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Recently I’ve been tossing around this idea of a “Third Identity” for Veterans when referring to career and life, post-military.  I call it a “Third Identity” because Veterans typically had an identity of who they were before the military; they then assume a new identity in the military (as their life and experience in uniform would warrant).  Finally one exits the military and who the Veteran identifies himself to be post-military is rarely the same person he was before or during his time of service.  With all the variables that come with it – there is one common trait that builds the person, and should be minded: Integrity.

I don’t mean just integrity as in honesty; I mean “integrity” as in the consistency, or truancy of behavior.  For this, I’m going to attempt to weave a common thread through the theories, observations and expertise of three gentlemen far smarter than myself – as I’ve interpreted from their books.

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My Personal Jim Joseph Collection, Hardbacks and Kindle combined.

What do Jim Joseph, Joe Navarro, and Charles L. Allen all have in common?  They’ve all stressed the importance of consistency in behavior.  Why?

Jim Joseph is the largely successful, global branding guru – who has experienced success as an entrepreneur, corporate leader, professor, father and author – penning 4 great books (of which I’ve finished three and am due to order his latest “Out and About Dad”).  Jim’s series of “The Experience Effect” reiterates the need for consistency in business, employee, and personal behavior in order to gain positive rapport with a target audience (That is a gross over-simplification, but feel free to read up yourself J).  Jim says it best when wrapping up “The Experience Effect for Small Business”:

Live life consistently with the brand you’ve established for yourself and link it to your small business.  Make personal choices that are consistent with your brand, and make personal decisions that reinforce and support the decisions of the business that will aid in its success.”

Joe Navarro is an acclaimed FBI Interrogator and Investigator and has literally, written the book on detecting deception for the FBI.  You can read his work in “What Every Body is Saying”.  When Joe goes deeper into identifying deception, he repeats both the difficulty in doing so – but also, the importance of “Synchrony”.

Synchrony is as it sounds, when all elements of communication are synchronized in delivering a consistent message.  But, when the verbal message doesn’t match the non-verbal message (body language) something is off.  As Joe will explain, seeing this sort of “asynchrony” will cause discomfort in both the communicator and who the person is communicating with.  It makes sense – how uncomfortable is it to just say the word “No” while nodding your head yes?

Lastly, Charles Lawrence Allen is a published Psychotherapist and Counselor.  In his book, “Why Good People Make Bad Choices”, Charles describes the constant argument all people face.  The argument between stated (and ideally behaved/demonstrated) values, and one’s ego.  The ego, as Charles will tell you, has a purpose that contributes to human survival.  It also has a strong penchant for questioning one’s integrity.

In his book, Charles emphasizes, that peace within one’s self is found as consistency is established with stated values and demonstrated behaviors.  It’s a good read for anyone thinking about how their own brain operates, or why they keep grabbing the King Size candy even though they know beach season is coming up.

The common thread?  Consistency is good; Inconsistency is not.  Inconsistent brand experiences will end up losing your company money; enough so to constitute a national shutdown to commence a day of training (like Starbucks did).  Inconsistent body language – or non-verbal communication that doesn’t match what your mouth is saying, will result in discomfort and distrust with whom you are speaking.  Inconsistent actions that do not agree with your own stated values will cause stress and hyper-tension, discomfort, and lack of happiness.  These are all issues that we all face – and issues that Veterans must face in a condensed timeline when searching for their Third Identity.

That search will likely take longer than your savings account will cover.  However, making it through that identification phase as you find your identity will be much more likely if you take a moment to establish your priorities, and make conscious decisions to reinforce those priorities.  It will be visible with friends, families and on interviews; and to someone searching for a sense of purpose – it will be most importantly visible – in the mirror.

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My Personal Brand Part III (Veterans transitioning; from a brand you are given to a Brand you will name)

To conclude my three-part series of “My Personal Brand”, let’s discuss how the dynamics of personal branding changes for U.S. Military Veterans – or at least from my experience.  In the “civilian world”, when it comes to Branding, differentiation is critical.  Without differentiation, your brand is weak and you are not much more than a commodity in your industry – just another number.  In the military, differentiation is largely frowned upon.  Members of the military are the epitome of conformity and uniformity. The only approved and sought after differentiation supported and condoned is that which is based on merit and performance.  It is okay to stand out because your performance is above that of your peers.  Beyond that – don’t try to be different.

To the public eye, a Marine, in or out of uniform is first and foremost a Marine.  Your attributes, both good and bad are first accredited to the Marine Corps and THEN you are considered as a person.  In the Corporate World, an employee’s attributes are accredited FIRST to his personal brand and THEN to his organization.  This is a vital shift in perspective and dynamics that must be understood by Transitioning Veterans.  A Veteran can no longer assume that being part of a successful organization will result in the assumption that he or she is successful as a person.  Rather, an organization will look at your personal brand, and if your brand will contribute to the organization’s success.  From that point forward, your actions will define a brand that is associated with you.  Do you care about money? Do you care about philanthropy?  Can you be trusted? Are you good at your job? Are you dependable?  Anything you do will shape, mold and detail your brand both personally and professionally and you are the SOLE PROPRIETOR responsible for all operations, execution and public relations regarding “I Incorporated” branding.

Professionally, there are two major areas to develop in your brand: Skills and Traits.  This is an idea I came up with while building the Veteran’s Recruiting Division (an architecture I will be using to help Veterans transition).  Skills are those abilities that we can learn in class, through practice, and are taught – often in an academic environment.  One can be taught out to add, type, send emails, develop databases, etc.  There are MS Office skills, athletic skills, software development, writing code, completing a SWOT analysis, folding a t-shirt, etc.  Traits cannot be taught in a classroom.  Traits are embedded abilities, developed over time and speak to a person’s character.  These are abilities that have to be ingrained  trained over time and reinforced through habit and ultimately retained through confidence in their importance to the quality of one’s personal brand.  To give a specific example, the Marine Corps has what they call “14 Leadership Traits”:

–          Judgment

–          Justice

–          Dependability

–          Integrity

–          Decisiveness

–          Tact

–          Initiative

–          Endurance

–          Bearing

–          Unselfishness

–          Courage

–          Knowledge

–          Loyalty

–          Enthusiasm

Having favorable strength in these areas is not something one can build in a classroom.  Traits are force multipliers that vastly improve the efficacy of skill.  The fiscal investment needed to build or develop traits like those listed is far more extensive than any certificate course.  Traits are what Veterans bring to the table. Traits are what Veterans, and most Employers alike, don’t know how to translate in a resume.  It is these traits that will be the guide for Veterans to build their personal brands upon.  Understanding the traits and applying them accordingly is what will build the individual brands of Veterans.  These traits are differentiators.  These traits make skills much easier to acquire and to sharpen.

Skills may provide immediate benefit, and the first 90-days of a job opportunity, but TRAITS are what employers and organizations are truly betting on and will determine success beyond the short-term.  Skills are also the medium in which traits are demonstrated. So it is also important for anyone who is trying to display or build their brand to understand, you may have to invest in your own ability to translate your value through appropriate skills.

Veterans – please remember:  You went from being in a scenario where everything you did gave credit to a brand you were PART OF.  Now you are in a scenario where everything you do DEFINES the brand which YOU are.  Also, trust that the contributions you made to your Service Brand have developed the traits that now define YOUR brand.

“My Personal Brand Part II – Live by the sword, die by the sword”… or do you?

When Marketers, Public Relations Professionals, and the entertainment and sales industry in general speak about brand, they speak about the image of any one entity. Don’t they?  Yes, yes they do – much as I described in Part I.  There are many things that go into building a brand, and actions of that entity is one of them.  Media, be it internet, television, print, or even word of mouth, is an major avenue – a super highway – for communicating actions to the public. Talent aside (and in many cases not even needed) for those in the entertainment industry, the media is also the vehicle to success.

When you use a vehicle to get to work, and you are dependent on that vehicle to get you there – aren’t you also responsible for the maintenance and less glorified aspects of vehicle ownership?  Are you exempt from the oil changes?  Getting Gas?  Getting it washed?  What about getting a flat tire – as inconvenient as it might be, do you not still have to change it or call a tow?  Of course, we have to – it’s our vehicle to well-being, allows up to put food on the table and gets us to where we need to be in order to do our job successfully.  Does anyone ever look down on you for taking care of your vehicle?  Are you less successful because you had a flat tire?  I’ve never heard someone lose credibility for taking care of their vehicle.  I’ve never heard of anyone losing credibility because they had to take on the expenses of their vehicle for the sake of the benefits.  I have however seen people lose credibility because they felt they should be exempt for the expenses and deserved to still have the benefits.  If you stop putting oil in your car’s engine – no matter how great you are at your job, your vehicle will stop, and will not get you to work.

Case in point: Beyoncé.  She is an entertainer; media is her vehicle to success.  Media is not her job, rather singing and dancing is.  Through media, her vehicle, she has developed a brand which has allowed her to do additional branding and expand her brand and credibility.  She can definitely sing, and I haven’t heard an argument that could prove otherwise.

Round 1. – At the inauguration, she lip-synced the national anthem.  Be the circumstances what they were, I am not arguing whether that was smart or not.  However, when she chose not to address the allegations, and initially tried to pull it off allowing others to assume she sang live – she was neglecting her vehicle.  Had she tended to her vehicle immediately, it would not have been nearly the story.  But she didn’t, and like a tire low on air, it only gets worse.  She finally addressed it, but by the time she did, it was like changing a tire on the side of the road, when all she would have needed if done promptly, was put air in the tire.

Round 2. – Beyonce put on a great show at the Super Bowl half-time show.  After the Super Bowl was done and passed, a rather unflattering photo of her started to grow presence on the internet.  Again, Media, being her vehicle to success was in need of maintenance.  It’s fair to say, anyone who is in entertainment has had less than flattering pictures published, and they continue on. Especially of entertainers in the midst of a performance – it happens.  And there is nothing wrong with it.  It is a cost of maintaining the vehicle.  In this instance, Beyoncé (as has been rumored to happen in the past) went on a PR campaign to ask and persuade any website from hosting the picture.  In this, Beyoncé did not feel she was subject to the same costs of her vehicle, and that she shouldn’t have to bare it. She wanted someone else to do it. She wanted those who use the internet and ratings to take a hit on THEIR behalf for the sake of her benefit.  Sure, we’ve all asked for a ride from friends to get to work.  But how does it look when you have to ask for a colleague to drive you to work and drive out of their way – just because you don’t want to drive your car in the rain?

If you expect to reap the benefits of something, you have to accept the costs and responsibilities.  The moment you feel that you should be exempt from those responsibilities – you will start a slow deterioration of your brand – er… vehicle.  I think it would have come off better if Beyonce just made fun of her own picture – much the way Gov. Chris Christie ate a jelly filled donut on Letterman’s show.  Do I think her asking to have the picture taken down makes her any less talented? No.  But do I think it showed neglect and disrespect for her vehicle – same vehicle that has allowed her become the brand she has? Absolutely.

Know your brand, and respect the vehicles that have built it for you.  As soon as you lose respect for the vehicles you travel in, and the paths you’ve had to travel them on, you will lose credibility in your brand – don’t leave you brand counting on the jump-start of a passer-by.

 

Thoughts?

Stay tuned next week for Part III – Veterans transitioning; From a Brand You are Given, to a Brand You Will Name)

My personal Brand Part I (Part I – of a three part series)

I was introduced to a concept called “I Incorporated” during my final year of college by one of my business professors, David Bennett.  It was mentioned often in our Career Development class.  Now, I had a concept of what it was before he mentioned it, but I didn’t have a title or a real grasp of it until then.  Since, I have found myself to be a very conscious purveyor of personal branding, or what “I Inc.” is referring to.

Branding is largely what differentiates products that would be commodities based on the consumers experience with that brand.  Or is it that unique experiences received by consumers through actively differentiating products that would be otherwise be commodities is “Branding”?  Maybe it works both ways.  For the sake of this article, the most important concept of branding in the larger sense is that Companies…ahem… successful companies, actively seek to provide their consumers with unique experiences through the companies’ products as an act of branding, in order to garner product and further, brand loyalty. The difficult thing about Personal Branding is regardless of what you say, your actions will constantly provide your audience data/information that will be used to make a conclusion about YOUR brand.

Jim Joseph, a Finalist for the 2013 PR News Social Media Icon of the Year Award, has a great series of books known as, “The Experience Effect” (you can see them listed here under Recommended Reading).  I believe a 3rd part to the series will be out soon enough.  Joseph starts the series with The Experience Effect with large scale branding.  The Experience Effect for Small Businesses is, well, self-explanatory.  The third – as I anticipate will follow the trend – and is sure to give great input on “I Incorporated”.

With this I ask: What do YOU want to be remembered for?  That is part of a brand isn’t it?  When you think of a brand, you don’t think of what they DO; you recall what you REMEMBER them for!

Let’s try it:

BP?…

Xyience?…

Exxon-Valdez?…

Coca-Cola?…

FEMA? …

Johnny Knoxville? …

Alright, the first things I recall: BP – Gulf Oil Spill, gas & snacks; Xyience – UFC, working out; Exxon-Valdez – Oil Spill in Alaska, Questionable drilling practices in South America; Coca-Cola – Caravan of lit-up Coca-Cola trucks, Polar bears, Christmas and great with Rum; FEMA – Have they ever figured out how to do their job? & Katrina; Johnny Knoxville – Jackass.

You might have had different experiences, so the brand associated with each figure or name may be different.  I venture to say that the more successful companies are both better at translating the same brand experience consistently AND better at making each individual experience unique – but still consistent with the branding they desire.

A Brand can have a positive or negative effect.  Clearly, when thinking of personal branding, we cannot afford a negative effect.  This is something I think about in my daily activities, my projects, my efforts, and my goals.  What am I doing that I can influence that is will build my brand?  Well, a good solid base is something I and my peers like to call, “being a good dude”.  Now, what do I want to be known for? Well – reliability, determination, drive…

I know that my brand will be incorporated in anything I do, and it drives me to do even better.  Every person I meet, every interaction I have, and most importantly every action or inaction I take and whether it coincides with what I say, is a reflection of my brand.  What will people remember of me? What do they recall when they think of LifebyDamien.com?  What feelings does my name provoke in others?  How am I, and how WILL I be remembered?  Needless to say, I have a lot of personal branding to do – and it is never over.

I look forward to building the Veteran Recruitment Division at Creative Solutions Services, and I know its brand, as a tool for Veterans and Corporations alike will be based largely, on the my personal brand – until it takes on a brand of its own.  I am leveraging my own brand, to gain initial support for this new product, this new brand.  My leverage will only go so far.  Even more so, if the VRD brand does not prove successful, my personal brand will take a hit.  If the VRD brand does grow to be successful, as will my personal brand grow in reliability.

Stay tuned for “My Personal Brand Part II” as we discuss “intent vs. result” and examine choices some have made to protect their brand and how the efforts turned out.   Then to conclude, “My Personal Brand Part III” as we discuss the conflict and what Veterans Need to be aware of as the dynamics of “I Inc.” change upon leaving the Military.

A Sense of Community – Opportunity Missed.

Starbucks, Macy’s, Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s, Party City, Game Stop, Modell’s Sporting Goods, New York & Co, Motherhood Maternity, Dress Barn, Payless Shoes – All could stand to learn a lesson from Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart has been trying to establish its brand within New York City since 2005 – and has yet to gain a foothold.  Its opposition has been at the conglomerate of unions, citizens and local businesses through-out the city.  While the major retailer and largest private employer in the nation’s existence within NYC is controversial, I am not going to take one side or the other.  However, I do believe Wal-Mart, as even one of the largest retailers in the world understands how important it is to be a part of, and accepted by the communities that generate each location’s revenues. (New York Times: 2012)

I took my kids trick-or-treating in the Parkchester region of the Bronx, NY.  The neighborhood is quite diverse, and knowing which house is celebrating, or if the building is even a house, or just a single front door with many apartment doors behind it is a bit of a guessing game.  With that being the norm, it has been tradition that all the trick-or-treaters go business-to-business, versus house-to-house.  I was able to pick up a bit of a mildly surprising, and disappointing trend.

Nearly ALL of the “Mom & Pap” type shops were active and involved in the festivities, anxious to hand out candy and participate in the excitement of the kids and adolescents involved!  That is not the disappointing part.  What was disappointing was that the majority of big brands and major retailers did not participate (all mentioned at the opening of this article), and simply hung “No Candy” or “No More Candy” signs (We were out from 4:30-5:30pm).

Why does this bother me?  As a Dad, I want to see my kids enjoy the festivities and be as excited and involved by a huge community event!  It is not often we get to see so many of the youth of our community out for a common cause, and I wanted them to have the best time with it!  As a marketer, I feel like these major brands missed what would normally be a good opportunity, but under current conditions, was a HUGE opportunity.

NYC was just hit by what may be the WORST environment and economically damaging natural disaster in its history, Tropical Super Storm Sandy!  Halloween, 31 October 2012, was the first day that retailers had a chance to show to the members of their communities that they were a PART OF THE COMMUNITY, to be there and understand the hardships, struggles, and perserverence to move forward with everyone in the community. The gesture would have been possible with the simple gesture of partaking in the festivities at an EXTREMELY low cost (and likely a great marketing opportunity to include a leaflet or flyer; isn’t black Friday just right around the corner???).  I could continue, but I really feel like the brands missed the mark on this one.  Was it the brand and the big wigs behind the big names, or was it a failure at decentralized leadership at the ground level?  Likely a combination of both.

 

What’s your take?

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