What’s in A Selfie: Why Posting Self Photos Are An Essential Piece of Your Brand

Selfie photographs are not new. It is only recently that self portraitures emerged as a global phenomenon. Historically, self portraits were usually produced by the elite and revered. Fancy pants people who were adored, from artists to politicians. Now, anyone with a smartphone can be instantly zapped into stardom with just a selfie stick and a click.

Google estimates that roughly 24 billion selfies were taken in one year alone. A quick hashtag search for #selfies will yield you over 342 million post results on Instagram.

It’s no doubt we are living in a selfie-nation.

In my work, I most often come across three types of people: the selfie lovers, the dabblers, and then there’s people like me who hate the idea of being in photos. It’s why I spent years BEHIND the camera instead of in front of it.

Over the years, I’ve embraced a new idea. As the woman behind Project She Went For Her Dreams, a global brand that champions this movement of building a legion of confident women in business, I knew that I had to stop hiding behind my work and start being the face of it.

I was inspired by my mentor and many other countless women change-makers who unapologetically capture themselves in a good ‘ol fashioned selfie every now and then while giving absolutely no fucks about what others think of them while doing so.

And isn’t that what stops many of us? The fact that we care a little too much about what others think of us. There’s a little voice in our head that says, who am I to post this photo of myself? And another voice that says, who do you think you are, some sort of celebrity? Or we may buy into this false sense of humility, that shames us for daring to tie our name and face to the work that we do.

This is a problem I see mostly as women, while the men of our time have no issues being front and center of their work and accomplishments.

Without going too deeply into the social conditioning and systemic challenges women face as it relates to being seen and credited for their work, we can all agree that self promotion has always been a tough nut to crack for women.

I’m in favor of women amplifying their professional platforms and with that building mediums of expression and communication -- including the selfie. Selfies have an incredible ability to create a magnetizing power. Whether snapshots taken “on the go” or posed and non-spontaneous, the visual aesthetic of a person captured in their essence, helps us create an understanding of ourselves and establishes our existence to those around us.

In a world where we are our own brand builders, here’s a few statements that make the case for selfies as a brand advantage.

  1. Selfies are a form of self expression

  2. Selfie’s build trust

  3. Selfies humanizes you

  4. Selfies are an extension of your career

  5. Selfies are a form of reputation management where you can control how you are perceived

  6. Selfies can be empowering and encourage motivation and online support

Selfies, while they can be used as a form of self expression, they can also be dangerous forms of validation and sources of approval that if mishandled can drain you of all self esteem.

"The key is to make sure you avoid the psychological pitfalls. If you’re so keen to promote your ‘brand’ that you start to become reliant on likes and validation as a key to your success and if you just identify yourself as a brand, your self-esteem can become solely based on your pictures. You relinquish your control to people you don’t know and negative comments can be very hard to deal with." - Dr. Aaron Balick, Psychotherapist.

If you have a service, a mission, a cause you believe in, are an activist, a change-maker, thought leader, and have a message you want to get out to the world, make selfies a vibrant part of how you express that yourself and grow your platform.

Now I'm off to lunch to grab lunch at a beautiful Mediterranean bistro in midtown. The spicy shrimp risotto looks amazing. But first, let me take a selfie.

Should You Have Your Own Brand Even When You Work For a Company?

She was whip smart. She knew her shit. She was at the top of her field. Had spoken at several industry conferences. She was her company’s go-to person. She was the voice of her company.

Yet when I asked her about her personal brand, the identity she was building beyond her role as Director, she looked back at me with confusion. My brand, she responded. “I represent my company so I don’t think it’s necessary for me to have a brand.”

Now I was the one giving her a confused look.

When it comes to your brand, whether you are gainfully employed or work for yourself, you need to have your own brand identity. Period.

Your brand is part of your value. It is made up of unique and special ingredients that make you who you are. It is the thing that sets you apart and distinguishes you among your peers. You bring your brand into work every day whether you realize it or not. If you're not sure why having a brand matters, read here.

In the ever-changing world of work, your brand is the one constant that stays with you no matter where you go in your career journey. As jobs come and go, markets fluctuate, companies restructure, businesses fail and restart – your brand is the one thing you will always have control over. Not having your own brand identity is like committing career suicide.

Some of the most prominent business leaders have created brands outside of their primary roles. Jennifer Risi, World Communications Officer for one of the largest branding agency's, Ogilvy & Mather is known not only for being a seasoned executive but is a regular contributor around topics involving women in business and the gender gap in Advertising. Bisila Bokoko, Global Business Woman & Entrepreneur, has expanded her brand as a global consultant to include philanthropy and even represents the Wine & Spirits industry with her namesake Bisila Wines. And lastly, our own beloved Oprah, queen of media. Her brand not only includes talk show host but actor, philanthropist, author, and spiritual leadership.

Think about your walk through life, your career path. Would it help or hurt your career to be known outside of your company for what you do? Where might you be pigeon holing yourself into one label, under one umbrella? How can your professional platform be a bit more inclusive of the other parts of you?

We are renaissance women, ladies and it's time we take ownership of the many parts that make us who we are to build our own legacy.

Here are five things you can do to start growing your personal brand and be known outside your company for what you do:

1.     Build your speaking portfolio by speaking on topics that most matter to you.

2.     Get published in your industry or start a blog to develop your thought leadership.

3.     Join the board of your favorite organization or non-profit.

4.     Start or volunteer in a professional group that supports your favorite cause

5.     Write a book on your area of expertise.

Remember, your brand is the essence of YOU. Don't confine it to just the company you work for. There is so much more to you and your job is to express it both inside and out of the office.

{VIDEO DEBUT}: Too Hard On Yourself/You Are Enough

Earlier this year I posted a video of myself reciting a poem I wrote called Too Hard On Yourself/You Are Enough. Soon after the lovely and talented actress from LA, Monica Vallero contacted me excitedly to ask if she could use the poem for a creative project with her and her team. I was honored!

Admittedly, I wrote Too Hard On Yourself for me. Back then I was highly self critical, a perfectionist, and poo poo'd the whole self care, self love thing. But the more conversations I had with women, I saw that this was an epidemic.

As women we are expected to be all-things-have-your-shit-together-at-all-times-strong-independent-never-let-them-see-you-sweat machines. And we judge ourselves the hardest when we don't meet that impossible standard.

The woman I describe in this poem is all of us. These ladies represent all of us. From the free spirited, quirky weird, beautiful, creative ambitious types, seekers, achievers, perfectionists, goal digging dreamers and doers. Young, old, green hair, no hair. This is for you. I hope you enjoy.


Super proud of the work these lovely ladies did in bringing this poem to life.

What Brands Can Learn From Dove's Ad Fail

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Ok so I had to comment on the backlash recently received by Dove, a brand that markets and sells to millions of women everyday. I am a black woman who has used their product from bath bars to deodorant for many years and has even supported their mission towards self-esteem and body positivity. I feel let down and disgusted that a brand that I have given money to over the years is not a true champion for celebrating beauty and diversity in its truest form.
 
In case you missed it, on Saturday, Dove released a Facebook ad that pictured a black woman turning herself into a smiling white woman.
 
Social media wasn’t having any of it as angry comments and criticism on Facebook and Twitter erupted almost immediately. The company in response took it down and issued an, in my opinion, weak apology.
 
Dove states, “An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.”
 
In reading the comments and articles written about this incident in the past day, one thing that many people are asking is how could Dove’s marketing team approve such an ad like this? Could they not see it as blatantly offensive? This troubles me. For 13 years this brand has stood for women’s empowerment, celebrating diversity, and defying mainstream standards of beauty. Yet, this is not the first time Dove generated an ad that was clearly offensive. In 2006 another campaign was a photo of a black woman with a ‘before’ sign over her head and a white woman with an ‘after’ sign.

 
C’mon Dove. We have to do better.
 

In my career, I have worked with some of the top marketing firms in NYC and have been part of the teams managing the accounts for popular brands like Lexus, American Airlines, and even Unilever which is Dove’s parent company. Though I was not directly involved in the making of the ad campaigns, I worked closely to those that did. In many cases, the creative teams leading these brand campaigns, did not reflect the actual demographic of the product it was targeting.


So when a blatantly racist ad gets approved and released by a nationally recognized brand, TWICE, this is clearly a symptom of a larger problem.
 
The old model of non-inclusion at the corporate level is crumbling.
 
In order for brands at the highest level to reach the masses, all voices must have a seat at the table. Your consumers are holding you to a high standard and in integrity to your word. Mistreat that and you lose our trust, period.
 
I am proud that people whether they use the product or not, did not let Dove get away with it’s blatant lack of sensitivity. However my fear is that next week this time, this will be old news and the problem will persist until another offensive ad crops up.
 
Soon big brands will have to pay attention as newer, more inclusive beauty brands walk their talk and promote inclusion of all shades. Rihanna’s new makeup line Fenty, that launched this Fall, is a great example of this. Her product effectively hit the mark of representing all skin shades without making it’s users feel excluded or that one shade is better than another. Well done.
 

I’ll end in saying this: for all brands big and small, whether you are a solo run business or a giant figurehead in the industry ~ remember it’s what you DO, not what you say, that makes you who you are.

9 Ways Women Can Help Each Other Get Ahead In Business

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"There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women." ~ Madeleine Albright


We work to change this idea of competition that pits women against each other. There is no need for competition in business or in the workplace. We are far stronger working together than apart. Women are natural collaborators and we do better when we are building each other up rather than ripping each other down.

Here are a list of ways we can help each other as women in business. Feel free to add your own!

  1. Send free resources (books, articles, videos, programs, events) that you come across to someone in your circle that would benefit from the material.
  2. Be a connector. Scan your network of contacts and facilitate an introduction between two people who could help each other or benefit from knowing one another.
  3. Refer. Give out referrals for your favorite women in business. Hand it out like candy!
  4. Share it out! When someone in your circle starts something new, gets featured, or that you know could benefit from more exposure or awareness, share their news! You can do this by posting, re-posting, or forwarding with a link back to their work.
  5. Do business with other women owned businesses. This year while doing my taxes, I intentionally sought out a woman-owned tax firm. Look for ways you can support other women in business.
  6. Listen. Sometimes we just need to be heard, not for someone to fix things. Offer your full presence and a listening ear
  7. Acknowledge. Pick 5 random women from your circle and just send an email or better yet pick up the phone with a kind, encouraging or inspiring word.
  8. Invest. Women face more challenges in securing funding than our male counterparts. Consider ways to put your uninvested assets to use by investing in women owned business ventures
  9. Give back. All of our progress will be for nothing if we do not empower the next generation of women leaders. Volunteer your time, be a mentor, teach young girls, or delegate a portion of your income to social causes you care about.

 

What would you add to this list?
What is one action you can take on from this list to empower women in your circle?

We’re all in this together.

Power, Purpose, Community!

Your Personal Branding Questions - ANSWERED!

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This past week I led a discussion on personal branding for a large organization.

With 20 minutes to present and about 60+ people on the call with plenty of material to get through, I squeezed in my best tips and advice on how women in business can build a powerful brand.

Today, I’m sharing with you the nuts and bolts of my talk along with the answers to a few questions we had on the call. Later on, I will be inviting a few of you to join my first ever personal branding masterclass to expand on some of the material covered here. So without further ado, my quick tips for building and leveraging your personal brand in business and leadership.
 

What is brand?

For many of us, when we think of a brand, we tend to think of it in terms of the name of our business, our bio, what’s on our resume, LinkedIn profile, or the role or title we have. Maybe for some of us, we don’t even see ourselves as a brand or never really considered it. We might think of the stores we shop in, the products we buy, the logos we see as brands. But this is a very one-dimensional way of seeing ourselves and the power we have to create an impact and build influence.
 

A brand reDefined.

A brand can be defined as three things:
 
1. The unique set of ingredients that set you apart and allow you to stand out.
2. The experience of you and what people come to expect from you.
3. The value you bring to the table.
 

Why does having a brand matter?

When you don’t have a clear definition of who you are, what you stand for, and what you bring to the table, you can start to feel adrift and stagnant in your work. You may find yourself unable to create meaningful goals, struggle with confidence and impact in your leadership, and decision-making becomes a bit cloudy.
 
Consider your brand as your navigational guide towards personal and professional success. Foundational items like your personal vision, core values, and strengths lead the way. With a clear understand of your brand, you can align with the right projects/clients/opportunities.
 

What gets in the way?

I call these the stories we tell ourselves; invisible barriers that come in the form of negative self talk that causes us to hide, shrink, become insecure and diminish confidence.
 
The two narratives we most often hear are:
1. Not good enough.
2. Who do you think you are?
 
What we continuously believe and actions we take as a result, becomes our habits, which shape our character and ultimately our destiny. Through methods that interrupt this pattern of thinking, we find ourselves able to replace negative thinking with solid, more empowering beliefs. Priceless!
 
A few questions I received that I’d like to answer here were:
 
How does the culture of the organization come into play with developing your personal brand within the organization?
 
“Make visible what, without you, might never have been seen.” – Robert Bresson
 
1. Listen; engage in active listening to tune into the internal dynamics of your organization. What do you notice about how teams communicate, how problems are solved, or how leaders lead? Then ask yourself: What/how can I best contribute here? What unique quality or skill that I possess would be most useful here?
Learn to ask for feedback from colleagues and clients to determine what your best strengths and skills are. This will aid in knowing who you are and where you most bring value.

2. Teach; oftentimes you have to show & tell people how you want to be perceived and what you want to be known for. Pay attention to the language you use about yourself and how you describe what you do. Use language that you most want to be known for. In essence you have to be the one to teach people who you are. Do this by your actions, words, and results achieved.

3. Cheer-lead; women can be your best advocate who will attest to your skill and value. Your cheerleaders will speak highly of you in your absence – they become your own personal PR agent! Align yourself with ‘influential allies’ and become one yourself for other women.
 
How did I develop my brand as a business professional and voice for women’s leadership and empowerment?
 

I will be answering this in full detail with step-by-step guidance in my Branding masterclass. On Wednesday, August 30th I will be hosting a 75-minute online branding masterclass, The Essence of YOU; Personal Branding for Smart Women. This session is for you if you are considering your next career move, starting a new venture, needing more clarity around what you want, and especially if you're just tired of shrinking and ready to play bigger in your world! What’s unique about this course is that it takes a very unconventional approach to branding, from the inside, out. So if you’re open to a new way of discovering & developing your brand, you will enjoy this talk.

Sign up is here.
 
I’m keeping the class limited to 15 people so we can have a personal focus for our attendees.
 

Cheers to mastering your brand and unlocking your true path to great leadership.

The SHE in She Went for Her Dreams

When you’re in the business of helping people succeed, the work becomes bigger than you.

I’ve seen the magic of how one woman who decides to go for her dreams and play a bigger game in her own life can inspire another woman to do the same.
 
It’s like a ripple effect.
 
The impact we have on one other as women is far greater than we could ever imagine. There is something about seeing a community of like-minded trailblazing women who are going for it that sparks something within you.
 
The fire in your belly roars to a flame and you are inspired to get out there, be your best self, and do your best work.
 
This is what it means to have a greater purpose through your work.  When it comes to business and the work that we do, I don’t believe it’s just about selling widgets and increasing the bottom line. I’m going to take a guess that if you’re reading this, that you believe this too.
 
As women entrepreneurs, many of us go into business driven by a desire to create, change the world, and serve humanity. Our dreams are not flights of fancy, but an invitation to action. At the risk of getting too metaphysical and woo woo, doing business is a sacred act. The hum that lies just underneath the surface, that fuels you to get out of bed every morning. It is a force that does not come through you alone but from a higher power energy channeling through you. It is not our job to question it, but to obey the callings of our hearts.
 
The imperfect road towards living our dreams is paved with setbacks, longer than expected wait times, and dark nights of the soul. Still we march on. It takes courage to do this kind of work to follow a dream, make an impact, to let go of comfort, risk failure and disappointment, believe in an idea so fiercely that you would die for it.

Project She Went For Her Dreams exists to lead, guide, and transform women into their highest calling as business leaders of the future. We partner with women of our time who are boldly pursuing their dreams and making a difference in the world through the work they are called to do. These women are thought-leaders and change-makers who see the world not so much as it is but how it could be. They are in the trenches, have fallen down and gotten back up, and show up every single day to bring her work out into the world.

The message I want women to take from our work is that you have to do the thing that calls to your soul. It’s no longer an option to deny our dreams any more. We cannot continue to hide behind our unfulfilling 9-to-5’s, the excuses, the fears, and the circumstances that keep us blocked every day. We must become loyal to our dreams instead of what other people want from us. Even if you don’t know what your dreams or passions are, there is no greater time to start exploring them then right now. Part of going for your dreams is about becoming curious about who you are and the work you want to do in this world.  
 
Each woman intuitively knows what that next step is for her. It is a very personal journey. Whether it’s starting a new business, leaving the dead-end job, doing a TedTalk, taking the job across the country because she feels in her heart that it’s the right move, speaking her mind openly in the boardroom, sharing new ideas that have the power to change the course of traditionally held views, getting out of our heads and trusting ourselves.
 
The SHE in She Went For Her Dreams is for every woman who dared to do big things, use her power to create, and hold up her middle finger to anyone who tried to hold her back. This mission is for her, this mission is about Us.  
 
Now that’s something worth celebrating.
 
Last Fall, my company went through a re-brand and Project She Went For Her Dreams was officially introduced to the world. The launch was celebrated with the kick off my empowerment series, A Night of Dreaming + Doing in NYC for women entrepreneurs, world changers and all star trailblazers. We have our next event coming up on September 21st which is shaping up to be another magical experience.
 
Today, we forge on, giving inspired business and leadership guidance to women that want it. Some of our women have gone on to launch award-winning companies, appearances on major media outlets, pen best selling books, and even get married, move across the country and start families.
 
But the best part about all of this, is what we get to say about the work we did when we sit old and gray reflecting on our lives, that we went for it, we went for our dreams.