Tag Archive: branding


Lately it seems I’ve had to make some really grown-up decisions and it hasn’t been easy. You know those decisions that don’t feel good. Those decisions that seem to make a mockery of your need to be ok with everything, even so far as to be in control of most everything. The decisions can be personal or professional, private or public, quiet or loud. They cause you to rethink things that you thought you were certain of, relationships you thought were secure, and even, attributes that you believed you had.

What identifies making that grown-up decision is recognizing the need for the decision as well as determining how to move forward once the decision has been made. For example, two of my most recent grown-up decisions have been personal, private and quiet. I’ve had to reevaluate two relationships that were (and still are) close to my heart. I recognized that in one of the relationships the person loves me dearly, but loves me in their own comfortable way – not in a way, that is productive for me in my life right now. In the other, I recognized that the person was focused on the superficial in our relationship because they felt obligated. They are closer to my boyfriend than they are to me and as a result, feigned interest and affection toward me. Recognizing that neither of these relationships aided in my personal growth, I had to take action. I physically and emotionally removed myself from the relationships. I still care about both individuals, but I cannot control their behaviors and how they made me feel; therefore, I did what I could control and stepped away. This hasn’t been easy. In fact, it’s been heartbreaking and sad, but that is part making grown-up decisions.

Another example of making a grown-up decision was professional, public and eventually, loud. I made the decision to begin making changes to my marketing agency. We are now called “Katina Washington Consulting Group” and our field of concentration is within the retail industry and their internal communication. This grown-up decision came from what I felt was the lack of focus, direction and as a result, decline in business. I had to make swift and strong changes. In this grown-up decision, there also have been relationships that have changed. Working relationships that are not productive for the big picture are not smart and they had to be minimized. There has been and continues to be a lot of work to make this change successful, but it is the right decision for my company and my work.

Grown-up decisions, whether personal or professional, are necessary components of life, but it seems that the difficulty of the work to make the changes and/or the uncertainty of the outcome causes many of us to ignore the need for these decisions. Nevertheless, without these decisions, life is not really living. It is coping. It is maintaining. It is accepting less than what we are each worth and created for. We are not here to simply stand by and ignore that lump in stomachs that come from uncomfortable and unloving situations. So, I want to issue a challenge. Take a few moments of quiet and allow your mind to think about a situation or a relationship you’re just not sure of or that you don’t feel good about. Then, focus on how your body reacts to this thought and then, think about why your body is reacting negatively. If you feel a queasiness in your stomach, your neck muscles tense up or your head begins to hurt, then maybe it’s time to make a grown-up decision and make a change. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick, but you will grow and in time, be proud of yourself for having the courage to change.

Good luck. Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you.

Last night, I was talking with my brother and he mentioned how the story of Apple and its brand awareness was amazing. I immediately related the Apple brand success to the relationship that the company has with their employees. I haven’t researched this, but I am willing to create a theory on the success of the Apple brand. I believe that if the Apple employees were not as excited and bought into the Apple products and ultimately, the Apple brand, Apple would not be the household name that it is nor would d Apple have developed such a following. Think about it. Let’s say that Apple created an environment of creativity and innovation. They made sure that every member of the Apple team thoroughly understood and believed in the mission of the company. That same Apple employee who is working on a new product starts talking to their family and friends about this great product that is coming out, then, the friends and family share the same excitement with their other friends and family. Suddenly, everyone had to have it. This excitement all began with the internal relationship that Apple built with each team member.

This is an example of the direct correlation between relationships and success, whether personal or professional. Branding doesn’t exist without relationship, positive or negative. A company you don’t like because of a poor product or bad customer service has a brand that makes them unsuccessful because remember, a brand is simply a perception. The practice of developing positive relationships seems to have become rare commodities. It seems in our desire to attain what we think we need to be strong and sustainable in our life, we’ve unconsciously returned to the days of very mechanistic behavior. This has been to the detriment of building positive, honest brands.

For this reason, Brand Event Marketing (BEM) is launching a new company called Branding Katina (sound familiar).  After years of strategic brand development and even applying those practices to my own life, I realized the importance of the relationship and how so many don’t perceive this nor do they know how to develop and maintain positive relationships. As Managing Director of Brand Event Marketing, I want to change that behavior, one client at a time. Branding Katina will teach the behaviors of successful internal and external relationships, while continuing to do what BEM is known for, developing successful brand strategies.

As you read this, I hope that you consider your own personal and professional relationships. Are they what you need them to be? Are they providing you the support and knowledge to continue to move forward and be proud of who you are? Do the people around you know what you stand for? Do you know what your company stands for? Are you proud of the work your company does? Let me know. I’d love to hear about it. Let’s start building that positive, successful relationship.

I think many would agree that communication is the key to our professional and personal success. If we communicate effectively, then expectations are noted, processes are created and action is begun. However, if we do not communicate effectively, it is easy for goals to be missed, feelings to be hurt and most importantly, a brand damaged. Since we know that a brand is the perception of who you are, ineffective communication can play a larger role in our lives than we would expect.

A friend told me about an incident that happened recently to him. After he taught a training class, he was speaking with a colleague and people just walked up and asked their questions with no regard for the conversation that was going on.  They just interrupted the conversation. As the two attempted to continue their conversation, another (very new) employee walked up to my friend, who is considered an expert in his department and told him that he knew nothing and was doing everything wrong. She went on to say that she would no longer be asking the subject expert questions, but relying on someone who is knowledgeable. but not an expert. Now, in that scenario, we have two communication issues. The first is the fact that there was no regard for the conversation that my friend and his colleague was having. That immediately shows a lack of respect as well as only a concern about self. Second, there is a better way to speak to someone and if you’re not sure how, the best solution is to pause before you open your mouth. The first set of people will simply be considered rude and green in their roles. The second person has more permanently damaged her brand. Now, when the expert sees or considers her for other projects, he will remember this incident. He will consider her inexperienced, unprofessional and not worthy of his placing any expectations on her. She has possibly sabotaged herself, in regard to her growth in her work environment.

These two incidents show how your brand can quickly be damaged through ineffective communication. You work hard at developing and defining your personal brand. Don’t let  a few inadvertent statements reverse your hard work. Today, take a second and review your communication skills. Are they as strong as you think they are? How do others react to your communication tactics? Are you destroying your brand through what may be perceived as ineffective communication?

This morning, I read an article arguing that small business owners should not focus on developing a brand, but on creating sales. In the article, “Trying to Create a Personal Brand? Unless You’re Steve Jobs, Stop.”,  Jeff Haden on bnet.com argues that:

Sales generate immediate profits and, possibly, will slowly build your brand.

http://www.bnet.com/blog/small-biz-advice/trying-to-create-a-personal-brand-unless-you-8217re-steve-jobs-stop/519?tag=content;drawer-container

I understand his goal, but I disagree with his statements. As a brand strategist, I am constantly asked to place value on the work that I do. Hence, this project called Branding Katina. By making the statement, “Sales generate immediate profits and, possibly, will slowly build your brand.” is saying that sales are simply people asking a question and receiving the answer that moves a service or product, removing the process of the initial interest of the customer and the conversation that begins based on the need and the possible solution to the need. Branding, in its simplest form, is a perception. If there is no perception, then there is no perceived solution to a problem, which is why people purchase a service or item. As it relates to personal branding, perception is why people choose you for certain jobs, ask your opinion on certain subjects, and ultimately, respect you as someone who fills a need. You cannot sell without the market’s belief that you will solve their problem, whether they are thirsty, hungry, or even confused about which way to go next. Everyone has a problem that requires a solution.

Jeff goes on to state that:

As a business owner, your employees and customers know you by your words and actions. Sure, you can adopt a look, develop a personal value proposition, and carefully manage your persona. Potential customers may be positively influenced.

But to the people you see every day, no amount of personal branding will ever offset the impact of your words and actions.

Ultimately, aren’t your words and actions the catalysts to other’s thoughts and beliefs about you? So, in essence, aren’t your words and actions the framework to your personal brand? Who you are is how people will respond to and treat you. As children, we are taught to be polite, saying please and thank you, respectful of our elders and learning as much as we can so that we can be at the front of the class. This, in turn, creates the environment in which the adults relate to the children, therefore, creating a brand. Remember when you were playing a team sport and the captains chose who was on their team? Those who were considered better game players were chosen first. See, a brand determined from a perception.

I recognize that most people equate branding with big logos, fancy fonts and taglines, but branding is so much simpler and an integral part of our communication process. You may know who you want to BE or even, who you are, but if no one else perceives that about you or your business, sales won’t happen. Nothing will happen.

A few weeks ago, I discussed some ideas to promote yourself through online social media. Today, I want to take a few minutes and discuss a common branding process. It will help you develop a plan to better understand how others view you and how to create a brand strategy from the current perspective. In brand development, there is a document/process called the SWOT analysis. SWOT is a landscape analysis and stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The first two, SW, are internal and the last two, OT, are external.When you are beginning to determine a plan for a venture, whether business or personal, it is important to recognize all of the factors that will affect your venture.

In developing a SWOT analysis, it is best to create a chart that looks like this:

This way, you can visually see the good and the bad, so to speak. As you decide what to place in each area, remember these guidelines:

  • Strengths: characteristics of yourself that gives you an advantage over others or simply, makes you standout from others.
  • Weaknesses: are characteristics that place you at a disadvantage relative to others.
  • Opportunities: external chances to increase your ability to meet your goals.
  • Threats: external elements in the environment that could cause trouble for your goals.

Adapted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SWOT_analysis

So, for example, an early client of mine wanted to expand her home baking business into a full business that would eventually support her financially. To first determine if this was a viable option for her, Brand Event Marketing developed a SWOT analysis for her.

Creating a SWOT analysis to determine the route of your personal goals is a productive and thorough way to begin creating your brand. After you finish the analysis, let me know who you want to BE and how you’re going to get there.

…Because ultimately, that is why I am here. As I consider this question, the easy answer is I can help people brand themselves. If there is one thing I am passionate about (and now that I think about it, have been passionate about it ever since I was little) is how people present themselves to create the reality that they want. In my life, I have seen and even been the recipient of good and bad outcomes based on other people’s perceptions. One of the issues that I deal with regularly is the idea that I am not an expert in my professional field or really any field. I am constantly challenged and it isn’t until I speak a certain way and determine a solution for what seemed like a difficult problem or successfully manage a multi-level project that suddenly, I am a strong brand strategist or very creative brand marketer. Since this is a challenge for me to overcome, I can only imagine how many people are dealing with determining their own brand daily. Those who know me best know that I am very confident, even cocky sometimes. I am kind, but I am firm and I definitely have very strong opinions. This is my brand. This is who I am. I dress a certain way. I speak a certain way. I socialize a certain way. Quite frankly, there isn’t much spontaneity in my behavior, but I am like a piece of metal, quite malleable. This allows me to be a good friend, a good employer and employee, a good family member and a good girlfriend. Overall, a good person. I am aware of my personal brand, but it is my job everyday to convince others of that. When I walk into a room, am on a conference call, or am teaching a webinar, there is a particular perception that I expect people to have when they see and hear me.  Therefore, helping others create their “market’s” perception about them and their personal product is how I can best help people. How can you best help people? What perception will your brand create and what steps are you taking daily to create your brand?