Category: Development


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  • Your personal brand is the solid and consistent impression that comes to mind when people think of you.
  • The first step in creating a personal brand is identifying your target audience or market.
  • Now you have to find out what this person’s or organization’s needs or wants are and then quickly determine whether you can meet them.
  • You have to figure out the pain that exists and show them how you can relieve their pain via the brand you possess.
  • Most important, you have to figure out what makes you different. You have to stand out!
  • Once you figure out how you are different, you have to clearly lay it out and communicate what makes you different and unique.
  • Finally, you have to continue to refresh your brand so it stays competitive.
  • More on freshness in an upcoming post!

 

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A couple of weeks ago I laid out 13 tips for wrapping up 2012 and preparing for the new year at work. My expert sources suggested that you complete outstanding projects; establish new goals; reflect on accomplishments; get organized; and tie up loose ends–among other things.

Now, as you return to the office in 2013, there are a few things you can do to ensure you start the year off right.

forbes“A new year is a brand new beginning,” says Anna Sidana, VP of marketing at Simply Hired. “If we take the time to step back from our day-to-day and hit reset, it is a chance to look ahead with a new perspective and make every day count.”

She suggests you take a moment to reflect on your life–both professional and personal–and kick off the new year with renewed energy and a fresh focus. “Close out any small, nagging projects and focus on the big ones that can accelerate your career. Reach out to colleagues and strengthen those dusty relationships. A new year offers this unique opportunity to step up the game and become laser focused.”

Michael D. Brown, a career consultant, author, and motivational speaker, adds: “In this continuing economic tsunami of 2013, you must be clearly purposed and focused on success with a well-defined and proven game plan to transition yourself from a generic to a fresh and powerful personal brand,” he says. Companies and organizations can no longer afford to invest in generic employees with anemic or non-existent ROIs; and they’re not able to be competitive if they don’t have a fresh, branded and competitive workforce.

“The best success navigation plan you can have is to turn yourself into a clear, compelling, and competitive personal brand,” Brown says. “You can’t wait to do this in August; you must do this now. As such, you will be seen as someone who can add and deliver value in these turbulent times.”

Click here to read the full article.

Knowing your aspirations will help you filter out the stuff/things
that will block your success

Aspiration means having particular ambitions and then setting out to achieve these goals. This is your purpose, to fly high and soar to greater heights! Knowing your aspiration allows you to tailor-build your personal brand; otherwise you run the risk of building a brand that doesn’t help you reach your aspiration. Remember – if you aim at nothing, you’re guaranteed to hit it! 
 
To better visualize aspiration, think about how aspiration applies to building the home of your dreams. What architectural style is this home? How many rooms does it contain? How spacious are the grounds, and are there amenities like a garage, tennis court or swimming pool? On a more detailed level, does your dream home feature hardwood floors or carpeting? What kind of fixtures are in the bathrooms? Is there a standalone kitchen table or an island? 
 
If you don’t know all these answers before you start building your dream home, the project will quickly go off track and you’ll wind up with a poorly designed mishmash of ideas and styles. Or possibly even worse, you will let a contractor tell you what your dreams for your house are, then you’ll wind up with a home that suits someone else’s dreams, but not yours. 
 
The same is true of your brand. Without first realizing your own aspiration, you will have no framework for building your brand, and you will wind up with either a poorly defined brand that does not really tell potential clients and partners anything about who you are or what you do, or a brand that has been defined by someone else.

Realize your aspiration

Aspiration is really a two-part entity: it is something that must be found and then realized. Many people have an aspiration, but relatively few genuinely find an aspiration that truly represents everything in life that they are most passionate about. Even fewer move on to achieve an aspiration once they have found it! The closer your aspiration can align with your passion, the greater the chances for sustainable success! 
 
And not having an aspiration means not knowing what you want, so how do you expect to measure your success without one? If you truly don’t know what you want out of life, make finding out your top priority. Then go back and start building your personal brand. This way you will have a realistic chance of succeeding and a way to measure how well you’re doing!

How Slammed is Your Door?

Keeping with the theme of building a home, let’s measure how slammed (or hopefully open) the door to your aspiration is. Are you open to examining your innermost hopes, dreams and skills to determine what ultimate achievements you aspire to, or have you closed yourself off and decided to “wing it” or follow someone else’s dreams instead? Rate how strongly you agree that each of the following fresh statements applies to you today from 1-5, with 1 equaling strongly disagree and 5 equaling strongly agree: 
 
1. I have identified an aspiration that accurately reflects where I would like to take my career and my life. 
 
2. My most trusted friends, family, colleagues and advisors are aware of my aspiration and I have solicited their feedback. 
 
3. My aspiration aligns with my vision of what my perfect day would be like and there are no significant gaps between the two. 
 
4. I have the passion necessary to achieve my aspiration. 
 
5. I have the skills necessary to achieve my aspiration. 
 
6. I have the determination necessary to achieve my aspiration. 
 
6.5 I have written my aspiration down in more than one place so I am constantly reminded of it.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, your door is slammed shut. You may have fantasies about having a great career or richly rewarding personal life, but have made no efforts to make them come true or even to see if they really represent what you want in life. 
 
If you scored from 14-20, your door is open a crack. You probably have some firm idea of what you would like to accomplish, but aren’t making a real attempt to go out and do it. 
 
If you scored from 21-26, your door is open halfway. You know what you want and have taken some basic steps to get it. Maybe you earned the right college diploma, or know someone important in the field. You’re probably at the stage where you’re “looking into” achieving your aspiration. And when you’re looking into something, it usually means you have an outside vantage point. 
 
If you scored from 27-33, you door is three-quarters open. You have followed most or all of the 6.5 steps to achieving your aspiration and have a credible shot at making it happen someday. Remember there is a difference between going through the motions and putting your heart into something! 
 
If you scored a 34 or 35, your door is wide open. Congratulations! You have fully integrated your aspiration into all aspects of your life and have made it your number one daily priority. If you have not achieved it yet, you are on a clear path and have already passed several key milestones. You understand that goals are there to be met and surpassed, not held as an ideal.

2.5 Keys to Unslamming Your Door

Just because your door may not currently be wide open does not mean it has to stay that way. Even a door that is stuck due to years of staying closed can be pried open with the proper tools. 
 
So to help you unslam your door, or keep it wide open if it’s already that way, I offer the following 2.5 fresh keys to opening even the most stubbornly slammed door so the whole world can come on in. 
 


Key 1: Identify three of the most successful people in the area of branded expertise that you are going to capture 
 
While some people like to attribute the success of others as “luck,” this is really just jealousy talking. True success never occurs through simple luck. Even in the case where someone assumes control of a successful family business or inherits a large sum of money, if that person doesn’t have what it takes to succeed, they will fail. Many a family business or fortune has been quickly squandered when an unqualified heir inherited the reins! 
 
Likewise, a “lucky break” will be of no help to a person who is unwilling or unable to recognize the opportunity, seize it, and then capitalize on it to achieve success. Show biz legend has it that the great leading man Burt Lancaster got his first big Broadway role because a casting director mistook him for another actor. Even if this is true, do you think Lancaster could have parlayed that role into a towering stage and film career if he were a dud in front of the audience and camera? 
 
So now that you’re ready to recognize success is never an accident, identify three of the most successful people in your area of branded expertise. Think big. Don’t restrict yourself to the three most successful people you personally know, or who live in your region. If you want to be a success in real estate and you live in Omaha, Nebraska, you

Key 2: Research what they do to stay fresh 
 
You have identified three major success stories in your area of branded expertise. Great. Now it’s time to do a little homework. We live in the “Information Age,” an age where the whole notion of privacy has changed and personal details of almost anyone’s life can be found. We’ll save the debate about the overall ethics and implications of this situation for another time. Right now, we will use it to our advantage. 
 
Depending on whom you have identified and what field you’re in, researching what they do to stay fresh could be as simple as a trip to your local library or bookstore, or may involve a little more legwork. To stay with the Donald Trump example, he has never been shy about trumpeting the secrets to his success for the world to hear (for a price, of course!) Trump has written numerous books about his business philosophies and strategies, and there has been at least one major biography written about him, as well. 
 


Key 2.5: Make sure that everything about you communicates and exudes freshness 
 
After following the first two steps to freshness, it’s time to take the additional “half-step” of making sure that everything about you communicates and exudes freshness. Like it or not, image and appearance are extremely important, and unless you look and act the role of fresh, you can identify and research how other people have achieved aspirations similar to yours and not get anywhere with that knowledge.

Great Action Plan

I will conclude today’s look at aspiration with a Great Action Plan aimed at helping close the gap between following your aspiration and following someone else’s aspiration or following nothing at all. To find your aspiration, you need to examine your innermost passion and determine what it is you are truly best at. Then align your aspiration with these qualities and you can’t lose! 
 
Now using the information above, what will you do to close the GAP? What’s your Great Action Plan for determining, following and achieving an aspiration that will yield you personal, economic and professional success? 
 

 

 

What will you do today? __________________________________


What will you do this week? _________________________________


What will you do this month?_________________________________

If you came out of the “storm” today, what would/could you do?

For too long, too many of us have been captains of a vessel caught in fierce and unpredictable tsunami “storms” caused by unpredictable swings in the economy and general business environment. Depending on your particular situation, that vessel may be a yacht or merely a canoe, but in many cases even those fortunate enough to sail giant luxury cruise ships have found themselves just hoping to survive the storm and make it through. And all too often, we make it through one storm only to find ourselves ill-prepared to prevent or face the ensuing storm that’s barreling our way right behind it. And regardless of size, your boat can only withstand so many storms before it becomes incapacitated and or weaken which makes preventing and surviving the next storm a challenge.

We have been on this stormy path too long; it’s now time to turn the corner and navigate to shore. Coming out of the storm is not enough. Instead, we have to have a plan, passion, purpose and promise ready to put in place once we escape all this stormy weather and find some shelter on dry land. The absence of this will result in us experiencing a mental storm that will soon propel us back into a physical storm. And once on shore, we need to find fertile ground and prepare to build a “Fresh, World- Class Branded Mansion” (representing your personal brand) instead of trying to patch up a “local generic shack”.

The blueprint for building this Fresh Branded mansion is the proven process that has helped thousands- Fresh PASSION. This process takes you from being a generic to a world-class brand and helps you elevate your brand to the next level if you are one of the select few who already possess a winning brand. By following this laser-focused and disciplined winning plan of action, you will gain the ability to survive, prosper during, and even prevent storms. This ability will give you an edge over your competition and position you to experience exponential personal, professional and economic success.

Don’t think about riding out the storm
You could simply continue to “ride out” the storm in whatever vessel has taken you this far, but riding out the storm is not the best option. It has been tried and has not worked. Just sitting on your boat is not the answer, nor is inviting a lot of your negative friends on the ship and throwing a party. The answer is developing a laser-focused and disciplined navigation plan and moving forward at an accelerated pace. This will help you to successfully perform, deliver, and stay on course through any storm or adversity you encounter.

The best success navigation plan you can have is to turn yourself into a clear, compelling, and competitive personal brand. As such, you will be seen as someone who can add and deliver value in these turbulent times and the economic tsunami threatening to engulf all of us. This, my friend, puts you on the path to personal and professional success. Becoming a successful brand will work whether you are employed, underemployed, an entrepreneur, executive, middle manager, entry-level employee, college student, recent graduate, or at any other stage of your professional and/or educational career.

Becoming a brand always works for companies and organizations, as well. You have to provide a branded customer experience that your employees can execute and use to attract, retain, and grow your customer base.

Are you ready to turn the corner and build your Fresh Branded Mansion in 2012?
As I said earlier, you want to take shelter from the storm in a Fresh, Branded Mansion. Not a generic shack, and not one of those cookie-cutter “McMansions” which were so popular during the doctom boom – they cost a lot of money and attract a lot of attention, but offer little in the way of real architectural value and tend to lose most of their worth in difficult times like now. No, you want a genuine mansion – classy, well-built, tastefully impressive, something that offers an intrinsic value which remains high even during the worst housing markets.

How do you build a Fresh, Branded Mansion? Well, it’s not easy or everyone would be doing it, but through hard work and following the nine phases of Fresh PASSION, you can construct a “dream house” that will lead to the life and career you want and deserve. These phases include Fresh – a mansion that is well-built, represents who you are, and retains its sale value at all times, Preparation – only using the freshest and highest-quality materials for your mansion’s foundation, roof, furniture, landscaping, nails, blueprint, etc., Aspiration – when you design your mansion, do you go for something typical and safe or something eye-catching and bold that puts it ahead of other mansions, Stay laser-focused – using levels and inspections to make sure your mansion’s structural integrity is sound and that the physical results match the aspirations of your design, Sell like you are crazy – becoming a real estate expert so that when it’s time to put your mansion on the market, you know exactly who to sell it to and what features to accentuate to get the maximum bids, Invigorate – taking the effort to maintain your mansion’s “curb appeal” through landscaping, additions, renovations, etc., Omitting the negative – pushing comments from any naysayers or incidents of self-doubt that pop up along the way to building the home of your dreams, Nailing the brand – really “nailing” your mansion together and ensuring everything is ready for you to move in and show it off to others, and serving others – using your mansion to host holiday meals and celebrations, ensuring that it benefits friends, family, coworkers, customers and clients, and not just you.

You can brand your way to success
My staff and I were able to grow and prosper during the 2011 global recession/downturn/out of control economy. My secret was (and still is) the consistent development and fresh and flawless execution of my personal brand through my trademarked and signature process Fresh PASSION (Get a Brand or Die a Generic)®. I have used this process in 2011 to help thousands of individuals, entrepreneurs, executives, and students achieve exponential personal and professional success.

Over the coming months, I will share the nine phases of the proven Fresh PASSION (Get a Brand or Die a Generic)® process with you. It is my hope, strong belief, and personal desire that you, too, can develop and flawlessly execute your powerful and competitive personal brand that will yield consistent and exponential personal and professional success, even in this environment!

So with all hands on deck and overtime on the construction site, we will build a Fresh Branded Mansion and achieve and experience exponential personal, economic and professional success in 2012!

Ready to turn the corner and build your Fresh Branded Mansion and leave the “shacks” to the generics?

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

While I was in college, I articulated my methodology for creating a successful personal brand (though at that time I hadn’t classified it into this brilliant acronym). I called it Fresh PASSION, a convenient acronym that stands for Preparing yourself, Aspiring to reach your goals, Staying laser-focused, Selling your value, Invigorating yourself, Omitting the negative, and Nailing the brand.

And of course all the passion in the world won’t enable you to achieve success if you employ an outdated, stale approach to your career, your business or your college matriculation which is why I make sure to put “Fresh” first!

However, this is not to minimize the importance of passion. Think back to February of this year, when the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl despite suffering injuries to 15 starting players during the season, needing to win three straight road games in the playoffs leading to the Super Bowl, and having eight starting players miss most or all of the Super Bowl itself due to injury.

How did the Packers overcome these obstacles? By remaining passionate about the game of football, focusing on winning with laser intensity, and finding fresh ways to win when the odds seemed hopeless.

Now that we have reiterated how vital passion is to success in branding or any other aspect of life, let’s take a quick review of each step toward Fresh PASSION.

Fresh
Brands are a lot like bread – fresh brands are more in demand and bring in more money than brands that are old and stale. People who achieve meaningful and long-term success personally and professionally understand the critical importance of staying fresh. You can’t just land your newly developed personal brand today, put it on a shelf and expect it to carry you throughout your career and life while you sit back and reap its rewards.

Or to use another analogy, in a few short months Major League baseball teams will begin spring training. For about six weeks before the start of the official season, teams practice, work out, bring in minor leaguers and possible free agent signees for evaluation, and play exhibition games.

Why do some of the world’s most highly-paid athletes subject themselves to this often dull and grueling annual routine? Because they realize that after a long winter away from baseball they need to sharpen their skills and improve their physical conditioning so they are fresh as possible once the season starts in April. If people who in some cases already earn upwards of $25 million a year can make the effort to stay fresh, so can you!

Preparing Yourself
Preparing yourself helps you get a large part of the substance for your brand-building. Earlier in your career, this can be used to help you conduct stellar interviews with the best companies and have your pick of jobs. Later in your career, preparing yourself can help make you a top performer and obtain the promotions and accolades that will propel your career forward at a breakneck speed.

If you doubt the value of preparation, or perhaps feel you are already so good at what you do that you can slack off a bit when it comes to preparing, a brief look at the careers of pro basketball legends Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Michael Jordan will be instructive. They are undoubtedly two of the best players in the history of the NBA, and both were notorious for being the first to arrive at practice and last to leave, every single time. Both put in huge amounts of personal time in the offseason staying in shape and working on basketball fundamentals so they would be able to start the season at peak performance level.

It’s not a coincidence that both men have had highly successful post-basketball careers as business executives and corporate spokesmen. If Magic and Michael needed lots of preparation, so do you!

Aspiration
Aspiration means having particular ambitions and then setting out to achieve your goals. This is your purpose, to fly high and soar to greater heights! Knowing your aspiration allows you to tailor-build your personal brand; otherwise you run the risk of building a brand that doesn’t help you reach your aspiration, which is a huge waste of time and resources. Remember –aim at nothing and you’re guaranteed to hit it!

For a perfect illustration of following through on your aspiration, look at marathon runners. Much like successfully building, maintaining and expanding a brand, running a marathon is a grueling process that requires incredible discipline, planning, and stamina. Runners must dress in the proper race attire and footwear, constantly assess how they are doing in relation to both other runners and their own personal time goals, maintain a pace that will allow them to maximize their performance without tiring too early, adjust their race strategy to changing course and weather conditions, and maintain a positive mental attitude no matter what physical obstacles they encounter. And a marathon is not the same as a sprint; it takes a long time to distinguish the winners from the losers.

Staying Laser Focused
Laser focus is the key to every aspect of the Fresh PASSION formula. Without intently focusing on each one of these areas, you’ll miss the mark and not deliver your brand. Life has a way of tempting us to lose focus and become disillusioned, so it is your responsibility to maintain your laser focus on tailor-building a foundation for personal and professional success.

For a perfect example of how staying laser focused can help you achieve your grandest aspirations, let’s turn our attention to the world of professional golf. Despite providing the seeming advantage of hitting a stationary object, anyone who has spent any time trying to master golf knows how incredibly difficult and frustrating it is to hit a golf ball properly once, never mind approximately 72 (or many more!) times during the course of several hours.

Yet the world’s top professional golfers do just that on a routine basis, often coming in several strokes under par while playing the most challenging courses in the world. Mastering golf at this level takes almost unimaginable laser focus, spending hours a day practicing dull, routine shots like hitting out of a sand bunker until they become second nature. And during a long, slow-paced game, pro golfers must solely focus on the task at hand and nothing else.

Selling Your Value
Selling your value means understanding your return on investment (ROI). You have confidence in your fullest potential, and you are constantly searching for new opportunities that will help you meet and potentially even exceed that potential. Whatever the opportunity may be; forget the advice about opportunity knocking. You have to go out knocking on doors, as many as you can find and at all times.

For a perfect example of someone who always sold his value and never kept his mouth closed, let’s a take a look at the world of boxing. Muhammad Ali in his prime was as great a boxer as you will ever see, and he would be the first one to tell you that. Ali’s combination of exceptional athletic talent and outlandish behavior and egotistical statements (always delivered tongue in cheek) turned him into of the world’s biggest celebrities. Post-retirement, he has strengthened his brand even further through numerous charitable and goodwill endeavors and the courageous way he has publicly battled Parkinson’s disease. Ali’s eggs truly produced the world’s best boxing omelet, and nobody since has come close.

Invigorating Yourself
One of the key reasons I have been able to pull myself out of poverty and into a life filled with personal and professional success is that I have always maintained an extremely high level of vigor in everything I do. Staying invigorated will give you a huge leg up in making the all-important “three-second impression.” In the three seconds it takes you to walk through a door and extend your hand to someone for the first time, that person has already made irreversible judgments about you.

Think about the example of vigor set by Olympic athletes. These remarkable achievers often dedicate most of their lives to the most intensive, physically and mentally punishing training and preparation imaginable. All this time and effort is dedicated to maximizing their performance in an event held once every four years that may literally last a few seconds. The intense vigor required to compete at that level comes not from money, but from a richer and deeper motivation of personal satisfaction and knowing you did your very best, which ultimately is at the core of every successful brand.

Omitting the Negative
When you encounter a negative experience – learn from it. Don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on it, you don’t need to let it consume valuable real estate in your head; you have so much more ahead of you. Omitting the negative does not happen by itself, you will need to make some effort to truly banish negativity from your life. But it can be done with highly impressive results. Take the experience of the George Mason University men’s basketball team in the 2006 NCAA championships as an example.

Although the George Mason Patriots won an impressive 23 games during the 2005-06 season and even were ranked in the top 25 for a week, the experts all agreed they were lucky to reach the championship tournament and had no chance to win even one game.

However, George Mason players and coaches continued omitting all the negativity surrounding them and reached the “Final Four” round of the tournament, finally losing to eventual champion Florida State but proving there is no limit on how far omitting the negative can take you.

Nailing Your Brand
After developing the substance of your personal brand and landing it, you need to nail, package and market it to your audience (employer, group, organization). Answer these questions: Who am I? What do I want to be? How do I want to be perceived? Most of us don’t think of ourselves as “a package,” but all of us are packages. Here is the trick; you want to make sure that you control your packaging (the look, feel, and experience) and the message that illuminates from it.

If you still doubt the importance of nailing your brand, consider the recent experience of the National Football League, which underwent what could have been a brand-destroying four-and-a-half month lockout. While resolving the contract issue a month before the start of the regular season surely helped avoid fan backlash, the fact remains NFL TV ratings and game attendance, as well as merchandise sales, appear to be unaffected. This is due in no small part to the amazing job the NFL has done of creating its brand as “America’s Game.” The NFL did this by capitalizing on the drama inherent in what is often a violent and brutal game, emphasizing pain, conflict and personal sacrifice in the pursuit of victory. Also the many colorful characters who play and coach this unique sport were brought into the foreground. By nailing its brand image as America’s premier sports league, the NFL brushed the lockout away like a bad dream.

So now you can see how each step of the Fresh PASSION methodology is crucial to successfully building a brand. It will be interesting to watch how the National Basketball Association tries to rebuild its brand in the aftermath of the just-ended work stoppage which will delay the start of the season until Christmas Day and shorten it by 16 games.

The NBA has not built a brand as strong as that of the NFL, so hopefully owners and players can utilize Fresh PASSION tools to win back the hearts of fans and dispel whatever damage has been done to its popular image. I can tell you that even with Fresh PASSION, the NBA has a long road toward brand redemption ahead!

With that, I wish you a safe, happy and prosperous holiday season and 2012. I hope you, too, can apply Fresh PASSION to your own life and career to achieve maximum personal and professional success. Like most worthwhile things, Fresh PASSION is not always easy, but the end result more than justifies the effort.

Nailing Your Brand

Don’t Forget that Presentation Counts!
After developing the substance of your personal brand and landing it, you need to nail, package and market it to your audience (employer, group, organization).

Answer these questions: Who am I? What do I want to be? How do I want to be perceived? Most of us don’t think of ourselves as “a package,” but all of us are packages (i.e., “she is so plain, don’t depend on him he will never deliver, he is just boring”). Here is the trick; you want to make sure that you control your packaging (the look, feel, and experience) and the message that illuminates from it.

Honestly, how many times have you bought something just because of the packaging, or paid more for something because it was presented in an exciting way? That’s the main reason we want to pay less for generic – the packaging is uniformly dull. When we see a package that shouts “Energy, Invigoration, Crispy, Clean, Colorful, Beautiful, Sophisticated, Expensive, “we are willing to pay more.

In essence, good packaging helps speed the purchasing decision and leads people to pay top dollars (and that’s what you want your packaging to do right?). Packaging is how you express your personality. So think about how you want to be perceived, what’ competitive edge you want your packaging to send.

Remember, the way you decide to package your unique brand should be evident in everything that you do and attach your name to, the way you walk, the way your talk, the way you dress, the content and appearance of your resume/cover letter, your award winning interview.

Also remember, the market can spot a phony a mile away! Your brand needs to reflect your core substance. Build your brand around your genuine strengths, not the ones you think the market wants to pay a lot of money for right now. You will always do better in the long run by being yourself, both in business and in life.

Nailing your brand is not something you do once and walk away from, it is a constant process of fine-tuning and adjusting your brand to the changing needs of the market and your changing interests, abilities, experiences and skills. Following are a few simple things you can do to help nail your brand today, tomorrow and far into the future.
If you still doubt the importance of nailing your brand, consider the recent experience of the National Football League, which underwent what could have been a brand-destroying four-and-a-half month lockout that featured some tough talk from both players and owners, as well as canceled preseason workouts and games.

While resolving the contract issue a month before the start of the regular season surely helped avoid fan backlash, the fact remains NFL TV ratings and game attendance, as well as merchandise sales, appear to be unaffected. This is due in no small part to the amazing job the NFL has done in the last 25 years of creating its brand as “America’s Game,” essentially stealing this title from Major League Baseball. In a January 2011 Harris Poll, 31% of US adults said football is their favorite sport, close to double the 17% who chose baseball!

The NFL did this by capitalizing on the drama inherent in what is often a violent and brutal game, emphasizing pain, conflict and personal sacrifice in the pursuit of victory. Also the many colorful characters who play and coach this unique sport were brought into the foreground. By nailing its brand image as America’s premier sports league, the NFL brushed the lockout away like a bad dream.

Following is a football-themed “heart check” to measure how effectively you are nailing your brand. While “running up the score” is often frowned upon by football players and coaches, in this case you want to score as many points as possible.

Scale

5Wait, that’s really, really true about me- Strongly agree
4That would be me- Agree
350/50 sometimes, sometimes not- somewhat agree
2That absolutely has nothing to do with me-Disagree
1Let me take the fifth on this- Strongly disagree

1. My brand is evident in everything I do and say, as well in how I present myself to others.
2. My brand is honest and genuine, and based on who I am and what I am best at.
3. I constantly fine-tune and adjust my brand.
4. My brand adjusts to the marketplace, but not the point of losing its unique identity or becoming a market follower, rather than leader.
5. My brand package delivers a world-class experience on first sight (within three seconds).
6. My brand package encompasses preparation, aspiration, staying laser focus, selling like you are crazy, invigoration, and omitting the negative.
6.5. Even people already familiar with my brand substance find the packaging compelling and informative.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze how well you are nailing your brand:

If you scored from 7 to 13, you get sacked at the line of scrimmage. You are not presenting yourself or your brand in an exciting way that lets the world know your core substance and unique value proposition. Your brand doesn’t stand a chance!

If you scored from 14 to 20, you are “three and out.” Your packaging conveys one or two key components of your core substance, but not in a compelling way that makes you distinct from your competitors. Whatever chance you have in the marketplace is limited at best.

If you scored from 21 to 26, you make it into the “red zone”. You have managed to make your brand stand out in a crowded marketplace thanks to compelling and innovative packaging that conveys your core substance. But that little something extra is missing. You are still a solid number two brand people turn to when their preferred brand is unavailable.

If you scored from 27 to 33, you score a field goal. Your packaging is top-notch and you are among the leading brands in your field. But still, whether you lack a bow to tie it all together or your packaging’s gleam is a little dulled, you are not the true leading brand in your area of expertise.

If you scored a 34 or 35, you score a touchdown. Your packaging is impeccable and includes bows, ribbons and all the other little niceties that make a product truly stand out on a crowded shelf. You are the leader in your area of branded expertise, and anyone who sees your packaging knows it.

You Know How Great You Are – Don’t Be Afraid to Tell the World!

Selling your value means understanding your return on investment (ROI). You have confidence in your fullest potential, and you are constantly searching for new opportunities that will help you meet and potentially even exceed that potential. Whatever the opportunity may be; forget the advice about opportunity knocking. You have to go out knocking on doors, as many as you can find and at all times.

Now it’s time to let the world know who you are. You must convey what makes you different, distinctive and competitive (i.e., your brand). This statement is your definition statement. You will use this during networking, interviews to alert your current company and the outside world, your customers, potential and current employers about just how much value your brand truly provides.

Your statement has to be competitive internally to the organization, company or business that you are in, as well as competitive externally to the marketplace. If you are an entrepreneur, your statement must inspire and maintain the respect of your employees; and even if you work as a solo contractor, you must develop a statement you truly believe in yourself!

This is critical to gaining exponential personal and professional success internally while keeping you competitive on the open market, which provides you with the critical back-up plan in the event of downsizings, rightsizings, and economic slowdowns that may affect your current organization. In plain English, make sure your eggs can produce the world’s best omelet, no matter what basket they end up in.

Also remember that a closed mouth will starve you to death. You must passionately communicate both how great you are and how your greatness will spread throughout any organization you join if you want to dine on your aspirations.
For a perfect example of someone who always sold his value and never kept his mouth closed, let’s a take a look at the world of boxing.

Muhammad Ali in his prime was as great a boxer as you will ever see, and he would be the first one to tell you that. He first entered the pro boxing scene in the early 60s as a brash young upstart named Cassius Clay who simultaneously shocked and charmed America with his outlandish behavior and egotistical statements, always delivered with a wink and a nod that made them entertaining rather than annoying (except to his opponents!). The fact that he backed all his trash talk up by truly “floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee” in the ring also made it easier for the public to accept.

Ali’s combination of exceptional athletic talent and natural showmanship made him one of the world’s biggest celebrities. Principled actions he took which at the time were socially controversial, such as converting to Islam and refusing to be drafted during the Vietnam War, did not lessen his public appeal and over time actually added to his heroic mythology. Post-retirement, he has strengthened his brand even further through numerous charitable and goodwill endeavors and the courageous way he has publicly battled Parkinson’s disease. Ali’s eggs truly produced the world’s best boxing omelet, and nobody since has come close.

To effectively sell your value, you must constantly check up on yourself to make sure you are properly equipped to do the best sales job possible. Following is a boxing-themed “heart check” to help you keep your sales efforts at their peak performance.

1. I have a clear understanding about my worth; I know what I should be paid.
2. I am comfortable with selling the value that I bring.
3. I know my ROI.
4. I have made the people who can add to my success aware of the value that I can bring to them and/or their organization.
5. I have a set of skills that is competitive internally (in my current job, business or career) and externally (in the open marketplace).
6. I have a fresh way of succinctly explaining my unique value proposition that will get me noticed, heard, rewarded and paid.
6.5 My passion is authentically represented in how I explain my value proposition.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, you’re not answering the opening bell. Rather than examining yourself to find the unique benefit, value and ROI you deliver, you simply present your basic professional experience and qualifications with a smile and a firm handshake, like you’ve always been told to. Yawn.

If you scored from 14-20, you get knocked out by the first hard punch you take. You have probably discovered one or two unique selling points for your personal brand, but lack any originality in how you get them across to potential customers (i.e., employers and clients).

If you scored from 21-26, you can last a few rounds, but are not truly a contender. You are aware of your brand’s unique strengths and focus on them in your pitches, but still haven’t figured out how to truly differentiate yourself in an ultra-competitive marketplace.

If you scored from 27-33, you’re a contender who can go the distance, but may not be ready for the championship belt. You clearly demonstrate the benefit, value and ROI you deliver in a way that is fresh and engaging for the listener. You have gathered the skills and information to cover the many different scenarios you may be asked to justify your brand against. But you still hang back a little bit, are you waiting for opportunity to knock instead of kicking down its door (or laying it flat on the canvas)?

If you scored a 34 or 35, you are ready to wear the championship belt. Anyone you come into contact with knows about your brand and what it can do in any given situation, and you are constantly refining how you deliver your pitch to make sure your message is up to date with what you have to offer, what you are looking for, and what best suits the needs of the marketplace. You float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

Magic and Michael Knew What It Takes to Be a True Champion: Be Prepared!

You Can’t Build a Fresh, Competitive Brand without Preparing Yourself First

Preparing yourself helps you get a large part of the substance for your brand-building. Earlier in your career, this can be used to help you conduct stellar interviews with the best companies and have your pick of jobs. Later in your career, preparing yourself can help make you a top performer and obtain the promotions and accolades that will propel your career forward at a breakneck speed.

For college students, preparing yourself means taking steps like maintaining a consistently high GPA, test-driving potential careers and impressing potential future employers through internships, participating in extracurricular activities, and doing a “heart check” on your major – are you majoring in something you excel at and that truly captivates your interest where you can be passionate about it?

For professionals, preparing yourself means continuing your education, building and contributing to formal and informal networks, maintaining an active intellectual interest and knowledge capital in your career and your life, staying current on the latest business trends and demands in your field, taking on project assignments, asking your boss what you can do to become a better performer, and seizing every opportunity to stay front and center by volunteering for committees and gladly accepting additional work.

If you doubt the value of preparation, or perhaps feel you are already so good at what you do that you can slack off a bit when it comes to preparing, a brief look at the careers of pro basketball legends Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Michael Jordan will be instructive. They are undoubtedly two of the best players in the history of the NBA (many experts rank them one-two, in both orders) and both were explosive forces on the court from the moment they started their careers till the moment they ended them (of course, Johnson retired and unretired once and Jordan did it twice!). Blessed with immense natural athletic ability and incredible knowledge of the game of basketball, these men could easily have shown up at games with minimal preparation and still won championships and probably made the Hall of Fame.

But they didn’t. Both were notorious for being the first to arrive at practice and last to leave, every single time. Both put in huge amounts of personal time in the offseason staying in shape and working on basketball fundamentals so they would be able to start the season at peak performance level. Less talented teammates couldn’t help but be inspired to practice harder when they saw how seriously two of the all-time best players took their preparation.

It is also not a coincidence that both men have had highly successful post-basketball careers as business executives and corporate spokesmen. Their dedication and preparation helped give them sterling reputations as true “winners” which everyone wants to associate with, and undoubtedly they take the same no-nonsense, hyperprepared approach to their business lives as they did their basketball lives. If Magic and Michael needed lots of preparation, so do you!

Wondering how your efforts to be prepared stack up against the pros? Let’s compile a basketball–themed “shootaround” to measure your preparation. Rate how strongly you agree that each of the following preparedness statements applies to you today from 1-5, with 1 equaling strongly disagree and 5 equaling strongly agree:

1. I have a fully realized ideal of personal and professional success around which I build all my preparatory efforts.
2. I have the utmost confidence that I am truly prepared to achieve success and have no doubts about my ability to overcome any obstacle, no matter how unpredictable.
3. I have mastered the specific skills necessary to achieve success by being a branded expert in my chosen field, organization, business and or company.
4. I have obtained all the credentials necessary to achieve success by being a branded expert in my chosen field , organization, business and/or company.
5. I feel a burning competitive desire that pushes me to always take additional steps toward being prepared rather than feel satisfied with my preparatory efforts.
6. I know the skill sets and the mental attitudes of three people who have achieved success in the area that I want to succeed.
6.5 I gain a new competitive skill on at least a quarterly basis.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, you launched an airball. You haven’t taken any real steps to prepare yourself for success and are relying on blind luck and last-second thinking to overcome whatever obstacles come your way.

If you scored from 14-20, your ball glanced off the rim. You have taken a few quick steps to get ready to succeed, but hurrying now will only make success take longer to arrive later.

If you scored from 21-26, you hit a free throw, worth one point. You have done all the obvious things it takes to prepare for success in your chosen field, organization, business and/or company, but so have most of your competitors. Those who take extra steps and think outside the box in their preparation are the ones who will stand out.

If you scored from 27-33, you hit a regulation two-point basket. You have gone above and beyond the norm to prepare and are ready for some serious competition. But are you ready to win?

If you scored a 34 or 35, you hit a three-pointer. Congratulations! You have taken the lessons of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan to heart and have thoroughly prepared yourself for all contingencies, including unknowns, and done the groundwork necessary to truly stand out from the rest of the competition. You are fit to compete for a championship and maybe even have a Hall of Fame career!

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com

Just give yourself a little Fresh PASSION this Valentine’s Day and Beyond

While I was in college, I articulated my methodology for creating a successful personal brand (though at that time I hadn’t classified it into this brilliant acronym). I called it Fresh P.A.S.S.I.O.N., a convenient acronym that stands for Preparing yourself, Aspiring to reach your goals, Staying laser-focused, Selling your value, Invigorating yourself, Omitting the negative, and Nailing the brand.

And of course all the passion in the world won’t enable you to achieve success if you employ an outdated, stale approach to your career, your business or your college matriculation which is why I make sure to put “Fresh” first!

Fresh…
What exactly does each of these terms mean? “Fresh” means doing something every day to enhance your brand so that it stays fresh – keeping your skills sharpened, packaging yourself well.

Preparing…
“Preparing yourself” means continuing your education through classes, professional development, building and contributing to formal and informal networks, and simply maintaining an active intellectual interest and knowledge capital in your career and your life.

Aspiring…
“Aspiring to reach your goals” means having particular ambitions and then setting out to achieve your goals – aim at nothing and you’re guaranteed to hit it!

Staying laser-focused…
“Staying laser-focused” means intently focusing on each area of Fresh PASSION, otherwise you’ll miss the mark and not deliver your brand.

Selling…
“Selling your value” means understanding your return on investment (ROI), having confidence in your fullest potential, and constantly searching for new opportunities that will help you meet even exceed that potential.

Invigorating…
“Invigorating yourself” means having the tenacity and discipline to go the distance and secure your personal and professional success – fan the flame within and catch on fire!

Omitting…
“Omitting the negative” means learning from the inevitable negative experiences you will encounter without dwelling on them or letting them consume the valuable real estate in your head – you have so much more ahead of you!

Nailing…
And last but surely not least, “Nailing the brand” means successfully packaging your substance (your core) up and putting a bow on it so that you become a fresh brand that can successfully compete and WIN internally and externally (even in this turbulent environment), which will enable you to achieve exponential personal and professional success.

Fresh PASSION sounds great, Michael, but what if I’m not 100% sure what I’m aiming for?
“Success” can be a vague concept. In general it means “doing well and getting what you want,” but unless you know what you want to do and toward what end, devising a success plan is a pointless endeavor. To help build a framework to support your Fresh PASSION activities, write down your perfect day. Don’t leave out any small details; think large and globally.

Consider and answer questions such as: What does your family look like? What’s your financial picture? What career do you have? What does your personal life look like? Where do you live? Where do you travel? What are your credentials? How do you give some of your success back to the community?

What’s your “perfect” day?
Now compare your perfect day to your typical day, and see where you come pretty close to living it and where you fall short. Those areas where you fall short are the areas that need some Fresh PASSION applied first!

My own perfect day includes living debt-free, staying fresh and up-to-date in my area of branded expertise, speaking for Fortune 500 companies and business schools, and taking the time and effort to strengthen my relationship with my family. Currently all these “perfect” situations are a reality, but that hasn’t slowed me down. The nice thing about perfection is that you can never truly achieve it; you can always strive to do better and do more.

Ask the Green Bay Packers about their perfect day!
Even if you paid more attention to the commercials or halftime show than the game, there is a pretty good chance you watched at least some of this year’s Super Bowl. And even if you didn’t watch, our ubiquitous 24/7 news culture would make it virtually impossible for you not to have heard that the Green Bay Packers won. More impressively, they won despite suffering injuries to 15 starting players during the season, needing to win three straight road games in the playoffs leading to the Super Bowl, and having eight starting players miss most or all of the Super Bowl itself due to injury.

How did the Packers overcome these obstacles? By remaining passionate about the game of football, focusing on winning with laser intensity, and finding fresh ways to win when the odds seemed hopeless. The Packers, one of football’s legendary franchises (the Lombardi Trophy which goes to the Super Bowl winner is named for late, great Packers coach Vince Lombardi, who coached the Packers to victory in the first two Super Bowls), also stayed true to their brand image of athletic excellence. As a result, the team members collectively experienced the perfect day for anyone playing in the NFL: winning the Super Bowl.

http://www.themichaeldbrown

Who will you become?

Imagine you are the captain of a luxury ship suddenly caught in the middle of a fierce and unpredictable storm. Your first concern is most likely to save the ship – but saving the ship alone will not necessarily save you. When the storm begins to settle down, you don’t want to look up and discover that you have shifted way off course.

With a laser-focused and disciplined plan of action, you can survive and prosper in any storm. This ability will give you an edge over your competition and position you to successfully ride through the many storms that will inevitably come your way. Regardless of whatever storm you find yourself heading into, entangled in, or coming out of, stay laser-focused. You don’t want to be blown so far off course that you can’t properly function, prosper, and maximize your personal and professional success.

Don’t jump off the ship
You could simply jump ship, but this is not the best option. Just sitting on the ship is not the answer either, nor is inviting a lot of your negative friends on the ship and throwing a party. The answer is to develop a laser-focused and disciplined navigation plan and move forward at an accelerated pace. This will help you to successfully perform, deliver, and stay on course through any storm or adversity you encounter.

The best “success” navigation plan you can have is to turn yourself into a clear, compelling, and competitive personal brand. As such, you will be seen as someone who can add and deliver value in these turbulent times and the economic tsunami threatening to engulf all of us. This, my friend, puts you on the path to personal and professional success. Becoming a successful brand will work if you are employed, underemployed, an entrepreneur, executive, middle manager, entry-level employee, college student, recent graduate, etc.

Becoming a brand always works for companies and organizations, as well. You have to provide a branded customer experience that your employees can execute and use to attract, retain, and grow your customer base.

Follow the Example of Successful Sports Franchises
Or to use another metaphor many of you may be familiar with, use the same kind of success navigation plan employed by the most successful professional sports franchises. Even if you are not a sports fan, surely you are aware of certain legendary teams like the New York Yankees in baseball, Dallas Cowboys in football, and Boston Celtics in basketball. All of these franchises have experienced their ups and downs through their many years of existence, but all are noted for winning numerous championships and have a dedicated fan base that extends beyond their geographic area and sticks by them, win or lose.

How do these teams do it? By realizing their brand, first and foremost, is built on winning. Memories of past glories carry them through the difficult seasons, but they are aware that you cannot rest on your laurels. They all take what could be considered a ruthless approach to their players and coaches, replacing even popular personalities when they realize those personalities no longer contribute to the ultimate goal of winning. For example, the Cowboys replaced their legendary coach Tom Landry in the late 1980s after 29 years (and multiple Super Bowl wins), realizing his time had passed and a fresh approach was needed to coaching. The result was the hiring of extremely successful new coach Jimmy Johnson, which led to a phenomenal run of success in the 1990s.

Or in a negative example, the Celtics fell away from this philosophy in the early 1990s and let several aging superstars stay on with the team in a decision that Celtics tradition outweighed winning. The result was a long period of mediocre performance that damaged the Celtics brand. Only when the Celtics engaged in an intense series of major personnel shifts did they produce a long-awaited championship that restored their esteemed brand in the sports world. And the Yankees clearly are willing to spend the money needed to bring in high-profile free agents who help sell tickets and win World Series.

By remaining laser focused on their core brand attribute, winning, and being willing to tinker with other aspects of their brand, such as individual players on the team, these franchises have become leaders in their respective sports who can weather the storms of losing that even the greatest teams inevitably encounter.

You can brand your way to success
I know becoming a brand works because I have been in all of the above positions and used the creation and execution of my competitive brand as my navigation plan to continually achieve exponential personal and professional success.

The economic tsunami that we are experiencing now, where personal and professional success seems to be sinking to anemic levels, doesn’t have to determine the outcome of your life and/or career. Using the techniques described above, I have navigated and survived over 11 corporate restructurings, downsizings, rightsizings, and reorganizations. After each event, I ended up with a promotion or a lateral move that helped me add value to my brand, which in turn positioned me to capture more personal and professional success. I thus prevented myself from graduating into poverty.

More recently, I was able to grow and prosper during the 2009 global recession/downturn/spiraling out of control economy. My secret was (and still is) the consistent development and fresh and flawless execution of my personal brand through my trademarked and signature process Fresh Passion (Get a Brand or Die a Generic)®. I have used this process to help thousands of individuals, entrepreneurs , executives, and students achieve exponential personal and professional success.

Over the coming months, I will share the nine phases of the proven Fresh Passion (Get a Brand or Die a Generic)® process with you. It is my hope, strong belief, and personal desire that you, too, can develop and flawlessly execute your powerful and competitive personal brand that will yield consistent and exponential personal and professional success, even in this environment!

So with all hands on deck and overtime on the bridge, we will achieve and experience exponential personal and professional success in 2010!

http://www.themichaeldbrown.com