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LEADERSHIP: How I Met Your Brand

Over the past year, I have been discussing in my blog posts this idea of the ‘larger story’ of your department, organization and your professional life and some of the new and fresh ways to tell that story. As I once heard someone say, “To be a person or a company is to have a story to tell.” And through the blogs on getting your ideas to the 7th imperative or the new small business marketing model, the question I’m always begging is how you are best telling that story to others.

There is currently a TV show called, “How I Met Your Mother” with narration by Bob Saget, in the year 2030.  Saget’s character recounts to his son and daughter the events that led to his meeting their mother, which explains the title. Of course this is a rather long story as the show is in its 7th season. As he narrates we watch as characters play out the story during our present day and as one episode ends, our main character is a little bit closer to meeting the children’s mother. Taking from that concept, I want to suggest the fun exercise of asking “how have people met your brand?” When I use the word brand we can view it in the scope of personal brand or professional brand. We could also look through the lens of organizational branding or, at least, your departmental branding.

I had the opportunity to speak to a couple of groups of students in one of our local high schools a few months ago. Wanting to change the usual conversation of “don’t do drugs and be home before 9pm”, I decided to ask each group of high school students, “what your personal brand was.” I led them through a variety of definitions of branding: who you are, the feeling other people get when they’re around you, your look and tone, your reputation. It was interesting to see how as you begin to bring in this dilemma of what your brand is, a dilemma that a 4 year old faces as much as an 84 year old faces, how much the students had to pause and think. Because, at the end of the day, we all face the question of how will we be remembered? As the ancient philosopher Aristotle reminds us, we are all naturally social animals and anyone who says they are not concerned with their reputation or what people think about them is really fighting their natural tendency. To put personal branding into perspective for the high school students we discussed Jersey Shore and what branding went on there, how the Situation trademarked both GTL and ‘The Situation’ before the show ever started, the infamous Snooki brand, and how those people will forever be remembered (whether positively or negatively). As we drilled down into various scenarios of student life, the group kept coming back to the theme of what do I want my reputation to be, what do I want my personal brand to be and what actions do I do on a daily basis that define that brand.

Another situation happened to me 6 months ago. I was at a florist in our local town and was buying flowers. The cashier stopped me and said, “You went to school with my daughter.” So I said yes, and asked how her daughter was. The mother went on to say, her oldest daughter was doing fine, but that I had really had the biggest influence on her youngest daughter. Puzzled, I asked how, not knowing the younger daughter. “You see,” the mother started, “You’ve been going on your runs through the town for years and as we would drive by you running my younger daughter would always say, ‘Some day I want to run like that.’ According to the mother, soon after the younger daughter started running, lost weight, went out for sports, became more active in school and now encourages other people to run with her. I haven’t let that story leave my conscience because I think it holds me accountable to my personal brand. It’s like that old adage, “your character is who you are when no one is looking.” I would add, “It’s who you are when you think no one is looking.” Make no mistake about it, with the new social media, 5 generations soon to enter the workforce (Vet, Boom, X, Y, Z), 24-hour news cycles, there is always someone watching. Not that we have to be perfect, but I think we have to recalibrate our concept of our sphere of influence and effect on the world we live in. Again, I would ask how does someone meet your brand and is it worth meeting? If not worth meeting, what are you doing right now to enhance it?

Here are some tips to get started on the enhancement of your brand:

– Define your core mission (why are you here), vision (where do you want be), values (what’s really important to you)

– Define how you add value in every situation. Especially at work, get really clear about how you add value: showing up on time, every time, asking provocative questions, even being willing to serve (taking notes, cleaning coffee mugs, picking up the order downtown)

– Dress and act the person you are to be. As I’m sure you’ve heard before, dress for the job you want, not the job you have right now. Just last week the Wall Street Journal came out with an article entitled How to Look and Act Like a Leader, and they reference the importance of “executive presence.” Do you exude executive presence?

– Have one conversation at a time. Build your brand one conversation at a time. Especially with my generation, but not exclusive to my generation, we tend to be cavalier and judgmental about who is worth talking to and where they will get us in our life instead of the idea that every conversation builds your brand in one way or another. Every conversation you’re either learning, growing, receiving feedback, deciding, and/or networking. You never know who is going to be of help to you in the future, connect you in the future, or be your boss in the future.

This is only scratching the surface of a bigger theme I want to explore, this fusion of marketing, social media, branding, influence, reputation and how you as an organization or individual can take proper steps to build a strategic brand. With that in mind, I’ve recently launched a project called How I Met Your Brand. I encourage you to visit the website, subscribe to the blog if you would like it. Two to three times a week I will continue exploring this concept of branding and marketing as I post ongoing thoughts, tips, findings and strategies. I will still be blogging for NDCBlogger, but I thought this would give additional value for those of you interested in this topic.

Visit the HIMYB website and on the current post learn how your personal brand is like building a house and what you can do today to strengthen your personal brand.

  • Hi Matt, Great article. I have learned that it does take one conversation at a time to build a personal brand, 40+ years for me. If you screw up along the way and stray from your brand, you can recover. It just takes time and many more conversations.

    There is great value in your personal brand, both professionally and in private life. It is well worth a focused effort to get it right. It helps you get through the tough times in business and life, by making choices that may be difficult, but choices that represent how you want your brand to be received. You are shaped into your personal brand by your experiences and your behavior related to those experiences. Companies and people know you and know how you perform and react to challenges. Living your brand supports you in the choices you make going forward. I find it easier in by older years to live my brand. Thanks again for the article. Best Regards, Terry

  • My favorite part is the younger girl being inspired by your running. I love it that. This cements your article and without it, you may not have been able to make your point as compelling.

  • Cattle are branded, not people. I’m a person, not a brand. Enough with the useless jargon and meaningless terminology.

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    Thanks to all of you who have commented so far. It seems to be a lively discussion. Terry, with all that you have seen and experienced in your many years, I really appreciate your input here. I think you hit the nail on the head of ‘living your brand.’ As Moe pointed out, branding is a such terminological word and yet was the best way I could encompassed the philosophy of building a mission for your life, a vision of where you want to be and holding true to the values you put in place. As mentioned, I do think we are on display (whether we like it or not). I think it’s a touchy point (and can side with Moe here); for many people it can be a “I didn’t sign up for this” type of exposure. But as the world gets flatter, smaller, leaner and faster we are on display now more than ever before.

    As I mentioned to Jared off-line, I wore this one close to my chest because of the personal nature of the stories, but as he mentioned, I think the stories provided a real-life application to the “branding yourself” concept. I also mentioned to Jared, that the girl that started running just finished her first Triathlon last week. Maybe I’m the one that should be inspired by her running now?

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