Brand Aid: Makeovers That Kick It Up a Notch
Virginia Sole-Smith | More Magazine
Five real women + five branding challenges + five innovative experts = more than a dozen tips for taking it to the next level
Your Brand Is Too Old (and Too Female) for This Industry
Chia-Lin Simmons believes in her vision for her fashion-focused social-networking start-up, and she is fighting hard to get the money to launch it. “Venture capitalists throw their cash at hoodie-wearing guys in their twenties,” says Simmons, 41, who is also a marketing executive at Google. “I need help making my personal brand stand out when I recruit investors.” The good news: Simmons doesn’t have to wear sweatshirts. “You can’t change your gender or age,” says Jacqueline Peros, owner of JMP Branding in New York City. “We need to position Chia-Lin as a visionary who can inspire that younger demographic.”
Style Yourself: “Chia-Lin needs to be fashion forward with her wardrobe to project a more energetic presence,” Peros says. “An asymmetrical blazer in a bright color or a dramatic statement necklace would show that she’s strong, bold and polished.”
Say It With Feeling: “Every communication needs to have a strong point of view,” says Peros. Instead of just retweeting and linking to articles, Simmons should share her own ideas. Whenever she speaks publicly, she should smile and radiate enthusiasm.
Show Your Personality: Simmons’s Twitter bio, LinkedIn profile and personal website say nothing about who she is in real life and what she stands for. She needs to figure out the adjectives that define her personal brand, then inject them everywhere.
Your Name Is Too Common to Stand out on Line
Google Karen Carter, 43, and you’ll find a state senator, a filmmaker and a -professor—which means it’s too hard to find this Karen Carter, even though she’s one of the highest-ranking women at Dow Chemical Co., a $57 billion corporation. “We need to make her successes stand out,” says Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding and the author of Promote Yourself.
Rebrand as Karen S. Carter: “Karen needs to put her middle initial on her LinkedIn profile, email signature, business cards—everything,” Schawbel says.
Know Your Brand's Keywords: Carter chose the words marketing, operations and international business to define her brand; she needs to use them everywhere.
Go for Quality in Your Audience: “Karen needs to tweet content that’s related to her keywords,” says Schawbel. “When she focuses her Twitter content, people will know why they’re following her.”
You Want Your Brand to Pack Even More Punch
Jayne Juvan, 34, a partner at a Cleveland law firm, already has a strong brand. She has solid followings on Twitter (2,986) and LinkedIn (500+), has been selected as one of Crain’s 40 under 40 and is acknowledged by industry publications as a “rising star” in the field of transactional law. Juvan now wants to take her brand to the next level. Her goal: to be known as a thought leader in the world of mergers and acquisitions, corporate law, governance and social responsibility. Wendy Terwelp, president of the career-development and personal-branding firm Opportunity Knocks (www.knocks.com), near Milwaukee, says Juvan can accomplish that in two ways: by achieving greater personal exposure, both on- and offline, and by more effectively shaping her online profile
Launch JayneJuvan.com: Juvan’s Google results currently include articles she wrote early in her career that are unrelated to her current work focus. To push those older results further down the Google search engine pipeline, Juvan should set up a personal website (which people will be likely to look at because it will rank high in a search of her name) and populate it with new content. Then, when people search her name, they’ll find a wealth of information all in one place: her personal site, where Juvan can control what they see and how she is perceived. “To keep the site active, she should link it with every article she publishes, every conference where she’s a speaker,” says Terwelp. Juvan can also blog on the site regularly.
Repurpose Content: Another way Juvan can gain maximum exposure is to repurpose the content she creates (she writes for various outlets, including the industry-news site Law.com). “Repurposing” can mean anything from using information in her articles as the subject of future speeches to posting the articles themselves across multiple platforms—other business websites, social media, etc. The goal is to get increased personal exposure from each piece of content she creates, says Terwelp.
Be Her Own Publicist: Juvan already does a lot of public speaking. Her next step is to promote every appearance she makes across social media platforms two weeks in advance, says Terwelp. After each appearance, she can turn her speech into an article and post it to her firm’s website, her own site and the other outlets for which she writes.
You've Neglected Your Brand
Although she’s now a high-powered university executive, 52-year-old Rena Costones knows that her story isn’t being communicated as well as she’d like. “My focus has been on growing my career,” Costones admits. “I know that I’ve ignored social media and everything else that would help me present myself more effectively.” Boston-based brand strategist and personal-bio expert Kirsten Vernon says Costones’s problem is a common one: “Busy, successful professionals often feel they don’t have the time to manage their brand—but it is what propels you to that next level.”
Work Hard On Your Bio: “A great bio gives you a clear story to tell, which stays consistent at every event and on every social media platform,” Vernon says. “Three things must be evident in your bio: what you do, who you do it for and why it’s unique.”
Upgrade Your Look: “Your appearance needs to reflect your personality and who you are while respecting what is appropriate in your professional environment,” says Vernon. “Rena could work with an image consultant trained in branding.”
Bring Offline Networking Skills Online: “Rena is already a skilled networker and knows that doing it well is about giving,” Vernon says. “If she can gather her network together online, she’ll make those connections in a more advanced way.”
Your Powerful Brand Needs to Get Stronger
As the founder of Skinny Kitchen, a nutrition and recipe site, Nancy Fox, 50, has already built a devoted following, with more than 570,000 page views per month on her website. But Los Angeles–based branding authority Jeetendr Sehdev, who has worked with Verizon, Dove and American Express, says Fox is trying too hard to please everyone—which means her true personal brand is getting lost.
Be Disruptive: Skinny Kitchen’s “cheat the system” message works well, says Sehdev. “It’s unapologetic and brave, and like any great brand, it connects with the audience emotionally.”
Get Narrow To Go Big: Fox knows that one of her key demographics is thirty- and forty-something Weight Watchers fans. In focusing on that audience, Fox may connect less with sophisticated foodies, but that will ultimately help her stand out.
Consider The Competition: “Look at how other companiesuse colors, music and language to evoke an emotional response,” Sehdev says. “As a challenger brand, Nancy can draw inspiration from Virgin America, Method Soap and SoulCycle, all of which have gone up against very big competitors.”