*PS. Below you will find an auto-generated transcript of this episode.
Karen Leland: I don't think it's just about taking your brand and pushing it out there. You know, there's over 40 different tactics you could use to promote your brand, LinkedIn, Facebook, advertising, webinars, podcasts, you now, there's a whole variety.
Arek Dvornechuck: What’s up branding experts?—Arek here at Ebaqdesign. And our guest today is Karen Tiber Leland. And Karen is the president of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. She helps CEOs, executives, and entrepreneurs build stronger personal, team and business brands, and become thought leaders in their fields. Her clients have included: LinkedIn, Twitter, American Express, and Roche. She has been interviewed by Fast Company, The Atlantic, MSNBC, and Fortune. And Karen is also the author of the book “The Brand Mapping Strategy” which is the book we’re going to talk about today. Hello Karen, thanks for coming on the show.
Karen Leland: Thank you. So, first of all, I wanted to start by, by saying that your book is very practical. I really enjoy, you know, values, insights, and you give us specific teas and, you know, you present us with yourtools and techniques. So, um, so whether it is, uh, for, for CEOs and executives who want to build or refine their personal brand or business brand,because those things go together, right, or for creatives or consultants likemyself, who just want to learn how professionals do it. So this work, it, Iwould really recommend you guys to check it out. It provides actionabletechniques as a set for defining building and designing stronger brands. Sowith that, and just for the record, this is, this is, this book is quitedifferent in the sense that, uh, you talk quite a lot about personal branding,right? And how it works with business branding as well, how those things worktogether.
Arek Dvornechuck: So in the introduction, you talk about your own story andhow those hard times force you to rebrand and refine your brand and reinventyour life and you shape your business. Right? So, and I think that despite thefact that you wrote this book a couple years ago, I think now it's actuallybetter vetted elephant. You know, during this pandemic, we can find ourselvesin similar position as you were, you know, those couple of years ago where weare often forced to rethink our personal brand and how we present ourselves outthere on the internet. So in order to, you know, grow and thrive and surviveand prosper in those times. So can you just walk us through how it all startedfor you and perhaps where we can talk about some of the benefits using yourapproach and focusing on, on building personal brand to gather with yourbusiness brand.
Arek Dvornechuck: Now we are going to take a quick break here, but we will be right back. Listen. My mission is to help people build and design iconic brands. So whether you're a business leader who wants to be more intentional withbranding and all of its aspects, or you are a creative professional who wantsto attract powerful clients and truly be able to help them with branding, thenyou need to start with a discovery session in order to develop a strategy thatwill inform all of your creative work and everything that you need to learn,how to do that. You can find in my online email@example.com slash shop,what I share with you and my worksheets case studies, video tutorials, andother additional resources to help you feel safe and strong about your process.And now let's get back to our interview.
Karen Leland: Well, you know, I've been, I started out as a management consultant and I ran a management consulting firm that focused on executive development all over the world with fortune 500 companies. And one of the things I consistently found is that leaders, executives that had teams thatwere high performing great customer service skills, great employee engagementskills were leaders that had really positive personal brands. So I think oftenwhen we talk about a personal brand, we think of it as something that'sselfish, right? That's just for us in our own how we seem in the world. But myexperience is that a personal brand, if it's strong, as you as a leader,whether you're the leader of a small business or the leader of a team within afortune 500 company, or you're the leader of a, you know, a growing a growingmidcap company, having a personal brand is the way, one of the ways that youexpress your leadership. And so I think that for me, I also realized that theexperiences people have in their life shape their personal brands to a certaindegree. And so you can use those personal experiences to shape your life in away, or to shape your personal brand in a way that's either positive ornegative, hopefully.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. So, uh, can you just outline for our listeners? Ijust wanted to give our listeners some idea of what they can expect from yourbook. Can we talk about, uh, outline maybe some, some of the benefits ofbuilding a strong, personal brand together with your business brand? Forexample, my, some of my key takeaways from the book, you know, expanding yourcurrent, you can expand your current outreach and contribution. You cancontribute to a bigger audience. You can navigate all those things like, youknow, branding, PR marketing and, and, and get a boat above the clouds bypositioning yourself well in the marketplace. And you can be seen as anindustry leader. So, so people seek you out, right? And the fourth thing is tomaximize online reputation. So you're, you're becoming ubiquitous. And sopeople can find you, you know, so clients can find you and people who want towork with you. Is that correct?
Karen Leland: Yeah. That's oversimplifying it a little bit, but yes. Imean, those are some of the bottom lines, you know, everyone who calls me says,I want to be a thought leader in my not so joking responses. Okay. But firstyou have to add some thoughts. So I don't think it's just about taking yourbrand and pushing it out there. You know, there's over 40 different tactics youcould use to promote your brand, LinkedIn, Facebook, advertising, webinars, podcasts.You know, there's a whole variety, but it's not so much the tactics you'reusing at first. It's what are you actually putting out there? So all of thethings you said are outcomes, but they're only outcomes if you're offeringconsistent high quality information or consistent high quality service. And sothe starting place for everyone is really defining what is it that you'recontributing? And then what's the best path to contribute. Now, if you do thatlong enough over enough time, then of course you can create a personal brandwhere you're considered an expert in your field where it can be a funnel fornew customer business, where you can be a go-to person for media, but all ofthat's the end result of this whole process. And I think far too often, peoplefocus on the end result rather than the process.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right? So let's talk about the process then. Um, so Iwanted to make this podcast actionable for our listeners and your book is veryactionable. And any presenters with your, your diet that is seven step brandmapping process. Right? And, uh, this is what I wanted to talk about, abouteach of those seven steps. So starting with uncle's statement, some people maycall it elevator pitch, you call it uncle Steve. Yeah.
Karen Leland: So what it, what it is, is it's really this idea that youhave to be able to say what you do in a very precise, concise, understandableway. It's amazing how many people I'll ask, what do you do? And they don't,they don't have a good answer for that. They're all over the place. Right? Andone of the things I've found is that if you can't answer that question, andagain, I call it the anchor statement because it anchors the brand, but a lotof people call it an elevator pitch. If you can answer that quickly and easily,and in a pattern that people can understand, they'll keep nodding their heads,but they're really not listening. They stop listening. So part of it, part ofdefining your brand is you have to be able to say what it is that you do, whatyou bring to the table very quickly, very easily.
Karen Leland: That's the anchor statement. The other thing you have tobe able to talk about is what's unique about you. I call that your uniquebranding proposition, not what makes you better than other people or worse thanother people. It's not a comparative, but what is it about you that's uniqueand what's unique might be something that comes from your background. It mightbe something that you created a process or something that you created. It mightbe a particular education you have, that might be a particular life experiencethat you have. You know, I have a client who was a, became a finance directorin a, in a startup company, very successful startup company. And before thatshe'd been a chiropractor and she used to not like to tell people she'd been achiropractor and I'd say why, and she'd go. Cause it seems weird that I was achiropractor.
Karen Leland: Now. Then I went back to school and I got, you know, afinance degree and now I'm a finance manager. And I said, I don't think itsounds weird at all. I think it's interesting. I think it's part of your uniquebranding proposition, because as a chiropractor, you really had to learn howthe system of a body works and how to optimize it. And as a finance director,you're all you're doing is learning how the system of finance works andoptimizing that. And when we made that connection for her, she was able to seehow that really was her unique branding proposition. So I think there's yourunique branding proposition, right?
Arek Dvornechuck: That's a great story. And I think, and I think this thoughtit sort of, and I think you described this story actually in your book. So I, Iremember that. I can recall that. Yeah, go ahead.
Karen Leland: Yeah. And I think the other thing is you have to be clearon what your, what I call your brand tone and temperament, which is what's thefeel of your brand, right? Almost what's the style of your brand because somany people do things. For example, like build a website and then they say, Idon't know, that website doesn't really feel like me. And I say, well, why didyou pick those colors or those fonts or that template? And they'll say, well,the web designer said it was a popular one this year. And my point is, okay, itmight be popular, but that doesn't mean it's consistent with your brand tone,with your feel of your brand. So I think there's thinking through the feel ofyour brand. I think there's also what I call the brand energy, which is the,what I call that as the brand energies, the, whether you bring with you, what'sreally fundamentally the thing that you're contributing now, for some people,it's their ability to connect other people for some people what's at the heartof their brand is that they're great mentors for other people.
Karen Leland: What's at the heart of their brand is their greatadvocates, right? For some people what's at the heart of their brand is theirability to make things and create things. And so really understanding that isimportant because that drives the kind of language that you use and how youdescribe what you do. And the crazy thing is I'm saying these things reallyquickly and they sound really obvious, but it takes me at least an entire eighthours to work with a client to really flesh those things out. It's not like Ijust have a quick conversation. It's about eight hours worth of work to fleshthose things out for a client. Because what you're really trying to do is getto the deepest explanation and description of the brand as possible. And that'strue, by the way, whether it's a business brand or a personal brand, it's nodifferent, I do that same process, whether I'm doing a CEO brand, a personalbrand, an executive brand, a business brand, a team brand irrelevant. It, thosethings have to be answered.
Arek Dvornechuck: You even said that in your book, there is no, there is nodifference when it comes to brand building, whether you are, you're like aCoca, uh, your brand, uh, we should approach your personal brand in similarway. Uh,
Karen Leland: Any difference, obviously the execution is differentbecause of size and business versus personal, but the process is the same.
Arek Dvornechuck: The process is similar, right? So we need to clearlydefine what you stand for and so on. So you just walked us through the, uh, thefourth, uh, first steps. So just to sum up what our listeners, so we are tostart. So the first step would be always the ankle stage, but again, you goankle statement, but some people call it elevator pitch, but, and you know,it's the same thing at the essence. So, you know, uh, I just wanted to, for therecord, I just wanted to say that, uh, as you say in your book world, there areas many branding processes out there as there are branding consultants and, andthis is show, so obviously your process is unique to you and it comes from yourown experience, working with CEOs and executives and brands and, and trying to,you know, uh, different techniques and tools and learning from your experience.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. So just wanted to make it clear for our listeners.So, so always, so you always start with the anchor statement as the first stepwas the brands and which is basically brand's bottom line, right? So as yousay, we need to clearly be able to explain what we do. So actually it asks thequestion when people ask you, so what do you do? And it cannot be somethinggenetic, uh, as you said, that people just, you know, gonna not and eat thatthey don't understand, or it's too vague for the, for them to kind of embracewhat you're or understand how you help others and so on. So, and in your book,you really dive deep into how any walk us show, which I find really useful.You'll give us specific, you know, tips and directions on how to actually nailit down. So not going to go into details, just, uh, I just wanted to give youguys on all the review. And I think what's quite interesting, uh, here as the,as the last thing I wanted to mention is that you use this framework doing,having been right. Can you, um, explain to our listeners, what does it mean?Yeah. I think
Karen Leland: What happens is most people, when you ask about theirbrand or, or they tend to define their brand by what they do, I'm a doctor, I'ma lawyer, you know, I'm a marketing strategist, I'm a teacher. And again, it'simportant to have those identifiers, but most people orient their brand aroundwhat they do. And what I say is that there's another two parts of your brand,which is what you, the way you're being, which is the way that you're doingwhat you're doing. You know, as much part of your, what you do is how you arewith people. That's just, as the way you're being with people is just as much apart of your brand and your brand reputation. And then, you know, that lastpart is when I say what you have, it's really the results that you have as aresult of your brand, the results you produce for other people. And so I thinkpeople who have really rich brands, not just to find their brands by what they,they define their brands, by the way, in which they do it, you know, howthey're being, and then the results that they actually have produced for otherpeople. I think people that have really rich deep brands know that their, thattheir personal and their business, by the way, brands are a function of allthree of those things combined.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. So, uh, yeah. So just to sum up our, uh, preferablythis uncle's statement would hit all those three components, right? It mean shaving an being, so, you know, what you do describing your service, yourprocesses, your offerings having so, uh, uh, being, uh, so the contribution, your, your car actor, the qualities, and having, which is the result of the outcomeor the impact, I don't
Karen Leland: Know that your anchor statement does all that, but in the total diff definition of your brand and how you understand yourself, you have to have clarity about all three of those,
Arek Dvornechuck: Right? So you use it. Yes.
Karen Leland: Because otherwise it will be a very long anchor statement.
Arek Dvornechuck: Okay. Yes. And it should be shorter, but yes, but you mentioned that framework throughout the process. So when it comes to your process, we should, uh, is gonna help us clarify our message. Right. So then, uh, then you walked us through the second step, which is unique branding proposition. People will talk a lot about unique selling proposition and stuff like that. This is more about positioning and ask the question why you're right. So it can, we can talk about specialized background, our education training experience, proprietary processes, if, for example, the, the, the, the thing that you have, right. That's your proprietary process that you created to use it with your clients, right? So that's your unique branding proposition. So do you think you can give us some, some, some examples of the second step is all about the unique branding proposition, but like
Karen Leland: The, the chiropractor was one example, right? That's what made her unique. Um, I have, you know, I can just tell you for myself, I've been a reporter, I've been an actor. I've written 10 books. I've been a keynote speaker, you know, I've had, I've been a magazine writer. So I've, I've like part of my unique branding proposition is I really understand media from both sides of the desk, right. I'm a podcaster. So I understand it as the person being interviewed. And I understand it as the person interviewing, and I come from a management consulting background, most people who do what I do come from marketing communications or PR, which is wonderful by the way. But part of my unique branding proposition is I really understand the way businesses function, because I came from very hardcore management consulting. Plus I have all those other things. That's just, what makes me unique now, does that make me better than anybody else about particularly it's making me worse, not particularly, but it makes me right for the people where that unique branding proposition is the right thing.
Karen Leland: So I think it's figuring out what is it about you that you bring to the table? And I have another client, he's a CEO of a hospital. And he's an interesting guy because he he's the CEO of a hospital. The part of his unique branding proposition is that when he first started working, he realized he had to find a way to align everyone in the hospital. And he created a particular process that he that's proprietary to him, that he puts into any hospital. He goes into to get everyone aligned. That's part of his unique branding proposition. He brings to a job when he gets hired. So it's different for everyone, but it's figuring out what is your secret sauce in a way that's really what that refers to,
Arek Dvornechuck: Right? So that will be the second step. Now, the 10th step, we talk about brand tone and temperament, which is actually brand personality, right? Product, that or mode. So here as your dimension is the visual elements. You know, the color that we use, whether this log, it, isn't all
Karen Leland: About the visual elements, there's visual elements and non visual elements. I'm saying you have to understand what your brand personality is before you translate it into visual elements. Because if you translate it into visual, if you create the visual elements first, it's not necessarily aligned with your brand personality.
Arek Dvornechuck: It's not the right way to go. Yeah. So first you need to, uh, you need to define what is your brand personality. And, and I remember the, you gave us some tools, you know, on, on how to avoid any weight or how to define our brand personality. And then that would inform our strategy, our strategic choices when it comes to call it like pornography photography, webdesign, uh, and, and things like those visual elements, right? So that temperament, that starts, that would inform our choices when it comes to visuals. So then the step number four is about brand energy. And I think that's quite interesting as well, because you present us with kid with the 12 core archetypes, then they're just going to run quickly, show them just to give our listeners an idea of what we w w what's in the book. So you mentioned those 12core archetypes, which are advocate, make connect, or motivate, synthesize that, fix that, implement that visionary interpret that storyteller, facilitator, and mentor. This is quite different than those 12 brand archetypes that comes from, you know, at our soul popular, like, uh, from Connor, young teaching, right? Yeah.
Karen Leland: These have nothing to do with Carl Young. There it's a completely different story.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right, right. Uh, is it something, can you just give us a, where does this call?
Karen Leland: Yes. I created it out of observing it after 25 years of working with people.
Arek Dvornechuck: So this is, this is the, okay. So this is totally yours, right? You, you created that. Sorry, because this is the, I just, I was just curious because when I was reading the book, I was like, Hey, I haven't seen that before. This is the first time it's
Karen Leland: Mine. It's my, that's my model that I created out of observing people for 25 years.
Arek Dvornechuck: Nice, nice. Yeah. I found, I find it very interesting, soI would love to use it, so, okay. So that's the step is signature story. SoCarrie, talk about the importance of it. Yeah. I
Karen Leland: Think what happens is that everyone has an answer to the question, why do you do what you do? How did you get here? And I think for a lot of people, they don't know how to talk about how they ended up where they are. And I think that that can be really useful in the brand to be able to tell that story. Now, sometimes the story is really sexy and exciting or dramatic and interesting. And sometimes the story's really simple, but it's, it's being able to explain to people how you got to where you are, you know, and I think that that brings a depth to people's brands that isn't always there. And so I try to get people to figure out what's at the heart of what I call their signature story. And sometimes I've had clients where they've just ended up telling a potential client, their signature story, and they ended up closing the business just out of that.
Karen Leland: You know, sometimes that story, sometimes those stories tell a lot about who we are and why we do what we do and our capacity to do what we do. You know, for me, part of my signature story is that I started out as an actor. I was an artist. So when I tell people that story, they understand that I have a really good eye for visuals. They understand, I have a good sense of what looks good on video, because that's what I was doing. You know, that's what I started out as. And so I think it's, I have a friend, who's an actor, for example, she's a working actor, but she's also a coach. And people understand when she tells the story about how she got to be a coach, that all that acting background makes her really useful as a coach for certain kinds of things.
Arek Dvornechuck: And if you guys feel that this is something quite difficult to, to comprehend Don, uh, I'll just include you to, to check out the book, uh, because, uh, because kind of gives us, for example, for this tab, she presents us with a five pole signature store at times. So [inaudible] just
Karen Leland: A record for every step in the book. I give very specific exercises
Arek Dvornechuck: That people, yeah, it looks
Karen Leland: Very practical in terms of exercises so people can figure this stuff out for themselves.
Arek Dvornechuck: Yes, exactly. So I just want to, I just wanted to make it clear because some of the books are just more, more like of a story, and this is a very practical kind of like a note book, a workbook, or if you wish. So, yeah. So for, for, for this step 5, 5, 6, step number five, we also have five signatures started type skills. So it acts through riches did the bad, like in star wars that I'm back again, like the wizard of Oz eyes on the prize, like the Lord of the rings or awakening, I create Moscato. So these are like different historic tax. So if you meet inspiration, you can go to them and you can use current techniques and tools to help you get clarity on, on this step.Okay. So step number six would be saying that your services, on the other hand here, basically here, we talking about our unique, uh, processes, our models, our specific systems that we use that make us different. Right. Well,
Karen Leland: Yeah. And signature services are really, what is the thing that you're known for, right? What is the thing that you bring to the party in terms of what you can do? So if you're an executive, your signature. So like I had one executive in a fortune 500 company and her signature service was she could get any group of people to get together and get aligned and figure out a solution to a problem and all get on the same page. That was her magic, right?That was her signature service. Um, other people's signature services are like my client, who's the CEO, his signature services, the, this, um, process that he created, other people's signature services or our product that they created.So it's figuring out what is, it's really your offers. It's really the answer to the question. What are you offering? What are you bringing to the table? AndI think it's important to understand all these things interrelate, right? They all interact with each other. They're not separate. They all, they all go together. That's why I call it a brand map. They all go together to form this bigger picture of the personal or the business or the team brand.
Arek Dvornechuck: So, yeah. So, and then the last step would be brand enhancers or reducers. So, which is basically about examining where we are at, as of now, uh, where our brands stands today. You'll give us this, uh, these exercises that you can walk, show and score our brand and see where we are at as of now. And then we can make a plan on how to get to the next level. So hereto find example, you use the modified SWOT analysis, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Can you just give us, uh, can you, can you speak to that of it? I think
Karen Leland: What's really important for every brand. Again, whether it's personal or business or team is you really have to have an honest assessment of where your brand is. And, you know, the SWAT is one example I give in the book, you have to step back and say, what actually are the strengths of my brand? What, what do I already have that makes my brand strong? And then how can I, you know, how can I leverage that? How can I increase that?Where are the weaknesses of my brand? Where am I not doing such a great job, right? Where am I particularly in relationship to what I know the market wants and needs? And then how can I, how can I overcome those weaknesses? How can I change them? Where are the opportunities in my brand? Where is the white space?You know, where are they, where are the biggest places where my brand could begetting out there more and making a bigger difference, and how do I create a strategy for that?
Karen Leland: And then what are the threats to my brand? And threats are often other brands that are doing up in a similar business that are doing a much better job than you. So it's like looking at the competitors and saying, what are they doing that I can borrow from what are they doing that they're doing a great job of that. Maybe I'm not doing such a good job of, and you know, for me, I saw that a lot of my competitors were doing regular short videos. And I thought, you know, that's a threat. The fact that I'm not doing is a problem. And so I started a video channel on YouTube and I do a weekly video. That's, you know, one to three minutes long on my different topics. So it's really under stepping back and understanding what is the current state of your brand? And it's an honest look, right? It's not, it's not fooling yourself. It's not, it's just an honest, straight forward, look at your brand.And then coming up with a plan to make your brand even stronger, even better, even more competitive.
Arek Dvornechuck: Right? So this last time actually helps us to analyze our competitive landscape and, and, and also our brand. Right, and see where we are so we can make, uh, make a plan and get there faster instead of just trying and failing. Uh, we have already analyzed what's out there and where our strengths could be or where our weaknesses are. And, and, and, and what are the opportunities. So, so we can move forward faster, uh, and build a stronger brand. Okay. So as we are approaching the end of, uh, our interview, of course,I'm going to link to your book in a dissertation. No problem. Uh, I just wanted to ask you just for our listeners who are either, uh, your potential clients want to work with your rise, CEOs, executives, business leaders, uh, or consultants, or, or, or a branding professionals like myself, who just want to learn more from you. How can we get in touch? The easiest
Karen Leland: Way is to go to my website, which is Karen Lee, lynn.com a R E N, Leland LEL, a N D Karen Lee, lynn.com. Um, and everything's on there. The people, as you said, can get the book on Amazon. They can also go to YouTube and look me up and see the videos. I'm pretty easy to find if you just put Karen Leyland or Sterling marketing group in Google, uh, pages and pages of things come up.
Arek Dvornechuck: Yes. Because this is what you teach. So this is what she's doing. Right. So, awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time.
Karen Leland: Thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Arek Dvornechuck: So thanks for tuning in, and if you've enjoyed this episode of On Branding Podcast and follow me on social media for more tips on branding strategy and design, it was Arek Dvornechuck from Ebaqdesign, and I will see you in the next one.
Arek Dvornechuck is a strategist and designer who helps brands grow by crafting distinctive brand identities, backed by strategy. Need help with your project?—Get in touch
Best Deals for Creatives
This post may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we receive a commission.