UnknownI’m back, after nearly two weeks of convalescing after my most recent surgery, and frankly, VERY glad to be back. It wasn’t pleasant … a tonsillectomy and work on my soft palate left me feeling like I was swallowing glass shards for the better part of the last couple of weeks. Ick.

But, two pieces of good news. For me, it’s over and I’m well on the road to recovery. For you, I had the chance to do a fair amount of reading while I was recovering, including The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. Though this book focuses on personal and spiritual growth, I was struck at what I took away from it from a personal brand standpoint.

Years ago, a guy once told me that “the most powerful position is now.” I guess intellectually I understood what that meant – you shouldn’t live in the past, because it’s gone forever, and the future has yet to be forged. Made sense in the early 2000s as my career was in its early stages.

But more than 10 years have gone by, and I’m in a different spot, personally and professionally. For one, I’m currently a stay-at-home parent, and spending a lot of time thinking about how this experience will impact my career. Don’t get me wrong … the decision my wife and I made in this area was the right one. Yet I am wondering what the implications will be when I re-enter the workforce. Maybe I’m overthinking it. Scratch that. Obviously, I’m overthinking it.

That’s where The Power of Now comes in, and hence the application to my personal brand, and perhaps yours – because there’s a big difference between what your personal brand was, what it is now based on current conditions, and what it aspires to be. Here are the three big lessons I took away from the book in this realm:

1. Don’t overthink things. As alluded, I can be notorious for putting way too much thought into things, including the current state of my personal brand. Tolle is pretty blunt when it comes to this, saying “Thinking has become a disease. Disease is what happens when you get out of balance.” Nothing wrong with putting adequate thought to solving a problem, but it becomes a problem when it’s all-consuming. “The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly,” Tolle says. “Used wrongly, however, it becomes destructive … It is not so much that you use it wrongly – you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you.”
Stop and ask yourself: How much time to you spend thinking about your personal brand? Are you out of balance?

2. Observe yourself impartially. The answer to No. 1 is to observe that voice in your head and what it’s saying – because what it’s saying may not be contributing to the greater good, especially when it comes to your personal brand. “The voice belongs to your conditioned mind, which is the result of all your past history as well as of the collective cultural mind-set you inherited. So you see and judge the present through the eyes of the past and get a totally distorted view of it. It is not uncommon for the voice to be a person’s own worst enemy.” In the realm of personal brand, I think this is where too much of your past influences how you see your personal brand – big successes from years ago, when you were in a totally different place. It could also be vague feelings about where your want your personal brand to be, based on what you’ve read and seen from your peers.
Stop and ask yourself: What is your inner voice telling you about your personal brand – about what it was, and what it could/should be?

3. Focus on the present. Tolle says one’s ego is a mental image of who you are based on your personal and cultural conditioning. But that mental image is fraught with difficulties. “To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important,” Tolle says, adding the ego misperceives the present because it puts it through the lens of the past, as mentioned in No. 2. Or it makes the present and means to and, somewhere in the ether of the future. Bottom line, your personal brand is who you are right this very minute – what you do, and what you stand for. Aspirations are fine – but is it what you are right now? Achieve those aspirations, and in the future, your personal brand will change – but what it is right now is relevant. “The present moment holds the key to liberation,” Tolle says.
Stop and ask yourself: Is your personal brand who you currently are?

The Power of Now isn’t for everybody, I’ll admit. It gets to the deep, dark recesses of the psyche, and some will simply not want to go there, possibly for fear of what they may find.

But I took that journey. It was worth it.


FYI that I’ve got surgery scheduled for this afternoon (the second of two this month, ugh), and so I’m tidying up loose ends before I head out. One of them is to tie off on the discussion generated by my previous post about brand journalism. It sparked quite an insightful discussion within the PRwise LinkedIn Group, where I posted the discussion titled, Is “Brand Journalism” a Valid Term – And Career Path?

Some said no. Emphatically.

“As a former editor with AP and The Seattle Times, I am insulted by the term ‘brand journalism.’ IMO, it does not exist. It is merely a fancy term for marketing copywriting,” said group member Steven Spenser. “Of course it’s not journalism. It could never be journalism, because the goal of the content is the same as that of any and all marketing content–to increase sales.”

Added group member Kathy Madison: “As a PR professional, I still see my job as one of liaison with ‘real’ journalists. The concept of ‘content journalism’ to me is not positive, even with the best of intentions. … This ‘content journalism’ wave works against the traditional (and in some ways rapidly disappearing) tension between PR & journalists which can produce truly objective results & ultimately more credible positive coverage for clients.”

Compelling arguments, for sure, because they define what traditional journalism is, and how PR has traditionally worked – and in both cases, very successfully. But I think group member Kevin McCusker’s remarks really stopped me in my tracks and made me think. Have a listen:

“Not all content marketing is brand journalism or incorporates journalistic principles. 

One can incorporate journalistic principles when providing content for marketing or PR purposes, but I don’t think it’s actual journalism. 

The issue is one of intent.” (Boldface emphasis mine.)

He’s right. Intent is the key – and if the story is a means to an end, what exactly is that end?

“In content marketing, you are not, usually, generating content because you think there’s an audience; you’re generating content because you think there’s an audience that connects to your employer’s/client’s product or service,” he said.

All true, of course, and maybe that’s the crux of all this – if you’re a brand journalist, you have to be comfortable with the fact that what you are doing is ultimately serving a purpose: It’s supporting an agenda. Meaning, the content isn’t designed to stand on its own.

I am comfortable with that, because in my view, it’s very difficult to tie a sale to a specific PR tactic. In other words, it’s virtually impossible to say a beautifully written case study caused a sale to happen. Instead, I tend to think that that content may not only create awareness about an issue, it might help correct misperceptions about it, or better define the industry’s mindset. Industry leaders think in these terms, and as such, industry leaders need talented storytellers to do that.

This where I see my role as a brand journalist. McCusker, and others, noted that content marketing and journalism can peacefully co-exist.

“But in the end, even if we are storytelling or providing inherently useful or vital information or aesthetically pleasing images, we are still trying to affect our audience’s behavior or opinion in some way. That is what separates content marketing from journalism. 

That doesn’t mean content marketing and PR can’t be true, vital, creative and well crafted. It should be if it’s going to be successful,” he said.

Group member Les Goldberg tied this up by noting that a lot of this depends on how a story is told.

“My journalism standards are still intact, and I am careful to avoid ‘hype’ and ‘spin,’ he said. “Clients or employers would prefer hiding the negative or mentioning competition. Before entering a new job or taking on a new client, I make sure that I have the opportunity to educate them about my standards, my ethics and my respect for the media.”

I’ll be out of pocket for awhile recovering from my surgery, so chew on this and we’ll discuss it when I return.


The Three Must-Haves to Be a Great Brand Journalist

July 14, 2014

Is brand journalism a valid term – and career path, for that matter – or rank hogwash? I read this story on Ragan.com the other day, titled Is Brand Journalism a ‘Half-baked, Made-up’ Expression? It debates this very question and gave me pause, because I happen to consider myself a brand journalist. I was a […]

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Book Review: The 46 Rules of Genius Can Have Profound Effect on a Personal Brand

June 27, 2014

Will Marty Neumeier‘s new whiteboard book The 46 Rules of Genius actually make a marketer, PR or social media professional a genius? That’s subjective, of course, but I will say this: For some of you, it’s going to have a huge impact on your personal brand, and that will have a ripple effect on the […]

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Post #200: A Brand Discussion with Marty Neumeier, Part 2

June 23, 2014

My note: For my milestone 200th post, here’s Part 2 of my brand discussion with Marty Neumeier, Director of Transformation for San Jose-based international brand firm Liquid Agency, and author of The Brand Gap, ZAG, The Designful Company, Metaskills: Five Talents for the Robotic Age and the just-released The 46 Rules of Genius. Miss Part […]

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Post #199: A Brand Discussion with Marty Neumeier, Part 1

June 20, 2014

My note: Marty Neumeier, Director of Transformation for San Jose-based international brand firm Liquid Agency, has written a bevy of books that have been important to my professional development, including The Brand Gap, ZAG and The Designful Company, and the just-released The 46 Rules of Genius (which I will review shortly). His thinking actually helped […]

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Measuring Marketing ROI for B2B Brands Boils Down to Laser-focus

June 18, 2014

Intimidated by Big Data and it’s relation to marketing ROI, and ultimately building a brand? Let the following sink in for a moment: There are a trillion dollars spent globally every year on advertising. Statistically, only about 30 percent of that amount is actually monitored and measured for ROI. That means more than half a […]

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Think Like a CEO: Building a Brand Through Meeting a CEO’s Expectations for Marketing

June 15, 2014

“Think like a CEO.” That right there is the key takeaway from the Stein IAS study titled Great Expectations: What Today’s CEOs Expect From Their Marketers, presented at the 2014 Global Business Marketing Association (BMA) Conference in Chicago. It was the subject of Tom Stein’s Firestarter session May 28, and recall I had the chance […]

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The Question All B2B Brands Must Ask: What Value Do We Bring to Everyday People?

June 9, 2014

I swear, my thinking can be so obtuse at times. The renowned global strategic branding firm, Siegel+Gale, released its B2B Now research study last week, which surveyed 9,500 consumers and 450 business decision-makers, and concluded that B2B decision-makers are more likely to consider B2B brands that consumers know and feel connected to. The study results, […]

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Final Call on #BMA14: Emulating the B2B Community That We Are

June 5, 2014

I’d like to close the loop on the 2014 Global Business Marketing Association (BMA) Conference with a final thought on one particular piece of feedback you gave me in last Friday’s recap: Being human. It occurs to me that over the event’s three days – and immediately before and after – that’s exactly what attendees […]

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