Let’s Talk Leadership for the Digital Age
Podcast Show with Des Walsh
Sheila Scarborough is a speaker and trainer specializing in tourism, travel, and social media. She’s written for many blogs and print publications and is also a certified Navy Master Training Specialist, with years of experience as an instructor.
Click Here for More About Sheila
Surprisingly, sometimes depth of knowledge is not as important as the ability to ask the right questions.
Does the experience of military leadership translate easily into the business world?
The greatest struggle can be in having been used to being on a team. As a solo entrepreneur “there’s no one to turn to, until you can hire someone you trust enough”. This is especially challenging for people who’ve been in very senior military positions.
It’s a constant learning process, as a leader. If you ever think you have it all figured out, that means you think you have human beings all figured out. And you’re wrong.
A key issue for leaders is keeping up with change – which means continuous learning
You’ve got to be educating yourself and letting yourself be foolish and letting yourself go and learn things and do things that maybe mean being a little uncomfortable and silly, but that’s how you learn.
Social Media and Tourism
Tourism Currents’ primary client group is the larger tourism organizations, but those organizations ask for help with social media training for tourism partners (hospitality, destinations…), so Tourism Currents have been doing quite a bit of partner training.
Some observations on that:
- People get too concerned about the technology
- Need to think of using social media as a different way to do what you’ve always done (in promoting your destination)
- People become frozen with the options available – have to get people to focus
You don’t have to be on every social channel. You need to be on the ones where your market is.
Key advice they provide for these tourism partners – two essential steps
- Claim your business on Google My Business. Fill out all the information, upload pictures, respond to reviews
- Maintain one really good Facebook page
Do those two things well and you’ll probably survive…
It’s a long game: needs patience.
Social Media in Different Countries and With Different Cultural Groups
A number of things are the same everywhere.
One of the challenges – everywhere – is in getting people to understand that using social media effectively has to go beyond “pumping out the updates”. There has to be interaction.
Some say they hadn’t been told there was an expectation for interaction.
The Impact of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality on Tourism
Are virtual reality/augmented reality a threat to tourism destinations? Sheila does not believe so. She used the example of experiencing a virtual tour of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, in Winnipeg. Far from feeling she had seen enough, the experience made her want to visit the actual museum.
People still want to go and visit the Grand Canyon in person.
Sheila is on the National Professional Development Committee for the AWC (Association for Women in Communications,) co-founded and still writes for the award-winning Perceptive Travel blog, helps run #tourismchat on Twitter, and serves on the Programming Committee for SXSWi, the South by Southwest Interactive tech conference.
You can contact Sheila via the Tourism Currents site, which includes a blog and various resources.
- On Twitter at @TourismCurrents
- On Facebook at the Tourism Currents page
- On LinkedIn, the Tourism Currents company page (more B2B content there)
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In this podcast episode I talk about how Business leaders need to be able to fit expectations and demands about social media into a strategic framework that is a good fit with their overall business strategy and I share a link to my Social Media Strategy Checklist.
Whether you are a beginner in using social media for business, or an active or even advanced user, this checklist is for you. You can use it to guide your own thinking and as a basis for a strategy review session with your team.
The checklist is based on my Simple Social Media Strategy Template, which has been used effectively for a range of organizations, from small business through to a very large organization, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It’s scaleable!
Get Your Copy of the Checklist
To download your free copy of the checklist, just click here to go to the Home Page on this site, drop your name and email address into the box there, confirm that when requested and you will get an email with the link to download the checklist.
There are nine key areas requiring our attention for a comprehensive strategy:
(Each of these is explained in detail on the podcast.)
Tools to help research your market’s activity in social media and learn more about your customers’ and prospects’ concerns
- Create a survey with Google Forms or SurveyMonkey.
- Create lists on Twitter, either with Twitter itself or a dashboard application such as Hootsuite
- Join relevant LinkedIn groups and listen
- For the USA check out the Pew Internet research site and search on social media
- For Australia, study the annual Sensis report on social media – here is the link to the 2016 report
Planning, Scheduling, Analytics and other Social Media Management Tools
(Note: the pricing structures of these services vary – the figures I quoted on the podcast and the figures here are as good as I can work out – open to correction/improvement)
- Hubspot Marketing Platform – US$200 a month (paid annually) with $600 onboarding, up to enterprise level at $2,400 a month and $5,000 onboarding: there is a 30 day free trial
- Buffer – free then $10 a month
- Hootsuite – free then $9.99 a month up to $99.99 a month per user, then custom pricing – check addons
- SproutSocial – $59 per month per user up to $500 per month for 3 users: 30 day free trial on any plan
- Edgar – $49 a month basic (expected to rise soon to around $79: 14 day free trial
Other services that seem worth checking out
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Becky McCray is a small town business owner; she and her husband Joe own a retail liquor store and a cattle ranch in the United States. She shares insights from this real-world experience at her highly-ranked website, Small Biz Survival, and in her award-winning book, Small Town Rules.
As always when Becky and I have a good old chat, we both find ourselves surprised and delighted at how much the concerns of small communities are not dissimilar, even thousands of miles apart across the wide Pacific.
Click Here for More About Becky
An Emerging Style of Collaborative Leadership
There has been a sea change in how leadership works in small towns.
The time when a group of just a few people could sit in a room and run your town are over. The center of power has shifted.
More collaborative now, more project-focused.
Becky illustrated with the story of a playground in her town that was in serious need of restoration and upgrading of equipment.
The entire project was driven by people getting involved and not by a few people telling everyone what to do.
Coffee and Calendars – Getting Groups to Work Together
The Coffee and Calendars process – simple and effective.
There are still small towns where various groups operate independently of one another – a kind of silo effect.
Becky shows them how to deal with this by encouraging them to just start by getting together, a couple of people at a time. Two people, each from a different group or organization, bring their group’s calendar, meet for coffee and compare calendars. Then they meet others and repeat the process. People gradually find ways to collaborate.
We also talked about the importance of being proactive if you want to engage groups who are not usually involved and may actually feel uncomfortable at events, even where the existing group wants them involved. Ask about their concerns, about ways the existing group might be able to support them.
Engaging Young People
A big problem in trying to get young people involved in volunteer activity is the old committee structures.
If the community is interested in bringing young people in, the first thing is to abolish your existing formal structures and leadership roles. Make it much more informal, much more project-based, with shorter timeframes.
And then listen to them.
Social Media Key to Information Sharing
Social media is extremely important in small communities. It’s the new informal center of information dissemination and actually faster than the old town gossip was at getting the information out.
It’s crucial for people to use the social media tools to get good stories about their community shared.
Do not wait until the most negative, hateful person in town decides to start using online tools, such as a blog, to run your community into the ground, … Start by setting up ways to share positive information about your community.
Knowing that Becky is a fund of information and ideas about how to develop and promote tourism for local communities and knowing how important that is for some communities’ very survival, I asked her for some thoughts on this.
- If people think it’s a nice place to visit, they’ll think it’s a nice place to live
- There is a trend for travellers to seek out sites off the beaten track, with local cultural experiences – think local artists and artisans
- Regional and quirky are in
I shared an experience of visiting a very poor village in Java years ago and the way they had been helped to use the resources they had to create objects for tourists – my clay elephant story.
What keeps local leaders in this new world awake at night? Resistance to new ideas. Through their SaveYour.town initiative, Becky and her colleague Deb Brown have developed the “Idea Friendly” concept to help people deal with that resistance.
Becky’s practical perspective is often featured in a wide range of media, from The New York Times to The High Plains Journal. She makes her home base in Hopeton, Oklahoma, a community of 30 people. Her goal is to deliver practical steps you can put into action right away to shape the future of your town.
Contact details for Becky
On Twitter at @BeckyMcCray
Project with Deb Brown for small towns – SaveYour.town
Lots of good reading in Becky’s articles at SmallBizSurvival.com
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Non Profit – the Economic Dimension
According to a World Bank report, if the global nonprofit sector were a country, it would have the sixteenth largest economy in the world. In 2012 alone, the nonprofit sector contributed $878 billion to the US economy, about 5.4 percent of the nation’s GDP.
With stakes that high, we could be forgiven for thinking there would be some serious research and discussion about leadership for nonprofit organizations. But evidently the research is quite limited at best: most of the research on leadership is in the for-profit and government sectors.
“Non Profit” or “Not for Profit”? There is a message in the use of the term “not for profit” rather than “non profit”, namely that organizations in that sector often make profits and at times quite substantially, but the profits are not distributed to shareholders, owners, or founders. Or should not be! Profits are used to maintain and grow the organization or maybe contributed to the sector in some way. From my reading, in practice the terms are used interchangeably.
- Social and human services
- Health care
- Community development
- Arts and culture
Measures of success
- Forprofit – profit-focused leadership
- Notforprofit – more relationship-based, priority on democratic decision-making and execution
Skills, Qualities, Behaviors
Various qualities/skills/behaviors common to leadership for both sectors.
Some attitudes/skills/behaviors characterizing nonprofit:
- Decision-making more democratic
- Collaboration very important
- Vision making and vision communication crucial
- High demand for skill in complex communications
Ideal skill/competence set: combine private sector business acumen with competence in traditional nonprofit culture (For this insight/formulation, acknowledging the paper Understanding leadership in successful non-profit organizations).
Includes financial competence, mission-definition, strategic thinking/planning, ability to scale, environment awareness, technological capacity, entrepreneurship, social media literacy and competency, attention to governance (transparency and accountability).
Traditional nonprofit culture
Democratic decision-making, respect for organization’s history, founders, respect for volunteers.
vision-making and vision-communicating, special demand on communication skills – team, board, partners, sponsors (government, business, community).
Also – listening, patience, valuing diversity – including age
Ability to work with boards of diverse backgrounds, including business people who are often not taking the role seriously enough and/or are less than rigorous in their service. There for the kudos or to do a favor. (“Give, get or get off”)
The Volunteer Sector
Many but not all nonprofits are volunteer based or rely extensively on volunteers (e.g. animal rescue organizations, sporting clubs, public galleries and museums).
Need to understand volunteers – why they join, why they stay, how to engage, how to reward, how to respect and engage skillsets and enthusiasm, what annoys or disappoints, how to recruit more.
Creative Industry Sector
Theatre directors, actors, dancers, musicians pride themselves on not being money-driven. Leader has to champion and represent their passion and at the same time balance the books.
Support, communication, attentive listening, and to others effective lobbying and acknowledgement.
Story of Arts Council of Great Britain’s man’s comment about what makes a good arts administrator – have “bowels of compassion for the artist” and be a good administrator. You need to listen to get the full dimensions of this. Reference is biblical – ? 1 John 17 in the King James Version.
A Quote That Sums it Up
“A strong nonprofit leader drives a sense of mission down through the organization, upward into the board and outward in to the community. He or she is willing to do whatever it takes to enable the organization to follow their mission effectively.”
Paul Light. 2002. Grasping for the Ring: Defining Strong Nonprofit Leadership
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Krishna Kumar is a pioneer in the field of Leadership & Executive Coaching in Asia. A Master Coach and Trainer, he has coached Executives, Entrepreneurs and CEOs and works closely with some of the most renowned organisations in India and abroad. In a career spanning 30 years, Krishna Kumar has donned several hats as a a corporate executive, entrepreneur, independent director, management consultant, B-school faculty and Tennis coach.
He is the founder-director of (ISEC) Intrad School of Executive Coaching, which runs programs for certifying individuals as coaches.
Click Here for More About Krishna
Awareness, Tennis and Leadership
The opening (and, as it turned out, recurring) topic for our conversation was “Being Aware – the Secret to Powerful Leadership”.
Krishna quoted the legendary tennis champion Billie-Jean King (39 Grand Slam titles, including 12 singles, 16 women’s double and 11 mixed doubles) as saying that self awareness is the secret of being a champion.
Connection between tennis and the corporate world. The sports field is like a laboratory, with lessons that can be learnt on the tennis court and transported into the corporate world.
He has long been inspired by the insights and work of Timothy Gallwey, especially in his modern classic The Inner Game of Work.
Many leaders come to their position without experience of serious failure. Even the greatest sports champions experience failure: they learn how to cope with wins and losses, as long as they have more wins than losses. In the corporate world many work not-to-fail rather than to succeed.
Importance of having awareness of the environment in which the business operates.
Scaling Up and Major Change
Challenges for young developers who become CEOs of fast-growing startups. Investors want rapid growth. Krishna’s advice – you as leader are always going to be the visionary and you need to be ok about handing over management to others.
CEO challenge with major change is to create and share a strong story of a bright future – a strategic story of success.
Four areas of awareness for a CEO initiating a change process
- self awareness
- awareness of others (company wide)
- systems (and broader environment) awareness
- strategy (left and right brain in sync)
We talked also about:
- warning signs that a leader needs to do something about self-awareness
- what keeps business leaders awake at night
Active in the coaching community, Krishna is the President of the International Association of Coaching (IAC) and a Member on the IAC’s global Board of Governors. A Board Certified Coach (BCC) by the Center For Credentialing and Education (CCE), USA, he is also a Founding Fellow of the Institute of Coaching Professional Association (ICPA), a Harvard Medical School affiliate.
Krishna is a USPTR certified tennis coaching professional and also the recipient of the USPTR India Coach of the Year award in 2011 and the USPTR President’s 2002 award for contribution to the field of tennis coaching. His passion for the game of tennis led to the establishment of Kinesis Sports, which is rated as India’s premier tennis academy. Kinesis, India’s first and only ISO 9001 – 2008 certifed tennis training institution is supported by a top-notch team of coaches who train around 300+ students every year.
Krishna Kumar is a visiting faculty at the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, and his articles are regularly published in leading business magazines.
ISEC India website – ISEC India
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Sharon Hunneybell is the Community Manager for Opmantek, a leading provider of Open Source Network Management and IT Audit software, and has been an active contributor to the Gold Coast startup community for several years.
She has a passion for technology, innovation and collaboration and a keen interest in promoting and increasing youth participation in startups and technology.
Community Manager at Opmantek
In Sharon’s 18 months as Community Leader at Opmantek, the user base has doubled to 100,000 organisations, which could include hundreds of individuals in organisations, with the user base in terms of people being more like 1 million. In around 130 countries, of which some 30% are in the USA. Strong in Latin America.
Qualities of a community leader
- Communication skills
- Genuine desire to build relationships with customers
- Good at customer service
- Good level of marketing/PR skills
Co-Founder, Startup Apprentice
Startup Apprentice delivers award winning, action based entrepreneurial education programs that teach the ‘Silicon Valley’ lean approach to starting a business to high-school students.
Our experience based learning helps bridge the gap between book-smarts and street-smarts, with a fully immersive, hands-on, experienced based program where students actually launch a new business or social enterprise.
Startup Apprentice grew out of Gold Coast startup weekends, towards the end of 2013. Started with a pilot at Varsity College, Gold Coast, in June 2014. Have now involved some 600 high school students.
The leadership style they promote in the program is very collaborative. The students embrace that really well: accountability plus working better and faster together.
Leadership and Transition from Innovator to CEO
Two different roles. Leader of a startup needs very different skillset from someone leading an established business. Great metaphor of “safari leader” vs bus driver or train driver. Founder-developers need to decide early on whether they really want to become “bus drivers”.
A New Style of Leadership Needed for the Digital Age?
Basic principles of good business will always be the same – still need common sense and good ethics. Business now more social.
Sharon is well known, well liked and highly respected in the local tech and startup community as the co-founder of Startup Apprentice.
At the 2014 Westpac Bank’s Community Leaders Awards, Sharon was one of three finalists in the Start-up Leader category. She was also named by the Queensland Government as an ‘Innovation Champion’ under the Innovation and Science Champions program.
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Dr Steve Barlow is a change fitness and change readiness specialist, trainer and change management consultant and has a fascinating career history.
Steve began his career as a teacher of French and English and later ran a high school English department and managed the senior grades. He has managed charter boats on Sydney Harbour, which included running a cruising restaurant and bar and managing cruises. He later served as publicity officer for public schools in the state of New South Wales, Australia.
Maximum Security and Insights About Change
Working with inmates in maximum security in New South Wales correctional facilities gave Steve insights about change that were to feed into his PhD work and later career and business.
Many prison inmates came to programs with no great deal of hope. Some proved able to make good use of change. What made the difference was not the programs themselves so much as what was going onside the individual prisoners’ heads.
Change Fitness and Change Readiness
If a change is really difficult it can push us to the limits of our change fitness – just as with physical fitness.
Just because someone has change fitness doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready for change.
Applying This to the Organization
Organizations capable of dealing with change have these four characteristics:
- the individual members are change fit
- the individual members are change ready
- the organizational culture supports the change
- leadership/management change readiness
Dr Achilles Arminakis identified five factors for what people need to agree and believe to get on board with organizational change. People need to:
- agree there’s a problem that needs solving
- believe that what’s being proposed is the right solution and is going to work
- believe they can do it
- believe that the leaders are committed
- see some value in it for themselves, in person or for the team
Attitudes of Leaders
We talked about one area which calls on capabilities for change – mergers and acquisitions.
A tendency of managers to focus on areas they can control – for example legal, contractual, financial issues. Other areas, about people, are more challenging and management is often unaware and/or don’t want to know about these aspects. It’s difficult to have that conversation with leadership.
Steve’s company, The Change Gym, works with coaches so they can help leaders in industry. They have programs and tools specifically focused on change readiness and change fitness. Most of their work is done online, with people all around the globe,
The change fit person has the capacity to be their own primary agent of change in their own life.
It’s a complex world and leaders live with this – leaders need to be more like explorers than experts.
Steve has run anger management and conflict resolution groups for maximum security inmates in the New South Wales correctional system and insights he gained there were to inform his PhD research and later career.
He has authored or co-authored four books on the importance of change readiness for organizational change, one of which is now a text for three Masters degree programs at the University of Tasmania.
Steve’s company, The Change Gym, works in the field of organization change and specializes in the psychology of change.
You can find out more about The Change Gym and its services at the website at this link.
Steve’s LinkedIn profile. Email address is provided at the end of the podcast.
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In this episode:
- Announcement of Microsoft Acquisition of LinkedIn
- How to Have a LinkedIn Profile that Works for You
LinkedIn to be Acquired by Microsoft
The big news of the week for this Let’s Talk Leadership (for the Digital Age) podcast show has been the announcement that the pre-eminent online professional network LinkedIn is to be acquired by the IT heavyweight Microsoft.
Pundits from various fields of interest were quick to hit the social web with their opinions and prognostications about the deal and its potential effects.
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Here are a couple of articles that offer some helpful information about the deal and its implications, with opinions about how the acquisition might play out for LinkedIn users.
Did Microsoft overpay for LinkedIn? by Jennifer Booton
The LinkedIn Curmudgeon on the Big Merger by Andy Brandt
As the deal still has to run the gamut of regulatory authorities in a few regimes, the acquisition process still has some months to run.
I don’t see any material difference in the immediate future for current LinkedIn users.
But it’s fair to say that, with 434 million plus professionals now users of LinkedIn, this announcement is highly significant for business leaders everywhere.
The Emperor is Not Very Well Clothed, in LinkedIn Terms
I was a tad surprised, on reading the announcement and noting the enthusiasm of Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, to find that his LinkedIn profile was sparse indeed. It didn’t meet even the pretty basic criteria for what LinkedIn calls a “100% complete” profile. I tweeted about it and a colleague pointed me to Bill Gates’ profile. Similar situation.
Then I thought about a lot of other business leaders’ LinkedIn profiles I’ve seen that have been quite underwhelming.
To me that is at best a branding opportunity lost. So I thought now was as good a time as any to run through just what is needed, not only to have a basic “100% complete” profile but an optimized one.
On a precautionary note, it’s also probably as good a time as any for each of us to export our Connections from LinkedIn to our own location of choice – desktop, laptop, cloud…, and do an updated export from time to time.
How to Do a LinkedIn Profile That Works for You
Criteria for a “100% Complete” LinkedIn Profile
- Industry and Location
- Up-to-date current position – with description
- 2 past positions
- Skills – minimum 3
- Profile photo
- At least 50 Connections
Checklist for Optimizing Your Profile
- Tell stories, don’t just provide lists
- Reach out to the visitor – WIIFM
- Summary – max 2,000 characters
- Personalized LinkedIn address (URL)
- Check to see how it looks on mobile devices
- Use multimedia
- Contact details
By the Way
The Microsoft + LinkedIn announcement has brought out, in social and mainstream media, a lot of very negative comments about LinkedIn. Sure, some people find it useless, annoying or boring, or all of those and more, but I find that generally they are not people who have made a serious attempt to understand how the platform works and spend time using the positive features and building business relationships. It pays not to get distracted by the trolls.
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Padraig O’Sullivan is Managing Partner of OSullivanField, a leadership advisory firm that “specialises in accelerating leaders to be effective in their roles and sometimes even brilliant”.
Padraig is a thought leader, leading international business consulting coach and University educator, with over fifteen years’ leadership and coaching experience encompassing Australia, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Insight publishing called him “one of Asia’s top leadership experts”.
New Role for Padraig
Our conversation opened with the news that Padraig’s firm OSullivanField, is soon to merge with the prestigious US based The Leadership Circle, where Padraig will be Global Head of Coaching.
Expectations of leaders today are too high. We seem to focus on their flaws more than ever before. The 24 hour news cycle now enables closer, more constant scrutiny.
For leadership there is no “one size fits all”.
Some leaders Padraig admires may not be as well known to the general public as Sir Richard Branson and others but demonstrate great leadership qualities.
He mentioned, as exemplifying key qualities of leadership:
Andrew Bassat, Co-Founder and CEO of the phenomenally successful company SEEK Limited.
Michael Ilczynksy, Managing Director Seek Employment, responsible for the company’s online employment business in Australia and New Zealand.
In the government sphere, Daniel Hunter, CEO of the New South Wales state government agency HealthShare, with some 6,000 employees not counting hospital staff.
And one more widely known, the musician and international figure, Bono from U2.
Conversations Leaders Need to Have
We talked about the monologue leaders have with themselves, when an idea or an issue can’t easily be discussed with others, for example when it is still a “thought bubble” or is a sensitive issue the leader has to try and figure out before it can be shared. Especially as business becomes more complex.
Leaders need input from someone else who does not have an agenda, other than to support the leader in coming to good decisions. There is a series of conversations leaders need to have to help them “get out of their own way”.
We talked about some amazing statistics mentioned in something Padraig had written about expat leaders, as follows:
The typical assignment is for 3 years, the failure rate has been calculated as being somewhere between 25% and 50% and the cost of a failed appointment can be as high as 40 times the base salary of a senior exec on a base salary of $250,000 or more (i.e. minimum $10 million).
Anyone considering appointment to an expat leadership role, or responsible for placing others, should listen to this bit (begins at the 16 minute mark). As well as the impact on the company and the individual when an expat appointment does not work out, there is apparently a high social cost, especially in marriage failures.
Padraig’s firm has developed a program to address these issues and has been able to reduce the failure rate from the “norm” of 25-50% down to 5%.
At an individual level, Padraig works with senior executives with typical assignments include supporting them in transition; usually from functional management to company leadership; leadership effectiveness and in stretch roles.
His work with Executive teams includes newly formed or reformatted teams to guide them from current status to high performance and to develop or change their organisational cultures.
He is an Honorary Fellow of the Sydney Business School (UOW) where he teaches on the Masters of Business Coaching degree, specialising in Innovation and Business Change and Leading teams and groups towards high performance.
Padraig has been published in a range of academic journals and is the published co-author of “Leadership: Helping Others to Succeed” and author of Foreigner in Charge: Success Strategies for Expat leaders in Australia and Foreigner in Charge: Success Strategies for Expat leaders in Singapore, which show expat executives what to really expect beyond the first 90 days.
You can get in touch with Padraig via the OSullivanField website at this link. Just click on the Contact Us tab in the top navigation bar. (Although as mentioned OSullivanField is merging soon with The Leadership Circle, I am assured the current website and links will be staying in place for some time.)
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Personal branding as a marketing concept has been around for quite a while, but a recent conversation got me wondering whether the concept was well understood, especially by those of us who do not come from a marketing or advertising background.
I recalled that I’d published a blog post, on another site than this, some years ago and when I looked it up I found that it was about 8 years ago and in it I expressed some ambivalence about the concept, as the subject line suggests – Just How Valuable is Personal Branding?
I decided I needed to look into the topic again and form a more up to date view.
In the process I realized that personal branding is among other considerations a valuable concept for leaders wanting to better understand and leveraging the power of social media. I also realized I had moved over time from ambivalent to fan of the concept.
The concept of branding has an interesting linguistic history, the word “brand” coming from Old Teutonic and Old English (vb brinnan to burn), through the mark made (“usu. as a sign of infamy”) by a hot iron, then as a sign of quality (e.g. trade mark). One phrase (unattributed) I like, from 1602, is “to impress indelibly on one’s memory” (The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, On Historical Principals, Third Edition, Revised …).
Now, thanks to the advertising and marketing industries, “brand” has come to be seen as, to use the jargon, a promise of value, for anything from breakfast cereal to ocean cruises.
As far as I can tell, the first published explanation of personal branding is the 1997 Fast Company article by Tom Peters, “The Brand Called You” with the longish sub-title “Big companies understand the importance of brands. Today, in the Age of the Individual, you have to be your own brand. Here’s what it takes to be the CEO of Me Inc.”
The article, although somewhat flowery and grandiose in style, merits a close read by anyone wanting to get a sense of what personal branding is about and its potential. It concludes:
It’s this simple: You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else.
An Almost Complete Definition of Personal Branding
At what looks like about 9 years ago, personal branding expert Dan Schawbel and others collaborated to create, on a wiki set up for the purpose, what was confidently (and slightly oddly) labeled “A Real Definition of Personal Branding”. It’s actually quite good and from my reading it covers the terrain quite well, for the most part.
Personal branding describes the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility, advance their careers, and build self-confidence.
To that I would add something along the lines of “and contribute positively to the success of the corporate brand.”
This checklist draws on various blog posts and articles on personal branding and topics in the checklist are either the same as or similar to those in the slightly longer list of items under “Building Your Personal Brand” in the downloadable cheat sheet from Personal Branding for Dummies (2nd edition) by Susan Crichton.
- What others say
- Who you serve
Target market and ideal customer
As for any branding exercise, getting a very clear idea and picture of our target market and ideal customer is a very important exercise also for personal branding.
To be confident of being able to stand out from the crowd of competitors, we need to have a very clear and easily explained value proposition.
Marketers talk about the Unique Value Proposition (UVP) of a brand. If you hesitate on “unique”, I suggest going for “distinct” or “standout”.
This is your “brand promise”.
Your Brand Online
Too many business leaders, including partners in professional services companies, let themselves and their companies down by not optimizing their presence(s) online, especially on social media.
We need to check thoroughly how we are presenting ourselves, our personal brands, on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and so on.
Get the mechanics, the basics, right. Images, content, etc and being consistent with those across platforms.
Be selective about social platforms – prioritize those where your ideal customers are.
A static presence is not enough.
A threefold tip for effective personal branding online – my “3 Be’s”:
- Be interested
- Be helpful
- Be engaged
For professional services leaders – consider establishing yourself as a thought leader.
The Goal – a Tribe of Advocates
The goal of our personal branding endeavours will be to create a tribe of advocates for our personal brand.
That way we get leverage and our marketing is geared more to inbound marketing and social selling.
In the words of that 17th century phrase about branding, we need to “impress indelibly” on the memory of those advocates who we are and and the value promise of our personal brand. So we are “top of mind” for them and they can confidently and happily refer others to us.