In This Economy, You Must Brand Yourself

I have blogged about this before especially now that so many of us are out of work, looking for employment or even looking for freelance business.

The concept of personal branding has been around for more than a decade, but the Internet and social networking have made it easier than ever to sell brand “you.”
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The basic idea of personal branding is to promote yourself as having certain values, skills or expertise, your brand, so that if someone needs that expertise, they’ll come to you first.

While many people are still uncomfortable with the idea of marketing themselves as a commodity, others see it as part of the changing world of work.

Professor David James is director of the school of growth, innovation and enterprise at Henley School of Business, in England. says “We’re in an age when corporate businesses don’t care for you as an individual any more — you’re just an employee number.

“They will outsource you, insource you, relocate you, and de-locate you in whatever way they think suitable. Therefore you have to look after number one, and personal branding is really important.”

So how can we go about creating our own personal brand? James says the first step is to be clear about our strengths and our core values. Our brand identity needs to be a clear message of who we are and what we have to offer.

Give your “brand” a short and long-term plan of where you want it to be, what job you want to have, and how you want people to perceive you.

Think about the people who can help get you where you want to be — they are your target audience. In the same way that a conventional brand markets itself to a certain demographic, you need to advertise your brand to your target audience.

“If you have a view that others want to hear, think about where your target audience goes for information and what media they consume, and then get your message to them,” James advises..

The Internet has made it easier than ever to reach out to your target audience. Blogging and social networking are powerful and readily accessible ways to promote yourself.

Dan Schawbel the author of “Me 2.0,” a book about personal branding says blogging has been crucial to building his own personal brand.
“Blogging is extremely important, but it’s very hard to be successful now because there are so many blogs.”

“To stand out you have to figure out your niche by doing research online and finding somewhere in the marketplace that isn’t completely saturated.”

As for the content of your blog, that depends on what you want to be known for, but Schawbel says you should be passionate about your subject matter and have expertise in the area, or no one will want to read what you have to say.

The next stage is to get a high search-engine ranking for the area you’ve made your niche, so that whenever anyone searches the Internet for that subject, your name comes up.

To that end, name your blog with your own name and your specialist area. Join in conversations about your subject on other blogs, always using your full name, your brand name.

Write articles for other Web sites and join social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, using them to build useful contacts and reflect your brand.

If all that strikes you as simply blowing your own trumpet, then you’d be right. “In a sense, it is shameless self publicity,” James claims.

Tell you children, If you work hard enough to make yourself good at what you do, then you have to tell people about it. Take command of the situation, know what you’re good at and shout it from the rafters.

Can the “Droid” Dethrone the iPhone?

With Apple posting record profits last week, thanks in large part to brisk sales of its iPhone, it may seem downright crazy to mount a smartphone challenge at all, let alone one that takes direct aim at the iPhone. But that’s just what Verizon, Google and Motorola are doing.

With a teaser ad from Verizon zeroing in on the device’s perceived shortcomings, such as its lack of a physical keyboard, the triumvirate is beginning a big push for Droid, the flagship device of the Google-backed Android operating system. So far, industry observers are unmoved by the buzz and give the Droid long odds in its bid to become the next ubiquitous handset.
So far, Verizon and its partners have kept a tight lid on Droid, but the few early reviews have been effusive, with the influential gadget blog Boy Genius Report calling Droid “the most impressive phone we’ve used since the iPhone. It’s positively amazing.” TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington, who famously chucked the iPhone because of AT&T’s spotty network service, also gushed: “According to people who’ve handled the device, the Droid is the most sophisticated mobile device to hit the market to date from a hardware standpoint.”

The praise notwithstanding, analysts say it’s doubtful that Droid can dethrone the iPhone — even if the handset will live on what is widely perceived as the best wireless network in the country. The Blackberry Storm, and most recently the Palm Pre, both of which have been held up as credible iPhone challengers, came and went without incident to Apple, which just reported its most profitable quarter after selling the most iPhones in that time.

“There is a graveyard littered with iPhone wannabees, so the bar is pretty high for any new phone, no matter how good it might be,” said wireless analyst Chetan Sharma.
For Verizon, a lot is at stake. The No. 1 U.S. wireless carrier needs something of a super-marquee phone to counter Apple’s iPhone, which has put millions of consumers on the network of its exclusive carrier, AT&T, many of whom are left to regularly carp about dropped calls. Thanks largely to the iPhone, AT&T last quarter added more contract customers than Verizon for the first time in recent history.

Others say Droid will post solid sales, but don’t expect a blockbuster.

“It’s going to be successful within the Verizon network, but it’s not going to come at the expense of the iPhone,” said Matt Thornton, an analyst at Avian Securities. “This device will slow subscriber attrition, but it’s difficult to woo subscribers to another network just for the phone. The iPhone has been the only one that’s able to do that.”

And once those customers settle on the Apple handset, it’ll be tough to tempt them to switch: The iPhone was the top-ranked brand on measures of user loyalty, according to a survey by Brand Keys that looked at 63 product categories. Moreover, for the first time in 12 years since the survey’s inception, three cellphone brands made the top 10 list of brands garnering the most loyalty — Samsung came in after the iPhone, and BlackBerry was ranked fourth.

“This says that cellphone brands are able to meet consumer expectations more than ever before,” said Brand Keys President Robert Passikoff, who also noted that consumer expectations towards smartphones are also higher than ever. This means it’s all the more critical for Droid to live up to the hype, which is partly being manufactured by Verizon. The carrier recently launched a teaser ad attacking the iPhone for all the things it can’t do, but Droid can, leading some to call the strategy risky.

Victoria’s Secret runs mobile campaign for new Chicago store

As part of a stealth push begun earlier this year nationwide, lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret is now running a mobile campaign to drive traffic to a new store opening this week in Chicago.

The mobile components comprise SMS and Bluetooth to direct foot traffic to the new Victoria’s Secret store opening Thursday, Oct. 22 on Chicago’s prestigious Michigan Avenue between Chicago and Superior streets.

Outdoor media including posters and billboards have different messages to encourage passersby to opt in to receive news, information and alerts as well as coupons for Victoria’s Secret merchandise. 
Victoria’s Secret is the nation’s leading maker and retailer of lingerie, melding technology, models and media to generate interest in its merchandise, store openings and events.

The campaign effort for Chicago includes outdoor, online and mobile media.

For example, one 48-inches-by-70-inches poster shows a statuesque Victoria’s Secret model wearing nothing but black lingerie and a come-hither look. The headline reads, “Victoria’s Secret Michigan Avenue between Chicago & Superior.” A line below says, “Now open.”

Copy on the outdoor ad reads, “Go to to vote for Chicago’s sexiest people and places (and get a free panty when you buy a bra).” The mobile callout reads: “Text CHICAGO to ANGEL (26435) for exclusive mobile offers and alerts.”

Texting that common short code returns this message: “UR signed up 4 Victoria’s Secret alerts! Look 4 offers & new product info. Up to 8 msg/mth. Reply STOP to cancel. Reply HELP for Help. Msg&Data rates may apply”.

These text messages will comprise alerts as well as special offers and coupons for consumers to redeem online or in-store.
Another poster of the same size and with the identical image and headline has copy that reads, “Activate Bluetooth outside our new Michigan Avenue store for free downloads and offers.”

Once consumers accept a Bluetooth invitation, they will get a jpeg visual coupon which they can show in the store and get access to a promotion. Plans may also call for a video.

The BlueZone is powered by 5th Finger, the San Francisco-based mobile marketing firm that is handling the Victoria’s Secret ongoing mobile programs nationwide as well as this new Chicago push.

In addition, the retailer is running another outdoor ad pushing Bluetooth downloads, this one with a sultry model in only lace panties. The headline reads, “Angel zone ahead. Activate Bluetooth for free downloads and offers.”

The Bluetooth effort is new for Victoria’s Secret. The text and Bluetooth effort are part of a national loyalty program run by Victoria’s Secret to build its opted-in mobile database.
The retailer is fast becoming adept at using other media to drive traffic to mobile and vice versa.

Visitors to the site at will see a video of Victoria’s Secret models sashaying down the ramp during a fashion show. Once the brief clip is over, the page settles to a shot of a model next to a calendar countdown.

The site’s homepage is headlined, “The wings have landed on Michigan Avenue.” Copy reads, “Take your pic in front of the wings and text or email to”

Next to that copy is a link to a legal page and also a box to upload pictures taken preferably with the mobile phone to the site.

Below that copy is an image of the store on 734 North Michigan Avenue. Clicking on the link takes consumers to another page with a larger graphic of the store as it would look. Copy touts the glamour and luxury on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile as well as the concierge, VIP fitting rooms, personal shopping and courier services.

A section on the same site allows visitors to sign up for email and mobile alerts. The SMS alerts require consumers to enter their first and last names and mobile number and check a box to signify opt in. The obligatory disclaimer with STOP for SMS opt out is mentioned.

Victoria’s Secret is also encouraging mobile signups through emails sent to its opted-in database of customers and prospects.

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 The latest campaign comes five months after Victoria’s Secret launched a dedicated mobile Web site, with concurrent plans to target its mobile database of opted-in consumers with exclusive offers, event coverage and new product information.

Consumers can sign up for alerts on the mobile site at or text the keyword START to the short code 26435 (ANGEL).

All text message communication with consumers will include a link to the mobile site to drive consumers there.
The Victoria’s Secret mobile site features different categories and shopping bags.

Gift cards can be bought right from the mobile site. Consumers can also locate and map the closest Victoria’s Secret store to them.

What’s most impressive about the site is that women can actually browse and then buy products right from their mobile phones, with the same secure settings that the retailer’s Web site provides.

Of course, it helps to retain some of the same sass that is seen at Victoria’s Secret fashion shows. For example, the main menu on the mobile site offers visitors a list of the “Most Wanted Bras.”

Latest Trend, Skype for Job Interviews

With today’s economy more and more of us are facing the task of finding work and preparing for the all important interview. Well technology is changing the process entirely.

Get ready for a closeup…your next job interview might be on webcam. Looking to save time and money, companies are turning to video-chat software as a cheap, low-hassle way to vet job candidates. That means a growing number of people looking for work are meeting their prospective new bosses not at the office but in the comfort of their own home.

Naturally, the transition from in-person to online isn’t without its hiccups. Fuzzy transmissions, dropped calls especially on wireless networks (my ATT connection dropped three times speaking to ATT) and unusual disruptions are all par for the course. Tip No. 1: Get your dog out of barking range before you start the interview.

What’s the draw? Largely money. Last year, as executives at online retailer looked to cut expenses, they noticed how much the firm spent on travel. In HR alone, it easily cost $1,000 a pop to fly out job candidates and put them up for the night. The firm had used Skype internally, so about six months ago, recruiters started trying it for interviews.

Their opinion: a video link does a pretty good job of replacing an in-person meeting and in a way that a phone call can’t. “If you see facial expressions and body language, you have a different sense of what a person is saying,” says recruiting manager Christa Foley. Now, instead of flying out 20 finalists for a job, the company first screens with Skype and then brings in only the best two or three candidates.

Job seekers are hopping on board too. Last spring, after Stephen Bhadran got laid off, he quickly realized there were more openings for computer programmers in Dallas, Atlanta and Los Angeles than in South Florida, where he lived. So he cast a wide net — and got a bite from the University of California, Los Angeles. The university wanted to interview him but wouldn’t pay the airfare. “I was laid off and running out of funds,” says Bhadran. “I couldn’t fly on my own dime.” He suggested interviewing by Skype. He got his request — and the job.
So what should you do if you’re asked to interview by Skype — or even brave enough to suggest it yourself?

First off, realize that we perceive people differently through a camera than we do in person. Bill McGowan, a former news anchor who now trains people to go on TV, starts his list of pointers with lighting: whether you’re sitting in your kitchen or an office borrowed from a friend, make sure there’s no bright light (like from a window) behind you. That will only darken your face. When your interviewer is talking, it’s fine to look at his image on the screen, but when you answer, look at the camera. That’s how to make “eye contact.” Avoid wearing patterns and the color white, since we notice white spots on a screen first — you want your interviewer drawn to your teeth and eyes, not to your shirt. And don’t forget that what’s behind you is visible too. “It’s best to put away the Mad Men bar,” says McGowan.

Next, think about framing. Sitting flush with a plain white wall will make you look like you’re in a police lineup, so angle your knees to the corner of your computer screen, and then turn your head slightly back to look at the camera. Sit tall in your chair, but not too close to the camera: the first three buttons of your shirt should be visible, or else you risk looking like a floating head, counsels Priscilla Shanks, a coach for broadcast journalists and public speakers. Most important, do a dry run with a friend to check your color, sound and facial expressions — neutral often comes off as glum onscreen.

After all that, don’t forget that this is still a job interview. Even though you’re not meeting face to face, dress as though you are. When you “walk in,” have your résumé ready — this time, as an e-mail attachment. And don’t forget to do all the standard prep work. Are you ready to talk about your greatest weakness? “This adds another layer, but people will still expect you to be prepared to have a conversation with them,” says career counselor Judith Gerberg.

Though that’s not to say you can’t acknowledge the medium. This past summer, Deanna Reed, principal of the Marie Murphy School in suburban Chicago, started doing Skype interviews and has already considered candidates from as far away as Asia. “The time difference was so great, it was like 1 in the morning for him,” she says about a teacher in Japan. “I said, ‘Oh, you had to get on your suit in the middle of the night?’ And he said, ‘No, I have my pajamas on the bottom.’ He was fun — he had a real sense of humor.”

Even over video, it’s possible to make a great first impression. There are clients and vendors that I work with by Skype and have never met in person. I worked on a design project with Jun Bae almost exclusively on Skype…save one or two Korean BBQ conferences.jun bae

Is the CIA Reading This? Maybe.

America’s spy agencies want to read your blog posts, keep track of your Twitter updates — even check out your book reviews on Amazon. Yikes I certainly hope not. In case they are, “good afternoon.”
In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using ”open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.

Visible crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. (It doesn’t touch closed social networks, like Facebook, at the moment.) Customers get customized, real-time feeds of what’s being said on these sites, based on a series of keywords.

“That’s kind of the basic step — get in and monitor,” says company senior vice president Blake Cahill.

Then Visible “scores” each post, labeling it as positive or negative, mixed or neutral. It examines how influential a conversation or an author is. (”Trying to determine who really matters,” as Cahill puts it.) Finally, Visible gives users a chance to tag posts, forward them to colleagues and allow them to response through a web interface.

In-Q-Tel says it wants Visible to keep track of foreign social media, and give spooks “early-warning detection on how issues are playing internationally,” spokesperson Donald Tighe tells Danger Room.

Of course, such a tool can also be pointed inward, at domestic bloggers or tweeters. Visible already keeps tabs on web 2.0 sites for Dell, AT&T and Verizon. For Microsoft, the company is monitoring the buzz on its Windows 7 rollout. For Spam-maker Hormel, Visible is tracking animal-right activists’ online campaigns against the company.

“Anything that is out in the open is fair game for collection,” says Steven Aftergood, who tracks intelligence issues at the Federation of American Scientists. But “even if information is openly gathered by intelligence agencies it would still be problematic if it were used for unauthorized domestic investigations or operations. Intelligence agencies or employees might be tempted to use the tools at their disposal to compile information on political figures, critics, journalists or others, and to exploit such information for political advantage. That is not permissible even if all of the information in question is technically ‘open source.’”

iTunes University

The wisdom of business professors, once only available to MBAs and business students, can now be accessed by anybody with an Internet connection.
Hundreds of universities, and a growing number of business schools, are making recordings of lectures, seminars and conferences available to the general public via Web sites such as iTunes and YouTube.

Leading business schools including University of Cambridge Judge Business School, Fuqua School of Business, and Yale School of Management make course content available for download through iTunes U, part of the of the iTunes online store.
That means those whose budget won’t stretch to a two-year MBA can simulate the experience at home — or at work, in the gym or anywhere else they choose. And even better for money-conscious learners, the iTunes U content can all be downloaded free of charge.

French business school HEC Paris is due to launch its iTunes U content in the next few months, but it has been running an ambitious podcast program since 2006.

Begun as an experiment in partnership with Apple, all new MBAs at HEC are provided with an iPod Touch. Around half of the MBA lectures are filmed using an automatic camera system and the footage is made available for students to download and view on their iPhones.

Vanessa Klein, HEC’s project manager for iTunes U said that the iPod-enabled curriculum has proved a hit with students. As well watching lectures, she said the students’ own presentations are recorded and made available for download so they can review their performance.

She says one teacher noticed that each year his MBA students would ask the same questions after his end-of-course summary, so he made a podcast of recurring questions and answers. After encouraging students to come up with new questions, he is now recording responses to those in an effort to compile a video archive of questions and answers.

Klein says that by making lectures available via iTunes U, HEC wants to be at the forefront of providing content for the rest of the world, but she acknowledges that the technology is also a great way to promote the business school.

“It’s a good marketing tool, not as publicity but to really show people what we are providing,” Klein said.

“You can watch a lecture, learn a lot and think ‘I wish I could be there.’ The idea is to show what you could learn if you were at this place.”

The University of Oxford says there have been more than one million downloads from its iTunes U site, while Stanford University says its course on creating iPhone applications was downloaded more than one million times in just seven weeks.

This week’s most popular business download on iTunes U is a University of Oxford lecture called “Entrepreneurship and the Ideal Business Plan.” I will download that today.

It may not get as many downloads as Michael Jackson’s posthumous single, but it should prove more useful when it comes to getting a business off the ground.