Marketer, Brand Thyself!

Much of my career has consisted of helping companies develop, establish, promote, and maintain their corporate brand. I love branding! It’s a complex and nuanced subject, equal parts psychology and design. It all reduces to a fairly simple concept, though: reputation. When you see a logo or hear a product name, what do you picture in your mind? How does it make you feel?

A key thing about branding: you aren’t in control of it. The brand exists only in the mind of the recipient. You can do things to influence it, but ultimately, the best way to do that is to create an honest picture that reinforces your strengths. The most trusted brands, and reputations, are the ones that are consistently reinforced by supporting actions.

As we move into the connection economy, we’re now all vendors. And products. As a result, we need to embrace the concept of a personal brand. What’s the concise summary you want people to have in their heads when they meet you, whether online or in person?

While I’ve been successful in helping others to develop their brands, I’ve ironically found it to be very difficult to develop my own. Self-promotion has never been a huge priority for me – I’ve been more focused on promoting the achievements of my teams, colleagues, and clients.

Quote from a friend: The Ray I know doesn't shine through. The writing is more clinical. My recommendation is put a little more of your personality and story telling talents into this.
Is the real you showing?

With the help of many friends and trusted advisors, I’ve been refining my branding elements. My web site is getting back into reasonable shape. The resume undergoes routine refinement and clarification. My social media channels are getting aligned. All of the things I would do for a client, I’m now working on doing for myself. This is a critical effort, because I’m making a lot of first impressions without the benefit of making them in person, and some of the feedback I’ve received indicates that I might not be showing the “real” me very well.

What’s your personal online brand? Is it consistent? Is it clear? What have you done to strengthen it?

What are you looking for?

In April, I let my boss know that I was going to start looking for the next challenge in my career. It was a difficult decision – I work at a great company and with great teams. However, when I looked objectively at what the company most needed, my personal growth and career goals, and the likely opportunities in the next five years, it became clear that the next chapter was upon me.

When you tell someone you’re engaged in a job search, the inevitable question is, “what are you looking for?” Part of my success has been the ability to see many options and possibilities, so answering that question isn’t as easy as it might seem.

In short, though, I

  • want to be part of a team focused on strategy and performance improvement.
  • love to help people / departments / companies find creative ways to solve problems, improve performance, or define strategy.
  • am comfortable supervising and managing teams and departments, but that’s certainly not a requirement. Leadership doesn’t require supervisory responsibilities.
  • find the most engagement and energy when helping others reach their potential, and in planning solutions. Architect more than general contractor.
  • would like to work with a company that’s forward thinking on technology, but am not particular about the industry segment.

Do you know of an opportunity that fits? Let me know!

Energy, Disruption, Fear, and Passion

I’ve just finished up at the Gartner CIO Leadership Forum in Phoenix. While it’s less than three full days, it’s easily the most energizing event I attend. The focus this year was even further in to the future of IT and its rapidly emerging role smack in the middle of the business model, even in segments that don’t think of themselves as technology driven.

Where IT has typically been an operational cost center, it is now quickly and relentlessly becoming a revenue producer and product development hotbed – the companies that don’t adapt to this change will perish or be consumed by more nimble competitors. Disruption is the order of the day, and more than likely it’s not going to come from your current industry.

Amazon providing property and casualty insurance… Facebook getting into healthcare… Google reshaping transit… Sounds silly? Some of it’s already happening. Who would have thought in the 90s that “beleaguered Apple,” perpetually one quarter away from complete demise, would today be responsible for some of the most radical changes to the software, music, entertainment, and communications industries? If one of the digerati even blinks in your direction, it’s too late.

There’s so much potential ahead of us and I’m thrilled to be part of the industry that will drive it. I also am excited that this is happening just as I reach a point in my career where I have the right blend of skills, including ideation, marketing, IT, staff development, and culture building, to make a positive difference. Now to find that mentor who’s under 30.

A Song A Day

My dear friend Artemis has encouraged me to take part in Song-A-Day 2016. The goal: write a piece of music every day for the entire month of February. Or, more accurately, write, record, and post 29 pieces of music. I’m looking forward to the challenge and working to put a bit more discipline and routine into my composition. It’s time to build some new habits.

The idea notebook is started and I’ll be going over the studio this week to get some bugs ironed out. My additional goal for all of this is to have at least one album or two EPs up on Bandcamp and available for sale by mid-year.

Moar Will Have To Wait

In the mail this week was a letter from my ISP, Suddenlink. They had Good News!™ They were magically increasing my Internet speed for FREE! FREE!!!!! I should have known something was awry when the letter said that I was going from 150 Mbps to 200. I never had 150. It also noted that I now had a 550 GB monthly allowance on data.

Whoops.

When I signed up for my original plan, there might have been a cap – I honestly can’t remember – but it was high enough, especially compared to the maximum theoretical speed, that I wouldn’t ever realistically run into it. I certainly never have.

But still… A cap. A meter. A pair of digital handcuffs. Something that restricts me. I hate that. It’s like the speed governing chip on my car. Am I ever really going to drive more than 135 mph? Not on purpose. But knowing that the engine could do much more and is being artificially limited because of some nanny-minded bean-counter just itches. I do the occasional Netflix binge. I move big data files to my remote servers. I work from home on occasion. Add to that the newly announced Wi-Fi calling from AT&T and my shiny new 1TB Dropbox plan, and this data-cap thing gets a tiny bit worrisome, even beyond the itch.

Yes, I will have another, please.I hopped online to read about the change (burning my now precious bandwidth to do so) and learned that Suddenlink has rolled out Gigabit ethernet to my town. Huzzah! Never mind that my router would probably cook an egg at those speeds or that I doubt I’d ever use the burst (or be talking to a server that could provide it), it’s more. It’s more than more, it’s MOAR in the parlance of the day. And moar is better. And it’s only $100 or so a month.

Whoops.

I’m already paying $100 or so a month.

I called Suddenlink. The automated system can’t connect my phone number with my account. Doesn’t matter, the service people always make me repeat all of that information anyway. I say “representative” five more times until I stop to listen (because options have changed) and say “add or change services.” Ten minutes with something worse than hold music. It’s hold music interspersed with cheerful people shouting the wonders of Suddenlink.

Martin answers the phone. Martin looks up my info. Martin tries to sell me the cable and phone bundle for $60 or the cable only bundle for $50. “Now which of those sounds better to you?” Nice try with the sales psychology, Martin.

I tell Martin that the last thing I need is another thing in my house ringing and that I haven’t had cable for 5 years. I hear the three-ring binder softly close with a whuff of disappointment. Martin looks at my account again and says it looks like the plan I’m on is no longer offered and that for only about $20 more each month, I can get Gigabit ethernet with the 550 GB cap. I note that the letter I got says I already have a 550 GB cap. Martin tells me, no, it’s actually a 450 GB cap.

Whoops.

I tell Martin that I’ll have to research my actual usage with their system and then decide what to do, but in the meantime, what is the new price of my 200 Mbps service? “About $75.” “Great, let’s do that for now, then.” “I’m sorry, but I can’t change that for you, I’m going to have to send you over to our retention department.”

The hold music and Stepford community players return.

Jared answers the phone. Martin has told Jared… nothing. I go through the entire story again. Jared says he can get me Gigabit for $120 or 200 Mbps for $75. I clarify the data caps. He notes that I can buy additional data up front for a small additional fee. I pass. During the hold music I’ve done a quick scan of my usage history and it’s not so bad. I can probably deal with 450 GB, especially for $30 less each month.

My inner CFO and CIO teamed up and hit my inner geek with a bar of soap wrapped in a sock: “$30 a month is $360 a year. That’s a big chunk of a PS4.” “Ok, 1GB speed. Do you have the backbone in place? How many devices are going to need that speed? Most of the house is on Wi-Fi. The 550 GB cap is silly for a connection that fast.”*

My inner geek slinks away in defeat. Moar is better, but moar will have to wait.

*I have more to say on both the data cap and how I decided I was probably ok within it, but that’s a story for another post.