Boosting Your Executive Brand With Thought Leadership
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Episode 6 Transcript:
Chris Curran: Growth Igniters Radio episode 6, How Executives Can Boost The Power Of Their Personal Brand.
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of growth. On the web at www.businessadvance.com. Now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. Welcome to Growth Igniters Radio. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated. Right across from me is business partner and husband, Scott Harper.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. It’s wonderful to be here with you today. I’d like to remind everybody that the purpose of Growth Igniters Radio is to spark new insights, inspiration and immediately useful ideas for leaders to take themselves and their companies to the next level of success. Pam, what’s on our agenda for today?
Pam Harper: Boosting your personal brand as an executive. We are strong advocates of personal branding as a way for others to better understand you as an executive, me as an executive and the value that we all provide. I think it’s so important. I advocate very strongly for this, yet it’s really interesting. You know this, but we still encounter doubters about personal branding. Even those who embrace the concept realize that there are a lot of components to it. But there are certain aspects of personal branding that really need careful attention, and that has a lot to do with getting the word out the right way.
Scott Harper: That’s right. That’s why we’re fortunate to have Dan Janal with us. He is founder and president of PR Leads Expert Resource Network, and is one of the founding fathers of internet marketing and publicity. Dan has helped a wide range of authors and small business owners become thought leaders so they can accelerate their growth. He’s an expert on branding of all kinds.
Pam Harper: Well yes, and in full disclosure, I have to say that I have worked with him for a number of years, [especially] right after I published ,em>Preventing Strategic Gridlock. He helped get my word out even before that, when I think about it. A wonderful resource, and I’m so delighted to have him with us. Dan − welcome.
Dan Janal: Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Pam Harper: Let’s talk about this whole idea of personal branding. I mean I’m favor of it; Scott’s in favor of it. Why do you think executives need to build their brand?
Dan Janal: Executives are celebrities. We live in a celebrity-adoring world today. There’s no getting around it. In fact, I was watching an old episode of Stephen Colbert the other day and he said, “It’s wonderful to be a celebrity − why wouldn’t everyone want to be a celebrity?” He’s right. We’re taught from the beginning of our days − don’t toot your own horn. The Japanese have a saying as well that “the tall nail gets hammered down.” One of our limiting beliefs, probably, is be modest − don’t boast. We know certain people who do boast, and we generally look down on those people. That’s a shame because there’s a good way boasting and a bad way of boasting. The bad way of boasting is to go, “Hey, I’m great. Look at me, I’m wonderful.”
Scott Harper: … And you’re not…
Dan Janal: “You’re not,” exactly, exactly. No wants that. What we want to do is position ourselves as experts or thought leaders, where we are sharing content that helps enrich other people’s lives whether it’d be business lives or personal lives, or entertainment. In that way, we become a valuable resources to them, and they want to help us along the way. That’s really the goal here. Now, we want to have a big name because big names get promoted, big names get hired, big names get sourced by headhunter firms to be presidents and CEOs of other companies. If you’re living under a rock, and you have intellectual property, and you’re not sharing your value, then these headhunters and other executive search committees as well won’t know about you and you will languish.
Also if you don’t toot your own horn in your company, no one else in your company will know that you’re actually doing wonderful, wonderful things. They’ll know that other people are taking credit for your wonderful, wonderful things. They’ll get promoted, and then you’ll wonder, “How come I’m not getting ahead of my career?” That’s why every executive should look at increasing their own executive branding potential.
Pam Harper: That’s certainly true. Now, for the CEO − I mean where are you going to be promoted? Think about that…
Dan Janal: Oh, to another company!
Pam Harper: Yes.
Dan Janal: You get hired away from one company to another company. You could be asked to serve on other boards of directors that pay lots of money, and have meetings in Tahiti.
Scott Harper: Right.
Dan Janal: You get asked to write books. You get asked to speak at conferences, and you raise your fee. There are lots of perks along the way, especially for CEOs. The important thing is that you want to get the word out.
First of all, you want to have something to say. That’s the base level. You have to have something to say. Then you need to get the word out. I think we should approach it from that level as opposed to are you going to be − the next Prince or Rock Hudson, or Bono, or Justin Beaver? Jack Welch had a personal PR person. John Sculley had a personal PR person. Don’t think that we are creating something that’s new or revolutionary or out of the ordinary.
Scott Harper: It goes back to Lee Iacocca, and even before that − to Henry Ford, I suppose. But what’s new in the world of personal branding? What are some of the new imperatives that may not have [existed] back in the Iacocca and Welch days?
Dan Janal: Great question. I think back in the Iacocca and Welch days, there were only three major television networks, and there were a couple of national newspapers, and a couple of magazines that were worth reading by executives at that level. Now, everyone is a publisher. The internet has changed everything. There aren’t just three television stations anymore. There are cable channels, as well with 24/7 news and 24/7 business news. There are websites. There are blogs. There are easy ways for you to get the word out, whereas before you had to pass through a gatekeeper at those very, very few media outlets that mattered. Now, there are thousands of media outlets that could potentially matter depending on who are and who your audience is and what you’re trying to affect. I mean you may want to affect people just inside your own company.
Pam Harper: I was going to say that, yes. One of the things that I found that’s very important as far as PR goes is making sure that whatever is communicated to the outside word is also something that employees and people who are close to you, your close-in stakeholders shall we say, see consistently. What do you think?
Dan Janal: Of course, that’s a given. You can’t be duplicitous, especially in today’s world with social media, because every memo is leaked. Every meeting is recorded and sent out as an MP3. Every offhand remark is tweeted out. There’s the famous case of a top executive or president of AOL who made a disparaging remark during a board meeting, and that was tweeted out, and the next thing you know, he either apologized or he was fired or whatever − I forget − but it did not look good for him or for AOL. Assume that there’s absolutely no privacy today. What you tell your internal audience is what the external audience should be seeing, and vice versa. If there’s any discrepancy, you’ll find one disgruntled person at your company who will set the record straight, and that will be the end of it. It certainly looks like it will be the end of Brian Williams’ career. There’s always one person who knows the real story, and they are just chomping at the bit to get it out. There’s never been an easier time to get the message out there.
Scott Harper: In addition to that pitfall of potentially inconsistency or gaffes that can be leaked, there’s the risk of overwhelm. How do you get past that?
Dan Janal: Overwhelm is a very real issue, but it doesn’t have to be. That’s because you don’t have to be on every single social network. You don’t have to be on every single blog. You don’t have to be everywhere. You only have to be where your audience is − that means the audience that you want to influence. For some of you, it might be LinkedIn is the only social network that really matters to you. Let’s say you’re the CEO of cooking company, or a company in the food industry. Then Instagram or Pinterest maybe of key interest to you because you want to put out pictures of baked goods, and your products and people enjoying your products and such like that, and recipes. That may be the best social network for you.
It really depends on who you are, and who you want to influence, and where those people hang out. If you look at it that way, then you don’t have to worry about 500 different social media networks and 500 different video sharing channels. You just need to triage on the ones that really matter the most. Of course, we’ve all heard the 80-20 principle − the Pareto Principle − that probably applies here as well.
Pam Harper: Okay. Well, I think it also very much depends on the culture of your company to a certain extent. I mean, when you’re a gang of one or two, you have a lot of choices. As you get to be in a larger company − we deal with a lot of mid-market companies − you start getting others involved who are saying, “Do we want to appear here? Do we need a social media strategy?” These are issues for another day, and we hope you’ll come back.
It sounds like what we’re really saying at this point is there are a lot of advantages, and that benefits far outweigh the risks. There are tremendous opportunities, and we really have to be very clear about who were trying to reach and what’s going to attract them to us. What do you think?
Dan Janal: That’s so true. You also bring up another interesting point here − is it the company’s message, or is it your own personal message?
Pam Harper: That’s true.
Dan Janal: I think we’re talking about personal branding and executive branding.
Pam Harper: We are talking about personal branding.
Dan Janal: You very well would be in line with the company’s principles and goals and such like that, but your perspective is slightly different, because you become the creator of the content and your name’s attached to it; it’s your thought leadership. It’s you being the star and of course, you might be using the company as a branding tool for you, because if you’re working for a name-brand company that’s helping you build your credibility, so it plays off of each other. I suppose at some level, you would talk to your PR people or executive committees, communication committees and say, “What can I do? What can’t I do? What can I say? Where can I go?” Because some companies are very strict about their own policies.
Pam Harper: We’re going to take a quick break here. When we come back, we’ll talk more with Dan Janal about personal branding for executives, and we’ll get into some specific success stories about how they did it. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We are brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated on the web at www.businessadvance.com. If you like what you’re hearing, go to www.growthignitersradio.com; select episode 6, and use the share links at the top right to tell your communities all about us using #GrowthIgniters. Subscribe and write reviews on iTunes or Stitcher. We also welcome your questions and thoughts about future topics for Growth Igniters Radio.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We’re talking with Dan Janal, founder and president of PR Leads, and an expert on branding, about how executives can benefit from building their personal brand. Dan, how can people find you?
Dan Janal: Very simple, www.prleads.com. We’ll get you all the information you need to get started to build your own personal brand.
Pam Harper: Okay. You have a book too right?
Dan Janal: Sure. I have a book called “Reporters are Looking For You,” and the best place to get that is probably Amazon.com.
Pam Harper: Okay. Well, we’ve talked about why it’s increasingly important for executives to build a personal brand. Can you give some examples of executives who’ve been successful doing this?
Dan Janal: Sure. I think they have one thing in common. They have a key message that they want to get out, and they can deliver that message in many, many different ways to many different platforms. That is, social media platforms or media platforms. They just keep on doing it, and they never, ever stop. I think if we look at sport stars or music stars or the people in world of entertainment, they never stop either. Fortunately, the riches are in the niches, because when you look at micro-segments, you can become a very big man on campus or a big woman on campus, so to speak. Because the world is a smaller market place and it’s easier to get publicity and easier to get seen there.
I think the first thing to realize is to overcome limiting believes about, “Gee, I’m not in the front page of the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times − I’m nobody.” No, you don’t have to be there. You can be at the front page of a trade magazine that goes out to all of your people, and then you’re a celebrity. Or you write a column for that magazine or website on a regular basis, and then you become a celebrity there, or you join their board of directors or board of advisers. These are all things that have been done for many, many, many years. We’re just codifying them and saying, “Okay, these are accessible for you to do.” I remember when Jack Welch was still at GE, he was writing a column on one of the back pages of Forbes magazine. When I say the “back page,” it was the inside back cover, so it was a very prominent position.
He was already planning his escape at that point. When his book came out, it became a huge bestseller because he was well known to the readers of Forbes because he was expanding his footprint. That’s just one example.
Scott Harper: Dan, you’ve mentioned some big names. What about some mid market or smaller executives? Can you think of any of those folks who can cite as a success story?
Dan Janal: The examples are easy to come by. I can’t name names for confidentiality, and frankly a lot of my clients are authors and independent consultants and such, so they’re not exactly working inside companies.
I did have a client who I was working with as an independent coach-consultant at the beginning of the recession. He had been downsized, and wanted to build up his practice, so we worked on a number of social media strategies for him including YouTube, creating white papers, getting the word out on LinkedIn, and creating links with other people on LinkedIn.
Joining groups on LinkedIn that were full of people who are in his target audience. Posting information in white papers, and information from those white papers onto those LinkedIn pages, so he can build up his own network and his profile. The more people who are engage with you, the higher your ranking goes. The more clout score you have, the more Google respect you have, because Google does not treat all links equally. If you have a higher perceived value, if you are seen as an influencer in the eyes of Google, then they rate your links and your comments higher than someone who isn’t. It’s amazing how smart they are. It’s amazing how influential Google is today, and will be going forward in the future.
Here’s the funny part about that story − he wasn’t making ends meet, so he took on a part-time consulting job with GE. I think it was a medical services division − really doesn’t matter, but it’s just to show that it’s a true story. He was a six sigma expert. They liked him and they liked what he was publishing. He kept on publishing. They said, “You can keep on publishing like that. It’s okay. We don’t mind it.” Now, he was publishing, and he could use GE’s name as far as part of his byline, which increased his credibility, his visibility, and it didn’t hurt GE either to have someone who’s smart dispensing information with their name on it. One hand washed the other.
As time went on, they liked him so much they kept on [elevating his status] … They said, “Instead of working three days a week, why don’t you work five days a week. Instead of working for this, why don’t we raise your salary. Why don’t we just make it impossible for you to leave?”
Pam Harper: There you go…
Dan Janal: He’s full time with them now, and has long contract, and he’s very happy, so he’s not an independent consultant anymore. But I kept on saying, “You really need to keep on doing this because one day, you could get downsized; one day, the company could go in different direction; one day you might want to go into different direction. That way, you have your network built up on social media so when do make the move or if a headhunter does call you and say, No, maybe it is time. Let’s explore the wonders.” I don’t know if he’s still building his personal brand, but that would be my recommendation back then. We’ve lost touch. It definitely started him in the right direction.
Pam Harper: Well sure. In fact, just personally, I found that when I put my energies into being out there, then good things happen. You can’t wait. You cannot wait until you need it. It’s something that you has to be building all the time. You have to constantly be refreshing. It was something new and something different. You taught me that.
Dan Janal: Yeah. It really is amazing. No one can rest on laurels. John Grisham does book tours; Stephen King does book tours. All these people − they constantly have to be out there. The public has a very, very short memory and attention span. If you’re not constantly interrupting them and showing them something new and something different, something that helps them, then they will just as soon tune you out.
Pam Harper: Well, the good news is there’s always something new that’s going on every day. I mean there’s always something new that − if you are a thought leader − you have the ability to talk about. There are ample opportunities to be out there.
Dan Janal: Exactly. Let me share one strategy with you. It’s called piggy-backing, or on the web these days it’s calling it newsjacking. Same thing, but we’ve been doing it for a million years. Basically, there’s a story that appears in the paper, and you offer your perspective on it. For example, the Grammys were the other day, and I wrote a blog post about it called “Seven Marketing Lessons from the Grammys: the Sound of Marketing.” I’ve got a lot of great feedback from it already. So, I basically looked at the Grammys and said, “Okay, here’s the marketing lesson, or here’s how they do this; I can learn this from that − whatever.” It works. We can look at any story that’s in the headlines today and how does it relate to your company or your field of expertise, and you can find an angle.
In fact, I’ve created a name for it. I call it the “magic hammer theory of publicity,” because Abraham Maslow, the famous psychologist said if you ever have a hammer, then the whole world is a [nail]. I take that to mean, no matter what the question the reporter is asking, the answer is “my topic.”
Pam Harper: That makes sense.
Dan Janal: If you approach any question from that point of view, you will find a direct link to how your expertise can enhance that news article. Think about it. Every reporter writes the same articles every single week, month or year. They work on an editorial calendar, and they know there’s a back to school issue; there’s the earnings issue; there’s the trade show issue; there’s the tax issue, and on and on and on. Every month they do these things, and you just have to be ahead of the curve and say, “Okay, three months from now, they’re going to do the big convention coming up. What are the big stories of the big convention? What are the big trends for this year? What are the big news items or new products that could be seen at this convention? Let me write an article about it. Let me write a blog about it. You piggy-back off of that, and that’s how you become a thought leader or one of the ways to become thought leader which is a good idea.
Pam Harper: Well, one of the ways − I mean, we’re just dipping into it here.
In fact, we’re going to take a quick break, and when we come back, we’ll talk more with Dan Janal about immediately useful steps that you can take to build and strengthen your own personal executive brand. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, enabling successful companies to accelerate to the next level of innovation and growth; on the web at www.businessadvance.com.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We’re talking with Dan Janal, founder and president of PR Leads, and an expert on branding, about how executives can benefit from building their personal brand. Dan, how can people find you?
Dan Janal: www.prleads.com.
Pam Harper: Perfect. Okay. Well, in the first and second segments, we’ve been talking about why it’s so important for executives to build their personal brand, and we’re also talking about ways that you can do it. Let’s talk about a few more. You just began to tell us about some things.
Dan Janal: Okay. I’ll be remiss if I didn’t do a little self-promotion myself so allow me this. You want to be quoted by the regular media because they still have all the credibility in the world…
Pam Harper: Wait a minute. I need to stop you here. Dan − what is “regular media?”
Dan Janal: The mainstream media, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, television shows − the things that 99% of Americans watch. The regular media, as opposed to the internet media or the social media: the ABC, NBC, Fox, NSNBC, CNN. We’re talking about the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Forbes, Fortune, the traditional media that we grew up with. That’s what I’m talking about here. My service basically puts you in touch with those reporters who are working on articles and need to find experts like you to quote. It really is grabbing the low-hanging fruit. This is the fastest and easiest way to get publicity in the traditional media.
The second step I think is to write articles for the traditional media. Believe it or not, that’s becoming easier and easier all the time, because Forbes and other magazines want articles from experts because their readers want a diverse number of opinions and ideas. Not every magazine does this. I mean the New Yorker and New York magazine, they have their own staffs, and so does Business Week, but Forbes and other publications are taking literally dozens of articles every week on a regular basis from experts like you and me, and publishing them. Those articles are being found on Google. When you look for customer service expert, you’ll see the Forbes columnist is the number one person; he happens to be a professional speaker and author. I’m sure he gets a lot of interest and a lot of views that way because he writes for Forbes. It’s brilliant credibility-building because he writes for Forbes. That’s your traditional media. We call that the “earned media” because you have to work hard to get the reporters to notice you. The ones who notice you − you’ve really earned that.
Then there’s social media, that’s where you tell people about your wonderful ideas. That’s the Twitter, Facebook. LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and a thousand others. With that kind of service, that’s where you can put one liners out there. You can put articles about there. You can link to your articles. You can link to what people are saying about you; you’re really becoming a publisher. The same with blogging; − blogging is the easiest way to become your own personal publisher.
You can publish on your company’s website, or your own personal website. If you’re written a book, then your book should have a website as well. You just post your ideas and your thoughts and your opinions. This is where you’re newsjacking or piggy-backing on the news as well. You could also pitch that to the media, but the media doesn’t print everything you said. On your blog, your blog prints everything, because you’re the publisher. Once you publish something, then you can promote that to your network through social media. When you’re “in the regular media,” you can post that to your social media contacts as well. It’s a never-ending process of publishing.
Scott Harper: Dan, mentioning blogging − there are 20 million blogs or something like that out there − a gazillion… How does someone who wants to blog break through some of the noise of all the other bloggers out there? How do you get noticed?
Dan Janal: Sure. You have to realize with the 20 million blogs, 19, 900,915 are about Kim Kardashian. They’re actually very few other blogs to compete with… That joke took a long time to reach from my mouth to your ears…
No, actually, you’re asking a very legitimate question. In every niche, there are going to be competitors, but Brian Tracy said it best. Brian Tracy, the master motivator, sales trainer, whatever − Hh said, “The top person in every field at one time was the bottom person in every field.” That’s because no one was born inherently knowing everything there is to know about everything in your target market − in your field of expertise rather. You wanted to learn, and you became smarter. You wrote a few books. You did some things. You had some case studies. You spent 20 years in the field or 10 years in the field − now you know more than you did on day one.
Well, that’s a never-ending process. We can always look at ourselves as sad and say, “Oh, there’s someone who’s smarter out there. There’s someone better than me.” No matter which school we went to, there’s always someone smarter than us. We always know that we’re not number one in the class. That doesn’t leave us when we go into the world of becoming a thought leader. There’s always going to be someone who’s smarter, but we all have our different perspectives. You have to show an ego to do that.
Pam Harper: Dan, it’s interesting to me as that the process of getting out there and writing articles really gave me an opportunity to realize what I thought. I think that there are a lot of people who have no idea; they don’t really value how smart they are, because they don’t sit and say, “Well, what do I think about this or what do I think about that?” [Writing articles is giving us that opportunity, and lets us say]: “I think I know a lot − I know I know a lot.” The people that we’re dealing are very self-confident, but they may not have thought about why their success is there. What did it take? Not just for me but for me anybody else. I’ve noticed that when they have that opportunity [to write it down], they go, “Yeah, that’s why I’m so successful, because I did do this and I did do that.” It’s a wonderful opportunity for any business leader − any CEO.
Scott Harper: Pam, you bring up a really good point, because as Dan said earlier, “the riches are in the niches.” If you really focus, you can think about “why am I doing this,” and come to that point where you’re really condensing down. You can create a distinguishing niche for yourself and break out from the pack. Dan, do you agree with that?
Dan Janal: Definitely. I think every or many, many experts downplay their own expertise. They think that everyone knows what they know. Except for scientific researchers, who are really studying these and they know what else is in the literature. Everyone else − many, many, many people − downplay what they know. They don’t give it the same value that other people do, whereas they don’t realize that the outside world actually does value exactly what they have. [The outside world wants] to pay a lot of money for it because you’re saving them time and they value your expertise, maybe more strongly than you do.
Pam Harper: Well, you’re making some excellent points, Dan; these are so helpful.
We are out of time for today, but we hope you’ll come back and join us again because I think there are so much to this and such an important topic in terms of getting the word out. Getting it out the right way, and all the opportunities that are going to emerge, not just the ones that exists but the ones that are emerging. Any last thoughts?
Dan Janal: Thank you. Well, Pam, I’d love to come back. Thank you very much. That’s very kind of you.
Yes, the world is constantly changing. You really hit it on the head there. I mean, I wish the world wasn’t changing so fast, because 30 years of experience is suddenly almost being washed out almost day-by-day, and replaced by new strategies and new tactics, and new ideas to deal with the new media and the way people consume that media. I study this. I live it. It’s actually kind of fun. You need to reframe yourself to say, “Gee, there are new opportunities out here,” instead of, “Oh, my gosh. Everything I know is wrong.
As I said before, it’s easier to get publicity now and it’s easier to get through because you don’t have the gatekeepers sanctioning us anymore. It’s easier to get through to our target markets and tell our story directly to our stakeholder, so that people can hire us and give us more money. It’s never been better. It really is a great time to be in the self-promotion business.
Pam Harper: Very promising. Again, thank you.
Join us next Wednesday, when our guest will be Karen Eber Davis, a leading authority on income growth strategies for nonprofits, who helps leaders fulfill their goals and create extraordinary impact. We’ll be speaking with Karen about how for-profits and nonprofits can partner to create new value.
Scott Harper: Thanks for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To check out resources related to today’s conversation, subscribe to the podcast series, and review us on iTunes or Stitcher, go to www.growthignitersradio.com and select episode 6.
Pam Harper: Until next time, This is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question:
Scott Harper: If you were to ask your colleagues what your executive brand is… what would they say?