Category Archives: Leadership

Branding You: Seven Steps to Building Your Online Brand Using LinkedIn

What’s the first thing you do before you meet someone?

Most people pull out their mobile to “Google” the person’s name. Nowadays, it is a necessity to monitor your online brand. When it comes to managing your brand for “You, Inc.,” what do you stand for?

My question stems from a recent presentation I did at Georgetown on how to build an online brand using LinkedIn.  As an alumni, it’s important to me to share my work-related experiences with students as they navigate the often murky, unpredictable job market. Grad school is challenging enough, but coupled with figuring out how to get a job afterwards is both frightening and frustrating. Answering both practical and specific questions on “getting a job in marketing or communications,” my presentation focused on breaking down how to craft a killer LinkedIn profile. Because if you cannot cut through the noise and standout from other graduates, getting that elusive job becomes harder than your Capstone project.

So, what if you’re not a grad student, is it worth worrying about your brand? Is personal branding really that important? I think there are several reasons why to answer this with “yes,” but the most succinct answer can be found on Wikipedia,

“Branding has reached a new level of imperative because of the rise of the Internet. The growth of the virtual world created the necessity of managing online identities. Despite being expressly virtual, social media and online identity has the ability to affect the real world. Because Individuals want to portray themselves a certain way to their social circle, they may work to maintain a certain image on their social media sites. As a result, social media enables the creation of an online identity that may not be completely true to the real self.”

Branding is more than logos, sharp messages, and collateral. Ultimately, what you put online and what people experience about you is your brand. Period.

Still want more? I shared a few colleagues personal branding advice and tips a few years back.

Other throwbacks worth a read:

Five Social Media Tips for Millennials

Eight LinkedIn Profile Tips to Tie Storytelling to Your Personal Brand

Eight Tips on How to Present at Your Next Industry Conference

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Are You an Adaptive 21st Century Leader?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a regional marketing event called North by Midwest in Minneapolis. More than 200 marketers packed Olson’s office to hear many of today’s movers and shakers talk about the new consumer realities confronting marketers and brands. If you didn’t get a chance to attend, check out some of the nuggets from the event. 

Adaptive Leadership

Image Credit: HR.BLR.com

Roselinde Torres, senior partner and managing director, The Boston Consulting Group, led a thought-provoking session on 21st century leadership. While there are timeless leadership qualities such as integrity, intelligence, and vision, Torres introduced four traits that successful leaders have leading their organizations through the ambiguous, uncertain world.

Check out the four traits and summary on Olson Insight Blog.

Note: This event is hosted by the firm I work for and I was sent to blog about the event.

Online Retailers Missed Opportunity: Female Gen Xers with Millennial Tendencies

Recently, I researched the topic of online clothing retailers and their buyers for a grad school project. I find the retail world so fascinating since many retailers have had to adopt their mass-market approach for the online world. Some have succeeded, others continue to struggle to compete. What was interesting in conducting this research was finding a particular small, but influential group of female buyers that most retailers are missing – a subgroup influential because of their buying power and influence.

These women are not quite Gen Xers, but potentially too old to be millennials. They watched Reality Bites, but maybe didn’t feel as jaded. Potentially, they could have gone to a Nirvana concert and still wear their t-shirts.

Gen Xers with Millennial Tendencies

Photo Credit: Salon. Gen Xers are between the ages of 35-44 who grew up during the materialistic 1980s and saw the aftermath of gluttony in the 1990s.

After reading the blog post Social Media Week: Oregon Trail Generation on SMW, I thought I would share my findings about this subgroup. As marketers, we sometimes have to remind ourselves that marketing to a generation is not always about their age, but about their behaviors.

Below is an excerpt from my project. Happy reading.

Female Generation X with Millennial Tendencies

Before millennials were texting their friends using their first iPhones, there was a generation of women who knew of a time before the Internet, Generation X. Gen Xers are between the ages of 35-44 who grew up during the materialistic 1980s and saw the aftermath of gluttony in the 1990s. They are also digital adopters: Gen Xers were the first generation to grow up with computers and technology, although this occurred later in their lives. Today, they remain tech-savvy and habitually research items online prior to purchase (JWT Intelligence, 2010).

They break rules and redefined a slacker generation

Women of this generation are adventurous, daring, quirky, informed, responsible, and skeptical. Nostalgic, Gen X women gravitate towards happier times from their past (Han, 2012). This public can afford higher-end items because they are more established in their careers and have higher spending power. Because Gen Xers write their own rules, she could be a recent mom or a childfree career powerhouse.

They shop too, but often buy less and look for deals. Most female Gen Xers make shopping lists using a variety of tools, half review circulars, and coupons. Fifty-one percent download coupons from retailer sites and 38 percent research products online. About one-third use deal sites, 31 percent use social media to get coupons, and 23 percent look for updates from retailers and manufacturers via texts or e-mails (McClain, 2012).

Why are Gen Xers with Millennial Tendencies Important? Go Back to Why Women Rule the Purse. 

Though shopping is synonymous with women, there are several reasons why women rule the purse and the economy (Brennan, 2011). First, women are the gateway to household budgets. They not only shop for themselves, but also for others— spouses, kids, friends, family, colleagues, and often their older parents. This multiplies their buying power and influence (Brennan, 2013).

Second, women have a strong connection to community both online and off-line. In their community, people connect with one another to help others realize their potential inside and out, and to make life happier for everyone (Brennan, 2011). Millennial females regard shopping as a group activity, shopping twice as often with their spouses, friends, or family members as non-millennial females (Solomon, 2014). The strong connection to each other is easily seen in their business and personal relationships as well. Women prioritize and cultivate personal and business relationships because creating these networks of family, friends, and colleagues is a primary source of joy and fulfillment (Brennan, 2011).

Finally, women are typically connectors, and that makes them the source of valuable information to the people in their network or community. If women are happy with your business, they are delighted to tell people they know— especially if you provide an incentive for them to do so (Brennan, 2011). From loyalty programs to referral programs, if you are not leveraging your female customers to bring in their contacts, you’re leaving money on the table.

Footnotes:

Seven Tips to Quit Your Job Like Grace Kelly

When people mention Grace Kelly, most people think about her Hollywood beauty, charm, and the real life fairy tale story. When I think of Grace Kelly, I think about how graceful she was both on and off camera. As I finish my last day at work, I began thinking what advice would I share with other professionals looking to leave their current gig. Grace kellySome people fantasy about how they will announce their resignation. Some have made videos.  Here is my running list how you can leave your job with the grace like Grace Kelly:

  1. No Matter What, Give Two Weeks Notice. It is easy to daydream how you will throw deuces in the air with pyrotechnics in the background when you give your notice to your boss. While fun and let’s be honest, hilarious, don’t. Two weeks is important to help your coworkers out who will need to pick up the slack now that you have moved on.
  2. Ask for Feedback. While annual performance reviews are great, use this time to meet with people who worked with you to ask for feedback. This is the time to get unfiltered, honest information about yourself as an employee, boss, or leader. Don’t miss out.
  3. Set up Time with Mentors. If you have worked with any leaders in your organization that have had an impact on your work or professional career, set up time to chat. Use this time to convey your gratitude about lessons learned. Also, makes sure to convey that you want to keep in touch and makes sure to deliver on that promise.
  4. Don’t Share too Much About Your Next Gig. When my friend and client asked about my next place of employment, I shared that I wasn’t announcing publicly. It is not that I did not trust her, but rather I want to wait a few months to get into the job and make sure it’s a fit. By the time you update your Linkedin profile no one will care.
  5. Write Thank You Notes. Tell the people or staff that you worked with how much you appreciated their work. Preferably hand written, but whatever the medium, makes sure to convey your gratitude. You never know if you will work with these folks again or if your connection will lead to another gig.
  6. Be Gracious When People Are Not. Resignations sometimes bring the ugly out of people. Be gracious even if it hurts. Some people just are jerks.
  7. Make Sure to Connect with Key Contacts. If you haven’t connected with key contacts via social make sure to do that! Also, share you contact information and connect in a few weeks to share your new business contact.
  8. Bonus:  Make sure to grab samples from your previous gig before heading out the door.

10 Reasons Why Teaching Made Me a Better Leader

Back in 2002, I took the opportunity to become a part-time SAT and ACT teacher. I thought teaching would only last while I was in grad school, but it turned into a ten year career teaching a range of students in multiple states and cities. I think a lot about how teaching has impacted me personally, but also how being a teacher made me a better leader.

1)    Made Me Empathic

Empathy, ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is a requirement for anyone who teaches or leads people. Teaching students of a variety of abilities and backgrounds is challenging, but I always tried to see their point of view and how they interpret information. The same holds true for leading people. Be empathic and see their point of view, even in trying circumstance. Be human and understand not everyone is out to get you or give you a bad grade.

2)    Taught Me to be Dynamic

You know what is harder than presenting to your corporate board? Teaching high school students SAT for three hours after school. I use to call it the “Rachel Live Show for Three Hours.” But, three hours teaching high school kids about math and reading comprehension prepared me for how to engage with an audience when they obviously rather be doing something else. It also prepared me for many meetings with stakeholders who didn’t want to meet with me, but I was able to find common ground and move projects forwarded.

3)    No Two Kids Learn the Same, And Neither Will Your Team

You learn pretty quickly that no two kids learn or communicate the same. This holds true for teams. What works for one employee may not work for the others. I learned how to adapt and be nimble, both skills that were invaluable in the workplace. I had to learn how to manage by not what works best for me, but what works best for my team. Added meetings to my calendar, yes. A little more supervision that I would like, yes. Did it yield better results, hell yes.

4)    Patience is Benevolence

Before teaching, I would say I wasn’t a patient person. After teaching, I have patience of a saint. Some kids need more time to think and come up with answers on their own. I had one student ask if I every got tired waiting for students to answer questions that I already knew the answer to. My response was no. It doesn’t help me to give you the answer, otherwise you will never learn.

It was a great lesson that I used in the workplace, sometime it better for people to figure things out on their own then telling them the answer. Patience leads to better working relationship because you will never be known as the “know it all” but rather the collaborator and developer. I think helping is much more fulfilling and a sign of a better leader than being the alleged smartest person in the room.

5)    You Know When You Hit the Aha! Moment

This is the best moment, ever. When your student who has been struggling, who finally gets the concept, smiles and tells you the correct answer. Best. Moment. Ever. That moment makes you feel like a rockstar and helps boost the kid’s confidence. Aha moments happen in the workplace too when junior members are recognized for their good work and finally understand the advice you have been telling them all along. Huzzah!

6)    Encouraging Others is Your Greatest Gift

Teaching others to be confident in their knowledge and skills is your responsibility as a leader and a teacher.  I think both terms can be interchangeable in the workplace. In order to instill confidence you have to provide encouragement and opportunities for students to grow. The same is for the workplace, give your team members opportunities to grow and be empowered. They will make mistakes, but will learn from those mistakes and be better employees.

7)    Learn How to Manage Expectations

Do you think I can improve 500 points a week from the SAT?” I use to get this question from parents and students. It would blow my mind on how they both should be able to answer this, but I manage expectations. Gaining 500 points a week before the test is not likely. Did my students like to hear this, no. Did their parents, no. Did they respect me for being honest, yup. Learn to manage expectations both with your team and stakeholders. No one likes to get unexpected bad news, but they can deal with it better if you are straightforward and manage their expectations ahead of it.

8)    Tough Love is a Necessity, but Kindness and Grace are Pre-Reqs

Some of my students thought I was a bit too stern in the beginning of a course. But, by the end of our course, they knew that I enjoyed teaching AND being their teacher. While it is great to be well liked, sometimes you have to be the hard-ass. Sometimes kicking some ass and taking some names has to happen. People and students need structure. Students and employees do better when there are clear expectations and instructions.  Even when delivering feedback to my team that will be less than ideal, I always remember to try to be kind and gracious. Everyone comes to work not looking to be ripped apart. I always think about my students who were academically not up to the challenge. I didn’t dwell on their weaknesses; I built them up so that they could get academically stronger. Do the same with your team. Be gracious and kind. It will come back to you in more productive and happier employees.

9)   Your Kids’ “Thank Yous” is the Greatest Reward

The best reward for me wasn’t how great the kids did on their tests, but when they thanked me for helping them to be better. Kids generally were appreciative, but a few of the kiddos were impacted by my teaching and general approach. Best reward in teaching is giving students the confidence to believe in themselves. I took this to the workplace and when my team or colleagues thank me for my advice or guidance it is the best reward a leader can get. It means I did something right to play it forward for someone else in their career. Your greatest gift as a leader is the legacy of your work and the employees who work for you are successful after you leave.

10) Know When You Can Be Sarcastic and Give the Kids Hell

I have been known to be very sarcastic with my students. Frankly the more sarcastic I was, the better they did. But, I think humor is a great way to be human and break the ice with people alike. But, only when the time is right. In work, I have been able to ease certain situations or perhaps make my point known through the use of sarcasm. Give them hell when you know it won’t burn your relationship. As I use to tell my students, “I only give you hell because I know you can take it :)”

At some point, probably for training, I had to calculate how many classes I taught over the course of my teaching. Back in 2009, I calculated roughly, give or take a few kids, I taught more than two hundred classes and probably almost a thousand students. Those students had a tremendous impact on me and my work.

What would your impact be?

Rachel DiCaro Metscher has worked with many organizations to build their communications and marketing programs, including Fannie Mae, American Psychological Association, and The Princeton Review.

What Five Personal Brand Nuggets I Learned from Warren Buffet

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity along with several hundred other Georgetown students to hear from Warren Buffet about the economy, investing, and general observation from a man that has seen many changes in his eighty-three years. While other students asked questions about finance and economics, I was more impressed with Mr. Buffet’s effortless and simple wisdom that is applicable beyond the financial market.  What I learned from the conversation far exceeded my expectations. In his brief conversation, Warren Buffets casual conversation prompted me to not only apply his advice to economics, but also to how I manage my personal brand.

1)   In speaking about his philanthropy works, it is evident Warrant Buffet is very passionate about making an impact in the world. In short, he summarized his interests as, “every human life has equal value.”

How it impacts personal brand: Every person you interact has value. You may not know what it is, but always treat people with kindness and respect. Say thank you regardless how big or small the contribution. How can a thank you pay off? Mark Goulston wrote an article for Harvard Business Review back in February on how to give a meaningful ‘thank you’. My favorite part of the article was research by Adam Grant and Francesca Gino that showed saying thank you not only results in reciprocal generosity — where the thanked person is more likely to help the thanker — but also stimulates pro-social behavior in general. In other words, saying “thanks” increases the likelihood your employee will not only help you, but also help someone else.

2)   He also talked about his inability to control anything from the grave.

How it impacts personal brand: A given, you cannot control everything that comes your way. Don’t try too. What you can control is your reaction. As I written before, maintaining your personal brand online can be tricky when you let your emotions rule your social media content. It about managing what you can, and not worrying about what you cannot. As I wrote previously about managing your personal brand online, your digital footprint lives permanently online, therefore think before your type.

3)   When asked about what we can expect from the economy and society, he was succinct, “humans will continue to behave as they have some for every other economic cycle. When people are scared they want to leave at the same time” This reference is regarding people leaving the stock market.

How it impacts personal brand: Whether you work in B-to-C or B-to-B it is still about people. Behind that B2B business is people, so treat them like humans rather than just another target market. In everything we do, at the end of the day, it about connecting people to others, a product or a feeling. Jay Baer’s recent book, Youtility, is all about providing value to people in terms of helping them. One of the key themes that underline this concept of utility is would clients would actual pay for your content. Think about that. Would people be willing to pay for your content? People will only pay for something if it is of value. Nothing will change this human behavior.

4)   “Nobody does it alone. We sit in the shade that others have planted.”

How it impacts personal brand: By far, one of my favorite sound bites from Mr. Buffet. This is so important to personal brand because you do not get where youWhat Five Personal Brand Nuggets I Learned from Warren Buffet Rachel Metscher are today in business or in life without help. Period. Remember to find your allies and learn from your haters. Those interactions will pave the way to creating the trees that you will enjoy and share. Harvard Business Review covered the topic of finding career sponsors and I think Mr. Buffet was right. Those who help you along the way pave the path for future success.

5)   His philosophy on investing. Simply, “find opportunity.”

How it impacts personal brand: There is opportunity in everything you do. Don’t forget that. Even the most mundane activity could lead to something great down the road. Entrepreneur.com writer wrote a great post how to look for new business ideas in everyday life that I think could be applied to the concept of opportunity.

Bonus: “You don’t need to be the smartest. Just learn how to ignore.”

How it impacts personal brand: This is all about focus and learning to drown out the noise. There will always be distractions or shiny objects, but truly successful individuals learn to have laser focus. Don’t listen to the noise. It is meant to be distracting.

At the end of the day, Mr. Buffet advice while it is intended for more financial outcomes provided more application to everyday life. Who can argue with someone who has this successful? What would you add?

Rachel DiCaro Metscher, director of advocacy and communications for Hobsons, has worked with many organizations to build their communications and marketing programs, including Fannie Mae, American Psychological Association, and The Princeton Review. Currently, Rachel is responsible for Hobsons’ external communication programs, which include public relations, brand, website, and social media.

8 Tips on How to Present at Your Next Industry Conference

I don’t know about you, but I love to attend conferences. There are many reasons why but here is my top three:

  • Personal Brand
  • Networking
  • Personal Brand

Conferences are not only excellent opportunities to learn, but also to build your personal brand. Last week, I had the opportunity to present with Veronica Steele how higher education institutions can build social media strategies with their limited resources. A tall order for some since most enrollment and higher ed professionals in the room were the only resource dedicated to maintain social media strategy and tactics.  I’ll share a tip with you. The best way to get the most out of your social media efforts is to have a plan and strategy tied to you tactics. We shared the best way to do this on a shoestring and you can check it out too.

While at the conference, I had a few folks ask how I landed the opportunity to present. Was I a social media guru? While I don’t think there are truly social media experts, I do believe there are folks who are in the trenches everyday learning and building amazing programs. This is why I push to present how someone, like me, doesn’t need to be at a Fortune 100 company to do social media well.

But, I bet you have something too to share. So, how can you build your brand to present at a conference or the next association’s event?

1)   Brand Your Social Networks.

What story is your LinkedIn profile telling? First and foremost, your social networks should tell a consistent and cohesive story of who you are and what you are about. If you are passionate about Excel, awesome! Then you LinkedIn should share something about your Excel experience and perhaps your Twitter account shares nuggets how to use it better. Build a story so folks come to know who you are.

2)   Build your Authority.

Blogs are a great way to express your knowledge on a topic and build trust with your audience. Hubspot wrote a post on 11 ways to use content to build authority. Everyone has something to share. Start writing down your ideas in a notebook or use Evernote. Here is how I maintain my social media authority through blogging.

3)   Don’t Wait for Your Boss

 I think many folks wait for their boss, coworkers to validate their expertise. Stop waiting for your boss to say you are the expert. There are very few bosses out there looking to develop their team beyond their current job role. Look for ways to build your personal brand through extracurricular activities such as associations and volunteering. I love to teach about social media whether it is talking to college students how to marketing their innate social skills or speaking with colleagues how to use social media better. Regardless of how big or small, I am always up to share and teach what I know.

4)   Find Industry Champions

Find industry allies who know you and what kind of work you do. These influencers will be a great help and will sometimes refer you for other events and conferences to present. Keep in touch with these folks quarterly or at least annually. For me, I tend to share new articles I have written and ask for feedback on projects. You may have something different to share. Whatever it is make sure to always be connecting.

5)   The ABCs of Conferences: Always Be Connecting

Just because you are an attendee at a conference doesn’t mean you cannot be next year’s speaker. Whatever your industry is, find out how speakers get selected. Whether it is through professional services or marketing, find the decision makers for the conference content and make friends. Conference planners want to know if you are a good speaker so make sure to share your previous work through Slideshare or a blog. I tend to share pervious conference evaluations on my presentations, so if you have those share ‘em. Remember the conference planner job is to make the conference amazing so help her out by showing how awesome of a presenter you are.

6)   Find Internal Opportunities to Present

In order to show you have good presentation skills to the conference planners, you need content to share with them. Create workshops or seminars for your own team or company. Start with your internal stakeholders to see if you have a topic that would be interesting to sales or account teams. Host an internal personal development seminar. Leaders are always looking for professional development opportunities and at a low cost. I wrote how I did my social media training DIY and turned that into an article, which then in turned into a speaking opportunity.

7)   Stop Waiting for your Aha Moment

If you are like most people, you are waiting for some earth-shattering event to occur so that it can be your sign to get moving. Stop procrastinating. Personal branding takes time so the sooner you start the better.

8)   Create Some Content

 You heard content is king, but what does that mean? Anna Famery’s summary shared “If there is no content worth reading or seeing on the site, than people won’t go.” How do you fuel the content machine? Jot down different topics to discuss on your blog. Here is a list to get you started:

  • Industry trends
  • Best practices
  • Tips
  • Pitfalls
  • Top Ten lists
  • Case Studies
  • Personal Observations
  • How To’s
  • Work Funny Ha Ha’s

Bonus: Connect with other like minded professionals. You never know what contacts could lead to your next conference presentation.

Everyone has something to share, what will you write or present about?

Rachel DiCaro Metscher, director of advocacy and communications for Hobsons, has worked with many organizations to build their communications and marketing programs, including Fannie Mae, American Psychological Association, and The Princeton Review. Currently, Rachel is responsible for Hobsons’ external communication programs, which include public relations, brand, website, and social media.