Tag Archive: personal branding


Enough.

I have a question. If you lived during the 1800s, would you have been an abolitionist? Could you have risked your way of life to save the life of others? Most of us would quickly, without much thought, say yes. We would have been abolitionists (or maybe, those are just my hopes).

But, recently I read an article by Amanda Kloer on CNN.com discussing modern day slavery on tomato farms and realized that we are less likely to be the Harriett Tubman-like characters that we envision ourselves to be. As I began to research this issue, I realized it doesn’t take much from each person to not just stand for something, but to act on it. In this age of technology that we are living in, a Facebook post, a tweet or any of the many different communication outlets that we have can be used to simply say, “Enough is Enough”. Today, I am asking you to really become that abolitionist that you think you are for just a few minutes and speak out against modern day slavery. Because today’s slavery, just like yesterday’s slavery might only be one degree away from you and if you couldn’t make your own choices, you’d hope someone would speak up for you and use the voice that you are not allowed to use.

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You are…

You know, it hurts when not many believe in you. That pain can paralyze you or it can propel you. When you work your hardest and you know that you are doing great things because so many around you are copying your behavior and watching your every move, but you are treated like you don’t matter, that your work is just ok, that can shut you down. But, you can’t let it. You have to believe in you. You have to recognize the struggle is the hard work. That’s what makes you different. That’s what makes you know you have purpose, because life is not easy.

There are always going to be more people telling you you’re not worth it, you aren’t going to make it, you aren’t strong enough, you aren’t smart enough, you aren’t talented enough, you aren’t pretty enough, than there will be those who tell you that you are all of those things. But they are the people that don’t matter. They are the ones who are there to deter you, to keep you from your purpose, to really cause you to build strength and believe in yourself. And quite frankly, they are dealing with their own struggles and to make themselves feel better, they attempt to project their issues onto you.BUT you are worth it. You are strong. You are smart. You are talented. You are pretty. You are because you are here.

So, today, when you begin to choose not to do something because it scares you, remember you are capable and you will succeed. It’s not a coincidence that you are where you are. It’s where you are supposed to be right now. So, whether all is as you want it to be or you’re struggling, remember, it’s just the place where you are right now and you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will succeed. Even if you feel no one else does, I believe in you today, but most importantly, you believe in you.

When was the last time you were able to say that? Did you relish in it or just take it in stride? On Friday, I finally, completely won a battle that I have been fighting for almost three years. This was a professional fight that I did not want to fight, but knew in my heart I had to. I had a large client that chose not to pay Brand Event Marketing for their work. Mind you, they were and are still using and benefiting from the project that took just over a year to complete. (It’s actually one of the best websites I’ve ever created). As I continuously asked for payment, I was told by members of the professional community to just accept not being paid.  Some even threatened my partner, suggesting that his job (at a large company) may suffer due to my questions. I was told not to cross the CEO – anyone who has ever tried has not just lost, but brutally lost. But, have you ever felt so strongly about something that it’s like this pain that won’t go away unless you fight. Like you’re just not able to curl up and go away. I couldn’t. Everything in me constantly reminded me that this is why I went into my own business. To be ethical, to teach others to be fair, to do what is right. So, I hired an attorney (a quiet, unsuspecting shark) and we went to work. After she’d assessed the situation and the evidence, she acknowledge that she didn’t think this fight would go on for very long. It was quite cut and dry.

Ha – were we surprised. They began to attack my character, called me names (a con artist, a liar), made up stories about me, laughed in the corner of the arbitrator’s office as their attorney even questioned my academic accomplishments and just wrote me off. I can’t tell you how much this hurt, personally and professionally. I found myself digging harder into my other work so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the emotions. Their attorney even attacked my attorney and said if they lost, he “would appeal up to the Supreme Court!” Well, guess what? I held my head up. I told the truth and I didn’t falter every time their attorney threw a punch. I just did what I learned in kickboxing in a small dojo in Raleigh. I bobbed, I weaved, I kept my hands up to block and I threw powerful jabs and cross punches when I needed to. I sustained hits that could’ve brought me to my knees, but I realized that this is what so many tribulations had been training me for. This is what God had been training me for (and I’m not afraid to say that in public anymore).

In the end, they lost. They appealed twice and lost each time. I was awarded more than just what they owed me. I was awarded interest from the day they received the original invoice. But, it really hit me that this fight was not just about the money. Did they owe Brand Event Marketing for our work? Yes, but it was also about teaching and learning. Everything we do has purpose and consequence. You may think you know the purpose and the consequence, but what you think you know can change in the blink of an eye. As I look back on the work and the relationships before, during and after the fight, I realize that in my narrow view, I thought this was about me, Brand Event and our work, but really, I think this was about and for my client.

So, today, I would like for you to, first, take a moment to quietly remember you have the strength to fight any battle that is given to you and that you choose to fight.We all have a little David inside that has a Goliath taunting us.  And, second, are you conscious of your purpose and consequences? Are you doing just enough to get by or are you working within the realm of your great possibilities? Are you just thinking of what the consequences are for you or are you considering the whole? Do you truly understand the ripples that occur from your words and actions?

I know that I’ve just won a great battle, but life really is your war. There are times of peace and there are times of battle. Your work during peace may be the catalyst for your battle, but no matter what, if you do what is right, say what is right, honor those around you and work with hope, then you will always win. Even, if it’s not for you.

This morning, I heard someone say “not everyone peaks at 20” and that spoke volumes to me as I get ready to celebrate my 40th birthday (in 8 days). As I’ve gotten closer to this milestone birthday, I’ve had several people say “oh, it won’t be so bad” or things of that nature and I want to scream out how excited I am to getting to this point in my life. Then, today I hear “Not everyone peaks at 20”. I love that there are a lot of peaks in front of me. I also love that I’ve been blessed to have peaks and valleys in the years past. It is so important as we move forward to realize our dreams that we recognize that we have so much potential in front of us. While working in the campaign, I had several, who were younger than me, question why I chose to be a field organizer when I had so much experience to do something else. There were also assumptions made about me based on my age. As I reach 40, I say to those people, I hope when you are my age, you have the opportunities and choices that I’ve been so blessed to have. To those, who tell me “don’t worry, it will be ok”, I say, what is there to worry about? My life is really just beginning. At what other time, do you have the perfect combination of energy, experience and courage? To those who are just as excited as I am, we all peak when it’s time and lots of times, we peak  more than we can even imagine. 40 – I’m looking forward to you. I’m looking forward to the challenges, the answers I will have and the questions I will still ask. And while, I’m being personal, thank you to those who loved me through my teens, 20s and 30s. I’m glad you will be with me through this next part of my journey. Likewise, I am overjoyed that I have a partner that always sees the best in me and believes in me. To everyone else, please join me on this journey by loving your own journey. Peak when it’s your time and then, maybe, peak again. Not everyone peaks at 20.

I recently read an article discussing the art of the elevator speech and I began to wonder when was the last time I revamped my elevator speech. So, I’ll ask you, when was the last time you thought about your elevator speech? For clarity, an elevator speech is your description of who you are or what your company does. It should be short and to the point. A strong elevator speech should be between 30 seconds and two minutes and is just enough information to intrigue the listener.

Now, for a long time, most have believed that your elevator speech should be sing-songy and salesy, but that is exactly what you don’t want it to be. Nowadays, everybody thinks that someone is trying to sell them and have learned to stop listening as soon as they think they are being targeted. To avoid that as you present your elevator speech, you want to immediately catch their attention. You need a hook and a catch. Just a quick line to cause the listener to question the statement and engage in further conversation. What do you do that can be intriguing to the listener? For example, an IT analyst may say “I cause your thoughts to become a reality.” Once the listener asks, “How so?”, you then move on to the catch. “I evaluate and solve your technical problems, while helping you to better understand (and love) your device.”

An elevator speech is not the tool used to sell, it is the tool used to engage. You have a brand because you solve a problem. By effectively using an elevator speech, you quickly explain what problem you (or your company) solves and then, easily begin a networking conversation. Regardless of your stage in your personal and professional life, you need an elevator speech. Take a few minutes and think about yours. I bet you’ll use it sooner than you think.

Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear about your fabulous elevator speech.

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.

Exhale

The day’s almost over and as you begin to unwind, thoughts about your day will probably pass through your mind. Do you feel productive? Were you able to check things off of your to-do list or do you feel like there was just too much to do? Today I heard a report that mid-life women may be “the first generation …who don’t outlive their male counterparts by five to seven years” (ABC World News). The reason: stress which comes from the feeling of lack of time and creates feelings of guilt. Mid-life women are trying to think equally about their relationship, family, older parent, work and anything else that is important to them. As a result, they place themselves last and are not able to relieve the stress that all of their obligations cause.

So, tonight, I want to remind you, whether male or female, parent or not, single or couple to take time for yourself. If to do nothing, but close your eyes and take a couple deep breaths. It may start as just five minutes, then it turns into 15 and in time, you’ll have the 30 minutes necessary to go within and become centered again. As I’ve said before, you can’t be a help to anyone if you are not well yourself. Also, accept help. Even if it’s just at the grocery store and an employee asks if you need help out to your car. Suddenly, you’ll feel pampered by letting someone else put your groceries in the car. It’s a small gesture, but the benefit is great.

As you recap your day in your mind, take a minute to pat yourself on the back for doing one thing. Even if it’s just checking your email and reading this blog. You took time for you and I’m proud of  you. Now, inhale deeply, exhale slowly. You did it!

I decided to do something with the frozen grapes in the freezer. We were not eating them as quickly as I expected so I decided to figure out what else I could do with them. I chose to make juice. Remember that saying, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Well, life gave me grapes and I am making grape juice.

As I was smashing the grapes, imagining that I was making wine the old-fashioned way, I wondered why I’d not tried this before. Was it fear of making a mistake or was it simply just unknown? I believe that is a question that we have to ask ourselves each day as we make decisions; why am I making this choice? Am I taking the easy road to just come up with a solution so I can check it off of my to-do list or am I not aware of other alternatives? Once we determine who we really are (our personal brand), then it is necessary to make choices about how we will express that brand. Fear can hold us back from really recognizing, embracing and expressing our true selves and more importantly, the strength that fuels our passions. We talked in an earlier post about change now being the constant, but with that new constant comes a point at which fear is overtaken by passion and courage. Our world changes everyday and who we are plays an important role init s and our own development. So, today, I encourage you to recognize a fear and choose to embrace it rather than hide behind it because at some point, you will have to make a choice and wouldn’t you rather enjoy life and drink yummy grape juice than just stare at a bag of frozen grapes every time you open the freezer. By the way, I am drinking my grape juice right now, it’s delicious.

Grape Juice (from http://simplyrecipes.com)

Ingredients

Equipment needed

  • A colander for rinsing the grapes
  • 1 large, 12-quart pot
  • 1 large 6 or 8-quart pot
  • A very large fine mesh sieve, or cheesecloth

Method

1. Pick the grapes. (I picked mine at the grocery store) Get a large basket, wear long sleeves and a hat, bring clippers, and fill up the basket with grape bunches. Keep in mind that a pound of grapes will yield a little less than a cup of juice.

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2. Wash and de-stem the grapes. Put grapes in a basin filled with water. Then rinse the individual grapes, picking them away from the stem, collecting the grapes in a large bowl, and discarding the green unripe and old shriveled grapes.

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3. Mash the grapes. With a potato masher, mash away at the grapes so the juice begins to flow. If you have picked a lot of grapes, you may need to work in batches. We have found it easiest to mash about 4 lbs of grapes at a time.

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4. Cook the grapes. Put the mashed grapes into a large stockpot. Slowly heat the grapes and juice to a simmer on medium heat and then simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally so that the grapes don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Halfway through cooking mash some more, breaking up as many of the remaining grapes as possible.

5. Prepare sieve or cheesecloth. Get another large pot, place a large fine mesh sieve over it. Alternatively you can cover it with two layers of cheesecloth, secure with a rubber band. Make sure pot is sitting on a plate to catch any juice that may run over.

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6. Strain grape mixture. Ladle grape mixture over sieve or cheesecloth to strain. Let sit for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator to strain completely.

7. Finishing. Remove sieve or cheesecloth.* Note that sediment will have formed on the bottom of the container. Rinse out the sieve or cheesecloth and strain the juice again, to filter out some of the sediment. Pour or ladle juice into containers. Enjoy your juice!

* Note that the grape mash can be composted.

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?

Recently, I had a conversation with a peer about the issue of people being resistant to change. They like their routine, their way of doing things and when we, as brand strategists or change agents, get involved, not everyone is ready to do their part. This caused me to start thinking about change and why we are sometimes against it. I know that I have a certain way of doing things and if that is disrupted, I can quickly lose my place. But within the big picture of the work environment, it seems change is the everyday constant. When you begin your day, you never know what is going to happen and in a work environment, the bottom line is to stay relevant and to grow. Growth is such a trigger word right now, yet, it seems people would like to receive the growth without dealing with the change. Now, don’t get me wrong, just as Ellen Glasgow said, “All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” But growth is defined as a stage of development; therefore, to mature and become better, you must grow and to grow you must change.

Change is not necessarily easy and can seem to require more work, even if the workload is the same, but  just a shift in process can difficult. I believe this is why so many struggle with change, but in a world that is growing smaller everyday, change is now the standard, not the variable. We all must shift our thinking to live in this world of ever-changing dynamics. But, as long as you know, understand and recognize your truth, then change can become a variant within what you know as your professional and personal roles.  Take time to be aware of what may change and how you can adapt to it. This is your time. Make change work for you, not against you.