If you know me offline or engage with me online, you know exactly who I am and what I believe and stand for. You know my brand.
My friend and legal marketing legend, Harlan Schillinger, shared one of my favorite definitions of what a personal brand is:
“A personal brand is what people think of you when you are out of the room.”
Build Your Brand on a Foundation of Truth
Who I am as a human being defines my brand as a business owner and trial lawyer. I believe that in the courtroom, business, and life, honest conflict has more social value than dishonest harmony.
How about you? What do you stand for? What’s your brand?
Don’t try to answer these questions until you’ve read this entire email. I’m hoping to plant a few seeds that will sprout and grow as you work your way down the page. Trust me, keep reading.
I"d also like to mention that for me, being authentic and earning the respect of others are key ingredients to my reputation and long-term personal brand building. While everything I do is premised around being true to my legal, ethical, and moral internal compass, truth be told, actually doing this on a consistent basis is easier said than done. The tips I share today help me get over the speed bumps, and I know they’ll help you too.
Human Beings are Emotional Creatures
You never really know where someone is coming from or what they’re thinking. Because of this, I’ve found that if I focus on what I’m in control of (my internal compass) while living my life and building my brand, rather than focusing on everything outside of my control, things usually work out for the best.
So having said that, let’s move forward with a few ways to build your brand while interacting with sometimes unpredictable human beings and doing your best to be authentic. Please note that while doing so, your audience may not always agree with what you’re saying, but if you go about things the right way, you’ll earn the respect of those who matter while also getting comfortable with the fact that you can’t please everyone, nor should you try.
Now, as an experienced trial lawyer, the approaches I touch upon below come easy for me. They’re conflict resolution, negotiation techniques, and people skills that I’ve learned in courtrooms and boardrooms and refined with practice over the last three decades. Having said that, anyone can learn how to approach, create and share their message using these same techniques.
One more thing. I’m the first to acknowledge that being true to who you are isn’t always easy or fun. But here’s the deal, if you want to be a change agent and have this attribute as part of your brand, silence is not an option. You must take positions and share your thoughts. The key is to do so at the right time and in the right way.
Positive change and truth require you to stand tall and speak up. Whether it’s telling a friend a difficult truth or engaging in a challenging conversation during a podcast, taking a position is critical to the kind of personal brand building I’m talking about in this edition of my newsletter.
While it is sometimes better to leave some unimportant things unsaid, most of us will agree that being pleasant and avoiding harsh truths doesn’t help anyone avoid or resolve life’s more important and complicated issues.
Embracing Disagreements and Confrontation
Being true to who you are will result in disagreements and, now and then, confrontation. And that’s OK. These situations are opportunities that allow you to start positive change and build your unique brand. Embrace these moments.
There’s a right and wrong way to disagree or be confrontational. The plan isn’t to be mean to someone. The goal is to stand your ground, add value, and, when appropriate, help someone else.
I do this by leading with empathy. I let the other person know that I frankly don’t enjoy the conflict. This is especially true if the conflict involves someone I care about.
Whether I’m speaking at a meeting, engaging in the written comments of a blog, or being interviewed on a podcast, I might start with a statement or sentence about how this topic is something I’ve wanted to talk about but have been uncomfortable bringing it up because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings (or something like that). This sets the stage for a more meaningful dialogue because the other person or social media audience knows that I care about them. It lays the foundation for a meaningful conversation.
Next, I will usually first focus on what we all agree on before discussing the issue or issues I have a problem with. Sharing our common interests at the beginning builds rapport and allows for a meaningful meeting.
During the interaction, I acknowledge what the other person is doing right, but at the same time, I lead the conversation back over to the specific issue at hand– what the problem is. Creating a “go-to” statement that everyone agrees on and that I can come back to at any time also allows me to pivot and have a tool to help refocus everyone back to the issues at hand.
For example, in a discussion around healthcare and who should pay for it, I would have a statement prepared something like, “I think we can all agree that a healthy society is a productive society and that access to healthcare is important. Let’s work together to figure out the best way we can make this happen moving forward.”
Your “go-to” statement should be crafted before starting the conversation and include common issues and goals everyone agrees with. When you reach an impasse, or the conversation goes sideways, you can always return to your “go-to” statement to tactfully get everyone back on track to the common goal. The better you are at keeping the conversation going, the greater your chances of getting the desired outcome.
How You Act and What You Say Matters
During the back and forth conversation, try to stay calm. You can display confidence by remaining in control of your emotions. After all, if you don’t control your emotions, they’ll control you.
Also, note that there’s a difference between controlling and showing your emotions and not caring at all. It’s OK to let the other side know that you care, but just not that much. In the context I’m referring to, caring and emotions are two different animals.
I also like to avoid absolutes like “I’m right, and you’re wrong” statements. Instead, I like to focus on being hard on issues and kind to people. This works with adverse witnesses in court and demanding people on social media engaged in a challenging or heated exchange.
Keeping your emotions in check and staying focused on the issues enables you to avoid personalizing the conversation. It also lets you validate the other person while objecting to well-defined issues. Note that I said well-defined issues. There a difference between saying to someone, “You always disregard my feelings,” as opposed to, “Last night when you interrupted me at the dinner table, it hurt my feelings. Why did you do that?”
The more specific you are in your conversation, the easier it becomes to resolve the particular issue amicably.
Using these approaches will enable you to be genuine and stay in alignment with your true self. When you do this, others are watching and taking mental notes. As Harland mentions above, when you leave the room, you’ll be proud of what people have to say about who you are, what you stand for, and how you do business.
Doing all of the above allows you to build, over time, a personal brand that’s congruent to who you are. Not everyone will agree with what you say or your position on various topics, but most will respect you for being who you are and how you handled the topic, issue, or conversation.
Before I go, please make a note of these three good related resources:
Three Good Resources
Between now and next week, enjoy the journey of embracing your inner compass, building your brand, and never stop making each day your masterpiece!
Mitch Jackson, Esq.
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This newsletter is sent every Friday morning by Mitch Jackson (me!). I focus on marketing and branding for professionals, business owners, and entrepreneurs. I also like to share my 35 years of legal experience to help keep my online community legal and safe. THANK YOU for being here.