Friday, August 20, 2010

Take the Time to Reinvigorate Your Brand

Last month I gave a speech on crisis communications at the AMMJE conference in Cozumel, Mexico. I talked about the “crisis” that Cozumel, and Mexico as a whole, was having with the tourism industry being way down. Media reports of swine flu and drug cartels in other areas of Mexico have affected Cozumel severely, as well. One of my suggestions was to take the time to develop scenarios of what might happen in the future, and develop their responses. Rather than operating in a “crisis” mode, be proactive.

I also talked about being innovative and looking at new strategies besides the cruise ship tourists. Who else can they communicate to?

At dinner that night, a business owner’s son asked, “My mom is busy every minute of the day. How can she take time to plan? I am helping her this summer, and I don’t even have time to think about these things.”

Patty DeDominic, a Strategic Business Coach in Southern California, says you have to step out of the office to do such work. “Outside workshops and retreats are becoming more and more popular. You must step back and work ON the business not just IN the business. When you go offsite to do planning you get the big picture and can capitalize on the energy in the room. By getting away from your daily tasks, you can see things in a different light and get a more accurate reality of your strengths and weaknesses, rather than just a one-sided perception that the office is giving you that particular day.”

Karen Duncum, owner of a coaching and training firm in Santa Barbara, recently wrote a column for The Huffington Post on “Put Your Feet Up and Innovate.” She said leaders arrive at big-picture solutions by pulling the plug on their usual routines and doing nothing. “Most of the time executives find themselves bombarded with reports, e-mails, telephone calls, fire-fighting, and meetings. The answer is to engage in what I call passive innovation. I routinely advise my clients to unplug by taking a drive to a park, the ocean, or into the country with only a blank pad of paper and pen. Think of it as a coffee break for your brain.”

Two of her tips in the article for “overachievers to clear their minds and open up pathways for breakthrough thinking” were:

Put on Your Thinking Cap: While you can't force inspiration, you can mentally prepare for a productive session of creative ideas. Setting aside time for the specific purpose of "doing nothing" can train your mind to be open to the process.

The bottom line: We all have an unconscious tendency to sell our mental abilities short by miring ourselves in unnecessarily restrictive, shortsighted thinking patterns. Use mini-vacations for your mind to break free from the forces that keep your untapped creative powers in check. Don't be surprised if you discover your greatest productivity occurs when you're doing nothing at all.

Workshops, such as the upcoming BRANDit four-day workshop in Iceland where I will be speaking, offers just this kind of escape. Not only is it an opportunity to combine work with pleasure, but the striking setting of Iceland is the perfect back drop for the workshop. The inspiration of Icelandic nature is being incorporated into the workshop for the women while they are reinvigorating their own branding. There will be some scenic and remarkable side trips, including a stop at the world famous Blue Lagoon.

DeDominic added, “Sometimes it might take an international location to truly get people to turn off their cell phones and e-mail feeds during the planning sessions. It’s important to be in a quiet environment where you are not distracted and give yourself permission to think totally creatively.”

How long has it been since you’ve taken a few hours, or a few days, to explore how to re-invigorate your branding, your strategic plan and/or business operations? It might be time now to purposefully set aside time on your calendar and make the reservations to get away.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Branding is Not Just For Start-Ups

By Mary Schnack

Your brand is your most valuable asset. How long has it been since you’ve re-vigorated your branding?

How do YOU as the business owner fit into that branding?

The goal of branding is to define a brand that creates an emotional connection between you and your customers. It is not just the traditional “graphic” elements that confirm your brand identity.

As business owners, we represent a big part of that branding. It’s everything—the organizations we join, where we advertise, how we reward employees and for what, where you meet with clients… firm your handshake, how thorough your follow-up, how aggressive your sales pitch -- all of these say something about you and about your business. Every action either builds on or detracts from your brand.

The owner is the lead ambassador for the brand. You are identified with your company’s brand, and your company is identified with you.

You may start with your visual and your words, but a brand is built on fundamental sustained behavior. Never lose sight of what makes your business special, promote your strengths and build a brand that targets your core customer base. It becomes part of a business’s anatomy based on how you, the business owner, engages with your audiences—whether they are customers, local community, suppliers, industry colleagues or the media.

“When we started organizing our BRANDit workshop, the first reaction from women business owners was that it must be for start-up businesses,” said Runa Magnusdottir, a certified business coach and the CEO and Founder of “We want women with established businesses to look at transforming themselves from “an ordinary business woman” into a “powerful brand”. Our workshops will help them think unique, think independent, and step outside of their daily business mindset and get creative.”

Magnusdottir and Bjarney Ludviksdottir started BRANDit, offering women business owners worldwide a four-day workshop in Reykjavik, Iceland, to create and reinvigorate personal and business branding. Ludviksdottir will use her experience as a casting director and co-owner of Eskimo Models, an Icelandic modeling agency, to capture each woman’s personality via a new headshot, video trailer and press kit.

BRANDit offers the opportunity to revisit your branding. You can change the direction of your business, add new products or services to your business model, but you never change your core values behind the brand. That’s who you are as a brand. It’s your businesses personality.

You have to communicate that brand promise and in order to do that, you have to know what that promise is inside and out. Just like you re-visit your strategic plans, you need to re-visit your core values and branding. Your brand promises customer service, community leadership, corporate integrity, environmental responsibility and democratic values. The brand is YOU, YOU as a leader. It’s more important than you may think.