Don’t Be That Person: A Brief Guide to Holiday Networking

Don’t Be That Person: A Brief Guide to Holiday Networking

‘Tis the season to network! If you’re like me, your calendar is packed from November to January with mixers, dinners, galas, and fundraisers— each occasion allowing us to reconnect with peers and secure opportunities for the coming year. During and following these events, there are so many ways we can leave a negative impression in the minds of those we meet.

I’m sure your mother once told you that you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Generally, this is true and a fact we all must accept. When possible, its advantageous to do what you can to manage your own behavior to help mitigate this fact.

While social media is a powerful brand-building super hero, traditional word-of-mouth can be its kryptonite. All of the dynamic content in the world does nothing if a person or a group perceives you in real life to be a <insert negative adjective here>.

Here are a few ways to help you to avoid becoming that person at your next holiday gathering.

Not understanding boundaries. It‘s imperative that you respect other people’s boundaries—physical and verbal, For example, if someone physically takes a step back from you, that’s not an invitation to step closer. If someone is showing signs they want to end the conversation, that’s not a greenlight to keep talking. If you enter every conversation putting the other person’s needs first, you’ll likely save yourself any embarrassment.

Being a Real-Life Avoider. As our digital footprints continue to grow, we begin to follow more people online whom we’ve never met in real life. Should the opportunity arise that you’re in the same room with an online contact, say hello. If you’re following them on social media, most people understandably assume you like them. If you don’t care for this person, stop following them. There are ways to cyberstalk people without being connected.

Being a gossip. You never know who knows whom. More importantly, you never really know who’s loyal to whom. Avoiding gossip relieves you of having to know this. Find any excuse to exit if you find yourself in a conversation where tea is being spilled. When it comes to gossip, ignorance is bliss.

Being Too Eager Beaver. Be thoughtful about how you proceed following an event if someone doesn’t offer you their business card or ask you for yours. The missed opportunity to connect could have been completely unintentional, or not. If your gut tells you this opportunity is red-hot, send a LinkedIn note briefly reminding the person of the conversation and how to contact you. If they don’t connect or reply, move on.

Being too flirty. Avoid flirtatious behavior, even if another person engages in it. A business-focused holiday party is not the place for romance. The room has lots of eyes, ears, and judgmental minds. If things between you and another person are heating up, take it somewhere else before it becomes X-rated.

Not knowing your limits. It wouldn’t be a holiday post if I didn’t remind people about the dangers of failing to control their alcohol consumption. Most of the aforementioned pitfalls can be avoided simply by limiting your alcohol. There’s nothing wrong with a nip or two to calm the nerves. After that, stick to something without alcohol.

Hoping people forget about your embarrassing behavior is not a reputation management strategy for 2019 or ever! If you enter into every conversation with a fun, positive and helpful attitude, your online and real-life personal brand is likely to kick off the New Year on the right foot.

What Brett Kavanaugh Can Teach Young Athletes About Brand

In the coming days, the fate of Brett Kavanaugh as the next Supreme Court justice will be decided. This piece isn’t about his guilt or innocence. Or even whether I believe the women who’ve stepped forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

What’s happening to and around Mr. Kavanaugh is an excellent teaching tool for young people everywhere about the importance of understanding yourself, the world around you, and how all of that impacts your brand in the short- and long-term.

I want to hyper-focus my remarks on young athletes who at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels are often, for a myriad of reasons, under a far more intense microscope than their peers. And far more likely to find their behavior under the scrutiny of their community or even the whole world.

As I tell young athletes each and every day, branding isn’t just the well-crafted statements, the fancy graphic images, or the edited videos you post to your social media. Your brand, or rather, your reputation, is built through each and every action you take and people you encounter throughout your life.

The original singing cowboy Will Rogers famously coined the phrase “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.”

The moment at which a person’s reputation is lost can occur in so many different settings and as a result of so many different actions. I frequently remind my clients that: everyone has eyes and the walls always have ears, so be extremely careful what you say and do.

Below are a few obvious, and not-so-obvious, ways a reputation can be lost:

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Or at least, know your limits. Drugs and alcohol limit the control you have on your words and actions. Avoid consuming them, especially if you’re in unfamiliar environments.
  • Know when to leave. You’ve likely heard the term “guilt by association”. You yourself might not be doing anything wrong, but others around you are. If and when you’re experiencing this, by all means leave.
  • Be a friend. If you see a friend or teammate acting out or in a compromising situation, come to their aid and remove them from the situation.
  • Avoid the cameras. You don’t need to be in every picture at every party you attend. Be very selective about what images you’re in, who else is in the picture, and what might be seen in the background.
  • Understand your audience. If you’re doing community service work or attending a charity event, learn about the cause and make sure you understand what’s expected of your attendance and if there are any words or phrases that might be inappropriate in that setting.
  • Don’t lie. As Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
  • Be kind. Showing grace, kindness, and compassion to others is never a bad move.
  • Conduct frequent audits. Audit your social media accounts to ensure that you don’t have any posts containing inappropriate picture or offensive statements.

In short, like my grandmother used to say, “Don’t give the gossips any fat to chew.”

Do I mean to say that someone can never repair their image after a mistake? Of course not. But just ask someone like Tiger Woods how painful it is to climb back to the top once you’ve descended to the bottom. The raw emotion of his interview directly following his PGA Tour win is proof of just how much he’s struggled to regain his prior prominence.

The point is to do whatever you can, whenever you can, to be the very best version of yourself. That way, when you reach the apex of your life and career you can be confident knowing you’ve built a solid brand.

39 Tips for Life, Love, and Personal Branding

Today marks my 39th trip around the sun. Most people decide to become reflective when they turn 40 or even 41, but I’m not most people. Those who know me well know that demonstrating patience and following the crowd aren’t my strong suits.

In honor of my birthday, I wanted to share with you 39 pieces of wisdom I’ve learned about life, love, leadership, success, and, of course, personal branding.

  1. Find a place that refuels your soul.
  2. Master public speaking.
  3. It’s never, ever okay to FaceTime or talk on speaker phone in public.
  4. Just because someone has a bigger platform doesn’t make them better or smarter than you. Put on blinders and keep working toward your goals.
  5. You never wear the jersey of a team that isn’t playing. You never wear the t-shirt of the band that’s performing.
  6. There’s no blue print for the perfect personal brand.
  7. Happily ever after is different for everyone. Figure out yours and follow that dream.
  8. The left lane is for passing.
  9. Turning into your parents isn’t always such a bad thing.
  10. Professionally and personally, always give more than you get. Don’t worry, the universe will reward you.
  11. You’re the only person who knows what size you’re wearing. Buy the size that makes you look your best, not the size you think will impress others.
  12. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re letting the other person off of the hook. Forgiveness is letting yourself off of the hook.
  13. The person in the middle seat gets both armrests. End of discussion.
  14. If you have at least one friend who loves you unconditionally you have all the friendship you need.
  15. Learn to be direct but diplomatic.
  16. More social media isn’t always better. It’s okay to be a one-trick social media pony.
  17. On dating apps, always look at all of a person’s pictures.
  18. Never leave the house without your business cards and an elevator pitch. You never know who you’ll meet.
  19. Quit with the emotional cutting. Deal with your baggage and move on.
  20. If you have to ask someone to do the right thing, that person likely stopped caring about what’s right a long time ago.
  21. It’s okay to say that you don’t know. Even if you’re supposed to be the expert, it’s better to admit that you don’t know than share incorrect information.
  22. Travel and read as much as possible.
  23. Always be leery of people who can buy their own justice.
  24. In a relationship or not, take yourself on dates.
  25. Caring about your health is cool.
  26. Ladies, ask him first. Regardless if you want a dance or a date, ask him first. He’ll be glad you did.
  27. Attorneys, accountants, repairmen, nurses, stylists, educators, and editors are friends you’ll never regret having.
  28. When in doubt, send a handwritten note.
  29. People who have to tell you they’re funny, usually aren’t.
  30. Saving money is cool.
  31. One more glass of wine and one more piece of cheese is always a good idea.
  32. Give back as much as you can to the greater good.
  33. Always be willing to say yes. Know when it’s time to say no.
  34. Understand what it means to act with integrity.
  35. Allow the other person to exit then you may enter the building.
  36. Be firm with where you stand on the existence of ghosts and aliens.
  37. Indulge your creative outlet as much as possible.
  38. Always make sure your reputation is stronger than your brand.
  39. Laugh. At yourself. At everything possible. The ability to find humor, especially when all around you is dark, will make all of the difference.

Taking Your Personal Brand Beyond the Basics

Kudos, if this is not your first rodeo when it comes to personal brand development. You’ve got thousands of Twitter followers. Your LinkedIn account is world-class. You’ve been paid to speak a time or two. You may even have additional content like a book or a podcast. You’ve created your narrative and have doubled down on its appeal. You’ve created the choir and have spoken to it more times than you can recall.

So now what? You want to continue to create and grow but have clearly hit a plateau.

How do you take your great personal brand and make it even greater? Below are a few ideas that just might help.

Embrace the plateau. You’ve likely been running and gunning for a long time now and your ideas have becoming stale. Embrace this time to allow yourself to briefly step away, recharge, and allow the creative juices to start flowing again. A brief lull is not entirely a bad thing. Like you, your audience needs a moment to take a breather and fall in love with you all over again.

Revisit your goals. Why are you on this trajectory to begin with? Were the goals that you started out with the same as they are today? Is your target audience the same as it once was? Like you, your brand and your audience have evolved. While on this plateau, take a moment to reflect on what you’re hoping to gain, your position in the marketplace, and what tactics and tools are necessary to help you advance.

Invest in video. I know, I know. Every marketing professional in the world is telling you to invest in video. And they’re right to do so! Video, and video-specific platforms like YouTube, will only continue to grow in popularity. This is not a trend that just focuses on the young. Video and video-based platforms are growing in popularity across all demographics around the world. As you likely know, video allows you tell your narrative in a more succinct, efficient, and creative way than almost any other medium. If you haven’t engaged in video, now is the time to see how it could fit into your content offerings.

Create partnerships. Creating a strategic partnership with an adjacent personal brand or company can provide the jolt that your brand needs. A partnership has two very obvious benefits: It allows for new and creative content and grants you access to a new and engaged audience. A partnership also enables you to look behind the curtain of another brand to see how you may adjust your tactics.

Look overseas. You likely haven’t exhausted your American audience, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look to international markets for visibility. Appear on podcasts, promote your book, and speak at conferences. If nothing else, international opportunities will provide you with new and fresh content to engage or reengage your American followers.

Every personal brand eventually hits a plateau. If this is your first, welcome to the club. If this isn’t your first, you know you must channel your inner Madonna and reinvent your why. If you can’t remember your why, then let’s grab a beer and talk about it. The point is that you have to keep going if you want to keep growing. Happy creating!

 

Real Engagement is The New Black

So, you’ve lost some Twitter Followers…

If you’ve noticed a drop in your Twitter followers recently it’s likely due to the platform’s recent crackdown on suspicious accounts. While this is the social media platform’s largest effort to date, it isn’t the first time Twitter has completed this type of purge. And as our lives continually expand online, it probably won’t be the last.

The plummet in ultra visible followers like athletes, celebrities, and politicians has been met with mixed reviews. Some view it as a way to humble the giant by exposing its purchased followers. Others view it as a welcomed sign of the times.

We mortals have not been spared from this social media cleansing. Professional services providers like doctors, lawyers, and journalists have also seen double and triple-digit losses.

What, if anything, does this mean for your brand? And how, if at all, should you respond?

The short answer is: Just keep building.

If you’ve lost followers (and know that you bought them), make a plan to be better. Create a strategy to develop better content and engage more with your followers— online and off. You don’t need any statement, explanation, or third-party vendor to blame. You just need to do better.

If you’ve lost followers (and know you didn’t purchase them), keep being awesome. Keep posting the great content you’ve been doing all along and keep engaging with your followers.

If you didn’t lose followers, congratulations. You must be a lovely, delightful and authentic person.

Moving forward, my prediction is that these kinds of social media purges will be a constant reality. Provide yourself a little insurance policy by conducting your own purges. Real engagement is the new black, so do what you can to put forth the most authentic version of yourself and your followers.

5 Things Sabotaging Your Personal Brand Growth

If you heeded the advice in my previous blog (Summertime is the perfect time for your personal brand), then throughout the summer you’ve been busily working on developing your personal brand. Whether you’ve been developing your brand for the past six weeks or the past six years, these five elements, if ignored, will keep your efforts stalled at the starting line.

Bad Graphic Design. Most people can’t articulate what makes for good graphic design, but most sure can say when it’s not good. Bad graphic design can often make your brand appear sloppy or cheap. If you don’t have a background in art, marketing, or design, take a little time to learn about it. If you can’t afford to work with a graphic designer, learn to use inexpensive apps like Ripl or Canva to help you create eye-catching posts.

Bad Grammar. I don’t care what the kids say, appropriate grammar is cool – and really matters! Especially those in the professional services world should always post and respond using appropriate grammar. No one wants to hire an attorney who says “u” instead of “you”.

Being Inconsistent. One vital key to overall brand growth is consistency. Every day you should be training your audience to know when they’ll hear from you and what kind of content to expect. It may be helpful to make a daily calendar item or use a distribution service like Hootsuite to schedule posts.

Forgetting to be Human. Social media was invented with the idea of connecting people, so it’s very important to engage with your followers online – and off. If someone posts something awesome, tell them. If a follower is attending the same event as you, make the effort to connect. Unless you’re concerned about your personal safety, watching people from a distance without engaging makes you appear creepy or snobby. And honestly, it doesn’t help your brand one bit, so #JustSayHello.

Forgetting to Have Fun. If developing your personal brand is feeling more and more like a root canal, let’s chat. This is all about your life, accomplishments, and thought leadership—and it should be fun to want to share this information to help enrich the lives of others. Developing a way to ensure that brand building doesn’t become a chore is important to ensure you remain consistent.

Need a plan? Need a pep talk? Need hands-on training or daily management? Don’t hesitate to give me a call. I’m happy to provide a consultation, training, or daily content creation and/or social media management to help you reach your personal branding goals.

The Unfollow Faux Pas

You: You unfollowed me? Why? What did I do?

Contact: What? No!

Contact: Oh, I guess I did. I’m working with a guy to help clean up my accounts and he must have unfollowed you.

You: …

Contact: I’ll tell him to reconnect! Sorry!

If you’ve been on either side of this conversation you know how awkward it can be. Most of the time the conversation is benign, but these kinds of faux pas can have an impact on your personal and professional relationships. The “unfollow” has come to signify the absolute end of a relationship. Your unintended disengagement could leave some second-guessing the real status of your relationship.

Working with a professional to create and/or maintain your social media accounts is an excellent way to ensure your brand is growing strategically, your generating consistent and effective content, and you’re managing a steady flow of engagement.

Your vendor is likely using a third-party platform like Commun.it to provide them with info regarding whom you should and shouldn’t follow. If some of your key stakeholders don’t meet a certain threshold, your vendor is likely to unfollow.

Before you unleash your vendor to help turn you into a social media influencer, there are a few pieces of key info that should be shared with your vendor to help you avoid this awkward conversation.

Below is a suggested list of key stakeholders whom you should never unfollow regardless of their activity or followers or lack thereof:

-Your boss

-Business partners

-Key staff

-Current clients

-Sponsors

-Key members of the media in your industry

-Any person you’ve chatted with on LinkedIn in the past 60 days

-Any person you’ve texted with in the past 60 days

-Any person or organization who you’ve supported their cause and/or have attended their event

There are always going to be circumstances when you’ll need to unfollow someone who’s part of the aforementioned list. When doing so, move swiftly and quietly.

Making the Most of Your Speaking Engagement

Serving as a paid or pro bono speaker is an excellent way to expand your personal brand and build followers. Whether you’re new to the speaking circuit or a seasoned professional, the best way to get the next speaking opportunity is by making the most of your latest appearance.

Below are a few tips and tactics that I’ve learned over my years as a speaker to ensure that you’re making the most of your stage time.

Organization marketing – You were selected as the speaker for a reason, so don’t hesitate to ensure that at least your image, name, company, and social media handles are part of any event marketing. This will allow people to review your information and/or connect with you in advance. Keep in mind that each time the event is marketed gives you more touchpoint to a larger audience.

Personal marketing – Make sure you announce your participation via your owned or shared media as well. A simple text post connecting you to the organization is sufficient. Creating a branded social media tile that displays the organization or event logo is a great way to take your announcement to the next level.  Finally, a video to your social media platforms tagging the event or organization is a great way to help build interest.

Invitation to connect – At the beginning of your remarks, invite your audience to connect with you via social media. Encourage them to post images and/or ask questions. Whether they liked your remarks or not, any new follower or engagement is great for your brand.

Content collection – Don’t hesitate to ask the event organizer if there will be a photographer and/or videographer present. If there won’t be any, don’t be shy about asking someone to capture images and/or video on your phone. If possible, bring an assistant with you to the event so they may post to your accounts in real-time.

Post-event posting – As soon as possible following your remarks, use whatever content you have, i.e. images or video to post to your social media platforms. Be sure to connect to the organization so they see the posts and can engage with you.

Blog about it – Depending on the topic and length of your remarks, developing a blog post is an easy and user-friendly way to encapsulate your thoughts. Your PowerPoint deck should never be a word-for-word regurgitation of your remarks. Developing a blog post brings your audience to your platforms to revisit your remarks and to learn more.

Ask for a recommendation – Following the successful completion of a speech, ask the event organizer to provide you with a recommendation on LinkedIn, text or video for your website, or both. If they ask what you’d like written, suggest that they comment on the experience of working with you, the quality of your presentation, and the audience reaction.

Make every card count – Should audience members approach you following your speech, get their business cards and connect with them on social media to help keep building on the goodwill you’ve established from your remarks. Note: Refrain from using cards obtained at your presentation to send promotional emails. Building authentic, organic relationships will benefit you more in the long run.

Update your resume – Develop a version of your resume that includes all of your speaker credits to be used for future appearances. Training yourself to update your list immediately following your remarks saves you headaches down the road.

If the moment has passed and you forgot to do any or all of the items I suggested, don’t worry. Here are a few tips on how to play catch-up.

#FlashbackFriday – Creating a flashback Friday post tagging the event or organization is a good way to recapture the experience.

Repurpose content – Get creative and repurpose content, i.e. image, video, etc. from a previous appearance to create future content. Slice up your content and repurpose it by topic to help extend the life of the media. You can also use content from a previous appearance to help promote an upcoming speech.

The end game is all about traction. Use any and all of the tools and content at your disposal to keep building your brand for the long-term.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Your Brand Draft Ready?

Draft time is quickly approaching for both the NFL and NBA—the moment countless young men have spent the better part of their athletic careers preparing for. Draft day is about so much more than how well an athlete plays his respective sport. Much attention is also paid to how an athlete looks, sounds, and behaves online.

In recent years, we’ve witnessed many instances where a single misstep has had costly consequences. For example, 15 minutes before Laremy Tunsil was to be picked in the top-five for the NFL draft a video appeared on his Twitter account showing him smoking a substance from a bong. That single post dropped him down to the 13th pick costing him as much as $10 million in signing bonuses.

If you’re a rising athlete who’s fortunate enough to be taking part in this year’s draft, here’s a check list to ensure your brand is first-round ready.

Note: These activities should be done in advance of the respective sport’s combine—especially if the athlete is managing his own brand, as the time between that event and draft day is far too hectic.

Conduct a brand audit. You’ve likely Googled yourself for fun, but there’s an actual practicality to this self-research. Review the first three to five pages under your name search. Click here for what to do should you find something unflattering. In addition, go through all your social media accounts to remove any unflattering or questionable posts or images. Finally, untag yourself from any unflattering posts made by others.

Change passwords and check security settings. To prevent any instances of hacking, update all website and/or social media passwords. Click here for help creating the strongest password possible. Update your social media platform’s security settings to ensure you’re comfortable with who has access to your accounts and who can post, comment, or direct message you.

Develop key messages. If you’re only given a few moments to introduce yourself to the world, know what you’re going to say. Developing and rehearsing a few brand messages in advance will ensure that you’ll have well-crafted, authentic remarks when it matters.

Update all bios and images. Each social media bio should reflect the brand messages you crafted. Make sure your brand narrative is universal across all your owned media. In addition, to make it easier on fans and media, make sure use the same profile image across all accounts.

Obtain media training. If you’re lucky, the media interviews you give during the draft will be replayed for years to come. To ensure that you’re as poised and articulate as possible, invest in some media and/or speaker training. You truly can never be too prepared for media interviews.

Have a content plan. Think in advance about what kind of content you plan to post, and when you’d like to post. If you’re creating the content yourself, have a plan for when and how you’re going to do that. Also, set-aside time to engage with followers. This is a good habit to get yourself in for your professional career.

Plan for a crisis. Communications crises can and do happen. Don’t leave yourself a sitting duck without options should one occur. Have a crisis communications professional on speed dial just in case.

Have a family meeting. It’s important that everyone who surrounds you at the combine and on draft day understands that their online and in-person behavior is a reflection of you. They too will be under the microscope and need to be prepared for such.

Remember self-care. During this period, you’ll likely be under more pressure than you’ve ever endured before. You can’t perform on empty, so be sure not to neglect yourself. Eat well and get plenty of rest. Spend quality time with family and friends. Most importantly, take a moment when you need to for peace, reflection, and prayer.

Should draft day not turn out as planned for you, read my additional blog about how to maintain your brand as a free agent: http://www.yourfirestarter.com/personalbrandingtipsundrafted/

Author Frances Reimers is the founder and CEO of Firestarter, a personal brand consultancy located in Alexandria, VA. Firestarter assists athletes, celebrities, and executives, helping them develop, manage, enhance, and protect a key professional asset: their personal brand. Click here to learn more or to schedule an appointment. 

 

 

Dating Profile Hacks for Guys

Guys, dating is the digital age is hard. But it doesn’t have to be!

Let me show you how to apply the personal branding tactics I use every day to help my clients achieve professional success to your dating profile.

This 60-minute session is designed to provide men with tips and tricks—delivered from a single woman’s perspective—to help them get swiped. Attendees will enjoy a fun and candid session that addresses image creation and selection, personal profile development, conversation strategies, and date follow-up.

Register today for the session nearest you. Each session will begin at 7 pm:

Friday, February 2 in DChttps://www.eventbrite.com/e/never-sleep-alone-again-dating-profile-hacks-for-guys-tickets-42026278731

Thursday, February 8 in Fairfaxhttps://www.eventbrite.com/e/never-sleep-alone-again-dating-profile-hacks-for-guys-tickets-42100915973

Friday, February 9 in Woodbridgehttps://www.eventbrite.com/e/never-sleep-alone-again-dating-profile-hacks-for-guys-tickets-41998443475

$25.00

Laptops and smart phones welcome!

For questions, contact Frances Reimers at frances@yourfirestarter.com