Five Things Santa Claus Can Teach Us About Personal Branding

Recently, my five-year old daughter and I had breakfast with Santa at Macy’s here in New York City. Santa was in town for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and to officially kick-off the Christmas holiday season.


Watching my daughter so mesmerized and overflowing with excitement to meet Santa, telling him she wanted a Frozen Elsa Pop-up Doll and then proceeding to give him a “high five” got me thinking.

As a personal brand strategist, what branding lessons can we learn from Santa?  After all, he has one of the most iconic and recognizable brands in the world, as well as being the very successful CEO of the largest toy production company in the world.

Five Things Santa Can Teach Us About Personal Branding

Whether you believe or not, if you want to build a powerful and very recognizable personal brand, here are five things we can learn from Santa:

1. Compelling Personal Story:  Santa Claus, also know as St. Nicholas, got his start in the 4th century province of the ByzantineAnatolia, now in Turkey. Nicholas was famous for his generous gifts to the poor.  In the 16th century in England, Santa became known as Father Christmas, known for his spirit of good cheer at Christmas, bringing peace, joy, good food, wine, and revelry. Since the 20th century, Santa brings presents to good children once a year on December 24th, the night before Christmas. Also, he has been featured in numerous books, movies, and songs, making his image recognizable to multiple generations.

Lesson: Successful brands take years to build. For people to believe in you, they must be able to connect to you on a deep personal level, knowing you are authentic, and your intentions are true. Although Christmas has become highly commercialized, Santa is respected for not just “chasing the cash”.

2. Clear Brand Message:  Santa is clear on “Who He Is” and “What He Does”. Santa Claus is an expert in secret gift-giving. He brings presents to good children once a year on December 24th. Santa keeps a list of who’s been naughty or nice, and checks it twice. If you’re good, you get a present. If not, you get a lump of coal in your stocking. It’s clear and direct!

Lesson: If people can’t figure out what you do, they are not going to do business with or recommend you. Also, it’s important to be able to set clear boundaries so you can stay focused on what you do best and are most passionate about.

3. Great Team Around Him: To have a great brand, you can’t do it alone. With Santa, he has a whole team of elves that helps him, plus flying reindeers to pull his sleigh. They also look out for Santa in protecting his image and reputation. Santa even accepts diversity, such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Santa’s brand is bigger than ever.

Lesson: Ask yourself: Who is watching out for your brand?  Is your support staff willing to think outside the box? A trusted team is critical when building a personal brand. Just like your money, you need to manage and protect your personal brand and online reputation.

4.  Excellent Reputation:  Santa is not “all about himself”. He has a reputation for secret gift-giving and doing well. He is also known as Saint Nicholas, who is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, and students in various cities and countries around Europe.

Lesson: Successful personal brands take years to build and seconds to destroy in the court of social media if you’re not careful. When assessing opportunities or posting to social media always ask yourself “does this support my brand and reputation?” Having a reputation that can cross platforms into various fields can also have its advantages.

5.  Jolly Personality:  Santa is known for being a happy, jolly, and very likable person. His positive energy lights up the room and makes people want to be around him. When he meets children, he gives each child his full attention, which makes them feel like they are the only person in the room.

Lesson: Positive energy attracts people. When you make people feel like they are special or take the time to help them with a problem or challenge, they will be your brand ambassadors. Listen carefully to your clients and what they want. When people believe in you, they will share with others “Who You Are”, “What You Do” and “What’s Your Story” and do your marketing for you.

As 2014 comes to a close, enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season. May your personal brand stocking be filled with good will, and here is wishing that 2015 brings great joy and happiness.


Online Reputation

Online Reputation

If a potential client looks you up online, what will they see? This is an ever-increasing worry for small businesses as the internet marketplace becomes more and more dominant. Your online reputation is built and destroyed by the things you post, the websites you frequent, the comments you make publicly, and the comments that are made about you. A few bad remarks on Facebook, or a bad review on, and before you know it, your reputation is destroyed. These days, a disgruntled employee or an unhappy customer can leave a lasting impression for the world to see.

The worst part about it is that you don’t always get a chance for a rebuttal. The attackers get to fire the first shot at you from the comfort of their easy chairs. There are no filters to stop statements from hitting the internet simply because they may not be true. When it comes to your online reputation, you are truly guilty until you can prove yourself innocent. Having negative comments or remarks about you or your business floating around in cyberspace can have damaging results. In order to avoid this situation, adopt a more involved internet approach. Constantly search for yourself and your business on and other popular search engines. See what comes up as you click on the various entries that are available about you. If you find something that is damaging or negative, search around the site that posted it for remedies about getting it taken down. Perhaps you can send an email or a signed letter about the event that took place that led to the bad remark. There may be a place for a rebuttal to be logged, or a “contact us” function where you can levy a dispute. Regardless of the outcome, it is an excellent idea to stay on top of these things. Preventing bad publicity from spreading is usually easiest when it is caught early, so research your own online reputation and make sure you are safe.

How to Rebrand Yourself

How to rebrand yourself

When you find yourself in need of some major reputation repair, it may be time to start over from scratch.   When your brand is damaged beyond repair, changing your approach becomes necessary.  Rebranding yourself is not easy, but it is possible.  The following steps will get you started down the path to rebranding yourself or your business.

1.)  Uncover the problems.  How did this happen?  What incidents or occurrences led to the damage towards your brand?  Were these problems avoidable?  Knowing what happened, how it happened and how it can be avoided in the future is a major step toward rebuilding your reputation in the marketplace.

2.)  Are your products or services still needed in their current form?  Sometimes your brand suffers because you missed the mark on your initial offering.  If your product or service is no longer in demand, or if your target market is receiving that product or service from another provider, changes may need to be made at that level of your business.

3.)  Is your message being received?  What is your message to the market?  Is it being received by the folks who need to hear it?  Sometimes the chosen media we are using can impact the results of the advertising.  If your target market is listening to radio ads, and you are predominantly using newspaper advertising, your message is being missed and you are becoming irrelevant.  Changing the message or the method of dissemination may be necessary.

4.)  Do you look like everyone else?  Have you lost whatever it was that set you apart from your competition and made you unique?  Focusing on this point may be the strongest piece of your recovery.

These four steps will help you begin your rebuilding process as you work to rebrand yourself or your business.  Work through these points and use them like points on a map.  Follow them, and you will eventually arrive at your destination.

Rebrand Yourself

Rebrand Yourself

The internet, social media, opinion pages and review sites make it tough for anyone to control the possibility of negative things being said or complaints being posted about themselves or their businesses. When you reach a point where the damage has been too extensive and the wounds are just too deep, it may be time to rebrand yourself.

The first thing you can do is ask yourself if it is time for a change. Do you want to stay in the field you are in as you move forward into the future? Often rebranding means changing direction. Perhaps the way you are going about things need to change. Are feathers being ruffled because of your direct actions, or because of undesirable results? A little examination into the root causes of the problem can go a long way towards deciding how to fix it.

It is also a good idea to determine whether or not the damage to your brand was personal. If a former spouse or disgruntled former employee has done the damage, can it be overcome with some damage control? Or is it better to just rebrand yourself as something new, a brand new entity with no history as opposed to a negative history? These questions will help you make some of these major decisions.

There are plenty of professional services available to assist you with building or rebuilding your personal brand. Any of them can assist you once you decide that rebranding is what you need. Just make sure that the original brand, that took so long to build, is beyond repair before throwing all of that hard work out and starting over.

The NFL Crisis: Why Professionals Need Personal Brand Management

article-frontpage-9-9-0910webOver the past few weeks, you cannot turn on the TV, read the headlines, or go online without another breaking news story about a NFL player  involved in a form of violence (100 cases to date). While this crisis has exposed the serious domestic, sexual, and child abuse issues existing within the NFL, it also shows the complete lack of understanding of effective management of personal brand and reputation by those in the public spotlight and high-power business positions.

In this day and age, people are tried, convicted and sentenced in the court of social media. It only takes one action, one comment, one tweet, or one video, someone seeking 15 minutes of fame or money for your personal brand and reputation to be ruined. And this rule extends past sports and the entertainment industry to include business professionals who are in the public eye.  Just look at the recent social media firestorms targeted at Roger Goodell, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, or ousted Mozilla CEO, Brendan Eich

As a personal brand strategist who helps individuals to rebrand themselves after traumatic career setbacks, the NFL crisis shows the shocking power of a personal brand…

“IT IS POWERFUL…you can either harness this power or it can electrocute you.”

Why You Need A Personal Brand Manager? 

If you are in the public spotlight in today’s world, you need a dedicated personal brand manager.  Here’s why:

1.  Personal Brand + Reputation = Money – At the end of the day, ask yourself who’s watching out for your brand?  Just like your money, you need to manage and protect your personal brand and online reputation.  This is how you earn your living. You may be leaving money on the table or losing money because of a bad personal brand and reputation.  If you don’t have a dedicated personal brand manager, GET ONE!  A good publicist and lawyer can only do so much in the clean up department.   If your management team only says “YES” to you…NO ONE is protecting your brand.   One client calls me “The Hammer” because I tell him when actions or opportunities don’t support his passions, personal brand, or reputation.  Just like a football coach, a great personal brand manager knows how to tap into your passions, strengths, and push you out of your comfort zone to take your personal brand to the next level and earn top dollar.  Just look at Michael Strahan as an example of someone who knows how to manage his personal brand and reputation.

2. Employers Only Care About Their Own Brand and Reputation – You will never convince me that allegedly Roger Goodell never saw the complete video of Rice knocking out his then fiancée in the elevator before it went public.   It is clear the NFL was hoping the incident would just go away, and their light 2 game ban came across as too lenient.  While there is no justification for domestic violence, I will give Rice credit.  He did allegedly inform the NFL and Goodell of the incident right away.  If you are ever in a media/PR crisis, you cannot trust your employer will have your best interests in mind.   By Rice and the NFL not publicly disclosing the video, it looks like they tried to hide the truth.  In the court of social media, this is conviction in seconds.   In a personal branding crisis, you must take control and be the one to tell your side of the story.  People are more likely to forgive you and give you a second chance if you immediately take accountability for your actions, be extremely open and honest, and take swift proactive steps to seek help to rehabilitate yourself or admit your comments were wrong.  Look how Michael Vick went from being a star, to being convicted and hated by PETA and others, later getting his professional football career back by cleaning up his act, becoming the poster boy for protecting animal rights.

3. Professionals in the Public Eye Are Held To A Different Standard – When you are paid big money, viewed as a role model, or in charge, and have access to the top management, people expect you to know and act better than the average person, regardless of your upbringing or past experiences. Peterson’s excuse for beating his four-year with a switch was that it was “ok” because that’s how he was raised.  It just doesn’t cut it when you’re in the spotlight!  The same was true for Joe Paterno.  While he did what was required by law in reporting the Sandusky incident to his bosses, when Penn State took no action against Sandusky people felt Paterno had a moral obligation to go above and beyond to report the incident to the authorities.  As a Penn State Alumni, I felt this way, too. The end result smeared a pristine reputation, which had taken decades for Paterno to create that bordered on sainthood.  All of his successes with his students (i.e. highest players graduation rates) were forgotten because of the depravities of one person who Joe had removed from his staff.  Also, the outcomes may have been different if Joe had spearheaded an aggressive campaign against Sandusky from the moment that he learned of this inappropriate behavior.

4. Successful Personal Brands Take Years to Build and Seconds To Destroy – Miley Cyrus, for better or worse, has been effectively managing her brand.  Remember when she was the wholesome Nickelodeon child star?  This seems like a distant memory.  Although many of her public exploits have seemed outrageous, they have been carefully orchestrated to make her seem the hero to a generation of youth, and her brand name is stronger than ever.  Derek Jeter has had a personal brand and reputation that he has developed carefully throughout his career, and it has helped him become an iconic figure.  He is as well known on the field for his exploits as he is known for his charity work through his Take Two Foundation.  There has been careful brand management of his name and reputation over the years, and as he retires, it clearly has paid dividends.

Ten years ago, there seemed to be a small market for personal brand management, that only the elite of the elite may need someone to manage their brand.  In today’s media obsessed culture, the rules have changed.  Those who learn how to manage this new world effectively can use personal brand management to bring their reputation to new levels, becoming icons in the public eye, or trusted authorities.

Has your personal brand or online reputation been damaged by online negative comments or social media attacks?

Do you know how to protect and manage your personal brand and online reputation?

Or do you have your own story of suffering a traumatic career setback and want to share with others?

I hope this post has been helpful and would welcome your comments.  If you need help in rebranding or repairing your online reputation,  Cre8iv can help.  call + 1 646.535.9450 or email.

Personal Branding Consultant

Personal Branding Agency

You’re just starting out and you have done the basic things needed to start your business. You decided on a name and registered it with the city, county or state to set up your business entity. You bought your inventory or supplies. You opened your bank account, ordered your checks and established your QuickBooks account. Now you just need a customer…

This is where the average business owner could really use a helping hand. A personal branding consultant can help you to establish who you are in the marketplace, and attract customers to what you can do. A professional agency that deals with branding will help you in a number of areas. They will also help you to prioritize which areas you need help in the most.

To begin the process, you need to be able to describe your vision. What are your services or products? How are they offered? What is their benefit to the consumer? Once these things are decided they can help you to decide who will benefit the most from your products or services. This is your target market. These are the people that you need to reach efficiently in order to succeed in your new endeavor.

The personal branding agency will continue to work with you to refine all of your processes towards that end effectively reaching your target market. They will explore the name of your business, and whether or not the name you have chosen is optimal for the goals you are trying to reach. They will look at your logo, your slogan, and any advertising you have planned to determine how it can best serve you. No stone remains unturned as the personal branding agency partners with you to grow your business successfully.

How to Become a Thought Leader

How to become a thought leader

“Thought leaders” are the experts in their niche.  They are the people that everyone comes to for more information.  Thought leaders are the authorities on the movements and progress of their chosen field, and they are the people that proclaim the direction that the field will take.  Becoming a thought leader can take time, but you can begin the process immediately.  Establishing credibility is a common first step, and there are several ways to go about achieving that.

Publish something…anything. 

The unfortunate truth about the general public is that they tend to believe what they read.  Headlines in newspapers, or spotlight articles online, or a random blog can all lead to opinion being mistaken for fact.  This can be used to the advantage of someone trying to establish themselves in a particular field.  In today’s world, getting something posted, printed or published has never been easier.  Write a book on the topic in which you are trying to establish your expertise and make it available for free online.  Market the link to that free book to members of your community.  Allow them all to read what you have to say and they will help you establish yourself as a leader or an expert.  Post an article on a free blog and email the link to your database of peers.  These things can help you gain credibility in your field.

Have a plan…any plan.

Thought leaders have a plan of some kind involving the chosen topic.  They have a purpose for wanting to spread their knowledge.   If you are just offering opinion, some will listen and some will not.  If you have a plan to make something better, to improve a situation for someone, somewhere, then people are much more apt to lend you their ear.

Be Sincere.

If you truly care about your topic, that will resonate with your audience. People who truly are engaged in a topic can smell a fraud a mile away.

Personal Brand Management

Personal Brand Management

Once you have established a brand for yourself or your business, you must then take on the task of managing your brand to maintain the ground you have gained. The work that goes into building the brand at the beginning is immense. It involves hard work, dedication and commitment. It requires a diligence to always be on the lookout for those that want to detract from that reputation you have worked so hard to build so you can stop them before they can inflict any wounds. A constant vigilance must be kept on internet postings, review boards, references, and opinion outlets that flourish in the online world. This is a tall task to undertake for anyone. The time that is spent maintaining your personal brand is well spent; however, not everyone has that time to spare. This is when an online brand manager can assist you.

There are companies that devote their time and efforts to constantly maintaining and protecting your brand. They scour the internet on a daily basis, searching for anything negative that may come up in regard to you or your business. When they find something, they immediately take action to mediate it, minimize it or eliminate it if possible. In addition, they will make positive comments or remarks to reduce the impact of the negative entries, or replace them all together in time. These companies can take this service a step further as well. Instead of simply waiting for negative comments and then moving to fix them, these companies can also proactively post positive remarks to make sure that any new information about you or your business is seen in a positive light. Maintaining an established brand takes a large amount of work, but is worth every minute in the end.

Personal Brand

Personal Brand

Your personal brand, especially in the context of owning or running a small business, is the image that the public sees when they hear your name.  Think of the word, “Coke.” You get an instant image of a red can of soda with writing on the side.   That is because the company that owns that soft drink has spent millions of dollars and several decades constantly building, maintaining and strengthening their brand.  To relate this back to our context, what do people think of instantly when they hear your name, or the name of your business?

One way to finds that out, is to consult with people that you trust and ask them for their descriptions of you and your brand.  You may get a variety of answers, but it will give you a good cross section of opinions to start with.  Another way to uncover what your brand has become is to listen to the way people describe you when they are talking about you, or introducing you.  What descriptive words are used?  What points do they include or emphasize?  This will give you another building block to use later when you set out to polish your personal brand.

You may find that you have no significant branding in place, and you need to build one from scratch.  This is where you need to decide what you want the public to think of when they hear your name.  What values do you have that you want others to be aware of?  Decide what is important to you, personally and in business, and make sure that you let others know.  Decide what your actual skills are and what talents you have that you will offer to others for their benefit.  This will help you determine exactly what service you are providing and how you are providing it.  Holding your own performance to the highest standards in delivering these services will then help to create a brand that will be well known, and that you can be proud of.

Internet Reputation

Internet Reputation

In person, people see you as a responsible, trustworthy member of the community.  However, on the internet you appear to be a drinking, smoking slacker whom nobody should trust.  How can this happen?  Your internet reputation is compiled of all of the little pieces of you that people see without being able to assemble them all into one big picture.  On Facebook, a post that talks about taking drugs leads the reader to believe that you are an addict.

In reality, you have a prescription for painkillers for a bulging disc that you have to take three times a day or you can’t go to work. An Instagram photo of a large bottle of scotch makes your boss think that you are an alcoholic.  He doesn’t realize that the big bottle of scotch is a Christmas present to him from the staff.  On the internet, pictures are taken out of context, words are used in casual speak and references are made that have plenty of undiscovered back story.  These random instances are what make up your internet reputation for the world to see.

The time to start changing your internet reputation is now.  Be mindful of the phrases you use.  Ask yourself what someone might think who didn’t have any prior knowledge and who read what you posted.  It may surprise you how often we think that people know exactly what we are talking about, and it turns out otherwise.  Don’t post things that can be taken the wrong way, and you can rest assured that they won’t be.