Read an Excerpt
May I Have Your Attention, Please
By Chris Hilicki
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-471-67889-9
Chapter OneEveryone Needs a Little Attention, Brands Need a Lot
Getting people to like you is simply the other side of liking other people. -Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993)
Attention for Better or Worse
From the day we are born we cry out for it. Without it our needs aren't met. We learn to make all the right faces, noises, and gestures to bring us attention and improve the quality of our life, and this continues throughout our lives. By the time we are grown up we may object to the idea that we need attention. It makes us sound so desperate, and it goes against popular advice to keep our ego in check. So we replace the word attention with respect and recognition. But whatever you want to call it, it's still attention. And it's okay to want it and need it because it can make your life better or worse. It's how we get it that's the key to life's happiness, and it's what we do with it that can make us successful in life.
The Relationship between Attention and Brands
We get attention because of what people think of us. Whether we are concerned about our personal image or the identity of our corporation or organization, we are talking about our brand identity. Where is your brand identity now?
This book is about building a better business based on how you share your genuine identity. Whether you are developing yourpersonal image or your Fortune 500 corporate brand, the best strategy is the same: Build it on the truth and on your true experiences.
Whether you are a college graduate beginning to embark on a new career or a middle manager striving to improve himself and the influence he has in his company, the process starts at the same point: Be yourself. Stop trying to be like the other guy.
Whether you are just now learning the meaning of the world of branding or are charged with protecting your entire corporation's brand value, it starts here and now. Know yourself and you'll know how far you can go.
How to Use This Book
This book provides the two essential elements that everyone who invests in self-improvement understands. Part I describes the theory, philosophy, and a little psychology about brand building, and Part II outlines a practical process with steps for immediate application in your plans for success.
The chapters contain numerous examples that illustrate and analyze how other individuals and businesses have built brands. Everyone is different, which is why we are all able to build unique brands. But this means that the examples are just that-merely examples. To use this brand/image-building process, you have to get underneath these brand examples and understand this brand theory. When you follow the steps and answer the questions, if you're doing it correctly you will come up with a unique brand identity.
The basic process of building a better brand has three steps:
1. Know your own true stories, experiences, and life-changing events in your personal or professional life.
2. Determine what's important to you based on your stories. This will reveal your values and beliefs.
3. Translate these values into a corresponding look, sound, and feel that no one else can copy, because it's your story, not theirs. This will result in your authentic and unique brand that gives you the competitive edge in life for greater success-no matter how you define it.
The work required to examine, analyze, and define your true story and values from your experiences can be done alone or within the context of a group where responsible people help you ask and answer questions. Many of the questions you'll need are in this book. Take your time and answer them. Later on you can answer them again because your answers may be braver, more honest, or different. Enjoy the process.
The translation of your unique values and authentic identity into your brand identity can be done with the help of the many examples given herein. Follow the logic behind the case examples to your own brand conclusion. Just as a skilled musician can hear a melody and know how to perfectly rearrange it, or a surgeon can look at a body and know how to repair damage, building a better brand takes training and knowledge as well as a lot of experience and talent. Don't be discouraged if, after you've defined your true stories and values, you can't immediately translate them into your brand image. By the end of the book you'll catch on. The key is to keep asking if your brand's expression in every form is accurately conveying the true you. Enjoy the results.
What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?
From the time we dress up in our mother's costume jewelry or our dad's hat and big shoes, we are faced with the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Nobody ever answers, "Me." I can remember teachers, neighbors, and job interviewers asking me the very question I wanted them to answer for me. Well-intentioned or just curious, they leaned over toward me and asked me what I didn't yet know: "Who do you want to be?"
From early on, we pretend and we copy. We deal with personal peer pressure, professional image-makers, and brand consultants. We create identities for ourselves and for our companies. And by doing so, we have created a world of brands.
Just being "me" is both the easiest and the hardest thing to do. For many people, it's a lot easier to be like the other guy. From the day we send our children to school, they are caught up in trying to become more like their little friends. They want to fit in, to feel comfortable, and to be liked. Some things never change: Most of us want to fit in as adults, too, even when we are meant to stand out.
These days, people are into building their images, otherwise Everyone Needs a Little Attention, Brands Need a Lot 5 referred to as branding. In today's world, where we are assaulted with world-class brands everywhere we turn, it is an easy leap to understand that people have personal brands just as businesses have corporate brands. Brands matter. Brands matter because they can get the results you want in life.
Developing your brand can help you get where you want to go in life. If you want to go on to greater professional success, fame, and fortune, then you need to improve your brand identity. But if you want to like yourself more and become more satisfied with your relationships, then you need to improve your brand identity all the more.
Current branding strategies mostly work the same, creating brands that copy other brands. This doesn't result in unique brands or authenticity. A brand must be unique and authentic to be lasting and powerful.
The Time for Truth Has Truly Come
We need a brand-new way to think about brands in our lives. The best brands aren't what you think. The best brands are based on true stories about your real-life experiences. It sounds simple, doesn't it? "Just be yourself." Well, if it is so simple why don't we do it? Could it be that we don't believe that being ourselves can result in more success, happiness, and satisfaction? A friend of mine used to say, "Whenever I feel bad about myself, I feel better if I can blame it on someone else." Is that why we look at others who seem to have it all and think, "If I'm just more like them, I'll have what they have"?
Authentic brands make a different promise. They turn the promise of an abundant life into the practice. The most successful people have an identity that is founded on authentic, true-life stories. These kinds of identities garner the kind of attention from others that simply makes life better. Identities that are based on authentic, actual experiences create brands that can positively influence the world. That kind of influence makes your life matter. And we all want to matter in life, don't we?
I believe that branding is ultimately all about stories and storytelling. A brand is essentially like the bare-bones plot of a longer story. The best brands are based on the true stories of our experiences, filled with the human qualities that we can all relate to and believe in. To claim a brand, you have to make the connection between yourself and your world. Whether you're an individual or a corporation, you must make this connection. And nothing connects like the truth. It is the only thing that we can all relate to and accept.
The corporate world is learning the hard way that building a false image is not the right way to create a brand. Big corporate images that were previously hot have suddenly gone up in flames. Such world-class corporate logos as Enron and WorldCom are now remembered as En-Wrong and World-Con. Organizations spent too much money rolling out images with splashy logos and seductive ad campaigns that required us to have the sleuthing powers of Columbo. And, like Columbo, we discovered that they were lying.
For years, the practice of corporate branding has been used to create a lasting image and to demonstrate power and size. Corporations and organizations create designs for hot-air balloons, parades, credit cards, and clothing. And individuals wear the sweatshirt, use the credit card, and wave the flag to become associated with the images or to try to become what they promise. But is that what branding is-logos and merchandise and new corporate profit centers?
Forget about the image. Branding is not based on mere appearance. The best brands are based on the true stories and authentic experiences that only you have had. Behold who you truly are and become what you see; that's your brand. Branding is not a logo or a musical jingle. Branding is about influence. And there is nothing more influential than the truth.
What does this have to do with you? You may not believe it yet, but you have a story of your own that is true and powerful and the foundation for your success. It's your powerful brand identity.
The concept of a brand being based on truth is an idea whose time has truly come. There is a connection between the corporate brand and the personal brand, a connection that has never been stronger, tighter, or closer. That connection is truth. When we build personal brands on our true stories, we get the best results, both personally and professionally. Best of all, we have respect for ourselves, which gives us a sense of value and importance that will affect everything we do for the rest of our lives.
True Stories Can't Be Copied
We love true stories, don't we? We can't help reading the juicy headlines while waiting in line at the store. We love to hear what Paul Harvey calls "the rest of the story." Television is filled with reality TV, where audiences tune in to see what really happens, live and unrehearsed. Biographies and autobiographies are best-sellers. We love true stories, especially when they relate experiences of uncompromised success, overcoming of obstacles, and beating the odds.
Everyone has a true story of his or her own. Our stories, which are our experiences, shape our values for life. And when you learn to put words to your unique story, you can use it and the values you've developed to define you in a way that no one can copy. When you build your brand identity on your true experiences, you will bring to the world the only thing that no one else can. More than what you look like or what you do, or even the gifts and talents you possess, you have something that no one else can compete with or build success on. You have had experiences that no one else has had. To the extent that a brand must be unique and special to influence behavior, you've got it. You've got a brand that will be as special and influential as Oprah or Steven Spielberg. You've got a related corporate brand as promising as Harpo Productions and Dreamworks. Like them, you can build your brand on the true stories of your personal experiences that only you can share.
Too many brands start at the wrong end of the equation. They decide who or what they want to be and then set out to become just that. This is a book about building your brand by starting from the other end of that equation. In fact, at the outset, I ask you to consider that the end result of building your brand identity is the second thing you consider, not the first.
Take a moment and take the pressure off yourself. Trust in this process and you will discover who you are meant to become based on who has been uniquely created. Remember, only after you define who you are can you consider what you want to become. Start figuring out who you really are. When you know who you are you can figure out who you want to become. You'll know what you're made of and see what you're capable of. See. Believe. Go for it.
You have your very own individual brand identity. Whether you are 18 years old and leaving home, a middle manager seeking advancement, a retiree entering a new stage of your life, or somewhere in between, you are dependent on having a strong, powerful brand identity that gets you the right kind of attention for the right kind of results you have dreamed of.
If you are a Fortune 500 CEO and want to set yourself apart, be more memorable, and build loyalty, you need a better kind of brand in order to compete. If you are at a turning point in your life and taking stock of your life's ups and downs, you need to take control of your personal brand identity. In a world in which we wear other people's brands as easily as pulling a sweatshirt over our heads, we forget that we have our own special, unique fingerprint that creates an identity to build and value.
Unlock Your Identity and Lock onto Your Brand
Inside all of us are things that should be uncovered, polished, and refined for the world to see. And these things should not just be seen but should be shown off in a way that tells the world we are valuable. These things are our essence. They are our treasures. Let me say right now that these things are the very things that we typically hide. We keep this stuff hidden or buried. We masquerade and pretend to be what we are not, because we're afraid that if our real identity is discovered, no one will like us or we will fail. Worse yet, we're afraid we won't like ourselves.
In 1960 a high school boy named Frank Abagnale ran away from home when his parents divorced. He vowed to reunite them by regaining what his dad had lost in business. With only $25 in his checking account he became an expert at pretending to be whoever he thought would live up to his dad's expectations. Along the way he masqueraded as a pilot, a pediatrician, and an attorney. Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Leonardo DiCaprio captured this story in a 2002 blockbuster movie about a boy who wouldn't live his own life. It was called Catch Me If You Can. He, like many of us, lived a series of other people's lives because he was afraid that his true self wasn't adequate.
Every day we read about people who have been pretending to be someone they are not. We find out that they have falsified their college records and created diplomas on their home graphic design computer programs. Prisons are full of people who have masqueraded as medical doctors or other professionals because assuming that illegal identity seemed less risky than being who they really were meant to be. They were afraid that no one would like them or give them as much attention if they built their future on just being themselves.
In 2003 a New York Times reporter, Jayson Blair, resigned in shame for faking stories and quotes and plagiarizing other publications to make it appear that the stories were his. He wanted to be the reporter he thought he should be, and he copied and even fabricated stories to accomplish this goal.
It is risky to base our future or the future of our company on ourselves. If our plans don't meet our hopes and dreams, then we have no one else to hold responsible. But if we do develop and expand from our unique and rare characteristics, then we have the ultimate advantage in life. We've got a monopoly on unique resources and the natural ability to influence and shape the world. No one has access to the experiences you've had like you do. The way you show the world your true story is the way your glory is revealed.
Excerpted from May I Have Your Attention, Please by Chris Hilicki Excerpted by permission.
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