Kristine Neil

Personal Branding

Reflection & The Personal Brand

Business, Personal BrandingKristine NeilComment

2016 By The Numbers

My last blog post of the year and I’ve pushed it off and procrastinated on it like no other. So, of course, I’m leaving it to my last day of the working year to write. The theme of the month at Markon, as it is in so many people’s minds this time of year, is reflection. The end of a year always brings “best of” lists and “worst of” lists. And memes. Oh, the memes. For better or for worse, 2016 has given the internet plenty to fodder over. In the brave new world we live in, where news is both created and consumed socially, there have been moments to celebrate and those to mourn. History made and changes no one ever saw coming. But to all of the memes declaring that 2016 will go down as one of the worst years ever, I would like to present some opposing evidence - because, at Markon, we’ve had one of the best years ever.

I’m not just talking about sales records or profit margin (those weren’t shabby either) but the metrics that truly matter, at least to me. What matters are the people we’ve reached and the brands we’ve worked with. From engineering startups to emerging beauty brands, we’ve had quite a diverse year. We’ve blogged and designed and built and written our little hearts out and I couldn’t be prouder of my small but mighty team. Together, we’ve accomplished so much. Here are some of my favorite stats:

Obviously, none of this would matter if we didn’t have you, our clients and readers and social followers. I’m hoping that 2017 will bring us together more, especially on Instagram, where we’ll be dedicating our social strategy. I’m already excited at the new people we have joining our team here at Markon Brands, at the client work that’s already in the pipeline for Q1, and at the other changes and growth I know will come along with a new year.

As we wrap up this series on personal branding, I offer this last bit of advice: counter every negative you hear with at least two positives. When the news of the day has you down, celebrate another brand launched, or another project closed, or a prospective client met. One project may seem small but 479 of them really add up! So celebrate your victories, even when they are small. Not only has exploring the topic of personal branding taught us that it’s the desire for self-improvement that’s half the battle, but it’s also that small victories eventually add up to big ones. And, on a mental health note, it’ll keep you focused on things you can actually control.


https://markonbrands.com/blog/reflection-brand

Sincerity & The Personal Brand

Personal BrandingKristine NeilComment

AKA Why We Are Changing Our Content Strategy in 2017

Long, long ago in late 2015, my team and I set about to craft a content strategy for the coming year. We had meetings and brainstorming pow wows and we drew all over the whiteboard. Collectively, we felt the need to keep up a posting strategy and frequency that many agencies five times our size don't (or can't) maintain. There were articles swirling around Twitter that reinforced what I call the "Push Push Push" content philosophy; that is, that you must continuously be creating or sharing or re-sharing content in order to stay relevant. You must be pushing multiple times per day to multiple channels. If you don't have any of your own content, push around someone else's. You must push content the way those guys in Soho push fake Chanel sunglasses: relentlessly. The thing about it is that when you buy a $25 knockoff of a $600 pair of sunnies, at least you walk away with a pair of sunnies. But when your feed is clogged with content that someone whipped up simply because they felt compelled to say something, anything, desperately and in haste, you're left feeling like you kinda got snowed.

You might be wondering what this has to do with personal branding. Well, the theme of the month (as dictated by my robust content calendar) is sincerity. Yes, last year about this time I committed to a content schedule and strategy that mandated I write one blog post per month, to a theme, on the same topic. Trust me, it seemed like a really good idea at the time. Personal branding is a topic I feel passionate about and it's only slightly tangential to the work I do everyday branding businesses and organizations. Because of this, I have found it quite enjoyable to explore how I could help business leaders think about personal branding as an important extension of their business identity. To me, one is simply a foundation of the other.

But if we're being sincere, I'm going to level with you: the content treadmill is exhausting. And that's the thing about sincerity: it only works if it's honest. I could write this post about how being sincere is the capstone piece to your personal branding strategy, how your readers and clients will feel your lack of sincerity and revolt en masse. But in sincerity, I feel compelled to tell you that it's okay to sometimes say nothing at all. It's a modern twist on the old adage: if you have nothing meaningful to say, say nothing at all. Sometimes it's also okay to make a change if something's not working for you, even if you set off with the best of intentions.

Next month, I fully intend on finishing our yearlong series as promised. After all, part of my personal branding ethic is that I always see projects through to completion. But after that, the team and I are making a shift in our content strategy.

In a crowded market, we no longer feel the need to Push Push Push in order to be heard. We believe that it's much more important to be authentic and to share authentically. We believe that a content strategy based on sharing only when we have something sincere to say is different enough that we're not going to be bullied or guilted into sharing or creating just to meet a benchmark or metric that means absolutely nothing to us. The metric that matters to us is simply too hard to put on a graph: the happiness of our clients. We'll be focusing more on sharing extemporaneously, through photos and stories we feel are right to share at the time, not because we were told to do so. You'll see us less on Twitter and fewer posts on our blog, not because we don't love those mediums but because we feel that those aren't places where we're engaging authentically. You'll see us more on Instagram, where our craft truly shines and where we can connect in a genuine way with our clients and community.

The personal branding lesson here is simply that you're fooling no one in your designer imposter glasses. Sure, they may get you a glance or two but you'll be left feeling as fake as the emblem on the case. You'll know it and, more importantly, your clients and followers will know it. You (and they) deserve nothing less than the real thing.

https://markonbrands.com/blog/sincerity-personal-brand

Organization & The Personal Brand

Personal BrandingKristine NeilComment

Organization isn’t necessarily the glamour girl of anyone’s to-do list. We often organize in fits and spurts; the junk drawer never stays tidy for too long. Intentions of keeping a clean desk are forgotten the second we’re busy with other “real” work or, if you’re anything like me, often done as a way to procrastinate doing that real work. That being said, if you take the time to organize ahead of time the actual work goes so much more smoothly! When it comes to organizing your personal brand, it’s really no different. If you take the time to get things tidied up in advance, you’ll know how to respond on-brand when under pressure and you’ll have the tools you’ll need at your immediate disposal. Here are the three main aspects to personal branding that you can organize and define now so that you can better achieve your goals in the future.

Organizing is what you do before you do something,
so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up.
— A.A. Milne

Organize Your Voice

We’ve talked about voice before. This seems like something that you wouldn’t really need to organize after all one of the most important things is that your voice is authentically you! However, when it comes to branding and the public persona that you share with the world, I say never leave anything to chance. By defining your voice, you’ll be forced to evaluate your own values and goals as well as those of your target demographic. You’ll have a yardstick by which to measure future communications; a way to answer the question: “Is this on brand?”

Since we’re all different and all of our businesses are different, there’s no one-size-fits-all method for organizing your voice. You’ll need to do that for yourself in a way that makes sense for you and your brand. Things to consider as you work through this process:

  • Does my brand use “I/Me” language or “We/Us” language?

  • Do I speak directly to the reader/listener or use more generic language?

  • What tone aligns with my personal and professional goals? Does it also appeal to my target audience? Am I quirky? Straightforward? Funny? Serious?

  • Are there limits to my voice that I need to make note of? (i.e. if part of my defined voice allows some level of snarkiness, is there a line that I won’t cross? For example, I may be willing to be snappy but would never allow anything to be hurtful.)

  • Is my voice different than my competitors?

  • Is my voice one that my target audience would find compelling and authentic?

  • Does it feel authentic to me?

Once you’ve thought about these questions, plus any others that might be relevant to you or your industry - write down the answers! Even if it’s just on a little note card that you can pull out whenever you’re writing, responding to social media comments, or being interviewed, you’ll be thankful that you spent time defining what voice is appropriate for your personal brand in advance.

Organize Your Channels

You’re going to really thank me after this one. Here’s the takeaway: you don’t need to be everywhere. There was a time, and that time was just a few short years ago when we were all told that if we didn’t have a presence on every.single.social.media.platform. that we didn’t really exist at all. Brands that had no business being on Pinterest were pinning things and people with no understanding of Twitter set up an account that has now gone completely defunct.

In the present day, we advise clients that they should only commit to the channels they can actively keep up with and that make sense for their brand. Nothing’s worse than a Facebook page that hasn’t seen a post since 2011 or a LinkedIn account that dead ends three jobs ago.

Taking some time to clean up and organize your social media presence will have a big payoff. When people search for you, they’ll only see what fresh and new, where you’re active and engaged. Once you’ve decided which channels you’re going to commit to, here are some housekeeping tips to make sure things are organized:

  • Make sure your info or about section is complete and up to date.

  • Update contact info (phone, email, address, website).

  • Update graphics (recent headshot, fresh cover photo, etc.)

  • Do an audit/review of past posts and delete any that no longer are in the right voice (as described above).

Organize Your Branding

The last little bit of organization that will help you is in regards to graphics or branding. This is an easy area to let get out of control but spending just a few minutes organizing a folder on your desktop with all of your up-to-date branding is well worth it.

  • A current version of your logo in various iterations, sizes, and file types. Having this at the ready when someone asks for it will save you the pain of searching for it when you don’t have the time or (worse) sending an outdated version of your logo.

  • A current photo of yourself to send along with press releases, article submissions, etc.

  • A copy of a stock intro letter to your organization (or your resume if you’re a freelancer).

  • At least 4-5 stock photos or images that you can use as backgrounds for social media graphics. Ideally, these are branded with your logo or in your brand’s color scheme. Saving these in one place will make creating branded social media graphics so much easier than starting from scratch every time.

  • A copy of your brand style guide that defines fonts, color, acceptable uses of your logo, photographic style, patterns/textures, etc. Having a PDF of this in your folder will not only help anyone you have working for you stay on brand but will help you know that your color is #4f672f and not #ffd74f.

I hope these organizing tips will help you as you charge towards the close of the year. For me, October is usually a very productive time. I’m energized by the return of a routine that fall brings… and not yet bogged down by the onslaught of holiday madness. It’s a great time to spend getting organized or back on track, even if we know it won’t last forever. Do it now and when the time comes, you know you’ll have everything in place.

https://markonbrands.com/blog/organization-personal-brand

Acceleration & The Personal Brand

Personal BrandingKristine NeilComment

Pump the Jam

As you'll undoubtedly discover throughout the month of September, we take autumn pretty seriously around here. There are routine squeals of joy over the first day you get to bundle up in a scarf for function and not just fashion. We mock (and then secretly indulge in) all things pumpkin spice flavored, especially coffee. One of our favorite office Pandora stations is actually entitled "Stormy Day Beats" and it pairs perfectly with a drizzly Pacific Northwest day. I've personally written before on how fall is my own take on New Year's; a time for goal-setting and self-analysis and getting back to work after the slower pace of summer. It's why the theme of the month around here is acceleration.

As we gear up to finish the year strong, I thought this might be a good month to recap where we've been so far. I know, I know. Looking backward is literally the opposite of acceleration. But the way I see it, sometimes the best lessons are the ones you've already learned. It just may be the perfect time of year to step up your game and get back on track if you've happened to veer off course over the summer.

STRATEGY & THE PERSONAL BRAND (JANUARY)

  • Creating consistency in messaging & tone lets the world know you’re the real deal.

  • While it may seem overly calculating to strategize over your personal brand, I’m here to tell you that you can’t afford not to.

  • “Your personal brand serves as your best protection against business factors you can’t control." - Dan Schawbel

  • You’ve got to remind yourself every day that you’re playing the long game and do whatever it takes to do it with a smile.

  • In thinking about your personal brand, think about the type of content that you are putting out into the world. Is it consistent with your attitude? Do the words you choose support your agenda?

  • Creating consistency in messaging & tone lets the world know you’re the real deal.

PASSION & THE PERSONAL BRAND (FEBRUARY)

  • Just as in our personal lives, in our professional lives faking it will only get you so far.

  • You can fake it till you make it but you can’t fake passion.

  • "Professionals" that lack passion: stubbornly resist change, avoid or delay communication, don’t value others’ time and make excuses.

  • Passionate professionals: are excited to implement changes, follow through and follow up, value the time of other professionals and easily make decisions.

REFRESHING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND (MARCH)

  • There’s nothing harder to do than get up and head off to work when you’re burnt out.

  • It's hard to take care of yourself when you don’t have the energy to.

  • Spending a small amount of energy doing something to refresh your body, mind or spirit will magically create ten times more energy to do all the other things.

  • Find a hobby, a passion, or a side gig that you truly love.

  • Work can be all-consuming. It can take over your personal life, affect your relationships, your health and your overall well-being. There a zillion upsides to being a leader but it does require balance in order to be your best.

  • Whatever your side gig passion is, make time for it. Let it refresh and recharge you.

INNOVATION & THE PERSONAL BRAND (APRIL)

  • How do you shake things up and keep things fresh while still communicating that it’s you?

  • Five ideas to get you outside your comfort zone on social media:

    • Launch a short-term series or contest

    • Get some fresh graphics

    • Challenge your metrics

    • Try a new schedule

    • Try a new medium

  • The trick to innovating your personal brand is to have a well-defined brand to begin with.

  • If you’ve taken the time to craft standards and values that represent your brand, you’ll find the fine line between staying true vs. being new much easier to balance.

DEDICATION & THE PERSONAL BRAND (MAY)

  • This isn’t about how you can work less and get more. There are no secrets here on how to put in the bare minimum in the name of “work-life balance”.

  • Are you willing and able to nurture your work and tend to your personal brand with a crazy fierce level of commitment? We’re at a point where reputation, both online and IRL, can be both easily bolstered and quickly spoiled.

  • The thing about personal branding that I’m just not sure I can communicate enough is that there is no off switch.

  • While everyone else is busy trying to look authentic, you can just focus on being authentic. It takes some dedication but the payoff is worth it.

MEASUREMENT & THE PERSONAL BRAND (JUNE)

  • Tracking progress is the roadmap towards your end goal.

  • Measuring your progress in business can be as complex or as simple as fits you.

  • The numbers themselves aren’t what’s really important. What’s important is that you know them and that you track them.

  • Remember that your path may not be the same as someone else’s. What matters is that you’re forging ahead. It is only this tenacity that can’t really be measured. It’s difficult to put a hard number on the amount of determination you have. Stats can’t measure your hunger to succeed.

LOYALTY & THE PERSONAL BRAND (JULY)

  • Loyalty is an end result. Something that is earned. It’s the byproduct of other work. Loyalty is what you get when you’ve made other people feel safe. Loyalty is what happens when people know what to expect of you because you’ve been relentlessly consistent.

  • When it comes to personal branding or life in general, loyalty is earned after showing that you’re able to flex and bend without sacrificing who you really are.

  • When people know what to expect of you, when they know where you are and who you are and what you’re about, you’ll earn their loyalty and respect.

  • Update things often to stay fresh and current. It’s this constant evolution that allows us to build loyalty. It shows that we are eager to grow and adapt and change.

  • With a strong commitment to your personal brand’s foundations, you’ll be able to take on adversity and grow as a person, all while staying true to your roots.

DELEGATION & THE PERSONAL BRAND (AUGUST)

  • Most entrepreneurs (especially new or young ones) have trouble with delegation because they have a true entrepreneurial spirit.

  • Learn to master your inbox! (It’s where most people screw up and it’s because they have no system to effectively manage emails.)

  • Only play the balls that are in your court.

  • Keep a clean desktop (real & virtual) because a clean space = a clean mind.

  • Learn to value your own time.

https://markonbrands.com/blog/acceleration-the-personal-brand

Delegation & The Personal Brand

Personal BrandingKristine NeilComment

From a leadership perspective, most conversations on the topic of delegation will encourage you to prioritize your work, surround yourself with a team you can trust and devote the best available resource to each problem as they arise - even if that means letting go of some control. No problem, right? These are all great lessons to learn but it takes even the best of the best time to master them. On top of that, most entrepreneurs (especially new or young ones) have trouble with delegation because they do have a true entrepreneurial spirit; they're working on a business or a project that's their baby, their passion and their investment. No one else can really put themselves truly in their shoes.

The truth of it is that it's not always as easy as having someone else pick up the slack for you (maybe you're a team of one and it's just you!) or as simple as giving control over to a third party (a great idea if you can afford it!). If this is you right now, rest assured- I get you. I've been in the same place you are. I know what it means to have 14 hours of work to get done in 9 hours. I know what it means to have no one else to ask for help even if you wanted. Don't worry- you'll get there. In the meantime, here's the list of my ten best tried-and-true tips, tricks, #hacks, and resources to master delegation right where you are. (Secret: These are also great even if you’re not a novice!)

1. Master Your Inbox - If you do nothing else on this list, please do this. Despite all the ways that we have to get in touch with one another 24/7, email is still king when it comes to business communication. Sadly, it’s also where most people are screwing it up and it’s because they have no system. They are letting their inboxes control their lives. If you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed by emails, it’s because you’re not doing it right. (Sidenote: if you aren’t already, I recommend switching to Google Apps for Work ASAP.) Here are the tricks:

  • Turn Conversation View Off! I don’t know what they were thinking when they invented this option but it is the easiest way to miss pertinent information in a thread. It is the devil. Disable it now. You’ll see all your incoming messages in chronological order so that you can best handle them and not miss anything.

  • Develop a three-tier system for handling your messages using Priority Inbox. These settings are on the Inbox tab. Start by enabling Priority Inbox, then have your inbox sorted into three sections per my example below. I have a label I created (do this on Labels Tab) called “Tier 2” that is the critical step here. Now, when you have incoming mail everything will first hit the Unread section. Since you’ve disabled conversation view and things aren’t cluttered AF, you have the ability to choose whether you can respond to the message right away, delete it, mark it as read or do one of the following two actions with it.

  • Star the message to indicate that this is mega important but not something you can do in the here and now. It’s at the top of your list as soon as you can get to it. For me, these messages are typically emails from clients that require a response, proposal requests or other meeting notes. Respond to all starred messages by the end of the business day.

  • Mark messages that need follow up but aren’t as critical as Tier 2, or whatever fun name you’ve come up with to mark these types of messages. My Tier 2 messages are things like notes or to-dos from my accountant, anything that doesn’t pertain to a time-sensitive project or other miscellaneous messages that require some sort of action on my part.

You may be wondering what all of this has to do with delegation? It has EVERYTHING to do with delegation! Many people falsely assume that delegation is all about authorizing someone else to handle a task or tasks that you would have taken care of otherwise. I say, sometimes delegation is about having that someone else be your future self… you can handle most of what you need to - you just can’t do it all at once!

2. Boomerang for Gmail - This is my secret weapon on the never-ending quest for the elusive INBOX ZERO. Paired with my three-tier system above, using Boomerang allows me to look like a super organized badass. It’s awesome. You can schedule emails to send at a later time, set reminders to follow up if you haven’t heard back or just to bring something back to the top of the stack at a certain day and time. It’s like delegating to your very own virtual assistant and they even have a free basic plan that would work well for most people.

3. Buy a Whiteboard - Listen, I’ve harped about why you need a whiteboard before and I will go to my grave believing that it’s the secret to 99.9% of any successful project. Get yourself to Target or Amazon and get the biggest whiteboard you can reasonably fit in your space. Divide it up into columns for Monday thru Friday and then rows based on the type of work you do. Habitually spend time each day checking in with your board and updating things. Don’t try to replicate this digitally; nothing can replace the joy in being able to erase a task you toiled away on all day like a whiteboard. Deal with today and the next 4 days of your work life ONLY. The whiteboard doesn’t care what’s happening three weeks from Tuesday. That’s what a calendar is for. A whiteboard is for delegating tasks to certain days. It’s a way to give you permission to do stuff later and still be on top of it.

4. Understand When The Ball Isn't In Your Court - This is really a mindset more than a #hack but trust me when I say it’s a crucial thing to master, especially if you’re in a line of work like ours. Working on a branding project or designing a piece of marketing collateral doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It requires input and dialog with multiple parties: colleagues, vendors, the client, etc. If you need something from someone and they haven’t got back to you, if you’ve asked a question that hasn’t been answered or if you’re waiting for something from someone else in any way THE BALL IS NOT IN YOUR COURT. You’ve got to understand that you’ve essentially delegated responsibility to another party and that you’re not doing anyone any favors when you do anything except wait for them to contribute like responsible little adults. This is a hard one, especially if you’re the type that figures you could just jump in and do that work for them in half the time. RESIST THIS URGE. Delegation only works when you only play the balls in your court. The goal should be to get as many of them as possible back over the net ASAP.

5. Buffer - AKA your social media personal assistant. Listen, you know I love social media. It’s totally my jam. But I have things to do that aren’t social media and I don’t want it to run my life, you know? Enter: Buffer. With this nifty little tool, I’m able to schedule posts across platforms at optimum times for engagement. With Buffer, I can schedule posts out weeks (sometimes months, TBH) in advance, which is great for someone like me that does a ton of reading late at night and early in the morning but doesn’t want to share 5 articles in a row on Twitter at 11:42pm. The end result to my social media audience is that it looks like I’ve got a social media intern posting things at regular intervals throughout the day in between fetching coffee. #WINNING

6. Don't Be Ashamed of Your Monica Closet - I know I’m going to lose some of you Millenials on this one but back in the day there was this show called Friends and it was epic and we all watched it like it was religion. On this show, there was this character called Monica that was basically OCD and super organized and Type A to the max. EXCEPT FOR SHE WASN’T. She had a secret. A secret closet.

[youtube=://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apvf4UihPd8&w=640&h=480]

The delegation takeaway: shoving a bunch of crap into a junk drawer doesn’t make you disorganized, it just means you know that you can only deal with so much at a time and that is all stuff you can’t deal with right now. You are so organized, that this is all stuff that doesn’t fit into any other category and you have permission to deal with it at some other time. You’re welcome.

7. #Slack Reminders - If you use Slack at work, you probably know how awesome it can be for your team. That being said, sometimes your co-workers are on a different wavelength than you and share stuff that you really want to get to but just don’t have time to tackle at the moment. DON’T TRUST THAT YOU’LL REMEMBER TO READ/DO/RESPOND LATER. THIS NEVER HAPPENS. Just use the reminders tool to automagically have Slack ping you back at some predetermined future time. This is just another way to free up some of your mental energy to focus on whatever you’re working on in the present and worry about everything else later.

8. Keep a Clean Desktop (Real & Virtual) - Clean space, clean mind. Here’s what you need on your desk at any given moment: you computer and details for whatever project you are working on right now and right now only. Make your computer desktop match. Keep only files that you need to access for the project or projects you’re working on in the immediate future and nothing else. Again, this is about helping you work more efficiently on your current projects while clearing away the clutter of everything else.

9. vCita- Ever wish you had a personal assistant to schedule meetings for you and help do other administrative tasks like collect payments, get files or manage messages. Now you do. vCita is a great tool that has markedly increased the number of interactions we have through our own website and allows us to quickly schedule client meetings without the dreaded back-and-forth chain of emails that typically happens. Delegate all of those tasks to this smart tool and get back to your real work.

10. Value Your Own Time - This is the cornerstone piece in all of this talk about delegation. You must assign yourself a dollar value and then use that as the benchmark against which you gauge whether you are the appropriate person to do each task. When you start thinking of yourself in terms of the dollar value you’d need to pay yourself to do whatever it is that someone else is really better at, delegation starts to make a bunch more sense. Now, for all you haters who are going to insist that you have more time than money right now, I’m going to have to show you a little tough love. You’re not only wrong, but your belief that you’ll get things done “cheaper” if you do them yourself is also detrimental to your ability to grow and succeed. It is the number one indicator of failure. If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, just wait to see the type of mess you’ll have on your hands when you hire an amateur, even if that amateur is you.

I hope you've found one or two things to help you start delegating, even if it's virtually or on a small scale to start. The secret is that there's really no magic to mastering delegation. It's not just about hiring the right people or companies to work with and it doesn't have to be as tough as turning over complete control of your business. While learning to not be the bottleneck in your own process is a huge achievement, it's just as beneficial to learn how to get organized. The dictionary may define delegation as the act of empowering someone to act for another but sometimes I think it's just as important to learn how to use the tools and resources available to you as a way to empower yourself.

https://markonbrands.com/blog/delegation-personal-brand

Loyalty & The Personal Brand

Personal BrandingKristine NeilComment

Be A Tree

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time over the past few weeks thinking about loyalty and what it means to me, and more importantly what it means to business. As I thought about what the concept means to me, and what to write about in this post, I was a little torn. I could take the obvious route and discuss staying loyal to your branding. Or, perhaps more self-focused, staying true to yourself. We could talk about how by lacking commitment to your personal branding, you’ll invariably struggle with business branding as a result. We could explore what it actually means to define and stay loyal to our brands.

But these things have been done.

And at the heart of it, it’s not what loyalty means to me.

To me, loyalty is an end result. Something that is earned. It’s the byproduct of other work. Loyalty is what you get when you’ve made other people feel safe. Loyalty is what happens when people know what to expect of you because you’ve been relentlessly consistent.

Loyalty is being a tree.

Be Flexible

I have a framed print that has moved with me to about eight various homes over the last nearly 20 years. Being a poor college student and lacking funds for proper art, it’s actually a greeting card I purchased at a cute shop in the little town where I went to undergrad. I loved it so much I bought it for myself, put it in a cheap frame and it’s been one of my favorite possessions ever since. On it, a small illustration of a tree, bent fiercely sideways in the wind, is silhouetted against a warm orange background and the best damn reminder ever to be flexible is written on top in a brush script font: “The strength of a tree lies in its ability to bend.” The strength. Of a tree. Lies in its ABILITY. TO. BEND. It’s a phrase I’ve muttered to myself a thousand times since, in challenging times and in times when I wanted to do nothing but stubbornly resist what was happening around me. It is such a good reminder that when it comes to personal branding (or life in general) loyalty is earned after showing that you’re able to flex and bend without sacrificing who you really are.

Stay Grounded

The ability to wave in the breeze is only made possible by having the deepest and surest of roots. It’s these roots that allow even the littlest of trees to be pushed and pulled and stressed by the elements and still stand firmly planted right in their little patch of earth. The biggest Sequoias are as strong underground as they are flexible above. In business, loyalty is earned by a similarly unwavering attachment to your foundation. When people know what to expect of you, when they know where you are and who you are and what you’re about, you’ll earn their loyalty and respect. They’ll build tree houses in your strong limbs and bring bottles of rosé and picnic under the shade of your branches.

Change Often

Sadly, summers spent lounging in the shade of a tree quickly fade to autumns spent raking up leaves. As seasons come and go, leaves bud and grow, then change colors and fall. New branches jut out from old trunks and new nests are made. A tree is always growing. We ask our branding clients to do just the same: update things often to stay fresh and current. It’s this constant evolution that allows us to build loyalty. It shows that we are eager to grow and adapt and change. It shows that we are keen to learn new things and to add another ring of knowledge to the stump. With every season, we should be looking to adjust and adapt and change.

With a strong commitment to your personal brand’s foundations, you’ll be able to take on adversity and grow as a person, all while staying true to your roots. Like I said, to me loyalty is the earned byproduct of this work. It's what you get when people know they can trust you, know that you'll always be there, know what kind of work you do and that you're fiercely committed to it. Loyalty is knowing that despite change, you'll be there. Season after season, building loyalty is as simple as aspiring to have a tree's amazing ability to be both flexible and grounded, both growing and the same.

https://markonbrands.com/blog/loyalty-the-personal-brand

Measurement & The Personal Brand

Personal BrandingKristine NeilComment

Break Out The Maps

June is the beginning of a new quarter, the start of a new season and a natural time to check in with yourself before the heat of summer really takes hold. Half a year has gone by! If you set some realistic business goals back in January, now’s a good time to reflect on how achieving them is going. And it’s ok if you gave up on them the third week in February like the rest of us - you still have 6 months this year to turn the ship around!

So what’s so important about tracking and measuring how things are going? Simply put, checking in regularly with yourself is one of the best-kept secrets towards achieving your goals. It’s ~almost~ a guarantee of success.

Tracking progress is the roadmap towards your end goal. You wouldn’t set off on a cross-country road trip without mapping out the pit stops along the way. You plan your route and then follow along as you go. If you get distracted by a roadside attraction or take a longer-than-planned detour, checking in with your map gets you right back on track towards your destination. It’s your way to know how many miles you’ve come and how far you have to go.

CHECKING IN REGULARLY WITH YOURSELF IS ONE OF THE BEST-KEPT SECRETS TOWARDS ACHIEVING YOUR GOALS.

I know there are some free spirits out there who will insist that there’s nothing better than setting off without a destination in mind, that there’s nothing like getting a little lost and discovering new, unplanned things. I couldn’t agree more. But do it on your own time. Feel free to float from point A to point B without a care in the world, but if you’re doing it on the clock (let’s be honest here) that makes you more of a hobbyist than a business person. Retired folks have the luxury of hopping in the RV and meandering up the coast without a plan. You are not those people. You are a business owner and if you are serious about it, you’ve got shit to do that can’t wait. You simply can’t afford to let yourself get lost in the woods right now.

Measuring your progress in business can be as complex or as simple as fits you. There’s plenty of info out there about different metrics or tools you can use to gauge how things are going. Spend some time learning and getting acquainted with the ones that matter most to you. Find a way to track them that you can easily work into your regular routine. I’m not here to tell you that what matters most is x% of visitors converting to y% of sales. To me, it doesn’t really matter if you saw a 10% increase in traffic or a 2% jump in leads. The numbers themselves aren’t what’s really important. What’s important is that you know them and that you track them.

What’s important is that you use the data, in whatever form makes the most sense to you, to fuel your drive to achieve your goals. If you’re not meeting some of your milestones, check in with yourself to find out why. It could be that your benchmarks were simply unrealistic (i.e. you set the waypoints on your road trip too far apart) or that you weren’t equipped to achieve them in the first place (i.e. you didn’t budget enough gas money to get to the next stop). In business, you’ll want to think in the same terms. Did I give myself and my team what they needed to get where I wanted them to go? Is where I wanted us to be by now something we could have realistically achieved?

THE NUMBERS THEMSELVES AREN'T WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT.

You’ll have to be willing to be honest with yourself if the answers to both those questions are yes and you’re still not where you wanted to be. It’s humbling but you’ve got to do it. Be open to discussing where things got off track, take the time to discover why and then make the proper adjustments. It’s ok if you’ve found yourself at the dead end of a dirt road. Just turn around and head back to the freeway.

It’s this level of awareness and commitment towards achieving your goals that will put you ahead of the pack. Some people end up lost and throw up their hands and just decide to camp out there and wait. But you’re going to break out the map and the compass and find your way. Because you are driven to succeed and unwilling to settle for only making it halfway. There are so many numbers and metrics and measurements to guide you. There are a thousand roads you can take to get there and your path may not be the same as someone else’s. What matters is that you’re forging ahead. It is only this tenacity that can’t really be measured. It’s difficult to put a hard number on the amount of determination you have. Stats can’t measure your hunger to succeed.

https://markonbrands.com/blog/measurement-the-personal-brand

Dedication & The Personal Brand

Personal BrandingKristine NeilComment

(The Secret is... there is no secret)

What this post is not: a list of #hacks, a recipe for overnight success or a get-rich-quick formula. This isn’t about how to get ahead without working hard. This isn’t about how you can work less and get more. There are no secrets here on how to put in the bare minimum in the name of “work-life balance”. So instead of slugging through The 4-Hour Workweek and wondering why. things. just. aren’t. clicking. for you -- understand that things would be so much easier if you just actually worked. Dedicatedly.

This applies double for your personal brand, which if you’ve been following along, you now understand you have whether you want one or not. The question is really whether you are willing and able to nurture your work and tend to your personal brand with a crazy fierce level of commitment. We’re at a point where reputation, both online and IRL, can be both easily bolstered and quickly spoiled. You can put out great content, do great work and get recognition from across the globe in an instant. But hasty online reviews can be written, questionable pics after one too many margaritas can be posted and your sloppy commitment to your brand unravels all of the hard work you previously did. One step forward. Two steps back.

Stop doing that.

The thing about personal branding that I’m just not sure I can communicate enough is that there is no off switch. There’s no punching the clock on it. Whether you’re a solopreneur or a fledgling freelancer or the head of a huge corporation, your reputation - your brand - is really all you have. Companies will come and go. Jobs will change. Titles will shift. The rest of it is, for a large part, out of your control and highly volatile. What is in your control is crafting the image people have of you, and creating a solid foundation to back it up. It’s not enough to say you’re flexible or friendly or talented. You must do those things. Be those things. Embody those things 24/7. People are smart and they can suss out when you’re being inauthentic or embellishing or just telling them what they want to hear.

Unfortunately for you, this means that there’s no easy way out, or up. That being said, there’s a reason why they say the high road is never too crowded. While everyone else is busy trying to look authentic, you can just focus on being authentic. It takes some dedication but the payoff is worth it.

https://markonbrands.com/blog/dedication-personal-brand

Innovation & The Personal Brand

Personal BrandingKristine NeilComment

Staying True vs. Being New

Innovation is defined as the process of making changes to something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products. It’s also our content theme for the month here at Markon. I love it as a theme for April because this time of year makes me think of changing things up, dusting things off and really kicking that outside-the-box thinking up a notch.

It’s tough, however, when I try to put our theme into the context of personal branding because so much of what we’ve talked about so far is about the importance of consistency and of finding your voice and sticking to it. How do you shake things up and keep things fresh while still communicating that it’s you? It’s easy! We’re going to focus our innovative minds on social media because if you’re like anyone else, it’s where you spend a ton of time interacting and (let’s be honest here) where we all go to stalk someone new when we’re deciding if we want to work with them. That being said, by all means, use some of these ideas to explore new methods in other areas of your real, non-digital, life as well!

Launch a short-term series or contest.

This is something we’re doing this month on our own Instagram; each of us is taking over the channel for a week to share week-in-the-life pics instead of the normal routine of stuff we usually post. It’s a nice little break from our usual content but still stays true to one of our core brand values: embracing everyone’s individuality. A contest would have the same effect of giving you something new to post about but still allowing you to incorporate your tried and true branding.

Get some fresh graphics.

A quick and easy way to liven things up on your social feeds is to update your cover photos or other graphics. You don’t want to change your profile pic too often because you want people to learn to associate your face with content they like but your cover photo or other shared graphics are a great way to show that you’re keeping things fresh and current. We recommend updating these items at least seasonally, but ideally monthly. (Although if it’s been a while… like YEARS… springing for a new headshot is probably not the worst idea.)

Challenge your metrics.

Sometimes all it takes to be truly innovative is to be open-minded enough to try new things. If you’re sharing high-quality content regularly, good for you! But we’re not here because we’re satisfied with the status quo. If you know that videos, for example, always get you lots of new attention and you post one per month, what if you posted two? If you post four great blogs per month, what if you tried doubling that? Sit down with some of your sharing stats and see where you could dial it up to 11.

Try a new schedule.

Along the same vein as challenging your metrics, being open to a new schedule can have lots of positive impacts on your exposure to new faces. At Markon we love using scheduling tools to automate posts but I also use them personally to help me manage my own social media. One time, I accidentally scheduled a post to go out in the middle of the night in my own time zone and thought I had really screwed things up… until some of that content got me lots of new love from the other side of the world! Apparently I’ve got some friends in Australia and NZ (hey guys!). Being open to a different posting schedule allowed me to gain new followers and connect with new people. Bam!

Try a new medium.

While you’re out there trying new things, how about a whole new platform??? I know, it’s super scary. But it’s time to be on more than Facebook. And, no, automatically reposting your content to other platforms doesn’t count. If you have a Twitter account that you opened in 2008 and then have let sit defunct ever since people will notice (and not in a good way). If you’re in a particularly visual industry, try Instagram to share pics of your work and connect with customers. Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat… think about how you can express your brand in new ways and choose a platform that supports those goals. Whatever platform(s) you’re on, post frequently, with consistency and with your brand in mind.

Of course, the trick to innovating your personal brand is to have a well-defined brand to begin with. If you’ve taken the time to craft standards and values that represent your brand, you’ll find the fine line between staying true vs. being new much easier to balance. You’ll know how to incorporate new ideas and processes into your workflow that still genuinely feel like you and you’ll have a chance to connect with new people that you possibly wouldn’t have had you not decided to innovate.

https://markonbrands.com/blog/innovation-the-personal-brand

Refreshing Your Personal Brand

Personal BrandingKristine NeilComment

There’s probably nothing harder to do than get up and head off to work when you’re burnt out.

All the things we’ve been talking about in the last two months: being authentic, conveying your passion, consciously projecting your most professional self … they become like mountains way too big to climb. When you’re at burnout phase, it’s like sitting at Everest basecamp and feeling defeated by the enormity of the challenges in front of you. You can’t imagine stepping one foot outside of your tent, let alone reaching the summit. It’s going to take all you have to shower this morning, let alone show up at work with a smile on your face. Trust me. I’ve been there.

I know how hard it is to take care of yourself when you don’t have the energy to. But here’s the thing: spending that small amount of energy doing something to refresh your body, mind or spirit will somehow magically create ten times more energy to do all the other things. And then you can get back to work being your best self. So how do you do this? Simple. I recommend that you find a hobby, a passion, or a side gig that you truly love. For me, that’s either travel or cooking.

Lacking an interest in anything else, I would definitely be one of those crazy workaholic people who never leave the office. Mostly because I’ve worked hard to build a career for myself doing stuff I truly love, but also because I’m one of those people that doesn’t relax very well. Unplugging usually requires traveling several time zones away, often to the other side of the world. But since that’s not necessarily a practical hobby to take on every single weekend, I cook.

When I can’t travel to Japan, I breathe in the earthy aroma of Soba noodles in a savory broth and recall the time I spent standing in silence at the Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima. A chocolate croissant can transport me to the time I spent in the French countryside, meandering through small villages without a care in the world. A simple homemade cappuccino sends me back to the morning I rushed through St. Peter’s square in Rome with all of the other hurried Italians on their way to catch a train. Digging my spoon into a ripe avocado, I recall the lazy days I’ve spent on Ambergris Caye, Belize - an island so remote it takes 3 planes, 1 boat and a whole day to get to. That’s my kind of unplugging.

So when I can't travel, I cook. And that is what refreshes me. The process itself refreshes me. It gives my brain time to focus on the immediate task at hand. The planning, the sourcing, the cutting and prepping - all these tasks require my attention. And it is because of it that I am better at work. Truly. There are lessons learned in cooking that I apply every day in my professional life; so much so that they are now an ingrained part of my own personal brand. Cooking has taught me the following important things:

Have a plan.

Part of the joy I get from cooking is the planning, the learning and the strategizing over what to make and when. I read cookbooks the way others read novels. I love trying to figure out how to make the most efficient use of my grocery budget and ingredients. If I make something with half of a sauce on Monday, how can I use it again on Wednesday in a different way? Is there a cooking class somewhere I can take to learn a new technique? How can I make my favorite dish just a bit healthier? This strategizing mindset obviously suits me well at work too. I’m always learning, reading and plotting. If I’m helping a client with a budget of X, how do we get the most bang for their buck? What do we do first, second, third? Can I learn about a new tool that might help us all do something in a different way than before?

Get it ready.

In cooking, this process is called mise en place and it’s just a fancy French way of saying “get your shit together”. If you’re making a risotto, which requires nearly constant stirring, you’ve got to spend the time in advance cutting, dicing, prepping and laying out all of your other ingredients. Doing so allows you to focus on making the final dish amazing, instead of focusing on stirring and chopping and measuring all at the same time. This process teaches us that the final dish is always better when we get all of our materials organized in advance first. It reminds us that multitasking isn’t always best. Sometimes it’s best to just focus on the task at hand, and have enough forethought to give yourself the ability to do so. When in doubt, make a list and start checking things off.

Expect the Unexpected.

I like cooking from recipes. They are my road map to a great dish. But sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned. Maybe my produce is a little overripe or I had to sub a dried herb for a fresh one and the flavor is just a little different. Sometimes mistakes happen, like the time last week I accidentally put 2 TABLESPOONS of crazy hot chili powder into my tortilla soup instead of 2 TEASPOONS. Yikes. I like things spicy but my mistake rendered the dish inedible and it had to go down the garbage disposal. Thank goodness for having frozen Marie Callender’s Chicken Pot Pies from Costco in the freezer ;) At work, the same problems often arise. The package didn’t arrive on time. The client needs the work done yesterday. The file won’t open. Look, things go wrong. And if you just expect that to be the case, you can focus on being a problem solver and not one of those people who dwells on the fact that things didn’t go your way. Be flexible enough to go to plan B.

Break the Rules.

When things go wrong, like above, or maybe when things are going right and I’m just feeling a little adventurous in the kitchen, I love the feeling of leaving a tried-and-true recipe in the dust and entering unknown territory. Whether I’m troubleshooting a sauce that just won’t thicken or trying a new ingredient that I’ve never worked with before, sometimes I just let my creativity run wild. Who cares if everyone says the best way to make mac-n-cheese is to start with a roux? Maybe I want to puree butternut squash and add greek yogurt as a base instead? (Damn good, BTW.) Challenging the status quo is in my blood, both in and out of the kitchen. Oh, you say there’s no way I can make an amazing batch of brownies that are also vegan and gluten-free? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. You say I can’t buy a run down business, turn it around, make it a career and grow it like crazy? BRING IT ON.

Make it Beautiful.

All of the hard work that leads up to the moment a dish hits the table means nothing if it’s not Instagrammable, right? There is so much pleasure in presenting a beautiful plate that makes my husband say he feels like he eats at a five-star restaurant every night. We eat with our eyes first so I love plating as much as I love cooking what’s on the plate. Blame it on my Food Network obsessions but even when it’s just the two of us at home, I wipe up any drips or splashes from the edge of the plate, add a bit of garnish and make sure things are arranged just so. It just makes the whole thing an experience, even if it’s something as simple as grilled cheese and tomato soup. The beauty of the food is what gives me pleasure and allows me to be grateful at how lucky we are to have access to it all. At work, I spend the same time perfecting every last pixel, adorning the presentation with something a little extra or doing my best to WOW a client with what we’ve created.

All of this is to say that when you work all the time, as most small business owners do, it’s easy to get burnt out. You need an outlet. Work can be all-consuming. It can take over your personal life, affect your relationships, your health and your overall well-being. There a zillion upsides to being a leader but it does require balance in order to be your best.

So what do you do to refresh? Is it cooking? Is it knitting, or crafting, or racquetball? Are you a photographer, a cyclist, or an avid reader? Do you spend your free time volunteering at the animal shelter or reading to kids? Do you garden? Whatever it is, make time for it. Let it refresh and recharge you. Don’t do it for money, despite the urge to do so. You need to have something you do just because it’s good for your soul. And then, when you’re rested, get back to work. You and your personal brand will be all the better for it.

https://markonbrands.com/blog/refreshing-your-personal-brand

Passion & The Personal Brand

Personal BrandingKristine NeilComment

Your Passion is Showing

It's easy to spot a fake. I'm sure all of us can think right now of that person (or people) we've come across in our professional lives that just isn't genuine. You can tell that they're phoning it in and contributing the minimum amount needed to just barely scrape by. Their heart just isn't in it.

Our theme for the month here at Markon is passion. It's a theme that's easy to explore at this time of year as flowers and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate surround us. But just as in our personal lives, in our professional lives faking it will only get you so far.

You can fake it till you make it but you can’t fake passion.

Here's the problem. Fakes have a way of masquerading as true professionals. They are not. HERE IS THE TOUGH QUESTION: are you a fake? Because people are going to figure that out. They'll feel from you that you're not genuinely in the game. They'll pick up on the fact that your head and your heart aren't committed to your work.

Wondering what makes the difference? Here's my quick list for you to assess on which side of this fine line you stand.

THE UNPASSIONATE

  • take up time and resources

  • talk about doing new work

  • appear ready to move forward

  • are concerned about how their brand is perceived

  • stubbornly resist change

  • avoid or delay communication

  • don’t value others’ time

  • make excuses

THE PASSIONATE

  • take up time and resources

  • talk about doing new work

  • appear ready to move forward

  • are concerned about how their brand is perceived

  • are excited to implement changes

  • follow through and follow up

  • value the time of other professionals

  • make decisions

In our daily branding work, we've learned time and again that we can create a beautiful business brand that is diluted instantly because the owner is simply not truly passionate about what they are doing. If that's you, it's time to examine whether it's time for some changes.

This post is the second in my year-long series on personal branding. If you missed the first one, on Strategy & The Personal Brand you can check it out here. We’ve done some heavy hitting in our first two installments so next month we’re talking about rejuvenation. We’ll focus on bringing life back into your personal brand - just in time for spring! I’d love it if you followed along.

https://markonbrands.com/blog/passion-the-personal-brand

Strategy & The Personal Brand

Personal BrandingKristine NeilComment

It’s my first blog post of the year and I’m excited to get back to work. I’m one of those people that really loves the routine and structure of the work week. Don’t get me wrong, I love my lazy Saturdays and #sundayfundays like the best of them, but you’ll never find me posting about dreading a Monday morning. It’s just not in my nature. This attitude isn’t just part of my personality, it’s part of my personal brand. It’s a commitment I’ve made to be consistent in my messaging, my voice, my appearance and even my body language. As a company, we’ve carved 2016 out into monthly themes to shape our content and, personally, I’ve committed to devoting each of my monthly blog posts to the idea of personal branding as it fits within our theme. January’s theme is strategy and while it may seem overly calculating to strategize over your personal brand, I’m here to tell you that you can’t afford not to.

I think that before we can really delve into some of the finer aspects of personal branding that we all have to agree on what it is we’re talking about. There are lots of different ideas out there about what personal branding is. I’ve done plenty of studying on this subject and I’m here to tell you that many of the fine folks out there trying to talk to you about it are wrong. To them, personal branding pertains only to what you post on social media or on the content in a blog post. Personal branding is, in actuality, so much more. Here are the five pillars of your personal brand, why each is important and some strategies for refining each.

Your personal brand serves as your best protection against business factors you can’t control.

— Dan Schawbel

Attitude

What It Is: How You Think & Feel

Why It’s Important For Your Personal Brand: Let’s be honest. We can all tell a fake when we meet one. You don’t want to be that person. The rest of the items on this list mean nothing if you need an attitude adjustment.

Personal Branding Strategy: This is going to be a tough one for some people but it’s pretty straightforward: you’ve got to get your mind right, especially if you’re a small business owner but even if you’re not. Some days are just crappy and nothing is going to go your way. Sometimes customers are going to be a pain to work with and make unreasonable demands of you and your time. You’ve got to remind yourself every day that you’re playing the long game and do whatever it takes to do it with a smile. This may mean you’ve got to find yourself a mentor, a support group or even a therapist. If it helps you to take up yoga or meditation, I say go for it. All of those things have helped me. And sometimes, if it matters, just play some gangsta rap for a minute and let all that stress out. Then, dust yourself off, pick yourself back up, and get back in the game. You’ve got this.

Messaging

What It Is: What You Say

Why It’s Important For Your Personal Brand: Now, more than ever, the words we choose have the opportunity to be immortalized forever. They are tweeted, quoted, pinned and shared. Words have an opportunity to be hurtful, misconstrued or misunderstood and, YES, it matters how other people interpret what you say.

Personal Branding Strategy: Knowing that everything you say really does have long-lasting ramifications for you and your career presents enough of a threat to render even the most talkative among us mute. This need not be the case. In thinking about your personal brand, think about the type of content that you are putting out into the world. Is it consistent with your attitude? Do the words you choose support your agenda? For example, I told you earlier about how I will never be one to share a funny “I Hate Mondays” meme. The goal is to create messaging that supports my attitude and furthers my brand. I really love my job and part of that is helping other people who love their jobs too. We don’t hate Mondays. We look forward to them.

Tone of Voice

What It Is: How You Say It

Why It’s Important For Your Personal Brand: Even well-chosen words can do you wrong if you use poor inflection. Sometimes even a well-placed emoji can do you wrong. Creating consistency in messaging & tone lets the world know you’re the real deal.

Personal Branding Strategy: Commit to fixing any attitude problems that might affect your ability to say what you mean in an authentic way. Most well-adjusted people have an impeccable ability to pick up on when you don’t mean what you say. It’s okay if your brand’s tone is snarky or sassy. We have a bit of that going on ourselves at Markon. We try not to sound too corporate or stiff. So even if what we’re saying is super serious, we try to communicate it in a conversational and friendly way. That is a brand choice we made and one that I make for myself when I think about my own writing and speech. Think about what your tone says about your attitude towards your work. If things aren’t consistent, either change your attitude or change your tone.

Appearance

What It Is: How You Look

Why It’s Important For Your Personal Brand: This is the old “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” mantra. It is still very much alive and applicable in 2016. I’m not saying it’s fair that we are judged for how we look, I’m just saying that it’s true. Ignore at your own peril.

Personal Branding Strategy: Sorry to all the guys and gals out there that assumed we had moved into an era where rocking the jammies sans makeups to work had arrived. Even if you work from home I would argue that you aren’t taking yourself, or your work, very seriously if you can’t manage to get up, get showered and get dressed appropriately every morning. Doing this is as much for yourself as it is for everyone else. You’ll be amazed at how looking good can affect your attitude towards the day. Even if your dress code is ultra casual, there is simply no excuse to not be clean, well put together and dressed appropriately for your industry. You’ll feel better about yourself and other people will take you more seriously. If you have a hard time with this, hire a stylist to help you gather just a few great outfits you feel amazing in. Get your hair did. Find a grooming regimen that works for you. I don’t care if you’re not a morning person and only have a few minutes to get ready. You never know who you’re going to meet the second you walk out your door - it could be your next big client. Or not, if you’re looking like a hot mess. Invest in your personal appearance because it will make YOU feel good. Your positive attitude will translate as part of your personal brand.

Body Language

What It Is: Everything Else That Went Unspoken

Why It’s Important For Your Personal Brand: As an undergrad, I studied Communication where we learned not only the finer nuances of public speaking but how important nonverbal communication is in everyday interactions. Sometimes it’s not always what you say, but how you say it or how you look while doing it… and sometimes it just comes down to whether or not you have resting bitch face.

Personal Branding Strategy: This may take some involvement of a few trusted friends or family members. You’ve got to ask them to tell you if you look like you’re mad all the time. You’ve got to tell them to be honest because this is really going to help you. 99% of all our communication is nonverbal which means that you can say the right things, look and sound great while doing it and still send the wrong message. Your facial expressions and overall body language speak volumes. Your strategy here can be everything from a simple commitment to smile more (seriously) to a deeper reaching pledge to work on the attitudes behind why you’re feeling unconfident, insecure, angry - or whatever it is that you’re projecting. These attitudes come out in nonverbal ways such as crossing your arms, hunching your shoulders or not making eye contact. Working on these attitudes will have such a positive impact on your personal brand.

I just love the quote at the top of my article about personal branding. (So much so, that I Instagrammed it! Double tap to show some love!) As a business owner, I know that keeping these things in check does more to differentiate my business in the marketplace than almost anything other work I do. I know that I can do lots of great design, create powerful marketing campaigns, network with all the right people and still fail if I don’t work to make my personal brand compelling. It is the one thing I have that no one else can copy! And you can do the same. I hope that this list has inspired you to at least think about some of the aspects that play into your building and refining your personal brand. As you make a business strategy for 2016, consider incorporating some of these personal branding commitments as well.

I’ve said before that I’m so passionate about personal branding both as a rising trend and as an important component of business success that this is the launch to my year-long series to focus on the topic. And next month’s theme is just that: passion! We’ll explore how your motivation and drive for what you do plays into your personal brand and ways you can continue to refine your brand to support the things you’re passionate about. I’d love it if you followed along.

https://markonbrands.com/blog/strategy-the-personal-brand