Don’t Let COVID-19 Cancel Your Conference, Go Virtual with These 3 Tips

When my team and I began planning the 5th Annual She-Suite Summit more than six months ago, we set our sights on a day of inspiration, transformation, and purpose. This year, our women’s leadership conference was centered on the theme, “We Are What’s Next.” With 17 speakers, 300 attendees, numerous vendors, and more than a dozen national partners and corporate sponsors, we looked forward to a unique event focused on turning unexpected challenges into brand and legacy-building opportunities.

In retrospect, we could have never known just how prophetic those words would be.

As the weeks, days, and hours ticked off before the March 13th Summit, set for the greater D.C. area, the threat of COVID-19 became increasingly alarming and very real. It began with a ten to fifteen percent drop in attendance and a few speaker cancellations as more and more companies restricted travel. But on Wednesday, March 11th, the trickle of bad news became a deluge. First, the mayor of D.C. banned large gatherings.  By noon, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. Within an hour, we decided to take the Summit virtual.

The next day we condensed and transformed months of meticulous planning into an intense real-time exercise in organizational flexibility, agility, innovation, and adaptation – all without compromising our core values. As a result, our team turned what initially seemed like the perfect storm into a golden opportunity to showcase our mission, vision, and purpose.

Here are 3 tips we used to lead at the speed of change in the face of the unknown:

1. Put People First – The future of profit resides in people. That is precisely why we needed to put our health, safety, and well-being first. When the crisis initially began to unfold, our first instinct was to ride it out. But very quickly it became clear that we needed to shift gears. We had a responsibility to do the right thing, and that included not only protecting each other, but also upholding the integrity and the spirit of what we promised – an event that was insightful, impactful, and interpersonal. The 2020 She-Suite Summit still had to be a place where everyone could shine; we just needed to do it online.

2. Pivot to Your Strengths – Knowing who you are and your unique value is the first step on any path to success. Not only is my background in brand strategy and crisis communications, but fortunately, our company, Velvet Suite, excels at online learning and development. We’ve done more than 500 on-demand webinars and podcasts. We’ve executed more than 1,200 virtual courses, and we’ve built a community of leaders across the country. That’s our wheelhouse. So this was a chance to play to our strengths in the digital realm. We all have skill sets and talents; identify them and build on that foundation first.

3. Communicate Seamlessly – Rapid change requires swift, clear communication across your full spectrum of contacts and communities. Overnight, I articulated a vivid vision for every aspect of the virtual Summit. Then our team rallied together to identify and fill potential gaps. From developing segment communications, digital assets, and FAQs to handing call, text, and e-mail traffic to testing our tech tools for high production value, we had one day and one chance to execute with excellence. And most importantly, we did it all in a way that inspired confidence and competence under uncertain and potentially confusing circumstances. Use every advantage at your disposal to deliver your message effectively, efficiently, and harmoniously.

When we took the 2020 She-Suite Summit virtual, we raised the bar. More than 200 people participated, with 430 logging on throughout the day via Facebook Live, LinkedIn, and other social communities. By shifting online, we not only brought people back, but we also succeeded in reaching an even wider audience. The same goes for our 17 speakers. Even those who were forced to cancel in-person joined virtually with incredible energy and enthusiasm. Most importantly, the Summit is still making an impact. We are coaching companies to navigate this new virtual norm. Every day, we’re seeing attendees use the 90-day Personal Brand Partnership and action plan they formed at She-Suite to elevate their recognition online.

Not only was this year’s She-Suite Summit called the best ever virtual summit by some attendees, it continues to serve as a testament to Velvet Suite’s values in action. As the events played out in real-time, we lived by example. Instead of a nightmare scenario, our Friday the 13th became a case study in how we succeed by putting people first, pivoting to our strengths, and communicating seamlessly.   

No, we may not know what tomorrow holds. In the new and unprecedented landscape of a sudden global pandemic, it’s challenging, if not impossible, to predict the future.

But one thing is clear: we are what’s next. We will rise to the occasion. And nothing will stop us from building community, enhancing brands, and leading with purpose to help others do the same.

How Our Team Survived and Thrived in the Face of COVID-19

COVID-19 presents unique and unprecedented challenges to businesses and employers of all sizes across the HR community. But these obstacles, though significant, also offer opportunities for HR leaders and managers to take their teams to the next level. Here’s how our company, Velvet Suite, rose to the occasion when the growing pandemic threatened to cancel our annual summit.

For more than six months, my team and I worked extensively and tirelessly to plan every detail of our 5th Annual She-Suite Summit. With 17 speakers, 300 attendees, numerous vendors, and more than a dozen national partners and corporate sponsors, we prepared for a women’s leadership conference focused on turning unexpected challenges into brand and legacy-building opportunities.

Little did we know it would be a case study in doing just that.

A modest drop in attendance and a few speaker cancellations related to COVID-19 travel restrictions one week out snowballed into a full-blown crisis within 48 hours of the March 13th Summit. First, the mayor of D.C. banned large gatherings (the Summit was set for the Greater D.C. metro area).  By noon, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. Within an hour, we decided to take the Summit virtual.

 

In the day before the Summit, our team condensed and transformed months of meticulous planning into an intense real-time exercise in organizational flexibility, agility, innovation, and adaptation. Most importantly, we refused to compromise our core values. Instead, we leaned into them and relied on them, as well as HR best practices, to help ensure and drive a successful event.

Here are 3 tips we used (and HR professionals can follow) to lead at the speed of change in the face of the unknown:

 

Count on Human Capital – At Velvet Suite, we often say, “The future of profit resides in people.” That is precisely why we needed to put our health, safety, and well being first. When the crisis initially began to unfold, our first instinct was to ride it out. But very quickly it became clear that we needed to shift gears. We have a responsibility to protect our clients, our vendors, our partners, and our team. Putting people first reinforces their value to the company and their pivotal role in your overall success. It also boosts morale and puts HR leaders in an ideal position to take stock of individual skills, talents, and strengths. Since I know my team and they know I value them, we were already a collaborative and cohesive unit. We were already on the same page when we had to go back to the drawing board. And we were all invested in going the extra mile (or ten) when it came to crunch time.

 

Start with Your Strengths – Knowing your team’s unique value is the first step to success, especially when venturing into uncharted waters. In facing an unknown, unexpected, or potentially unstable situation, start with your strong points. For example, my background is in brand strategy and crisis communications. Plus, Velvet Suite excels at online learning and development. We’ve done more than 500 on-demand webinars and podcasts. We’ve executed more than 1,200 virtual courses, and we’ve built a community of leaders across the nation. That’s our forte. So this was a chance to pivot to our strengths in the digital world and advance our brand all while helping others do the same. We all have skills and talents; identify them, leverage them, and build on that foundation first.

 

Accentuate Engagement – Rapid change requires swift, clear, and seamless communication across your full spectrum of contacts and communities. Nowhere is this truer or more important than in HR. When we decided to take the Summit virtual, I spent all night articulating a vivid vision and action plan. The next day, our team rallied together to identify and fill potential gaps. But it wasn’t enough just to execute. We had to do so with excellence and an eye for engagement. The She-Suite Summit didn’t simply go online because of an unprecedented health crisis. COVID-19 raised the stakes. We had to stay relevant in the face of a growing emergency. That meant updating our messaging and content to ensure an insightful, impactful, and interpersonal experience. Yes, technology can be utilized cost-effectively, but you can’t sacrifice expertise and strategy in forging meaningful connections. 

Not only was this year’s She-Suite Summit called the best ever virtual summit by some attendees, it continues to serve as a tribute to the Velve Suite team and a textbook example of how HR leaders can meet and exceed expectations in an increasingly unpredictable world.

More than 200 people participated in the Summit, with 430 logging on throughout the day via Facebook Live, LinkedIn, and other social communities. By shifting online, we not only brought people back, but we also succeeded in reaching an even wider audience. The same goes for our 17 speakers. Even those who were forced to cancel in-person joined virtually with incredible energy and enthusiasm. Most importantly, the Summit is still making an impact. We are coaching companies to navigate this new virtual norm. Every day, we’re seeing attendees use the 90-day Personal Brand Partnership and action plan they formed at She-Suite to elevate their recognition online.

We could have never anticipated COVID-19 nor just how rapidly its impacts changed our event and continue to change our economy and our world. But as the events played out in real-time on Friday the 13th, we lived our example. As a result, we turned a nightmare scenario into a golden opportunity for both our company and the entire HR community.  We did the right thing at the right time for the right reasons, and we learned – and shared – valuable lessons.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated event or a one-off. COVID-19 is now a household name. It’s a game-changer. But HR leaders can succeed, and our teams must succeed. Let’s continue to empower our human capital, build on our strengths, and focus on engagement as we work together to overcome both the impacts of this virus and the uncertainty we all face on a daily basis.

How Resilience Helped Deryk Gilmore Relaunch His Brand

(Pictured L to R: George Selvie, Deryk Gilmore, Gary Brown)

by Scott Bischoff

There is very little that, when encumbered by our darkness, helps as much as being of service to others, aiding them to find some light. Recognizing an obligation to assist others is a balm for the soul, weary and yearning to find purpose. There are moments in one’s life when leaning into our faith is something that feels necessary at the moment, and upon reflection, becomes a gift from God.

Deryk Gilmore is an NFL agent and has been around football his entire life, from player to coach to agent, and he is truly fantastic at what he does. When describing his troubles last year with losing his agent certification, he expressed the sentiments that his difficulties pushed him to focus on his faith, family, and helping others. That faith ultimately helped him get closer to God and get back his certification in September of 2019.

Gilmore, an agent since 2005, ventured out on his own in 2017, starting Day 1 Sports and Entertainment. He is specifically driven to use his values and understanding of the game to help his clients’ dreams become their reality. He has been tremendously successful in being proactive, getting out in front of situations, and confronting them with intelligence and integrity.

Gilmore, along with many other agents, was most frustrated with a new certification testing procedure because it assessed written questions on the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, not real-world experience or competency as an agent – which is immeasurable on a written test.

Gilmore had proven his abilities to perform with proficiency when his clients needed him the most – whether it be dispelling the narrative that D.J. Fluker was not mobile, highlighting Mike Evans’ catch radius, or something as ridiculously simple as showing a team a player speaks English well, as was the case with Haloti Ngata. Gilmore’s goal has been to identify concerns and address them. Football pedigree and building relationships with not only the players but NFL personnel have been Gilmore’s strengths.

His mother raised Gilmore after his father passed away when he was three years old. His mother was a constant throughout his life, and he took care of her with his cousin Deontia’s help until she passed away in January of 2018.

During this devastating time, Gilmore was required to take the recertification test. This surprised him because he had not been asked to take a test of any kind for approximately 15 years. Once he found out he failed the test by one question, the shock settled in, and he felt that his faith was being challenged.

There was a spiritual awakening as this situation evolved, but in the midst of that, there was also work to do. He spent the next few months fighting the results and working on getting reinstated while re-centering his life on his faith. With his future in doubt, Gilmore dug in, and over time he learned that he needed to ask God what the message was – “What are you trying to tell me?”

He found comfort in weekly Bible study, Joel Osteen’s daily message, and listening to Marvin Sapp. He realized the best way to honor his mom was giving back. He and his wife created three scholarships to honor their parents. He found light in his faith and the team that surrounded him.

Gilmore started calling his clients to inform them of what was happening, and immediately he had support. Two general managers contacted the league on his behalf. Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans wrote a letter to the league in his defense. Former players and clients of Gilmore’s, Geoff Schwartz and Brandon Frye, also sent letters in support of the work Gilmore had always done. He was humbled when he understood he had made genuine friendships through his work.

He also learned that it was essential to know who was in the battle with him, and who was not. Gilmore’s wife, Camille Chang Gilmore, and his business partner Amanda White were tremendous in their faith and belief in him. They helped him to see that he needed to focus on his current clients, refusing to allow anything to get in the way of their needs or offseason programs. He came to understand that he needed to trust that God had his back through everything and that His plan is the best plan.

His conversations with his clients were important as they put a plan together for each. It was a stressful time for everyone, but he was able to get each of them taken care of while he was forced to sit the year out.

One exchange with Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman D.J. Fluker stands out to him. Gilmore had sent him text messages of encouragement throughout his career, and Fluker sent him one in return this time. The text was a bible verse, and Gilmore has used it as his mantra daily. The text said, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11.

New England Patriots offensive lineman Shaq Mason told him he was “his guy” and he was going nowhere. Gilmore felt amazingly blessed to be so supported, but he was still fighting uphill.

Other agents were now in the mix, and players had to make tough choices. Some left him as he was unable to work on their behalf, and contracts were due, or they were in a difficult situation with their team, which required a plan. As one client said, “I need you, and if it’s not you, I have to find someone like you – but I’ll be back when you’re back.” Gilmore understood and respected the decisions each of them made and tremendously appreciated those who stuck with him through the rough patch.

While some agents were working to flip his clients, others were actively working to help Gilmore. It is a very competitive industry, and some of the people coming to his aid took him by surprise. Peter Schaffer brought support from other agents, Jon Herbst’s legal counsel was invaluable, and former colleagues Mike McCartney and Kyle Dolan’s loyalty was unmatched. Cathy Bowman helped Gilmore with his preparation for the next exam. Bowman had not previously met Gilmore, and it was another agent who told her the story, and she sought him out to help.

During the struggles, Gilmore came to see that when God was closing a door, he was opening another one, even if it was “hell in the hallway” as he puts it. Gilmore started to prepare differently and to see things differently. Gilmore sees the positives that came out of the situation, as he was able to spend the year focusing on his veteran players and enjoying his family.

He got back on track in regards to helping his clients prepare for life after football, aiding them in cultivating relationships and planting seeds for what comes after their football career. La’el Collins got his trucking business going, and D.J. Fluker opened an automotive shop. Gilmore has come away from it all with a firm belief that he wants to recruit the type of players who hold his values and those that love the game of football, and he feels extremely confident in his future success to come.

Gilmore was recently recertified and has learned valuable lessons while going through this process. He feels that he will be a much better agent in the end, and he feels blessed to get back to working for his guys. He has begun to resign all of his clients and picked up a new one as recently as last week. There was a celebration among Gilmore and his group, and Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle La’el Collins said it best after he signed his new deal: “Deryk, you my agent for life!”

Invest in Yourself First

With so many things to be thankful for this year, I am happy to add The Brand Leadership Institute (BLI) to my list. What a great experience and what an honor to be asked to share with others my experience with this wonderful program!

First, I want to share a little bit about myself as you may be able to relate. I am an account executive with Boston Scientific Urology and Pelvic Health Division and have been in this role for over 9 years. My husband Paul and I have two children: Johnny (7) and Carolyn (4). Life in the Kahlert home is very busy balancing work and life. Every year I find it busier with kid’s activities and school. Like many moms, I often put myself last on the priority list.

Needless to say, I was beyond excited when I learned about this program. It came at a very important time for me as I was feeling defeated on how to do it all. How does one balance the demands of being a good mom, employee, and wife and manage your brand in today’s day and age? Is it even possible? One thing was clear; I lacked a focused plan with clarity and purpose to shift to new levels to achieve all of these goals and was overwhelmed with where to start. The BLI offered so many great tools and insight to take a leap and sign a pledge.

Here are my top three takeaways from the program:

  1. Sharpen Focus – I write daily “to do” lists for my professional and personal life with clarity and focus and start each day with a Positive Affirmation. Seems simple and obvious. Yet, this is something I didn’t always do and have found it to be effective in so many ways.  While driving home from work I say another Positive Affirmation and reaffirm what I have accomplished for the day and remind myself to “put the phone and computer away until the kids go to bed.” It may not happen every night, but I really try to most days.
  2. Performance – “Be so good, they can’t ignore you” This really struck a chord for me both professionally and personally. How do I stand up against my potential? The performance map and trackers are great tools that I incorporate into my weekly goal setting. Never settle. This I found to be very motivating and a great motto. Sometimes a change in mindset can really change your end state.
  3. Presence – Before The Brand Leadership Institute, I used a non-professional photo for my Linked In profile picture. I reached out to our family photographer and asked her if she could take some professional pictures, which I uploaded on my LinkedIn account. Define your image and don’t have a mismatch between your brand image and your current message.

I may not have tackled all of my goals, but I have a better plan of action and mindset than I did six months ago and for that, I am truly grateful!

How Successful Leaders Overcome Self-Doubt

When your inner critique gets the best of you it can turn your instinct into your worst enemy. But why? In some ways, second-guessing yourself can be good. However, it is in those tiny seconds that self-doubt can creep in and crush your confidence to take action.

Yet, according to Malcolm Gladwell in the first chapter of his book, Blink​, our delayed instinct is often to second guess ourselves and our ability. “The first task of Blink is to convince you of a simple fact: decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately,” says Gladwell. Taking action before self-doubt sets in empowers you to build your instinct muscle before you have the chance to talk yourself out of anything.

If you’ve been second-guessing yourself most of your life, you might not even realize you’re doing it. So, here are three ways to coach yourself out of self-doubt.

1.See the Possibilities
Getting specific with your vision is the first step in goal-setting as it will help you create smaller tasks to accomplish along the way. Focusing on the opportunity is a great way to look at the glass half full. Envision the future state and all the benefits you will receive as as a result of taking action. It will look different depending on how you work best — talk things through with someone you trust, write in a journal that contains all of your ideas, or make a collage that allows you to see all of your dreams on paper.
These are just a few things you can do to see the possibilities. Once you are able to see the opportunity, you can spend more time getting excited about the potential than convincing yourself it won’t work.
2.Silence Your Inner Critic
It sounds easy, but sometimes your biggest bully is looking you in the mirror. Make a written list (or a mental one) of all of the things you’ve accomplished — no matter how big or small. What are your strengths? Have you overcome similar tasks before? It won’t take long before you see just how much you’ve got going for you.
Use this list to give yourself a pat on the back. Affirm your strengths, times when you faced adversity and overcome it. You’ve got a path of proven performance. Focus on the lessons learned and how you overcame the obstacle and use it to fuel your vision for what’s ahead.
3.Commit to Action
Just do it. Now that you’ve clarified your vision and shut down self-doubt, it’s time to jump into action. In Mel Robbin’s book, 5 second Rule, readers learn how to count backward from five every time they begin to do something they don’t immediately feel motivated to do. Many readers have said this method works wonders for them — there’s a reason why it’s a best-seller.
In fact, I recall using this method for myself as a child. It started with overcoming my fear to jump off a diving board. My rule was if I started to count, I was committed and I had to “just do it” by the time I counted to three.
Overtime, I’ve adopted this approach in business. When I first hosted a my own event designed to address the leadership gap for women called The She-Suite Summit, there were tons of reasons to self-doubt. What if no one attends? What if you can’t secure sponsors? What if you can’t afford to execute the event in the middle of planning?
The list to quit was growing in my mind before I started. Instead of giving up on the idea, I focused on the possibilities, silenced the inner critic and took action. Our first event was delivered in 2010. Next year will be our fifth year executing this event experience and every year we have grown and it keeps getting better.
Committing to action means do something. Your steps may be small at first, but remember every step is a step in the right direction.
4.Release Expectations
This doesn’t mean forget about your original vision or goal. It’s more of a state-of-mind: be open to other things that may happen along your journey that you may not have even thought about. Opportunities are likely to pop-up when you least expect it and they just might make your vision even bigger and better than you originally thought.
Self-doubt and second-guessing yourself doesn’t change overnight. But like any habit it is built consistently over time. Take time to put these four steps into practice daily to create a new habit that will crush your self-doubt and change your way of thinking for the better.

How Bold Action and The BLI Accelerated My Path to Senior Leadership

If you’re reading this, chances are you are on a journey of progress. You’re intelligent, determined, and passionate about your personal brand. The reality is nothing comes easy! What do you do when you’ve tried everything in your power, and still have not obtained a career-changing promotion? Celebrate the journey, and try one more time. 

Too often we hear encouraging stories shared by others, and less on the details of their struggles that got them there. It is important to share the struggles, which at times can be painful, yet necessary. Just like an expectant mother prepares for the intensity of labor, you too must prepare proactively to bare the sweet gifts life has to offer.

My name is Edwige Robinson, I hale from a small town in the Ivory Coast, a beautiful French-speaking African nation. In my early twenties I won the lottery! Not the Mega Millions, or Power Ball but one just as familiar and rewarding, the green card lottery. Within weeks of receiving my paperwork from the United States, I boarded a flight to New York. Gripping tightly to my English dictionary in my left hand, and a single lightweight suitcase packed with all of my possessions in my right.

Although I came with college-level credentials, I could not speak a lick of English. Alone and overwhelmed, my immediate goals for assimilation were to quickly learn the language, learn the culture, get a J-O-B, then secure a Bachelor of Engineering degree. I am sharing this with you to say that I am not a foreigner to challenges. I worked hard and achieved these goals. However, the struggle thereafter – in corporate America – blind-sided me. Think of it as being lost in a maze.

Feeling alienated, because I am a minority, a woman, and an individual who speaks with a French accent. It was difficult to relate to my peers, let alone find a supporting network. Determination and persistence kept me working long hours to be atop my game. My appetite to increase the status quo led me back to school. I completed my M.B.A. and raked up professional certifications along the way.

Little did I know qualifications alone would not get me to the next goal: senior management. No matter how hard I tried, or prepared, or networked, I was turned down and continuously passed over for promotions. Job-hunting became too emotional. I tuned into motivational talk radio on my daily commutes, periodically releasing tears when reflecting back on the frequent instances of being overlooked. My family and peers still regarded me highly, so the motivational talks allowed me to regroup and reset. I still could not help trying to pinpoint the missing puzzle piece inhibiting my progress. If I could put my finger on it, I could fix it! Life will surely challenge your courage, nonetheless, you cannot give up, and you have to continue the walk. Here is where the Brand Leadership Institute changed my life.

A friend of mine invited me to a conference, and I showed up in solidarity.  There I was introduced to the Brand Leadership Institute. I found a way to secure the required funds and enrolled in the program. The Brand Leadership Institute revived me with tangible tools to smooth my rough edges, and embrace my values. I learned to utilize my uniqueness as an asset and flaunt it with pride. Early on in the program I noticed a change in how my peers communicated with me. It was uplifting! I felt empowered and respected. My personal brand blossomed. The program encompasses more than just leadership development. It provides an opportunity to learn more about yourself…your passions…your vision for life.

Embraced with confidence, many opportunities have come my way like, working directly with our Chief Technology Officer and other high-ranking executives. I’m fearless, mindful, and no longer doubtful. I’m on the path to greatness.

So how can you minimize the challenges you may face as you are embarking in your journey? Here are few tips to add your arsenal.

  1. Be open to suggestions and feedback: Open-mindedness is critical to learn new strategies. Be open to programs such as the Brand Leadership Institute (BLI) to help smooth rough edges; we all have them. Open-mindedness shows that you are teachable and coachable, that aspect is very attractive to mentors and sponsors.
  2. Improve your emotional intelligence: it is ok to be yourself, yet you have to be considered of others and respect their difference, otherwise it will cost you a lot in your career. Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and those of the people around you. This quality gives individuals a variety of skills, such as the ability to manage relationships, navigate social networks, influence and inspire others. You will need it to move up.
  3. Finally, I have to remind myself of this one last one. Having the dream is not enough; it is the commitment of making the dream happened that would make the difference. In your journey, it will come a moment when you have change roads; you make the choice with confidence, and then let this force greater than you called divine providence be your guide. Just don’t quit, keep moving!!! Have no doubts the universe is unfolding as it should, be at peace with yourself. You are important as the stars.

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”

Mary Anne Radmacher

5 Keys to Authentic Brand Leadership that Most Miss

In the era of instant attention, many companies and people mistake marketing for brand building. It is estimated that we all are bombarded with up to 4,000 messages in a day, and everyone wants their message to break through the clutter. 

The key to longevity and value is in how you craft your brand value with authenticity. 

You may be looking to get noticed in your new position, attract the best talent to your organization, or reposition yourself for next-level leadership. No matter your career and life objective, the power of promotion and undeniable value are in your hands. 

Brand leadership starts from the inside out. It must not only be a personal strategy but also an organization priority starting with purpose and people first. 

At Velvet Suite, we realize the most difficult part of branding is not promotion but discovering the recipe for profit in career, life, and industry. The key to profit is understanding value creation. This starts with an introspective view to come to know your true worth. 

Knowing Yourself Is the Beginning of all Wisdom” —Aristotle

The first step to living your brand is to know your authentic identity.  It is all about having an intimate understanding of your value and worth as an individual and an organization. 

The greatest travesty occurs when we are robbed of our genuine identity, feeling pressured to look, act, think, or even achieve according to our competition or someone else’s standards. 

Your authentic value is compelling.  When we reveal our genuine, true self, it is infectious because you are an original.  Authenticity is your most attractive selling point.  

5 Keys to Developing Your Authentic Brand Leadership 

You understand the importance of leaning into authenticity as you intentionally develop your personal brand.  Here are five important steps to take to ensure you’re on the right track: 

1. Recall your value and your values.  Knowing your values helps you understand what drives you, inspires you, or what you’d like more of. Often we think we value what we were told to value from our childhood, but that may not align with what feels right to us now. What is truly important to you?  Solidly defined values act as the firm foundation for the decisions we make in our day-to-day lives. By building a lifestyle upon that foundation, we create a life that is more satisfying and meaningful.

People will be attracted to come to work with you or for your organization based upon the values you not only state but you live. This is what gives meaning and value to our work and to your brand of leadership. 

2. Stand by what makes you different. Notice when you are out of alignment with your values, either in your speech or in your actions. When those moments arise, use the opportunity to change course and take action that brings you back into alignment.  Set standards and keep them. 

For example, sometimes it is easier to go along with the group-think in the meeting, but what will make a difference is your different point of view. Don’t allow the pressure of being the same to steal the opportunity for your brand to shine. 

Remember, great brands are built on difference and distinction. It takes courage, but that is what defines leadership. 

3. Check the imposter syndrome at the door. Make sure you are not copying the mannerisms and words of someone else to keep you looking good. Find your own way of expressing yourself and get comfortable with it. It’s ok if it’s not for everyone… you’re not in middle school anymore; you don’t need to blend in with the crowd! 

4. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.  Being your authentic self is not always easy. When we first attempt to make decisions that align with our most authentic self, we will be required to act in ways that are new to us and make us feel uncertain. 

When we become comfortable doing the uncomfortable, acting in spite of fear or discomfort, we move closer to living our most authentically successful life. 

5. Check your gut before making any important decision. When authenticity is your goal, you need to understand your inherent worth, even if you’ve lived through plenty of mistakes and failures.  Zig Ziglar famously said, “Failure is an event, not a person.” Mistakes don’t define you. Forgive yourself and move on.  

When you are coming from a place of authenticity, you trust yourself because you have developed a sense of purpose in your life and a strong connection to your values (what matters to you), thereby consistently making decisions that align with those values. And when you consistently act according to those values, you will continue upward momentum toward meaningful success. 

Want to know more about authentic Brand Leadership? Check out Melissa Dawn Simkins’ book Brand Me: Make Your Mark – The Ultimate Playbook for Personal Branding.

5 Extraordinary Results Occur When You Build a Personal Brand

Face the facts. Your work ethic is good but not good enough. Your well-designed product and impeccable service have taken your business far, but something is missing. If you don’t have a personal brand strategy, you have overlooked an amazing opportunity.

In my book, Brand Me: The Ultimate Playbook for Personal Branding, I define your brand as the perception and promise of value. Everyone has a brand. It is either positive or negative. Neutral is invisible. In an attention economy, how are you making a memorable and meaningful connection? Personal branding is not a platform for self-promotion.

The essence of authentic personal branding is owning your value and serving an unmet need. Steve JobsJack WelchOprah Winfrey, and Jessica Alba all reaped the benefit of building a strong personal brand to expand their business and lifestyle empire.

It’s time for you to get in on the action!

  1. Freedom to Live with Purpose
    Every great brand is crystal clear on its “why.” At my company, we call it your MVP–mission, vision, and purpose. Purpose is a compass that helps you prioritize your work and empowers you to monetize your mission. When you master purpose, you become clear about what is important, and you leverage your strengths and skills against the highest-value work. Now you can streamline your productivity and your passion. The bonus is this gives you a confidence boost to embrace your unique difference in a way that separates you from the competition.
  2. Capture the Attention of Your Audience
    Clarity creates a focused and memorable message. Every great brand starts with a story. Leveraging a tight and concise narrative around your brand sells. What message are you conveying when people see you or hear your words? Does it align with the attributes, values, and intention of your company? Identify the top three words you want people to think of when they see you. Create the experience that will welcome your audience, and watch them come back hungry for more.
  3. Profit from Your Niche
    Brands are premium. When a company has invested marketing dollars, research, and intellectual property into its product or service, it can command a higher value. When you invest in your own personal brand development, you can get what you are worth. As you discover your purpose and focus your message, you can profit from your niche.
  4. Create a Contagious Community around Your Cause
    True leaders don’t look for followers. When you have mastered your own story, you can inform, inspire, and empower others. Building a community is the greatest compliment to your brand. You can create a place to share your expertise and experience and, most important, connect others. You’ve demonstrated your value by giving first. The benefit of community is a deeper level of connection, brand impact, and loyalty.
  5. Elevate Your Platform of Exposure
    The ultimate benefit of personal branding is the platform of exposure to elevate your message. This is what I call the master’s level of personal branding. Influence opens doors for your voice in media interviews, blogs, awards, and partnerships, and gives access to opportunities to expand your audience and increase profit.