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Personal Branding: Treat Your Blog as if it was a Gift

Mary Rosenbaum | May 26th, 2010

If you are like me you have probably received countless birthday or christmas gifts that were not what you wanted or even needed. What did you do with those gifts, put them in the back of your closet, returned them if you could, re-gifted them to someone else? One thing is certain, you didn’t use this gift or benefit from it in any way. In fact, you probably forgot about it as soon as you put it away.

If you want people to read your blog or newsletter you have to think of these communications as a gift. All too often I receive newsletters or blog postings that either rehash old news or reword something either they or someone in the industry has already written about. What they don’t include is anything of value for me. Value can be defined in many ways. For example, it can provide me with a new way of looking at something, or a new approach I can apply to my business or life, or even a story I can relate to.

If you have read my past posts on the value of a strong brand, writing a blog and the rules of blogging then you know that providing your target audience with some added value is more important than just getting something out there with your name on it. Your blog or newsletter should convey your opinions in your area of expertise. One of the benefits of writing a blog is to communicate your thought leadership (your personal brand) in a way that exhibits your expertise in a “show” and not “tell” fashion. Distributing a blog or newsletter that doesn’t provide valuable content can only hurt your personal brand – your reputation. Why? Because people will immediately delete your emails based on their past experience with you.

Just like everyone else, my email inbox is filled with newsletters, email blasts, and blogs. With the limited time we have and the surplus of information we receive make sure the communications you send out are worthwhile. Let’s make sure the delete button is reserved for someone else. If you follow these rules they just might help you keep your audience and grow your following.

1. Know what your target audience wants and needs. Look at the responses (if any) you get from your postings and determine how they can be better focused to improve the content you provide and the engagement you develop with your audience. Research the work of other thought leaders in your industry. Read the comments they receive, see how you can address some of the issues that are being raised, but with a different point of view.

2. Make sure you are not underestimating your readers’ sophistication or knowledge. There is nothing worse than providing information that is so “been there, done that, old hat”.

3. Are you addressing the right target audience? I know I receive emails from companies and individuals providing valuable information on hi tech products for large businesses, classes on becoming a fashion designer, and courses on passing the bar exam, among others. Just because you have someone’s email address it doesn’t mean they want to receive your gift of communication and knowledge.

4. Don’t overuse the send button. Unless you have something worthwhile to write about, don’t write. I know I have said in the past that consistency and constancy in communication builds credibility as well as a following. You should write at least one time per week to maintain that following. But having said this, there is nothing worse than writing just to publish – because you dilute the value of your blog and of your brand.

5. Connect with your readers in a way that resonates with them not only on a business level but on a personal level as well. The more authentic you are in your writing, the more your ideas will resonate with your audience.

Having the right formula – original ideas and content, well written text, reader connection and engagement, – will result in a growing targeted following.

What tools do you use to keep their finger off the delete button? Please share them with us.

Utilizing her experience of over 25 years Mary Rosenbaum helps careerists and entrepreneurs position themselves so they can stand out from the competition. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.

Follow me on Twitter @Careersguru

What do Three Cups of Tea and Relationship Building Have in Common?

Mary Rosenbaum | May 20th, 2010

Make building relationships an integral part of your personal brand.

I had two very different experiences that made me think about writing on the topic of relationship building. One was an article I read in the NYTimes magazine section this past Sunday. It focused on our fixation with statistics. Watching our stats on social media sites is becoming as ubiquitous for social media marketers as the Dow Jones Industrial Average is for Wall Street professionals. But what are they really measuring? Are they measuring commitment, professional curiosity, respect or search or exchange of knowledge? What they are not measuring is relationship building. And relationship building is a critical underpinning to building your career, your business, and your personal and professional life.

The other prompt to writing this was an event I attended in support of the American Place Theater ( where Greg Mortenson, author of “3 Cups of Tea”, spoke. He told a story that clarified what the reference was for the title of his book. It all started when he found himself disoriented and physically weakened from his hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro in Pakistan. When he descended he was taken in by a village elder who offered him a cup of tea. Over time the village elder described what the offering of tea symbolizes:

The first time I offer you tea it is as a stranger.

The second time it is as an honored guest.

The third time it is as a friend.

Unlike major cities, relationships in these small villages develop with time moving at a glacial pace. When the shift from honored guest to friend finally occurred Mr. Mortenson understood the value he derived from the time he spent in building these relationships – personal and professional growth and satisfaction.

Relationship building takes time because it’s built on a foundation of mutual trust. And mutual trust develops through a shared spirit of generosity. And yes, relationships can be developed through social media online (and then nurtured offline whenever possible). But that takes time and what the village elder was saying, as was the NYTimes article, rushing through life adding up your numbers won’t get you what you want in life – friends and colleagues who support one another.

If you are out looking for a job or career change or seeking to grow your own business chances are that your first outreach is to people you know, rightly so. Those people can be considered your first degree of separation – you know them, they will pick up the phone when you call, and you can ask them for something. You have a relationship with them.

Now let’s take a look at our connections through social media. It’s easy to confuse large numbers of followers on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook as something more meaningful than what they really are: people who think you have something to say and they want to keep abreast of what you and perhaps thousands of others are saying. It’s all very flattering and makes us all feel good. And in some situations, these online connections can grow into real relationships, whether they remain online or move offline. But it’s important to keep your eye on the ball – creating more relationships that can fall into the category of first degree of separation – and not focus on just the stats.

We all know how to make friends – get to know them, share some laughs and good times and generally support each other. Building relationships around business is pretty much the same. You want to:

1. Maintain a spirit of generosity. Give without thinking about how you can personally profit from it – whether it’s information, time, assistance. I have always talked about the Law of Reciprocity. Whenever I give to others I know that whenever possible that person will try to give back when they can. It’s not always a quid pro quo but it never fails to result in a positive experience.

2. Take time away from the computer and make sure you are meeting up with people in the real world. Transactions usually take place in real time and in the real world, whether face to face or on the phone. There is nothing that can replace the connection you make when you can personally shake hands and look them in the eye or hear the tone in their voice during a conversation.

One way to take your online friends offline – create a meet-up in your own town. Out of town? Let your contacts know and make time for some face to face.

3. Call even when you are not selling or asking for anything. In fact, call because you don’t want anything from them. By continuing to maintain contact you are gaining more insight into the other person, learning more about their business, and understanding their needs. Sharing information when you are not looking to gain something helps build a level of trust over time. And trust is what relationships and friendships are based on.

So take the time and move toward that third cup of tea and enjoy the status of friend.

What other pointers do you have for taking relationships into the real world?

Utilizing her experience of over 25 years Mary Rosenbaum helps careerists and entrepreneurs position themselves so they can stand out from the competition. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.

Follow me on Twitter @Careersguru

Brand Your Personal Brand in the Minds of Others

Mary Rosenbaum | April 30th, 2010

If you were to ask three colleagues, three friends, and three family members to describe your attributes, strengths, and abilities do you know what they would say? Would they all say the same things? There has been much written about personal branding, in fact, I have written and spoken a great deal about it as well. But have you thought about what it actually means?

Personal BRANDING is the process by which you determine how you want to be viewed by others and then go about BRANDING the words you want them to use when describing you. You are in effect BRANDING your “reputation” in the minds of others.

How do you do this?

1. Find out what others think of you? Have a conversation and ask them the questions that would bring out how they would describe you to others. If you want more detailed information, a 360 assessment is a great tool to use because it offers anonymity and that ensures a higher degree of honesty and accuracy.

2. Do a Strengths, Weakness, Attribute, and Talents analysis (SWAT) using information they provide and include your own self analysis. Once you have this information determine which skills, talents, abilities, attributes and strengths are ones that will further your career. Those are the ones you want to highlight. If there are weaknesses that might prevent you from attaining your goals, think of ways you can ameliorate them (take courses, connect with those who can help you overcome them, partner with people who can fill in your gaps). If they are not road blockers, just forget them and move on.

3. Do a comparative analysis of the skills and abilities you bring to your work. Try to determine how you are the same and what makes you different than your competitors. What gets you in the game – education, years of experience, similar skill sets – should be the same. What makes you different is a combination of what others think of you, special talents and skills you bring to your work, and the way in which you provide your service or do your job.

4. Develop an elevator pitch or personal branding statement that provides the listener with information on what you do, why you do it, what your differentiating qualities are, and the value you provide. You don’t have to be looking for a job or pitching a client to develop a strong personal branding statement or pitch. The reason you are doing this is so that you can “brand” this description into the minds of all you meet and already know.

5. Make sure your messaging is clear and consistent. Everyone should understand what you do and the value you provide. And it should be consistent for everyone you meet.

6. Always be on brand. Make sure that the work you do and the way you present yourself, on and off line are always on brand. It takes a great deal of time to build a reputation, to solidify your brand in other peoples’ minds. It takes considerably less time to destroy it.

Are there other ways you have in identifying your unique promise of value, your personal brand? We would love to hear about them.

Utilizing her experience of over 25 years, Mary Rosenbaum helps entrepreneurs and careerists position themselves so they can stand out from the competition. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.

Follow me on Twitter @careersguru

Do I Need A Personal Brand? If So, How Do I Know It’s Working?

Mary Rosenbaum | March 19th, 2010

An interesting question came up in a conversation I had last night with an HR representative of a major corporation: “Why is it important for people who work in corporations to have their own personal brand? After all, doesn’t the company itself have a brand?”

Corporations have their own brand and you, as a representative of that corporation express this brand wherever you go, whether it’s dealing with internal or external clients.

Yet each of you brings something unique to the table whenever you promote or provide the services your company offers. Your brand, the way you communicate with others, the way you do your work, the way your successes and failures are viewed by those who matter, have tremendous implications on your career. Understanding the underpinnings of your brand, what makes you unique and what helps you stand out enables you to create your career by design.

Consequently, it’s important to understand how you are viewed, both internally as well as by the outside world. These are some questions you should be asking yourself.

1. Is my reputation, what people think of me, equal to how I view myself?

2. How do I really want people to think of me and to respond to me?

3. Have I been able to differentiate myself and what I do in a positive and productive way?

4. Is the way I am viewed going to help me achieve my professional goals?

5. Is my reputation helping or hurting my work and my future?

6. Is my personal brand (my vision, purpose and values) in alignment with that of the company?

Understanding your personal brand is integral to obtaining satisfaction from your job, enjoying the company you work for, and in obtaining the career goals you set for yourself. Having a strong personal brand plays a critical role in your success in managing your career.

So ask yourself these hard questions. If the answers are not what you expect then you have some work to do; it may be difficult but worth it.

How do you measure whether your personal brand is working for or against you? I would love to hear from you.

Follow me on Twitter @careersguru

Utilizing her experience of over 25 years, Mary Rosenbaum helps entrepreneurs and careerists position themselves so they can stand out from the competition. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.

Without A Strong Brand, It’s All About Price

Mary Rosenbaum | February 16th, 2010

How would you like to charge more for your services or products than your competitors? With a strong personal brand, you can. If you don’t believe me visit your local drug store. There are generic drugs available at pennies a piece sitting alongside a branded generic product, a more expensive version of the same exact product with the difference being the name of a major drug company somewhere on the box. Companies know that consumers prefer buying brands and as a result, are willing to pay more for the PROMISE of quality.

A strong brand takes pricing out of the equation. David Avrin in his book, “It’s Not Who You Know It’s Who Knows You” says that the 4 most dangerous words to hear when pitching a client, asking for a raise, or selling a product, are: “All things being equal”.  If you hear these words then you haven’t differentiated yourself from your competitors; you haven’t effectively communicated the PROMISE of quality or unique value. Instead, you are now competing on price, location or any other factors that have nothing to do with the value of the service or product you provide.

Branding isn’t limited to corporations. Are there any entrepreneurs, small businesses or professionals who would rather focus on pricing issues when making their pitch instead of on the quality of their offerings? With a strong personal brand, a reputation that is substantiated by results, the focus will be on your differentiating PROMISE of value. (See an earlier post that can help you in defining your personal brand at

Here are some defining characteristics that are the underpinnings of a strong brand.

1. Quality – It’s what clients value and are willing to pay a premium for if it is what they can expect. Think Toyota and how the brand has been hurt by the quality control issues affecting accelerators on their cars.

2. Reliability – Delivering results as promised and as expected each and every time builds credibility and brand loyalty. Negative surprises hurt your brand. Part of Toyota’s brand has been the safety of their vehicles. The recent events have called into question their reliability in delivering safe cars to families who have relied on them for decades.

3. Consistency – Clients like knowing what to expect from you and what value you provide. Staying on brand all the time and being able to clearly and consistently describe your unique PROMISE of value is key to developing and maintaining a strong brand.

So, if there ever was a question in your mind about the value of a strong personal brand for your business or your career take a look around at your local drug store or grocery store and see how your purchasing decisions are affected by strong brands, brand recognition and brand loyalty when the same products are available at a lower cost.

Are there other examples that you can think of where strong brands command premium prices for products or services that are not considered premium?

Does Your Business Need a Tune Up?

Mary Rosenbaum | January 27th, 2010

If you own a car you know that like it or not your car will need to visit the shop for a tune up sometime this year. Whether your car is a 2009 BMW or a 1995 Dodge for it to function at peak performance the engine has to be checked out and cleaned, the oil changed, the tires rotated, and the windshield wipers replaced. When was the last time you gave your business a tune up?

If you want your business to operate at maximum efficiency – getting new clients, getting former clients to come back, getting the type of word of mouth that helps generate revenues as well as buzz – then it’s probably time for a check up. Here is a check list I use periodically to help ensure that the time I spend growing my business is time well spent.

1. What is your reputation – what are people saying about you and your business?

Is what you hear in line with your brand, with what you expect others to think about you?

This is a great time of year to check in with your former clients to gain a better understanding of :

– whether you delivered on what you promised

– how the work you did for them impacted their business or their lives

– what needs they currently have and how you can help

This should provide you with some good information (possibly some great quotes to use in the future) as well as demonstrate your concern and follow through with your clients.

In my experience following up with past clients has always resulted in new business – either repeat business from my client or a new referral. Additionally, continued input on how you are performing is always a prerequisite to continued success.

2. Is the message you are sending still resonating with your target audience?

Have the needs of your audience changed? Even if it’s a slight shift are you capturing the need in your pitch, your presentation, your power point, your blog, your tweets, and your website? Try to look at your website with new eyes. In fact, ask others to review it to see if it’s still current. A website has to be dynamic and change with the changing times; as does the messaging you put out through social networks or through any formal presentations you make.

3. Are you using the right tools to get your message out? Are you in the right places?

Yes, marketing in general and social media in particular can be very time consuming but if done properly it can provide a lot of visibility for you and your company. That’s why targeting the right audience and focusing your message on that audience makes it easier for you to get your hands around where you should be spending your time selling. The world is a big place, but a laser focus enables you to figure out where you have to be to get in front of those people who need to know about you. So take a look at where you spend your time speaking, blogging, tweeting, linking in. What return have you gotten on your investment of time? As I said earlier in this blog, change can be good and is often a necessary part of growing a business. A constant review of your communications plan is vital to ensure that you are reaching the right people at least most of the time.

So even if the service light doesn’t come on and you think you are firing on all cylinders, get that tune up so that you are working more efficiently with better focus and better results.