Sassy, spirited and motivational is the multi-award winning brand called Lily Mensah! She’s an internationally savvy personal brand connoisseur with a flair for creating a professional and endearing presence online, in person and on paper. Her consulting and speaking practice spans over 20 years across USA, Africa and Europe. In her toolbox, Lily presents a collection of options for a 360o view of Brand-You. These are designed to increase visibility for personal and professional growth. Lily is author of the Personal Branding book “Work Your QUIRKs”. More about Lily and her work from ww.lilymensah.com
Congratulations on your new book ‘Work your Q.U.I.R.Ks’. You indicate that if you’d had a book like this a decade ago, your business would be different today, what have you learnt that could be game-changing for your audience?
Thank you! If I had a book like “Work Your Q.U.I.R.Ks” I would have made far fewer mistakes than I did learning the hard way. For instance, knowing how to differentiate you and yourself from the competition is one. You cannot do that if you are not sure of what your offering is and will try and man-mark everyone doing marketing or branding. In addition, your budget may not allow it and you expend unnecessary time and effort targeting the wrong audience as a result. A good tip is to identify/carve a niche as early as possible.
You’re right in saying that personal branding can feel like an abstract concept. As a specialist on this what’s your most practical definition of personal branding and what is its real value?
Personal branding allows you to identify what you are really great at and use those assets to amplify your message. The value is that you then lead the conversation about you because you know what you are good at, stand for, If you tell it repeatedly and eloquently, you end up with a proverbial high resolution on your brand and your visibility is almost always, guaranteed.
What’s the anatomy of a strong brand and what’s the best way of keeping it going for the long haul?
The anatomy of a strong brand – that’s a whole book but let me break it down in its simplest form and my ABCs. Authenticity, Brevity & Consistency!
- Authenticity about your beliefs, your back-story and everything that makes you, YOU. Personal branding is not about fakery, where you can turn up in a fancy suit and a flashy car every now and again just to please others. It’s about getting to know who you are, your audience and finding genuine ways to show up as the best version of you.
- Brevity with your message is key. Especially in the new social media age, you just have to be brief, get to the point and avoid the waffle. This helps with memorability so that you can get your message across and have a chance to drop the mic! The attention span of the average mortal is diminishing by the second and the 3 billion internet users are also posting and the noise is deafening. Keep it short and simple (KISS) is more important today.
- Consistency is about showing up regularly in the same way over and over again. Being on message etc. For instance, if you are in middle management and looking for that promotion up the corporate ladder, turning up with half-hearted attire one day and then suiting up the next day confuses the people that matter. Find a middle ground that works for you and keep at it, make it your own, if you must but stay consistent and on message. Human beings are visual and we all get judged by appearance.
Q.U.I.R.K in your book title is an acronym- Quality, Unique, Integrity, Realistic and Kind. Kind is about being kind to yourself- how does that work in building a personal/business brand?
I like acronyms, for sure and yes, the most favourite of mine is to be Kind-To-Yourself. This to me is a no brainer now, but it applies to us not overworking ourselves to the point of utter and sheer exhaustion. We must understand that we are only human and in today’s world we are pulled in many directions. We therefore have to learn to tease out how this affects us and our audience. Be strong enough to take yourselves out of the noise and relax. It’s important to stand back every now and then, pause or as I say, gear-down, in order to rev up! Because, a relaxed brand ambassador/leader will, make better decisions, for the business brand in the longer term.
What are some of the most effective ways of building a brand in this rather noisy world?
It goes back to basics really. Where is your niche, what do they want and where do they hang out? That then leads to being consistent in your messaging. Less is always more but be bold. Intrepid is the word that comes to mind because ordinary will not let you shine but being fearless may not be everyone’s cup of tea but those who matter will get you. In fact, being liked by all and sundry, will water down your brand effectiveness so be prepared to put a stake in the ground by projecting the essence and values of your brand. If your targeting is done well, you will be giving your audience what they really really want and be able to service them accordingly.
Clearly, personal branding is not self-promotion. For a business in particular, can you give the one sentence summary of how to determine the essence of one’s brand?
The essence of one’s brand in my book is about approaching it in a 3D fashion, by effectively engaging authentically in three ways. Your business literature, your online presence and your wardrobe should all espouse your personality – all three must all point to one thing – Brand-YOU!
Employer branding is an area that’s coming to the fore. What’s the best way to build that and specifically what’s the role of employees in that?
Employers who say their employees are their best assets must now walk the talk. That means allowing their employees the autonomy to reflect the brand they work for. There’s no point in hiring great talent and expecting them to clap with one hand. Employers must understand the benefits of social media and of course it’s risks and educate their people accordingly on the best use of the medium. If your people feel appreciated and internal workings are aligned to the core values of the brand – it makes it easier for the brand to be portrayed well externally by employees. So in essence – it all begins at home where brand building should not just be the preserve of the marketing department but for all employees from CEO, intern and support staff and middle management. A great example is having Company LinkedIn/Facebook pages that link employee profiles to the brand. The individual profiles should also have a voice of their own that will augment that of the employer.
What are the signs that a brand is waning and what can be done to revitalize it?
Brands that tend to throw everything into building and stop checking if it’s still relevant will wane eventually. A sign is that the visuals and aesthetics stay the same over the years. Feedback is not gathered – in fact a quick check-in to see how your brand is doing, when things are going well is what I would advise, because if you wait for the lights to dim before asking, it might be too late. It’s important to understand what the brand stands for, in order to get the engagement right. If the strategy has changed, then the message should also be amended to allow for consistency. The ABCs alluded