5 Personal Brand Tips To Keep Your Career Options Open

    5 Personal Brand Tips To Keep Your Career Options Open

    Explore Your Options copyThe Week of April 4th Is Explore Your Career Options Week

    If you want to keep your career options open, be aware that a strong personal brand on social media can help or hurt.

    According to a recent CareerBuilder.com poll, 52 percent of employers use social networking sites to research candidates, and 35 percent of those same employers reported that they were less likely to interview job candidates who didn’t have an online presence.

    In addition, 51 percent use search engines to dig up details on a job candidate. So that picture of you chugging back a beer on your Facebook page may not be such a good personal brand move for your future career prospects.

    Take advantage of all your career options by making sure your social media is up to par with these 5 easy, but often overlooked, tips.

    #1. Show some teeth, and instantly become smarter and more likeable.  

    In one study a profile picture on social media with a smile with teeth visible increased the perception of someone’s competence, likability and influence. A closed-mouth smile, however, had about half the impact on likability, and showing too much teeth (a laughing smile) increased likeability but reduced perceived competence and influence.

    #2. Avoid the 5 deadly online career killers.

    51 percent of employers chose not to hire a candidate based on their social media content. As obvious as these faux pas sound, the most common reasons for knocking a potential employee out of the running include:

    • Provocative or inappropriate photographs
    • Information about candidate drinking or using drugs
    • Candidate bad-mouthing previous company or fellow employee
    • Poor communication skills
    • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc.

    Some of the most outrageous examples taken from real life include: someone posting a photo of a warrant for their arrest, including links to an escort service, posting dental exam results, bragging about driving drunk (and not getting caught), posting Sasquatch pictures the person had taken, and featuring a pig as a best friend.

    #3. Get on the first page of Google.

    Enter your name into Google, and see if you come up on the first page. If not, you are probably one of the 50 percent of people on the site who don’t have a complete LinkedIn profile. To get to the first page of Google with your name, bring your LinkedIn to “all star” status by making sure you have:

    • A profile photo
    • Your current position
    • 2 past positions
    • A summary
    • Your industry and zip code
    • Your education
    • At least 50 connections

    #4. Claim your name.

    In the gold-rush days, would-be wealthy miners placed stakes in the ground to mark off their territory. In the digital era, everyone needs to stake their claim —to their name — and own as much of their digital brand territory as possible.

    In practical terms, this means registering your name as a URL to protect your self (and your reputation) from others claiming your username and potentially damaging your image and reputation.

    With 850 million active websites on the Internet, many names are already spoken for. If your exact name is taken, try getting a URL with:

    • Your first initial and last name
    • Your first name, middle initial and last name
    • Your first, middle and last name
    • A hyphen between your first and last name

    #5. Get off the first page of Google.

    What pops up when your name gets put into a search engine? To stay on top of your online personal brand, set a Google Alert on yourself and receive an email when you’re mentioned on the web.

    This way you can look and see who is talking about you — and what they’re saying. If you don’t like what you see, take steps to make changes before they do damage. This can include:

    • Requesting that old (or undesirable) photos be replaced with new ones you provide.
    • Getting outdated, unfair and inaccurate content off the first page of your search results by writing desirable new content (blog posts, articles, etc.) aimed at specific keywords and posting status updates that drive older, less desirable content (which features those same keywords) farther down the list.

    So the next time you get an itch to post that selfie of you doing something questionable at the company holiday party, think again. Instead post a piece on the importance of gratitude for the season –  it might just get you hired for the job you have always dreamed of.

    Karen Leland is President of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. She works with individuals, businesses and teams to enhance their business and personal brands. Her clients include LinkedIn, American Express, Apple, Marriott Hotels and others. Her ninth book, The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand, is due out from Entrepreneur Press in May of 2016.

    3 Ways Voters Assess A Candidates Brand

    3 Ways Voters Assess A Candidates Brand

    3 Ways A Brand Is Assessed

    3 Ways A Brand Is Assessed

    It was a banner night for Bernie Sanders, who at 55 percent handily beat out Hillary Clinton to win the New Hampshire primary. Bernie was able to hit this home run because of his consistent personal brand and on-point message to millennials. But he was also able to get there, in large part, because it was only a two-horse race. Unlike the Republicans, who — at eight contenders — have quadruple the number of players.

    Consider Trump. While the winner at 35.3 percent, did not exactly score a mandate. When seven other people are splitting the vote, it doesn’t take much to reach the top of the heap. That’s not to take away any kudos from Trump’s brand, impressive win, popularity or strategy.

    In fact Mr. Trump’s strategy of putting the other Republican candidates on the defensive, so they double down in an effort to protect their flanks, seems to be working. At least it’s working to keep his colleagues in the race. But I have to wonder, watching all this, “Are they just staying in it for the sake of their egos?”

    Although South Carolina is a different animal than New Hampshire, you have to question whether the Republican Party needs to get its act together, decide to be a team, and reduce the playing field enough to let a true favorite rise to the head of the pack.

    Let’s face it: Any successful politician (or businessperson for that matter) needs a healthy dose of ego to do what needs to be done. But when it gets to the point where it’s damaging the team, has it gone too far? And an ego gone too far is not a good quality in a President, or any leader for that matter.

    In what’s certain to now become a very expensive race to run, some of these Republican candidates might want to consider cutting their losses and giving their votes to a more viable candidate as we move on.

    At this point in the race, I believe political substance will start to trump (no pun intended) style. Not that style won’t matter, but as the race moves, so will the voters’ decision meters. Three aspects of the candidates brands will impact the box they check in the polling booth.

    Personal: How does this candidate align with my personal views? Some voters put aside all considerations of domestic and international policy and vote along the lines of their values. For example: Evangelicals are often one-issue (e.g., right to life) voters.

    Local: How do I think this candidate will deal with the significant domestic issues we are facing? Take, for example, the chord Sanders has struck with college students regarding economic fairness and educational issues.

    Global: Do I believe this candidate has what it takes to handle the global issues facing the world today? This is where Hillary has a real strong suit, but for some reason has not been taking advantage of it. Allowing Sanders to define the narrative around the “progressive” label, she has so far missed her opportunity to convince the voters most concerned with global issues that she is the one.

    Because I’m always interested in how these things translate into everyday business, I think a parallel can be drawn between how voters choose their candidate and how customers choose their providers.

    1. How does this company align with my personal views? Customers today are more concerned than ever with the degree to which a business matches their values. Issues such as sustainability have become fulcrums upon which purchase decisions rest for some customer groups.
    2. How do I think this company will deal with me when I have a personal issue that needs attending to? For example: A company with an excellent reputation for standing behind their products and services is often the provider of choice for customers looking for a stand-up company to support with their dollars.
    3. Do I believe this business will do the right thing in the face of a major problem? In other words, will these folks act quickly to fix a f…up of their own making? Companies that have shown a history of taking responsibility and moving to make amends and repairs with speed and grace are often the winners in the reputation game.

    Whether you are candidate running for political office or a business pitching for patronage, you would do well to remember that people vote for you (in the ballot box and with dollars) based on the three critical criteria of your brand – personal, local and global. Your best ground game is to be a winner in all three.

    This article is copyrighted by Karen Leland and cannot be reprinted in any form, electronic or otherwise, without the express written permission of Karen Leland.

    Karen Leland is President of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. She works with individuals, businesses and teams to enhance their business and personal brands. Her clients include LinkedIn, American Express, Apple, Marriott Hotels and others. Her ninth book, The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand, is due out from Entrepreneur Press in May of 2016.

     

     

     

     

     

    Hillary, Can You Feel the Bern’s Personal Brand?

    Hillary, Can You Feel the Bern’s Personal Brand?

    mKMCzS-nk9TE-PXyr_2gh8wtVsL8RYS3FelC1gmukfw-1And we’re off to the races… With last night’s Iowa Caucus action, the personal brands of the candidates became front and center once again.

    As a personal branding consultant, I’ve been watching this election cycle with my head cocked to one side, like a confused cocker spaniel. Last night was no exception.

    But as always, I try to take away from this very public display of leadership presence — or in some cases, the lack thereof — the most important personal brand and positioning strategy lessons businesses can use. Here are 6 from last night.

    #1. 90% of success is showing up — and the Donald didn’t. Missing the last republican debate signaled a lack of ability to play well with others when things don’t go his way. That dose of reality may have pushed undecided voters over the fence — away from Trump and toward Cruz.

    Your Branding Lesson: Sometimes playing the game in the long-term interest of making your contribution trumps (no pun intended) the short-term gain of getting your point across — now.

    #2. You need both an air game and a ground game. Metaphors borrowed from 1920s college football have gone from the football field to fodder for the political pundits. While Donald Trump was busy promoting his personality, Cruz was focused on organizing for action.

    Your Branding Lesson: A charismatic personal brand will buy you a certain amount of attention, but when the rubber meets the road — or the caucus floor — there is no substitute for a well-implemented strategy.

    #3. Radical authenticity wins the day. Like him or not, you can say one thing for Bernie Sanders: He has been consistently consistent from the beginning. His tone, messages and demeanor have not changed with the circumstances. This radical authenticity has helped him create what one CNN newscaster called the “passion gap” between himself and Clinton.

    Clinton, on the other hand, kept trying to borrow from Sanders’ personal brand last night with statements like, “I’m a progressive.” Well, not really. She may be smart, focused and experienced, but being a progressive isn’t part of the brand she’s built.

    Your Brand Lesson: It’s very hard to switch branding horses midstream. Once you dedicate yourself to a personal brand, a re-brand takes time and energy before it becomes a reality for others.

    #4. Don’t put all your eggs in a single-message basket. Donald Trump’s entire brand — at least until this point — has basically been one message: I’m a winner. Well not last night, and as Donald tweeted once, “No one remembers who comes in second.” Whether he can re-brand at this point remains to be seen.

    Your Branding Lesson: Your brand needs to be more than a single sound byte or pithy elevator pitch. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging your brand when things don’t go exactly as you planned. The best brands feature multiple, complementary messages that weave together to form an accessibly complex and in-depth communication.

    #5. Winning isn’t always winning, Despite Clinton’s ultimate and minuscule victory over Sanders, who really won the night? The degree to which Sanders inspired millennials, who are disenchanted with politics as usual, to participate is in many ways a much more important and longer-term gain that could make the difference in the end.

    Your Branding Lesson: Be in it for the long term. When it comes to building a personal, business or CEO brand, it’s all about the long game. Try and override the tendency to judge the efficacy of any one particular action by its immediate result. For example: That blog post you write today may not land you a customer immediately, but it will build your personal brand long term — and that could bring you a whole new bunch of clients down the road.

    #6. Don’t take your eye off the guy bringing up the rear. Marco Rubio may have come in a close third, but Americans love an underdog — especially one who’s attractive and articulate. By the end of the night, he had pulled in an unexpected 23 percent, just one point under Trump.

    Your Branding Lesson: Under-promising and over-performing brings positive attention to your brand. Even if you aren’t the front runner, the strength of sticking to your brand message and moving consistently toward your goals may make you the winner in the end.

    With that, we’re off to New Hampshire, where who knows what personal branding lessons will reveal themselves in the primary? Only the voters of that fine state know for sure.

    This article is copyrighted by Karen Leland and cannot be reprinted in any form, electronic or otherwise, without the express written permission of Karen Leland.

    Karen Leland is President of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. She works with individuals, businesses and teams to enhance their business and personal brands. Her clients include LinkedIn, American Express, Apple, Marriott Hotels and others. Her ninth book, The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand, is due out from Entrepreneur Press in May of 2016.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Why JJ Abrams Got the Star Wars Brand Right and Why You Care

    (Karen Leland — December 27, 2015) —

    New York, New York

     

    Fair Warning: This blog post contains some Star Wars spoiler alerts! Not a whole bunch, but read at your own risk.

     

    I don’t know about you, but I hated the last installment of Star Wars movies. You know, the ones that droned (no pun intended) on for hours (and hours) with no apparent semblance to the beloved original three, which in reality are the middle three, of the saga. Confusing, isn’t it? Image how it must feel to land the job of directing one of these epics. JJ Abrams, the most recent director to take on the challenge, is a brave man indeed.

     

    So it was with more than a touch of trepidation that I went to see the latest installment in the series, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Steeled for the worst and hoping for the best, I gripped my popcorn box a bit too tightly as the iconic writing against the black sky of space scrolled across the scene announcing the current state of affairs “long ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

     

    Well, JJ did not disappoint. I watched in delight as new on-screen friends were introduced into old themes. Talking about the film with friends afterward, I realized that part of the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens lay in Abrams’ masterful treatment of the brand itself — treatment any entrepreneur or enterprise can learn from. Here’s what I walked away with.

     

    Give a Nod to Nostalgia and New: There’s a scene in the film where Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and crew get into a sticky situation while on the evil New Order’s Star Destroyer ship. Mid-snafu, Harrison Ford tosses out the classic “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” There are many other times during the film when a classic thread from past movies is brought into the present moment. At the same time, Abrams teases us with future possibilities for how this whole crazy thing might unfold.

     

    Your Takeaway: Failing to give your brand’s positive past its due can be dangerous business. Remember when Coca Cola tried to introduce the New Coke? While preliminary taste tests for the new formulation were positive, consumers revolted at the idea of their old standby being replaced by a new upstart. Sales dropped and Coke Classic (the original formula) was reintroduced. Change can give your brand a powerful boost, but it needs to take into account the sentimental relationship your customers have with your brand as before.

     

    Flip the Familiar: We were all shocked when Luke’s father (aka Anakin) turned out to be Darth Vader, so in a delightful twist of fate, this time it’s the son (Kylo Ren) who represents the dark side, and the father (Han Solo), the light. There are several of these flips of the familiar in the movie. Another example is Maz Kanata, the burnt-orange female who echoes Yoda in her wrinkled, wide-eyed wisdom.

     

    Your Takeaway: What is it about your brand that your clients hold dear, but you could offer a slight variation on or flip sideways? Engaged and interested customers keep your brand fresh and your customers wanting more. Consider the case of Starbucks, which in 2011 wanted to expand beyond selling only coffee to other food items. While they anchored the past by keeping the core of their logo, the famous mermaid image, they removed the word coffee.
    Get the Backstory Straight: Peppered throughout Star Wars: The Force Awakens are small moments relating to the backstory of the saga:

     

    • Former Princess now General Leia saying about her son, “There’s too much of Vader in him.”

     

    • Kylo Ren praying to the burnt-up helmet of his grandfather Lord Vader for help to resist the light side of the force.

     

    • A long-lost light saber being removed from a dusty box as it calls to the progeny of its former owner.

     

    These flashes of the past, and more, continue to honor the place these characters came from and the circumstances that have brought them to where they are today.

     

    Your Takeaway: Your brand most likely did not begin this morning. There is a whole backstory as to how and why your brand ended up here and now. Have you taken the time to write this backstory and integrate it into your marketing materials and brand presentation? How could you bring stronger elements of your backstory into your current brand?

     

    There are two more films left in the Star Wars saga as it was originally conceived, and whether they’ll live up to the brand promise (or not) remains to be seen. Brands, like the Millennium Falcon, require ongoing maintenance and attention — even in a galaxy far, far away.

     

    This article is copyrighted by Karen Leland and cannot be reprinted in any form, electronic or otherwise, without the express written permission of Karen Leland.

    Karen Leland is President of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. She works with individuals, businesses and teams to enhance their business and personal brands. Her clients include LinkedIn, American Express, Apple, Marriott Hotels and others. Her ninth book, The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand, is due out from Entrepreneur Press in May of 2016.

     

     

     
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    Personal Branding Business Lessons From The Republican Presidential Debates

    Personal Branding Business Lessons From The Republican Presidential Debates

    Business man holding a cut out sign of the facebook cursor

    Personal Branding Lessons For Business People

    Watching the Republican presidential debate tonight, I took note of how the candidates’ personal brands played out. Here are 3 personal brand lessons business people can learn from just a few of them.

    Donald Trump: To Thy Known Brand Be True

    As Popeye famously said, “I am what I am.” Whether you consider him to be a breath of fresh air or a blow hard, no one can deny that Trump is always (without apology) “the Donald.”

    No matter the stage (be it on a presidential campaign or as a tough boss on The Apprentice), he embraces his personal brand and wears it proudly. Trump’s consistency in his personal brand campaign style and talking points reinforces and solidifies his brand image.

    Chris Christie: Show, Don’t Tell

    In last night’s debate, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said:

    • “I’ll be able to fire a whole bunch of IRS agents.”
    • “When President Christie is in the oval office, I will have your back.”
    • “It is suffocating small business; it is suffocating the folks who are trying to make a living.”

    These statements are both emotional and visual in nature — which also makes them memorable. Governor Christie didn’t just give statistics and facts; he consistently answered questions by weaving together stories, strategies and even humor.

    Christie knows how to paint a picture, and this has the impact of making his personal brand feel more dimensional than some of his more one-note opponents.

    Marco Rubio: The Power of Personal Story

    As he did in the previous debate, Rubio referred to his mother being a maid and his father being a bartender. He’s talked about growing up with modest means, his Cuban immigrant family and recent financial struggles. In short, he is the living embodiment of the America Dream — in action.

    Later in the debate, he remarked again about the importance of vocational training. Coming from his background, he has the credibility to say it. Rubio makes himself accessible and authentic by connecting his personal story to his points of view.

    In Personal Branding – Even The Small Stuff Counts 

    The Washington Examiner recently did a post on the personality of the 2016 presidential candidates using an online Twitter evaluation tool called Analyze Words. The tool looks at emotional, social and thinking styles — based on each candidate’s recent tweets. Among the Republican results:

    • Jeb Bush appears to be an optimist.
    • Ben Carson is upbeat — but with a low analytic thinking style.
    • Marco Rubio scored high for “in the moment” thinking.

    I don’t think that tweets (which may or may not have been written by the candidates themselves) are the best indication of a contender’s brand. I do, however, feel that much can be learned from listening to how the candidates respond under the pressure of fast-paced questioning.

    A Personal Brand Is Not Static

    While Donald Trump may be the current Republican front runner, a recent likability poll from McClatchy-Marist reported that 49% of Republicans said that the more they hear Trump — the less they like him. By contrast, in that same poll, 58% of Republicans surveyed said the more they hear Marco Rubio, the more they like him.

    The lesson here? A personal brand is not made (or broken) by one meeting, one interview, one action or one debate. If the presidential candidates don’t know that already — they’re about to find out.

    This article is copyrighted by Karen Leland and cannot be reprinted in any form, electronic or otherwise, without the express written permission of Karen Leland.

    Karen Leland is President of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. She works with individuals, businesses and teams to enhance their business and personal brands. Her clients include LinkedIn, American Express, Apple, Marriott Hotels and others. Her ninth book, The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand, is due out from Entrepreneur Press in May of 2016. Pre order on Amazon.com now.

     

     

     

     

    Are You Sick and Tired Of Counting Characters?

    Are You Sick and Tired Of Counting Characters?

    Lately I’ve been realizing that small and insignificant, but necessary, items eat up a significant portion of my worktime. For example – counting the amount of characters or words I’m using when composing something. Character limits are all the rage these days.  For example:

    Pinterest gives you 500 characters for a description

    • Twitter 140 for a tweet

    • Title tags have no limit but only display 70 characters

    • Meta descriptions have no limit but only first 155 characters are displayed in Google search results

    • Description tags on LinkedIn longer than 225 characters will be truncated (oouch)

    • Facebook only displays the first 300 characters of a description

    • Online contact information is often limited to a certain amount of characters or words

    While I recognize the necessity of limiting would be Leo Tolstoy’s from trying to turn their Pinterest profile into War and Peace, it can be very annoying to craft the perfect tweet only to discover it’s 6 characters over the limit.  

     

    wordcount
     

    So if you’re tired of cutting and pasting or checking your word/character count every ten seconds to insure that you stay within the prescribed limit, check out one of the these many free services on the web. Just type in your text, click and there you have it, your total word or character count.  Here are a few to check out:

    www.lettercount.com/ A bonus with this site is they provide a whole how to on writing with fewer letter including a recommended reading list of great authors who wrote short.

    www.mylettercounter.com/

    www.charcounter.com/ This site lets you count with or without white spaces.

    Whichever of these sites you use, to tighten your text do the following:

     • Substitute longer words with something shorter. For example instead of saying using beneficial say useful – a savings of  4 characters.

     • Remember to take into account any hashtags or URL’s you plan on including, so you don’t use up all your characters on the message itself.

     • Shorten your sentences, but make them complete. That’s the challenge, to sound smart and snappy all at the same time. 

     • Remain keyword rich. A limit on words or characters is no excuse to just throw keywords to the wind. Pick at least one and place it in your text.

    Believe it or not, just using a simple tool such as a character counter can shave minutes off of the time it takes to compose a tweet or write a Pinterest description.

    And in a world where 140 characters can make or break a news story, every minute counts.  

    For more time management tips check out my book Time Management In An Instant.

    For more tips on using Pinterest  check out my new book  Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Guide to Pinterest for Business

    Karen Leland is the best-selling author of eight business books and president of Sterling Marketing Group , where she works with executives, high-end entrepreneurs, small businesses and Fortune 500 companies to build their personal, team and business brands.

    How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews

    How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews

    True confessions: When I first started blogging about a decade ago, I wrote a post for a top 10 website where I made what I thought was an innocent off-the-wall comment, meant to be (at least in my mind) somewhat humorous. Let me tell you, the barrage of hate email I got scared me to death and almost had me quit my keyboard clacking for good!

    This is a short excerpt from a blog post I did for Entrepreneur.com.  Read the rest of the post.