Personal branding expert speech. Example of creating a brand with thought leadership programs

17 Feb
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By Olga Kostrova, Managing Partner of SocialAgenda Media

“It’s clear that today’s celebrities are becoming Brands unto themselves. But now even middle managers can get into the act. So if you see your VP of finance in the gossip pages next to J. Lo, don’t be surprised.” – Fortune

Whether you are an entrepreneur, a CEO of a public company, a professional in the search of career promotion, or a beautiful lost soul in transition, sculpt your public image with care. Don’t forget – everything is a matter of perception (hopefully, not deception)…

“Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.” – Sir Richard Branson, CEO Virgin.

Political leader and media expert Jan Hutchins on thought leadership and personal branding
This quote summarizes the speech Jan (Jan Hutchins), CEO of  SocialAgenda Media gave last week when asked to present to an audience that needed to hear it the most. Reinvention… That’s what makes us ever evolving humans… And Jan is a master of it, as you might know if you had a chance to enjoy his presence on television, witness his political career, take yoga classes from him or have him represent your brand in media.

I’ve consolidated some transcripts from the speech and wanted to share it with you in the hope that Jan’s words will inspire you, meet you where you are in life and get you focused on an even better tomorrow while settling you into the beauty of  today. Please find it below and share your thoughts on the subject.

* * *

We’re all here because we haven’t died yet. Right? How do you feel about that? Still being alive, I mean.

Aging creates lots of feelings…

A reporter covering a person’s 100th birthday celebration asked, “What’s the best part of being 100?” The centenarian answered: “The almost complete absence of peer pressure!”

Or, the bawdy attitude expressed about aging in the title of a New Yorker piece about length of life span, The last Baby Boomer game is “Mine is Longer than Yours!”

Did you know the Baby Boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1955) has the highest rate of suicide for any age group these days? That’s a pretty clear attitude about aging.

I’ve heard lots of people in their 80’s describe aging as “not for sissies.”

My attitude is that aging is about changing and requires as much, if not more, changing and learning than childhood because when we cease to change and learn we immediately start to die. The challenge is, we’re asked to do this while carrying all the conditioning from a lifetime of habits and memories and with a less malleable brain.

I’m here to talk about, and I hope, model, that it’s possible, even necessary, to embrace change at every age.

The topic is “Building your personal brand and becoming a thought leader in your field as a way to reach your retirement INCOME goals“.

Leave out the word retirement and this topic is relevant to everyone because we’re long past the days when you graduated high school or college, got a job, and stayed there until it was time to retire. Our modern world is all about change, and adapting to change.

My business, Social Agenda Media, is an alternative PR Agency designed to help individuals, professionals, authors, and other small and medium-sized business owners get guaranteed publicity, build their brand, establish thought leadership and reach their income goals.

Many of us in the baby boom generation are, despite the staggeringly serious statistics and all the dire predictions, determined to redefine aging (If you haven’t heard, 60 is the new 40. I recently turned 64 and look and feel better than ever!)

How about you?

How are you feeling these days?

Is it like you expected to feel at this age?

So, if government programs aren’t able to swallow the enormous needs of this python in a pig sized generation, if collectively we’re overleveraged and had what little we’d saved decimated by the world financial crisis, if the pensions we were counting on have disappeared, jobs we were depending on sent overseas, and we’re too old, and face too much competition for the few remaining corporate cubicles.

Many disciplined, well-intended boomers had their home equity destroyed when the housing bubble burst, their retirement 401k’s devastated by the stock market crash or their pensions pilfered by corrupt companies.

Some dire warnings estimate that at least one-third of our generation is financially unprepared for retirement.

What are we young-looking, optimistic, former hippies to do?

How about you?

Are you set for retirement or will you need to keep working?

It turns out many Boomers are actually happy to work longer, start businesses and join together in communities to help each other and set an example for others.

Perhaps boomers seem undaunted by the disappearance of retirement, as we knew it because we never wanted it in the first place. Remember, we noticed when our parent’s generation shifted suddenly from full-time work to full-time leisure how often they soon got sick and died.

Did you know that, Americans aged 55 to 64 are starting small businesses at a higher rate than any other age group? Two out of three adults in the United States plan to work into retirement, most of them making the choice for non-financial reasons. They don’t want to give up the stimulation and satisfaction they get from working.

It appears many Baby Boomers, in the midst of these circumstances, are needing to redefine themselves, their expectations and anything else that gets in the way of living long, full lives and giving their gifts to the world.

Forgive my language, but change is hell for many of us. It goes against our need to be right and be in control, so we make excuses and cling to old habits. We give into the urge to complain, criticize and blame others rather than face the hard work it takes to change. We’ve all been around seniors whose lives are one long complaint.

Part of the reason I’m excited to share my thoughts on this particular topic is because I’ve been living this subject. About a year ago I began another reinvention of myself. I’ve done it every ten years or so, only to discover this time that I would need to give up almost everything I knew and start all over.

The habit started when I was first out of Yale and asked a wise person how I might guarantee I live a full life. Go home they said and imagine you’re 95 looking back on your life, and decide from there, what you want to do, so you’re happy about it when you are 95. It’s still a good meditation.

This time though, faced with reinventing myself at 63, I eventually had to accept getting a “job” was almost impossible. It took surrendering through a pretty long depression before I could accept that despite a lifetime of accomplishments, I’m now too old, too qualified, or it’s always possible, too black to get hired for a “job”.

Some quick background: I’ve consciously changed careers many times. Right out of college I was a corporate whiz kid for AT&T, I escaped the corporate world to become a TV sportscaster, spent two years doing sports in Pittsburgh and then 9 in the Bay Area, moved into news anchoring in San Jose for ten years, then ran Community Development for the SF Giants to help change their image so they could get a favorable stadium vote. I left the Giants to seek my fortune during the wild 90’s, helping to start a robotics company and then a TV production company we took public intending to teach emotional intelligence to 5 year olds. As that was ending I was persuaded to run for public office, got elected to the Los Gatos town council for a four year term, which included a year as Mayor, then 11 years running a yoga business in Los Gatos becoming flexible, doing my inner work and sitting in wisdom circles.

This transformation was more painful than the others. I was forced to face all my bad habits, admit the truths I’d been hiding from, give up the stories I’d used to protect me from my fears, end all the drinking and distractions I’d used to avoid feeling the pain of aging and feeling sorry for myself.

I’m still working on the resistances, resentments and other stuff I talked about earlier that get in the way of making positive change… needing to be right, in control, using excuses to keep living in the past. Complaining, criticizing and blaming others for the way I feel. Even resisting help no matter how lovingly it’s offered.

So what have I learned about How to Build your personal brand, become a thought leader and reach your retirement INCOME goals?

What do I mean by Personal Brand, Thought Leader? Here’s the way I went about it. See if it helps you to define yours…

  1. 1.   What’s special about you?

Decide what qualities or characteristics make you special or unique? Jeff Bezos, the guy at Amazon says your personal brand is what people say about you when you leave the room!

My brand was all about being a nice guy.

  1. Decide what you’d like people to say about you. What simple thing they can use to describe what you’re about? What are your values? Are you drawn to security, adventure, honesty? Are you cooperative or competitive?

I’m about health, innovation and communication, but I now realize my neurotic need to be liked and attempt to always be nice was robbing me of a real identity so I choose now to regularly risk losing rapport in situations and find I’m much better at selling, negotiating and actually caring about others.

  1. 3.   What’s your expertise?

What do you know something about, have experience doing?

I understand transformation, fitness, and what makes a good story.

  1. 4.   What’s your style?

If everyone is doing the same thing, how do you do it differently?

I’m enthusiastic, playful almost to the point of being silly, compassionate and curious.

  1. 5.   What are your talents?

Music, dance, math, science, dexterity, singing, I’m good with words, connect with people, I’m athletic and have magical hands.

  1. 6.   What’s your niche, how do you create exclusivity?

To have a distinctive brand requires not trying to appeal to everyone. To be really liked by the audience you’re trying to reach (the profitable one) will likely mean you won’t appeal to some others. Your yes means nothing if you can’t say no. And I repeat, you have to be able to risk losing rapport to be able to sell, negotiate, or love.

  1. 7.   What’s your mission?

Based on those talents and with those values as your structure, decide what is your mission to accomplish? What is it that you want to create or become before you die so that you can die at peace? Some even say a mission should be so big you know you could never achieve it in your lifetime.

My mission is to evangelize ideas, principles and technology to transform businesses, markets and communities.

  1. 8.   Tell your story

Once you have a brand, when you really know who you are and how you’re different than anyone else, you need to express your value whether you’re looking for a job, starting your own business or trying to get a date. Bravely and boldly be willing to tell people what makes you special and valuable.  We’re now competing with everyone in the world and have to take charge of marketing ourselves if we’re to be seen and heard. If you build it and just let it sit there, they won’t necessarily come.


Thought leadership usually are those speaking or blogging viewpoints that are innovative or offer clarity in the midst of confusion, thereby presenting opportunities or solutions where none existed. Thought leaders frequently present contrarian views or radical interpretations of situations.

In what area are you a thought leader?

I believe:

  • In staying fit and flexible
  • In conscious breathing
  • That our issues live in our tissues
  • That problems, are opportunities in disguise
  • In both/and rather than either/or
  • That we are all part of one organism
  • That we all see the object in the center of the circle a little differently
  • That everything we do is either love or a cry for love
  • That, as my friend Ray Arata’s book title suggests, It’s time to wake up, man (or woman) up and step up!

You don’t have to create the next Google, but you do have to get started if you want to reinvent yourself, live fully before you die, make enough to be comfortable and age gracefully.

So while you still can, just do it. Go for it. We’re fortunate to live in a culture (at least where I live in Silicon Valley) that has learned to respect failure, expect it and understand that the only way to learn, often is to fail. The regret you’ll feel on your deathbed if you never follow your dream, is much worse than the hard work, facing fears and overcoming setbacks required to succeed.

Frequently the work we do with our clients is about helping them to see they’ve unconsciously pushed away their real dream and substituted something more likely to succeed rather than risk doing what they really want. We show them how to incorporate their vision into what they’re doing and they wind up happier, more enthusiastic and effective.

(VISUALIZATION)  Let’s do an experiment. Put both feet on the ground, land your full weight in your chair, pause at the beginning and end of the next few breaths, slow down your breathing a bit.  Now choose, imagine yourself one year or five years from now. Where are you? What are you doing? How are you effecting the world around you, how do you inspire others? How have things changed in your own world? If the picture is not what you want, reimagine it but this time as you’d like it to be. Where are you? What are you doing? What’s changed?

Before we finish I’d like you to bless yourself by speaking out loud about the real dream still bottled up in you. Raise your hand and I’ll call on you.

I have lots of dreams, I want to have a fleet of busses ready to take poor kids to cool cultural places and pay their way in, any time they want to go.  I want a vacation home in Bora Bora. I dream of passionately making love with my wife when I’m 120! I want to end the 270 unnecessary deaths that happen in our hospitals every day. I want a world without violence.

If you can’t or weren’t called on to say it out loud here, as soon as you can, say it to your friend or lover and ask for their help making it come true!

At the very least admit it to yourself that you have a dream

Then join me, join those who spoke and together step into being more fully alive,

We don’t have forever.  Thank you!

1 Response to Personal branding expert speech. Example of creating a brand with thought leadership programs


Doug Leedy

February 19th, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Sounds hauntingly familiar. Some of that I’ve heard somewhere before :)

Really good, cogent thoughts for almost everyone our age. You picked a good demographic and have the right message. Hope I do too.

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