Influencers Who Inspire Series – Dan Schawbel

We continue talking with some of the greatest influencers in the industry with this week’s interview with Dan Schawbel. Dan Schawbel is the founder of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. He is the author of the #1 international best-selling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future, now in 11 languages and he has been interviewed in top publications around the world such as Inc., Fortune and TIME, among others.
 

How do you define personal branding?
 

Personal branding is the process by which you unearth what makes you special and then communicate it to the right people who would benefit from your abilities. It’s about being authentic, having a specific audience in mind, and having flexible goals. It’s about believing in yourself, marketing yourself and making a commitment to success.  Remember that the product (you) comes before the marketing (selling yourself). If you aren’t extremely good at a skill or knowledgeable on a topic, all the marketing and social media tools in the world won’t save you, they will just bring you down faster.
 

You have interviewed so many interesting people. Who has been the most surprising?
 

Out of about 650 total interviews since 2007, I would say that Hulk Hogan was the biggest surprise. He was very laid back, generous, honest and respectful. He opened up about his family, was excited that I grew up as a fan and had a lot of good career advice. He was by his pool in Florida during the interview, so that could have been part of it.
 

What do you love about living in Boston? What do you dislike about living in Boston?

I actually just moved to Boston last year. I grew up in Newton, moved to Waltham to attend Bentley University and I now live in Seaport. I like living in the innovation area because there are a lot of young entrepreneurs (people like me) and it’s an up-and-coming scene. I dislike how there’s no parking in Boston and it can be hard to get around.
 

What inspired you to write your book, “Me 2.0” and what can someone expect to gain from buying/reading it?
 

I had eight internships, seven leadership positions in student-run organizations and had my own small business in college. It still took me about eight months to land a job at EMC after going on several interviews. After a few months at EMC, I started a blog, which eventually turned into PersonalBrandingBlog.com after I read the Tom Peters’ “Brand Called You” article in early 2007. Within six months, I launched my own magazine, online video show, and wrote articles on personal branding for online sources. Fast Company profiled me for everything I had done in six months. EMC had no idea what I was doing outside of work but saw my social media abilities and recruited me internally to be the first social media specialist. This inspired me to write Me 2.0 because I was recruited based on the personal brand I had established online, instead of applying for jobs. It was a life changing experience and I captured it in my first book.
 

What are your hobbies or passions outside of work?

Work is obviously a passion of mine but I like to run, travel and meet new people as much as possible.
 

What is your favorite travel destination and why?
 

I really don’t have a favorite travel destination. I like Chicago, LA, NYC and the Bahamas. I always enjoy coming back to Boston though because I’m a big fan of the Seaport and the community here.
 

You are certainly a young entrepreneur and have done so much so early in your career.  What are you most proud of? What else do you have planned for 2012 and beyond?
 

I would say that I’m most proud of turning Me 2.0 into the #1 book in Japan, despite not knowing the language.

I started a company called Millennial Branding back in early 2010, which started off as a full-service personal branding agency and is now a Gen-Y marketing research and consulting firm. I also signed my second book deal with St. Martins Press after over three years of rejection. The book is going to come out in the Fall of 2013 and it’s focused on how to get ahead in your career when you already have a job.

Keeping up with the Kardashian Brand

Kardashian. Even if you don’t want to, you know the name. You may watch the slew of reality television shows associated with the name (Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kourtney & Kim Kardashian Take New York, Khloe & Lamar). Or perhaps you shop at Dash (the Kardashian boutique) or Sears (the Kardashian Kollection clothing line). Or maybe you’ve read and weighed in about Kim Kardashian’s scandalous divorce with basketball pro Kris Humphries. Was it real? Was it fake? Was it all for money? Regardless, the name is everywhere (perfumes, weight loss supplements, jewelry, fitness videos, credit cards, cosmetics, Barbie dolls, etc). Hate it or love it, talent or no talent— no matter what you may think of the brand itself, it does have a powerful recognition — worth an estimated $65 million.

While a public divorce and paternity scandal (it’s rumored that the late Robert Kardashian isn’t the birth father of Khloe Kardashian) has kept the Kardashian name in the news, another PR and branding crisis may be looming. In recent news, the NY Post reported that the Kardashian brand is tarnishing — and fast. According to the article, “Ratings for the family’s reality show have plummeted, sales of magazines with Kim Kardashian’s mug go unsold, and her products are unmarketable, insiders say.” In fact the article continues to share some startling statistics that may just prove that the Kardashian brand is in trouble.

These include:

· E!’s Kardashian TV franchise — “Keeping up with the Kardashians” — suffered a 14 percent dip in Nielsen ratings, from 3.5 million viewers per episode last season to 3 million this season.

· Circulation at Us Weekly, In Touch, Life & Style and OK! dropped about 18 percent when a Kardashian was on the cover in December, publishers said.

· Skechers ditched Kim as the face of the company in 2011 — they’ve replaced her with a French bulldog.

In fact, 500,000 consumers have signed an online petition to boycott companies that partner with Kim Kardashian at BoycottKim.com. The site claims Kardashian has “made a mockery of American culture.” And while I can’t disagree, I also can’t stop watching.

This begs the question—what can be done to help save the seemingly toxic Kardashian brand? The answer may lay within the successful mastermind behind the brand, Kardashian mother, Kris Jenner. Kris manages all of her daughters’ careers and is president of her own production company, Jenner Communications. She’s proven that she’s a marketing and branding genius. From controlling the news to making sure consumers are left wanting more, Jenner has positively and continually exposed the Kardashian brand.

It will be interesting to see if the Kardashian brand is sustainable— where will it be in three years? What creative marketing tactics will be used to salvage the brand? Will the Kardashian brand find news way to connect with its audience, fans, and customers? What do you think? Are you ready for the Kardashian brand to retire? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Define Trust. Not So Easy, Is It?

Yesterday I presented at the Social Media & Community 2.0 Strategies Conference in Boston, where I was lucky enough to have some great folks attend my session. They asked thought-provoking questions and provided insightful feedback – which is always appreciated. One of my industry friends, Michael Pace, asked me a question at the end of my presentation, and it sparked a longer discussion among some of us after the event.

What is trust?

Michael said that he keeps hearing all the social media “gurus” at conferences like this, SXSW and others, talk about “trust” in their presentations, but no one seems to define it. He has a “three-pronged” idea of trust – which if we’re lucky, he’ll post in the comments here – but no one in the room could agree on one solid definition of trust, and how brands build it. Do people really trust brands? What does that entail? How is it earned, and how is it lost? Michael is focused on customer service and support at work, and thus, it’s a question he ponders on an ongoing basis. The topic definitely made for a lively discussion around branding, marketing, customer service, customer care and social business.

I said that I thought trust was sincere intent followed by consistent, related action. If a brand tells me something, and consistently backs it up, I trust them. It’s not so different from my personal relationships, really. You can make all the promises in the world, and say all the sweetest things, but if your actions don’t reflect your words, I won’t trust you.

Chris Brogan wrote a lot about trust in his book, “Trust Agents.” He uses phrases and words like sincerity, adding value and being truthful in regards to trust. I don’t know if he answers “what is trust” specifically, rather he and his co-author Julien Smith, seem to define its attributes. But what is its definition? Chris, if you’re reading (which would make my day), Michael and I thought you’d be the perfect person to ask …

Dictionary.com uses words such as reliance, which I thought was interesting, as well as confident expectation.

So what is trust? Is it sincerity? Action? Commitment? Faith? How do you earn it? Better yet, how do you keep it? For something that is so often discussed, so hard to earn, so easy to lose, and really super hard to gain back once you’ve done so, you’d think we’d all have a pretty definitive answer.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject, readers. Thanks, as always, for visiting and commenting.