recently presented Because Youth and Beauty Ain’t Enough to the Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program. here’s what the program manager said:
“Your session was one of the highest rated of our whole Melbourne trip. Very cleverly designed. You’re a pro.”
Lucy Mayes Program Manager, Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program
Here’s what the program participants said:
“Just brilliant! He put on a good show and he is very clever! What he says makes sense and I can’t wait to get the resources from him and plan to use them for my community work. Very powerful stuff!”
“Wow! Not nearly as scared of or embarrassed by the idea of my personal brand – actually Brett’s words have given me prompts and strength to develop that brand in line with what I believe and am aiming for.
“Great session from a skilled operator, who used the short period very effectively to transmit his message and advice – would love to do some more work with this gentleman!”
Loved Brett – he is a born entertainer. I took away the importance of having a check-list and scoring yourself. I will now make sure that when I attend a meeting I will ask at least 2 questions and I will encourage others to contribute.”
“What a professional speaker. Had us in his hands within minutes. Rapport, use of room, engaging, eye contact, choice of words, (NLP). By the end he could have said anything and I would have had difficulty disagreeing with anything he said. Extremely persuasive in a fun way that we were not even aware of the fabulous ride we were on.”
“I was a little sceptical at the beginning of this session (the title challenged me!) I soon became very interested. The concept of ‘personal branding’ wasn’t one I had considered before. Now I find myself subconsciously branding people!”
“Brett was great his presentation reminded me of David Parkin (Coach of Carlton) Very forward, direct & confident. He also showed great qualities like Peter Dhu – Overcoming your nerves and speaking without fear; Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway !!! I gained a wealth of knowledge from this session.”
“Brett had us laughing a lot, however his message was still vital and clear about our own brand and reputation.”
“Great session, loved the interaction, just have to implement in my work/life.”
“Brett was one of a kind and really taught us how to self-promote. He was the most energised and engaging speaker I’ve ever listened to. I took away a lot of tips from this session.”
“Very entertaining. Really good information about branding and communication. Have already gone to his website and youtube channel and watched some of his videos.”
“Very worthwhile information about personal branding. I am looking forward very much to receiving the links he was going to share with us.”
“Brett builds confidence and helps to recognise own virtues while having fun and being happy! Excellent session.”
“Fantastic session. Funny, informative, lots to learn.”
“Humour is always a great way to learn! Very relaxed and enjoyable session.”
“Hilarious…. really reinforced for myself that I am what and who I am and my portrayal of that is what makes the difference. Be proud, stay confident and don’t opt out.”
Big entrance: it helps to have a few former prime ministers and prominent party officials in attendance. This is not an option for most of us. Entrance music instrumental music helps fill a gap and build emotion – use it if the occasion justifies it. A witty or memorable opening line helps. Shorten draws from former PM Gough Whitlam for his.
Emotional ups and downs. Shorten started on a high, indulging in some call and response then within five minutes attempted to reach an emotional depth by referring to tragedies in Orlando and Britain. Not bad. Presentations cannot be at one emotional pitch. You can still appear passionate and energised when the tempo is slow and the content sombre.
Energy is essential. If you’re not excited why would you expect your audience to feel that way? The best public speakers are energetic even when speaking slowly and deliberately. You can’t be in full flight all speech long. At some points Shorten sound a little shrill.
Too much acknowledgement of VIPs in the early moments can kill the energy of a presentation. Do as Shorten did and place this later in your presentation. Short, sharp personalised introductions are the best way to introduce VIPs and Shorten did this well.
If someone truly needs no introduction – Bob Hawke for instance – don’t weigh them down with one. If you are tempted to acknowledge more than a few issues or individuals in the room group them together as constant interruption for cheering gets tiresome pretty damn quickly.
Location, location, location: if you can pick a location that underlines your themes and priorities do so. By choosing Penrith, Shorten – like every other leader in recent memory – was squarely aiming at the swinging voter of Sydney’s west. Ensure that you aim as shamelessly at your target.
Backdrops & messaging: Shorten and his party were sending too many messages from the stage. There was the small banner directly behind him repeatedly declaring: Medicare, Jobs, Education. Plus a large banner stating: We’ll put people first. This is too much.
Applause: If you are wanting applause you must signal that there is the expectation of applause. Ask poor Jeb Bush. As with telling a joke – it works best when you appear confident. Don’t timidly prompt applause. Signify that you expect it with your content, volume and intonation. Create the space for it and allow the time for it. But please – limit it. Too many ‘spontaneous applause pauses get wearisome.
Cliches and language: we at Hootville are not above the use of a cliche or two. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times. But here is one phrase that none of us should use: “Fair go.” It needs to be retired from the lexicon. “Fair dinkum” which Shorten also used needs to find a place in an aged care facility for geriatric vernacular. And stay there. Few prominent public speakers in Australia refer to their audience as: Friends.
I versus We. This is a difficult choice that you must make as a speaker if you are a leader. Shorten began by emphasising the ‘we’ – the party. However this changed 15 or so minutes in when he began to say that: “I understand… “I know…
‘We’ is great but it’s hard for your audience to accept ‘we’ if in reality you are the decider.
Very broad terms: when Shorten talks about “hope and respect” for the electorate he is using very broad terms. “Investing in people” is similarly broad and vague. No doubt these phrases have been focus-group tested but to my ear they don’t mean much. Minimise the use of such terms.
Far better is: “Foreign aid for foreign companies” which is how Shorten described the government’s corporate tax plan. Not a bad turn of phrase and one that stands a chance of establishing itself in Australian public discourse. Wit, humour, alliteration and rhyme make your messages more memorable.
Indeed ABC 24’s new sticker quoted “Foreign aid to foreign companies” directly.
Announceables: anytime you can announce something (government funding for employment programs) do so as it adds real fibre to your presentation. That said; no matter how tempting it is to give the people what they want have the discipline not to overpromise.
Specify audiences: Shorten made a point to name various locations in Australia and various audiences – specifically unemployed Australians under 25 years of age and those 55+.
Just how many under 25s were spending their Sunday afternoon watching the launch is another question. 300,000 didn’t even bother to register to vote in a tight election. BTW: for this they are primarily accountable.
Name thy enemies: Shorten decided to name some of our largest companies by name – mainlky banks. He knows that public faith in these corporations is at a low and by naming names he helps gain more support for his argument.
Story time: It was 25 minutes or so into the presentation before Shorten told a story. It was about the visit to an Indigenous and remote school that he had visited during the campaign. He told the tale of a little boy who didn’t have a television as a way to highlight education spending.
The preceding 10 minutes had been nothing more than a laundry list of pledges and promises and spending. These lists become monotonous and generic rather quickly. Some overarching narrative, personal observations and stories hit a different mark with the audience.
Address the negative perceptions around you and your issues. Shorten did this when he referred to people who feel that politics is a cynical game and that their vote does not matter. I recommend to all clients that they do something similar. It gives you a fighting chance of getting the attention and consideration of the right people at the right time.
Repetition: Shorten used repetition towards the climax of this presentation ending multiple sentences with the phrase: “Vote Labour.” Perhaps you use this too. It is a common tactic used by gospel preachers and Presidential candidates such as Barack Obama. (Watch it from 10m in.)
Repetition adds theatricality to your presentation – even more so if the audience chimes in with the repetition. Shorten needed more confidence to make it work. Repetition is worth considering, particularly if you’re trying to excite and inspire.
Let there be music: Shorten used music which immediately chimed in upon finishing his speech. This is good and continues the emotional uplift. Or perhaps everyone is just happy that it’s over.
Score: 7.25 /10. Not bad but not memorable beyond this campaign. Mind you, truly memorable speeches are harder to conjure in this cynical, information-drenched era.
If you want to dramatically improve your public speaking and presentations talk to Brett about his Present Savvy workshop.
And read what you can learn from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s launch speech.
As a major media outlet it is only fair that we devote equal time to the official campaign launch speech of our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. (Lessons from Bill Shorten’s launch speech can be found here.)
Start on time: do your utmost to begin your presentation as promised. Turnbull arrived late to his own party. At an event as scrutinised as this, beginning late can be interpreted as a sign of disharmony and dysfunction.
The setup of the room is simple with seating angled towards a barely elevated stage. The video screen behind the Prime Minister emphasises various issues in a word or two. Standing on the same level as his audience makes it easier for Turnbull to connect to them. The most awkward staging places you far above your audience with an empty space in front of the stage. Even the best speakers have difficulty overcoming this barrier.
Video screens to the side of the room enable people at the rear of the venue to get a great view of the speaker. If you have the budget for this at your next event I recommend you make the investment. Do not expect people 60 metres away from the presenter to watch a dot on the horizon.
Pre-show: Local member Craig Laundy was given a prime opportunity to establish himself within his party and the electorate when he was selected to open up formal proceedings. His nerves were evident though understandable. he thrice used the adjective “amazing: to describe his locality, the event and goodness know what else. The word “amazing” is overused and under-specific so try to avoid it
Voice overs matter: the voice-over chap needed to inject more energy into his voice. Everything contributes to the overall mood of an event and he was far too reserved. It may have also injected some energy and diversity into the event to have a young female voice in this role. Or Senator Christopher Pyne.
Barnaby Joyce once exhibited far more nerves than Craig. These days he is as comfortable in the spotlight as he is on a tractor. Significantly, he chose to open with a humorous remark and personal observation. Joyce was positively poetic – positive, fluid and energised.
Name names: Ever since Presidential hopeful Mario Cuomo gave his famous address to the National Democratic Convention in 1984 it is common practice for politicians to weave in references to specific geographies and people. (Watch it all or from 6.50m in.) Joyce did that deftly, referring to regional locations and cabinet colleagues. You can do this too.
Slowdown: If I had one recommendation for Joyce it would be to slow down his tempo. A slower, more deliberate rate of speech conveys confidence and allows people to fully appreciate your content and humour. Perhaps he was trying to compensate for the late start.
Notes: both Joyce and Bishop spoke without obvious notes, presumably using a Teleprompter. Certainly it is ideal to look as if you are speaking entirely off-the-cuff with light dependence on speech notes. Reading a speech word for word is unacceptable and will not impress people.
You have to look as if you mean every word you say and on that criteria Joyce defeated Bishop who looked as if she was remembering a speech she had learnt by heart.
Also; the use of humour makes you look more comfortable and real. Bishop has in the past delivered humorous and energetic introductions at similar events. Bishop has achieved a remarkable repositioning in the eye of the public over the last two years but missed an opportunity to further her brand today.
Proportionality and time management: at an event such as this there is only one speaker that matters – the Prime Minister. In such a circumstance it’s fair to say that Bishop could have shaved off a minute or two from her stage time.
Video: I regularly see high-priced keynote speakers use introductory videos as a form of preparation before they hit the stage. This may work if you are a global brand such as Tony Robbins or indeed Prime Minister such as Malcolm Turnbull but it may be asking a little too much if you’re a regular citizen.
And so to Malcolm
BTW: Be grateful you don’t have to make awkward small talk and handshakes with people you have knifed in the back in front of the nation’s media as you make your way to the stage.
Energy: clearly Malcolm opened up at pains to look happy, energised and comfortable among his colleagues. This is always a good look. The degree to which it is believable in this context is another issue. It is much easier for Malcolm to look comfortable and energetic as he is speaking largely off-the-cuff. Reading your initial formal welcome never looks sincere.
Hands: Malcolm moves his hands using them to emphasise the passion with which he holds his views. He probably doesn’t even know it does it. If you naturally use your hands when talking you should be sure to continue this habit on stage or in any public presentation. Using your hands as you would normally use your hands makes you feel more comfortable and look more comfortable.
Malcolm down the middle: Though devoting most of his energies down the middle of the room Malcolm rotates 120° left and right on a regular basis making people in the cheap seats feel like they are a part of the action.
Whitespace: at one point Turnbull takes a pause asking the audience to “think about”. Don’t be afraid to make a point and ask your audience to cogitate on it for a moment or a minute. This creates a break, gives people the option take a breath and perhaps absorb your message.
No more lists: watching the two launch events has underlined to me the difference between reciting a laundry list of achievements or plans as opposed to telling a story, giving observations and presenting a narrative. There is simply no comparison between the persuasive powers of the latter to the former.
Turnbull is authoritative. But where does this authority stem from? Is it the smart suit? Is it his polished voice? Is it his relishing of the spotlight? Is it the familiarity with his material? Is it his energy? Is it his age, ethnicity or class? In truth all of these things and many more besides add up to authority.
Authority and persuasiveness come from many sources. This is good news for those of us without Turnbull’s natural advantages as what you may lack in one criteria can be compensated for in another.
There that was precious little humour or colloquialism in Turnbull’s speech. Reminding Australians that this was “not the time to pull the doona over our heads” was about as casual as it got. Shame – even a prime minister can utilise humour in a long speech.
It is clear that the coalition read my analysis of Bill Shorten’s speech last week. Thus they ensured the Prime Minister had something new to announce at the launch – in this case $48 million with the scholarships via The Smith Family. There were other announcements regarding digital literacy, mental health and so on. This isn’t a policy analysis so we will move on.
As with so many political presentations constant interruptions for applause grow tedious. The best presenters predict this and gather together a collection of points, working through them before receiving applause for them all. This saves time and energy.
Improvisation: the best and most comfortable speakers can improvise. Having placed babies in the front row for maximum visual impact it seems a shame that none of the speakers took the opportunity to refer to them.
Length: by 12.22pm this commentator was beginning to focus less on the Prime Minister’s presentation and more on the Sunday lunch. (Konkatsu ramen if you must know.)
Never overstay your welcome as Jerry Seinfeld says. Let’s face it – these events are rarely consumed whole but merely serve as fodder for television news which will take just moments out of the hole. This speech is too long which is an unforced error
The finish: like a gymnast’s dismount from the non-parallel bars, ending your speech in a way that feels elegant and energetic is vital if you are to score top marks. Turnbull fluffed his dismount somewhat as it had not been sufficiently signalled to the audience that the speech was about to wrap.
That’s a shame as it is this moment, along with the very beginning of his presentation that the most likely to be utilised by TV news crews. And TV news crews are in a sense the single most important audience for the Prime Minister.
Conclusion: very solid. Confident, fluid, energised. Turnbull by .75: 8 out of 10.
At last – we announce three public workshops for Melbourne:
Small groups & follow-up coaching. Dramatic improvement guaranteed.
Every workshop is now better value with more coaching and / or other benefits.
Each of the three workshops has an earlybird special – the first few to book will have their follow-up coaching doubled. Yep, doubled.
Don’t wait to be a savvier communicator.
When NOT to tell a story
A former client of ours Anecdote helps businesses find the stories behind their businesses. Founder Shawn Callahan has written a book encapsulating his wisdom on the matter: Putting Stories To Work. This is the third of four extracts. (Here’s the first.)
While there are often times when you should tell a business story at work, there are also times when you should hold off recounting an anecdote. In fact, there are times when the best way forward is to say nothing at all.
Stories are best utilised when the audience is open to learning and there’s an absence of time pressure. So if someone asks you how to get to the nearest train station, it’s best not to respond with ‘A couple of weeks ago…’
Likewise, if your boss wants a question answered quickly with a couple of facts, it’s probably not a good idea to tell them a story about the last time you did a particular job and what you learned in the process.
The truth is that sometimes you can tell too many stories. You need to mix your stories with other forms of communication, such as facts and opinions. In general, it’s best to start with a story and then expand on what it means.
Also keep in mind that adults don’t like to hear the same story twice, especially in business. You have to keep a mental note of which audience has heard which stories. As a leader, you will have your favourite stories—they’re your favourites because you know they work. But if you find yourself sharing the same story with the same audience, it’s time to get a new story.
And while storytelling can have a hugely positive impact on your leadership, it’s important not to fall in love with the sound of our own voice. Sometimes it’s a much better strategy to let your prospect tell you their stories. It can be very helpful to switch to story listening.
Finally, don’t even bother telling a story unless you know what the point of it is. Too many stories are just told to fill a silence. At best, this confuses the audience—at worst, it antagonises them.
Shawn Callahan is the founder at Anecdote Pty Ltd. This article is adapted from Shawn’s new book Putting Stories to Work: Mastering Business Storytelling.
This post explains bounce rates and description tags. Those of you who dare to keep abreast of your website stats may have puzzled over the “bounce rate” stat.
Sure we understand it’s people who came and left but how quickly must they leave to be counted as a bouncer? And how should we feel about a 39% bounce rate? Hurt? Resigned? Hungry? Actually hunger is not a feeling. Even if you don’t read the rest of this article you have learnt that much.
Bounce rate may be a sign that the visitor did not get what they expected or wanted. If your traffic is weak and your bounce rate is high you may simply need to improve your content – more words, images, information, videos, links and the like. Try this and review your bounce rate in a month or so.
Note: if your visitor comes to your site and leaves from the same page without looking elsewhere it counts as a bounce. But who is to say that the visitor didn’t find what she wanted before departing? One way to investigate this is to look at your the average amount of time spent on the page or post. A high bounce rate with a correspondingly short time spent on the page or post is a bad sign.
But what if your content is pretty good, traffic flow to the page relatively plentiful but your bounce rate is high? This means that plenty of people are being referred to the page by Google for certain search terms but are then disappointed with your content and leaving. Something is array. How to lower your bounce rate? One option – try inserting or editing your description tag.
What is a description tag?
When you create a post or page for your site you have the option of inserting a description tag. It literally should describe the content of the page.
Google uses this content to add some text to its search results (in yellow on the left) explaining to the searcher what she will find by clicking the link. The middle result is the best by far. The top and bottom probably don’t have tags and thus Google has tried to improvise content from the text it finds on the page. Not good.
Your description tag should be accurate and alluring, written as normal English and last 150 to 160 characters. Your new description tag may increase or decrease traffic but should certainly decrease your bounce rate as the traffic you receive will be better qualified. No surprises for the visitor = lower bounce rate. Customers love to get what they came for.
Description tags are optional and often get forgotten by website developers who don’t care or marketers who just don’t know. This is not OK as description tags are very important for Google rankings. Here’s our description tag for this very post.
Your CMS should easily allow you to add description tags when creating content. You can always go back and add suitable tags to all your content. We cover this stuff in Online Savvy. (Originally published in 2011, updated May 2016.)
As media trainers working in Melbourne, Sydney and across Australia we need a simple straightforward title for our media training workshop. For the last 15 or so years we’ve called the renowned workshop in which we train CEOs, campaigners and more to handle media interviews Speak Savvy.
But we also offer public speaking training (Present Savvy) and four additional workshops so things get a little confusing. Time for something more intuitive.
Henceforth our media training workshop, formerly called Speak Savvy, will be called Interview Savvy. Carry on.