Personal Branding: Post Seminar

I just returned from a seminar about Personal Branding given by a Mr. Samuel David. There was a lot of great material covered, and I learned a lot, am still reflecting on a lot of it, and was inspired to action. I want to relay a lot of the key points and I’ll try to do so in the order they were presented, however as an audio learner, some of my conclusions might be intermixed. It must be said that Mr. Samuel David is a great, public speaker. His delivery of material, covering the main points, pause in making statements, audience interactivity, and ability to convey relevance was spot on. He apparently does workshops and other classes which sound schweet. I apologize, therefore, for my haphazard gathering of thoughts and attempting to organize them here before I take the long drive home.


To give you some background, BellSouth I’m thinking sponsored the seminar, calling it, “Personal Branding As a Career Mobility Strategy”. The 2 beginning words were what inspired me to go. Here a large, corporate company is making an active effort to inspire BellSouth employee’s to actively pursue Personal Branding to help them in their career’s. I was fascinated in the enigma this caused. Why would a company want their own employee’s to care about their own career marketability? The seminar answered this as explaining to the audience how they can increase their career mobility strategy within their respective company. As the speaker was from IBM, he relayed the message applying it to BellSouth, as well as other companies as it seemed there were other people there not from BellSouth (Delta, Bank of America, etc). I took Marta to the Midtown BellSouth building 2, and I must say public transportation is lame. While the experience of actually going through the subway was easier than Washington, D.C.’s, the price was straight crazy. It cost me, in total, $4. I could of driven there for less, and then headed straight home afterwards… assuming I found a free parking spot.

At any rate, BNAT, the BellSouth National African American Telecommunications …something… may have misquoted the name, can’t find their website, appeared to be involved. My co-workers and I arrived a little late as getting some of our tasks completed proved unexpectedly challenging, but nothing my team couldn’t handle. Therefore, it sounds like I missed a great introduction, but alas I still made it time for more good stuff.

Changing Times

He started talking about the 3 main points he wanted us to carry away with us in dealing with Personal Branding. I’ll have a copy of the presentation emailed to me, but for the time being here’s my best guess. He first discussed the changing world we live in compared to 50, 20, 10, and 5 years ago. How everything is networked, how we are now in communications with many who we were not before, how the top-down management and/or company structure is a thing of the past and has been turned on its side, adding horizontal career growth to the mix. Key points also being contracts between employers and employees used to being you give me your blood and sweat and I’ll provide you with a lifetime job… that concept is, in the majority, no more. Then, discussing how instead of us going to work, the work comes to us. The company assets no longer being in currency (money, gold, oil) but instead in intellectual assets. The grand cool thing about this is instead of me giving you gold, and now you having it and I don’t; instead it’s I give you information and now you have it, and so do I. The weeding out, outsourcing, and marginalizing of people based on performance says that no longer will you stand out by your performance alone… as everyone around you is there because of their performance. If it wasn’t good, they wouldn’t be there. Therefore, that is why Personal Branding is important; for you to stand out. He quoted a lot of great sayings, such as “Your either distinct or extinct” and a lot of reasons behind why you need to take proactive action to let others know who you are.

What is a Brand

He talked about what a brand is. It represents “What its best known for?”, where the it is whatever the brand is conveying. He showcased some logos, such as Starbucks, Harley Davidson, and asked us what we thought when we heard those names; what did they stand for. Starbucks, instead of being coffee, meant “It’s not work, it’s not home, it’s a refuge for our customers.” They are providing a culture for people to go to and hang out.

Harley Davidson, instead of being about American made, freedom, was instead about “…a 43 year-old accountant having the ability to wear a black leather jacket, and ride his motorcycle in a residential neighborhood.” They’re selling a lifestyle, the rebel lifestyle.

He then showcased a lot of BellSouth leaders and others, showcasing their leadership traits which got them to where they are. Neat to hear members of the audience adding depth to those bullet points, since a few of them were present in the audience. Additionally, it was really about understanding that those leaders DO understand how they are perceived, and capitalize on that.

Personal Branding

Finally, he discussed the many facets, and man were there a heck of a lot of facets to Personal Branding. The first dealt with confirming this is not a CEO thing, but for everyone in any level of an organization; again, it is about the teams we work in and those teams ours works with. There were many strategies mentioned on how to further improve the perceptions, and ways one goes about getting noticed, positively affecting your perception, and pro-active things one can do to help further your growth. He accentuated that if you are not happy at your job, by being there not happy, people will notice, and you can’t expect to get a promotion and then be happy. You need to show that passion. He conveyed that isn’t easy, it’s hard work and is a very introspective thing. To know yourself and what you want to do, and have passion about it. I offered to the audience my way of finding what it was I wanted to do via the trials of working various jobs, school, and talking to thousands of people realizing that none of them were going to have an answer for me and I had to find out myself. And when I found it, the passion just merely followed; easy as that. Another audience member contributed that it was also about attitude. True enough.

A few techniques that stroke home like a ton of bricks was your “branding statement” and your “elevator pitch”. The first being an advertisement of yourself and what you do. It is high level, and is attractive to read; it should entice the reader to question what you do and have a positive feeling about it before they even ask. You follow that up with a Branding Statement which is more in depth, and finally your role. The role, obviously, will change with your career, but you put it down in writing. I guess those go on your resume, but he also mentioned you can put them on your corporate website’s bio page, like IBM does at their intranet.

Ok, I can handle the branding statement, “A multimedia developer, specializing in Rich Internet Applications and Rich Media nTier implementations.” Now, that’s just off the top of my head, but you I can see how that would of helped a frikin ton when my father would ask what I do, or someone you met while traveling.

The 2nd however, the elevator pitch, was laughable. While taking the elevator from the 9th floor to the 1st, a gent who works on my floor asked what we do. I replied, “We code.” He responds, “What do you code?”. I respond in a laid back tone that “Currently I am developing with some XUL, Mozilla’s bread and butter, but I usually code Flash for the [edit] we’re working on… currently, though, we’re [so deep in our project] that [department X] wouldn’t like us doing development without being immediately available for support work (which I am mind you).” … and a “huh” later I was like, ya know, if I was prepared, I would of sold that guy into coming to work for us. I mean, heck, he’s on our floor already. Anyway, when he, the speaker, mentioned that, “Can you describe the essence of you in 30 seconds or less” I just laughed internally. What a freak I am… next time, I’ll be prepared. A great example was a Yellow pages ad for a CEO in the room. Damn, that was a good example.

He ended on some additional action items, such as a questionnaire asking what are your strengths, what have you learned in the last 90 days, the plan of how you develop your brand, how you execute it (make it available as well such as email signature, personal website), and finally how you drive it home (speaking, getting quoted, published).


So, I’m insanely glad BellSouth held such a thing, it reminds me that a lot of geniuses out there need to frikin blog, even if they don’t feel like it, they feel like they have nothing interesting to say, or whatever… no one cares cause they know your smart when they read your stuff, and you turn up on Google when people are searching for answers and find your blog. Just because you don’t get a thank you in the comments doesn’t mean jack… you just scored mad personal branding points. I can also see why a lot of people don’t make it all the way to where they want to be. I found it funny, too, the example given where a 25 year developer at IBM was an apprentice of the speaker since he wanted to get more involved in the business side and mentioned, “I just can’t get comfortable with this… I don’t like talking about myself.” The speaker’s reply was “get over it.” That’s gotta be my hardest challenge, too. Finally, I can see I have a lot of work to do, both intrinsic and extrinsic.

I know I left a lot of insanely great points out, so I’ll try to (with the speakers permission) post some of the presentation.

*** Update 1.23.2006: John Dowdell of Adobe has a link to creating an Elavator Pitch.

8 Replies to “Personal Branding: Post Seminar”

  1. An excellent post I think. Personal branding.. Reading your post as an outside viewer (very outside..) I wonder how much of it was tuned towards “work harder for you” kind of backwards encouragement towards getting you to put out more for the company in the way of reverse psychology. Hard to explain but that was one of the first things that came to mind. I fully agree that branding yourself is extremely important but the stronger “your” brand is the bigger risk you will take in the case that you mess up even once. Then it’s damage control, and since you are a one man army, it’s all up to you again. People are so easily convinced of the bad points in something over the good points and in that case for everything bad that may come out in the long road of “branding” something, 10 good things have to be created to bury it over.

    I do have to say though, in your case of branding, you should try to live in a country other than your own. You may have already realized this yourself, and I don’t mean in any way nor pretend to be assume I know more or am belittling anything you have done or will do, but putting yourself back down on the lower rung and taking a good look at what you are really worth truly helps when that question comes up “what are you?”. Bit hard to explain, especially in a blog comment, but it’s helped me 2000 times over. Best thing I ever did to myself. :)

    Keep up the awesome posts Jesse, I never miss these ones :D

  2. Graeme, good points and it’s nice to have another viewpoint, especially from someone living in a high context society (your still in Japan, right?).

    One of the things the speaker drove home was, again, this has nothing to do with performance. There is no guarantee between you and the employer that your blood and sweat will ensure your continued employment. Working hard is noble, but results matter, not the effort. This concludes in that most people employed in professional positions are there because of their performance anyway, all other things notwithstanding, so it?s a ?given?.

    Therefore, the reverse psychology idea of work harder isn?t the point of what he was talking about, I don?t think. Mainly because your investing in yourself, not your job. Your making sure that you stand above the crowd of talented people next to you. I see your point though? things like ?be positive, find projects that matter to the bottom line, increase the good perceptions of others towards you? all add up to productivity? but they rightly should, ya know? I mean, all of those things are good, so if BellSouth/IBM/whoever gets more out of you because of you doing those things, they are both mutually exclusively good I would think.

    I totally disagree with the messing up part, though. We learn more in our failures than our successes, and that in itself is an opportunity to showcase you learn from your mistakes. Some of the best companies embrace failure; if your not screwing up, your not pushing the envelope. I hope in your case your in a place that does that because from reading your posts on lists, I know your smart so I would hope someone would nurture that attitude. Fear of failure should not be reinforced. If you don?t f?up, your not trying.

    ?or did I totally misconstrue your point?

    Now, it?s very interesting that you bring up the point of those who would attack your brand. While I was waiting to thank the speaker, a lady asked him about that very thing. What do you do when people wish to attack your brand? They are jealous, don?t understand your success, and figure bringing you down will either elevate themselves or at least ease the pain. The speaker didn?t have an answer, but was intrigued.

    I personally think that negative attitudes of bringing people down in a team is a rotten apple in the barrel syndrome, and those people need to be removed if their attitude doesn?t change very quickly. Therefore, a lot of your successes may not appear to be as noticed vs. your failures, and many will go out of their way to illustrate the former to bolster their cases. However, those in charge if they are worth their position will recognize your initiative to try and additionally see those trying to belittle your accomplishments. Someone who is constantly bringing someone else down, from my standpoint, will be recognized for what they are and in no way negatively affect your position.

    I sort of see what you mean about determining your worth. Again, the speaker merely touched the iceberg, and all of those knowing who you are, determining what you want to do, and going for it once your out of your comfort zone, did really apply to current US business. Still, the speaker himself has people in utility companies in countries all over the world? so I think it?s judging more about who you are vs. what your worth.

    I wish man? if I could go live in Australia or the UK or Germany or China or Japan to work for awhile, I would! Thanks for the comments man.

  3. Jesse, I totally agree with you. I don’t think I wrote out my post properly when I was referring to messing up so will try to rephrase it a bit.

    I think there is quite a dif between messing up and screwing up your brand compared to making mistakes. Making mistakes is great. God knows I’ve made billions and will make many more in the very near future. Learning a language alone is making one mistake after another. But if you don’t screw up the grammer or sentence structure or use the wrong word, nobody is going to correct you and in the end you don’t learn as much. Not to say you should go out of your way to make mistakes in the name of “learning more!” but I’m positive we are the same wave here, so I won’t delve into it. Whereas messing up your brand is a bit different as in you have to rebuild not skills or memory or something tangible, it’s an ideal that has to be rebuilt. An personafication of a person that must be reborn from the scrap that just became of your current brand due to whatever might have happened, in your power or beyond. It’s tough to explain fully and I firmly believe we could sit down to a whole day of discussing this had we the time and patience and of course actually lived anywhere near each other ;) as to anybody I think, it’s quite an important subject.

    On the negative attitudes thing.. there are people like this EVERYWHERE. There will be times when there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, and times when you can. If you can get them out of there, then go for it, if not then other work around it or cut and run as you’ll only end up wallowing in the same mud that they are… and that sucks. Some people will always think they can better themselves by cutting you down, and it sucks but that’s the price you pay for standing out and being who you are I guess. I don’t know if it’s “tougher” here in Japan (yes I’m still here..) or not, but there is a saying that *everybody* knows. Translated directly it means that “Any nail that sticks out of the wood will get hammered in”. I hear this all the time actually. But it doesn’t phase me, due to just plain confidence. I welcome the confrontation? hmmm not quite the word I’m looking for, but more of a challenging feeling.. hmm well I hope you get the idea, because I know that I can then use that as a chance to take another good look at what I am, and what I’m doing. Then it’s just a matter of improving on it. Then the people who are too busy attacking to work on themselves, just get left in the dust. :D

    I don’t think I have all the right answers or anything, but I got a lot of opinions based on past experiences! haha.. I hope I don’t sound like I’m preachin’ on your comments here.

    So… what’s stoppin’ you from taking off to another country?

  4. Naw dude, this is one of the reasons I have a blog; to garner opinions and discuss them. I appreciate your comments!

    Currently I’m married, and her majesty is open to it but our current plans are based on my house; I have to remain a resident at least 2 years before I sell it. Additionally, she’s got a good gig at Cingular, and I’ve got a good gig at BellSouth.

    However, you never know in this volatile world. Regardless, I’m definately open to making it happen after my 2 years is up and the real-estate industry is hopefully not in shambles, then it’s a very viable plan.

  5. Oh yeah, my retort for that quote is “I’m about to drop the hammer!” That siege tank guy on Starcraft used to say that really loud. So if nails get nailed back into wood, I’d prefer to be the mac daddy swingin’!

    …sorry, I’m an idealist, hehe!

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