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I’m excited to have our first direct point – counterpoint columns this week. Kate Wilson weighs in today with her point of view on personal branding, authenticity and what constitutes being genuine vs. disingenuous. As mentioned in my original post yesterday, Kate makes very persuasive points. It seems we may be talking about differences in semantics, so I’ve suggested we need to get beyond a 140 character conversation on both this topic AND strategy. Until we do, enjoy Kate’s personal branding counterpoint:

Marketing Professional Kate WilsonBe authentic, be transparent, be a person other people WANT to do business with. These are points made again and again by the many social media ‘gurus’ I have read or listened to as they presented on engaging in the social space. Ok, I buy that. Business in any space is based on relationships. You buy from, listen to, connect with people that you like and trust.

So, how do you get people to like and trust you? By being yourself. So, how, unless you are schizophrenic, can you be two, three, four different personal brands and still be yourself?

No matter what business you represent you are still you…first and foremost a person with thoughts, feelings, opinions, views and a personality. You are this person no matter where you go or who you represent or who you interact with; this I believe is the definition of being an authentic person. You are who you are and adjusting that to fit the audience you are speaking to is disingenuous.

Now I am not speaking to the need when addressing a group of church goers to decide not to drop the F-bomb in order for the rest of your words to be heard so they don’t get caught up in the obscenity, that’s just manners…not branding. I am speaking to the practice of adjusting your viewpoint or personality to fit the context or audience you are in the midst of. Didn’t we hate those kids in school the ones who were whatever everyone wanted them to be or who everyone around them was, didn’t we have a name for them….oh right….FAKE.

Some may make the argument about varying content/interests and having different accounts depending on what topics you are talking about. It’s ok to be well-rounded, it’s even preferred. We all have varying interests and if you are only worth listening to on one subject what does that say about you? Sites like Twitter have lists to divide people by content and you might just have an opportunity to educate others on something new to them, because they follow you.

None of this is to mean that you shouldn’t place yourself in positions where you will interact with those who can either inspire/benefit you or vice versa; that’s just being smart about positioning yourself. Positioning yourself in the company of or in front of the right people isn’t having different brands for yourself; it’s still being the same person, just in a different locale.

And just to clarify I didn’t say I “drop the leavers” I said “people take or leave me, some leave me, and that’s ok…I’ll stick with the takers”. I have never believed in being anything that I wasn’t or being what anyone else wanted me to be I feel that if I am myself through and through those I am supposed to do business with either personally or professionally will cross my path and we’ll enjoy each other’s authenticity.  – Kate Wilson

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Following-up yesterday’s article that started out as a Twitter DM conversation, today’s does too. Kate Wilson and I got into a discussion about maintaining multiple Twitter identities for different content streams.

As my personal branding has evolved, I’ve switched my Twitter focus from @mikebrown to @Brainzooming. Why? When I first signed up for Twitter, the Brainzooming name was still 7 months from popping into my head. Beyond these two names, I have a couple of related ones for live tweeting, and another active account (along with a corresponding humor blog) that’s not affiliated with my name or the Brainzooming brand.

Kate’s point was you shouldn’t need multiple Twitter identities. Instead, she recommends letting your full personality come through in a single identity. People will either accept your full range of messages and personality or not; you ultimately stick with the “takers” and drop the “leavers.” She commented that first and foremost, “personal branding” is about the person, and you shouldn’t need a strategy on how to be a person.

Her last comment really hit on the fundamental difference we have on this topic. To me a personal brand is equal parts person and brand. From that, it’s only natural you’d apply brand strategy principles to how you carry out your personal brand. This opens the door to multiple personal brands with different promises, attributes, and affiliations to your main brand. Some people have one audience; others have more than one audience. In that case, it doesn’t make sense to think that each audience wants exactly the same things from your brand.

Kate’s point of view forced me to grapple with whether having multiple personal brands is disingenuous. While she got me teetering on the idea through her tweetering, ultimately I’m sticking with my approach to personal brand strategy, although it’s always open to change.

It was a great, thought-provoking discussion with Kate, who will share her counterpoint in tomorrow’s post! In the interim, what’s your take on the topic?Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Who says you can’t have meaningful conversations on Twitter? Recent Twitter direct message (DM) discussions were good for generating  this and another article this week.

Several weeks ago, I was DMing with someone struggling with how recent Twitter interactions were playing out negatively. A clear pattern had developed where people were able to relatively easily goad him into exchanges where his frustrations were quite apparent to important followers in his Twitter network. We’d DM’d and talked live about the pattern several times, and while the topics changed, the pattern remained the same.

In the course of the dialog, he asked if I’d read the book “Who’s Pushing Your Buttons” by John Townsend. He described the book as about how to handle people in your life who push your buttons to agitate you.

My recommendation to him was to instead read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. Carnegie’s classic helped me to ultimately “disable” my buttons. The book’s formula of focusing on others and paying attention to their motivations and interests helped diffuse the “angry young man” syndrome of my early years. As a result, my buttons aren’t sitting there for someone to try and push them. While disabling your buttons is sometimes hard to do, it’s a lot more successful long-term than constantly trying to defend them from being pushed.

If you also struggle with a short fuse, and a proclivity to respond negatively and aggressively when provoked by others, do yourself a favor and read “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It can make a huge difference in your life and the lives of those around you – whether in real like or in your virtual network. – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I picked up a copy of Ink, a free Kansas City entertainment publication, when leaving the local American Marketing Association get together last Thursday.

There were two great creativity articles worth checking out:

  • The cover story is 20 Ways to Let Your Inner Child Go Wild. The article celebrates the magazine’s second anniversary by suggesting a variety of fun things kids might do at a birthday party. As you know, doing what kids do is always sure to spur creativity. While the twenty suggestions list Kansas City locations to carry them out, all of them will likely have identical or similar options near you. Check it out and celebrate like the big kid you know you are!
  • Another Ink article worth reading, particularly while the season is still young, is a piece by Charles Gooch on how to fix what’s broken in baseball. He lists 10 ideas, all reflective of a great creative perspective that’s able to look at something very old with entirely new eyes. If only all of us could re-examine the familiar in such a novel way! – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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While concentrating on avoiding all the exquisite strategic mistakes you might make in the sales process, don’t overlook the bread and butter sales screw ups, such as:

  • Not ensuring you’re speaking with the decision maker or someone who can at least get you to them
  • Neglecting to fully explore the decision criteria by which the selection will be made
  • Not knowing upfront whether and when the potential client will look to outside providers
  • Over extending resources when preparing your proposal in what is (or what might become) a competitive bid situation
  • Failing to get a sense of what type of proposal makes the most sense and the depth to which the client expects it to go
  • Not fully explaining why you’ll provide the greatest benefit and value among all the choices a client could make

On these, I speak from experience; it feels like we’ve made all these miscues in the past few weeks. I figure once we learn from these, we’ll be ready to screw up (and learn from) some of the finer points of sales mistakes. – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Several years ago, I was working with efficiency expert Maynard Rolston. While Maynard’s main strategy is helping you get organized and working from a clean desk, I’ve learned so much more about business from him over the years. Maynard’s question to me that day was, “What’s your hourly rate?”

Since I was working inside a company and paid a salary, I told him I didn’t have one. Maybe not a surprising answer if you are in the same situation.

He reminded me, however, that to my employers, I definitely had an hourly cost. Moreover, he said it was important to think about my hourly rate as a multiple of 2 to 4 times my hourly cost. This was the value I needed to be creating for the business.

His pointed question prompted me recall a strategy consultant who I’d worked with at a peer level when his consulting organization was active in our business. One night, somebody on his team left a laptop wide open with a spreadsheet showing all the consultants’ daily rates. Using his rate as a very large benchmark to determine my hourly value target, I now had a much better sense of what I should be contributing with each hour of my time.

With an hourly rate now in mind, it became much easier to make strategic decisions about:

  • Projects where my expertise was best used. Suddenly big group drilldown meetings on highly technical details of our business which had no impact on customers became much easier to decline.
  • Quickly resolving department issues on trivial matters where it was clear we were “spending” thousands of dollars debating the impact of hundreds of dollars.
  • Delegating tasks I might enjoy doing (i.e., creating spreadsheets) that could easily be done by others.

Maynard’s one question and its answer freed my time and attention to be focused on more strategic topics with less pressure to attend to everything coming my way.

So here are two to do’s to act on:

  • If you’re in a salaried position, calculate your hourly rate. Have the value you should be creating per hour in your mind constantly. Use this figure to strategically prioritize how you use your time.
  • If you struggle with clutter or staying organized, get Maynard to help you. At a minimum, order his book. Trust me. It will make a material difference in your productivity and the value you deliver to your clients, be they internal or external to your company. - Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to see how we can help you focus your brand strategy to improve on  the things which really matter for your business.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I sat through a poorly managed, business-wide meeting to allegedly solicit perspectives for an organization’s vision statement. Rather than using creative thinking exercises to help collectively form a strong vision, however, the leader directly asked the entire team what the vision should be.  Participants then sat quietly as only a few people spoke (one-at-a-time) to offer opinion-filled perspectives.

Beyond being incredibly boring for everyone, think about this: What was the cost of 40 or 50 well-paid people sitting around mostly twiddling their thumbs for 3 hours, as perhaps 10 of them actively participated at any point?

What a way to waste time, creativity, and goodwill for future strategic planning.

Do yourself a favor. Bookmark this article, and if you find yourself in an organization trying to develop a vision statement, PLEASE don’t take the same approach I endured! Here’s what to do:

  • Break into small groups where multiple people can actively participate at the same time to stretch the group’s thinking and share creative ideas.
  • DON’T ASK the obvious question, “What should our vision be?” Going right to this question won’t save time or improve results. People don’t talk in ready-made “vision statements.” This one-question approach simply draws out monologues doing little to coalesce a group’s collective perspective.
  • Instead, ask strong strategic planning questions to get participants to share the important words, phrases, and ideas that shape a vision. Such questions include:
    • What is our organization passionate about doing for our people and our customers?
    • What are we best at and where can we continue to excel?
    • Who will our customers be five years from now? What do we think will be important for us to deliver in best serving them?
    • What are capabilities we want to put in place to stretch our organization and better serve our audiences?
    • What are the things we need to concentrate on to dramatically exceed our goals and objectives?
  • Have small groups report their answers to these questions. Listen intently and write down ALL the ideas the group shares.

From this treasure trove of input, you’ll be ready to construct an overarching statement born from active participation and the hopes and language of your organization. Plus people will actually be excited about participating the next time you need them to do strategic thinking.

Oh, and by the way: The Brainzooming Group is great at facilitating these types of discussions so you get maximum participation. We actually generate creativity and enthusiasm through how we approach a team’s strategic conversations. Email me at brainzooming@gmail.com, and let’s talk about how we can help you deliver great results for your organization. – Mike Brown

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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