Unlikely Heroes: Our “Brain Brands” of the Pandemic

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Before Covid (BC), scientists were mostly known to us as mysterious white-coated figures in labs or as tweedy academics tucked away in stuffy offices. Recently, however, all that has changed with the pandemic. Now white-coated scientists have made it out of their laboratory and are taking their place on prime-time TV, dominating our screens like celebrities. Their faces have become well-known and their voices are ones of the moment, keeping our nation safe.

This got us thinking personal brands that are defined by their brain. While more and more brain brands have become part of our pop culture, from the late great Stephen Hawking to the contemporary brands of Brian Cox and Neil deGrass Tyson, there are also the unlikely heroes that have emerged during Coronavirus pandemic.

In this post, we turn the spotlight on the brain brands of the pandemic and what makes them our heroes of the moment.

Conduits for knowledge

In addition to their level of expertise, what seems to differentiate these brain brands the most,  particularly during public health crises such as the Coronavirus, is their ability to be a conduit between knowledge and the general public. In other words, they actively make science understandable for laymen.

There are few better-known experts on the Coronavirus pandemic than Dr. Anthony Fauci, leading US infectious diseases authority. His career is well established, spanning six presidents in over thirty years of research. Since serving on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, however, Fauci has become a familiar face and voice, relaying critical information in a calm Brooklyn accent over television, radio, YouTube videos and congressional hearings. Just one look at his fan clubs and the merchandise out there and you know instantly he’s become a cult hero. Even celebrities like Orlando Bloom and Katy Perry are sporting his name!

Image: Instagram

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty has become the UK’s guiding light through the darkness of the pandemic. Whitty, an NHS Consultant Physician and Epidemiologist, and his Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, are taking the helm at many briefings from No 10. Like Fauci in the US, both Whitty and Vallance have rapidly gained a cult following in the UK. Chris Whitty has his own Facebook appreciation society, complete with mugs and t-shirts. Vallance also has his own Facebook appreciation society, without all the merch.

 

Chris Whitty mug available on Etsy


Another scientist to become a household name in the UK is Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the government’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer and a specialist in flu and pandemics. Van-Tam, another familiar face at the Downing Street briefings, has also become known for effectively conveying scientific concepts in layman’s terms, along with his penchant for colourful analogies and metaphors. Van-Tam doesn’t have the same social media presence as Whitty and Vallance, although he is the subject of many a fond tweet like “Van-Tam is cooler than Van Damme this year. No doubt.”

And let’s not forget that these brain brands also help to shine a light on the achievements of those silent heroes that chose to stay in the lab and out of the spotlight, such as power couple Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin of BioNTech!

The price of passion

There is little doubt that passion and purpose, core branding attributes, are fuelling these brain brands. Given the years it’s taken to reach this level of expertise, it’s clear their profession is a calling – not only the subject itself, but the desire to disseminate it. They’ve taken on this task with dedication, equanimity and patience, deciphering what must be an avalanche of data into something we can understand. But what’s clear with these brain brands of the pandemic is that bringing their passion into the public eye invites a certain level of controversy, even danger.

In the US, Fauci’s dedication to disseminating information and evidence-based science has at times put him at odds with the administration, and due to threats on his life, he has federal agents protecting him. While in the UK, Whitty and his team have been accused of scaremongering with their virus updates and confusing graphs. The Chris Whitty Appreciation Society on Facebook was started in response to the trolling he experienced on social media. However, for our brain brands, a deep seated passion for science and commitment to delivering it to the public seems to outweigh any controversy surrounding them. Perhaps, as we’ve learnt from Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Bringing some brain to your brand

If you’re in the position of using your brain as your brand, think about how you can share your passion and disseminate your knowledge, even if that means shaking things up a bit. After all, a strong personal brand is one whose passions shine bright, and others will naturally gravitate to that brightness. So share what’s in that noggin, with passion and vision, and maybe you’ll become an unlikely hero too.

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How can you tell if someone is living their strengths?

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A New Year often brings the promise of change, perhaps even one of a “new, improved you”. When it comes to growing your personal brand, however, building this improved version of you starts by looking inward, particularly at what you are already good at. Knowing your strengths enables you to identify what differentiates you from others, along with what you need to cultivate and communicate in order achieve your goals…this year and beyond.

In this post, we focus on starting the New Year strong by examining this core part of personal branding. We asked James Eves, Gallup® Certified Strengths Coach and Founder of Zira Life, to share his thoughts on how to embrace your strengths for the year ahead.

Here’s James:

If you look back on your career, could you identify the roles where you were using your strengths?

When I reflect on this, I start to see a clear difference. When I felt most energised, productive, and engaged in what I was doing, I had bosses that were actively drawing out my strengths and giving me more tasks that fed into that energy. On the flip side, the scenarios where managers were trying to turn me into a carbon copy of them, rather than a high performing me, led to frustration, lack of enthusiasm and poorer productivity. What has helped someone succeed in climbing a corporate hierarchy or in growing a business was their ability to use their strengths and arguably those of other people. If there is a person you respect and want to reproduce their success, you do not have to become version 2.0 of that person.

I recently became a Gallup® certified strengths coach and a frequent question that comes up is “what is the ideal strengths profile for a successful leader, business owner or <insert title here>?”

The answer? There isn’t one.

The successful person is the one that understands THEIR individual strengths and then proactively uses these every day. Not try to emulate someone else and how they operate. Acting a role feels inauthentic, creates inner conflict, and will reflect in your personal brand. In the words of Dr Seuss: “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no-one alive who is you-er than you!”

Being yourself, I find, is like telling the truth. If you don’t have to lie or pretend to be something, then you naturally are you. That’s what people latch on to and want to work with. Creating my own business to help coach others has felt like I’ve finally arrived. I can now fully embrace and direct my strengths in a way that gives me lots of energy, meaning, and purpose.

This personal development has been really useful too when it comes to my relationship. My partner and I know each other’s strengths. This has allowed us to turn frustration and conflict into hilarious, more productive conversations! For example, I am very strategic and futuristic and when having an idea, I like to mull and talk it over. To let it develop. My partner? She wants to crack on with how something could work or be implemented asap. All the practicalities before I’ve left the dreaming phase. We both now recognise when the tension is rising and I’ll say “Can Hermione Granger just sit with me for a moment while I talk this through, then she has my permission to run riot with the organising and actions!” We burst out laughing every time and have found this to be something that has really helped us as business and life partners.

I never really thought I could ever work with a girlfriend until I met Michelle. When I was reading about my strengths profile, and the type of person I should collaborate with to be more productive, it described her strengths! And vice versa for her strengths profile. No wonder we get on so well and get so much done. There is clearly a lot more to relationships but those complementing strengths shine through. So, we now work many things where I may have an idea, Michelle gets energised and runs with implementation, then gets bored, and I carry it to the finish line! Teamwork and both encouraging each other to use our strengths. A winner!

All in all, if trying to build our personal brand, if we don’t understand who we are, and the strengths we possess, then how can we ever pursue our best work and relationships? Or present to the world the brand we want people to see?

So be you, use your strengths and great things will start to happen!

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James is the Founder of Zira Life – created to help people discover and develop their talents to perform at their best through strengths-based coaching. He is also co-Founder of Inspiration North and Work Pirates – with an overall mission to help people and companies to create happier lives and more engaged workplaces. Recently he became an assessor for the College of Policing as part of their recruitment drive. He gets energy seeing people grow, develop, and reach their potential.

You can find James on Twitter @inspirationnorth and at www.ziralife.com

 

 

 

 

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The “Brand of the Month” goes to…

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Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world an interesting and distinctive brand. This month marks our final “Brand of the Month”, which goes to…

Sir Lewis Hamilton

I’ve had a soft spot for Lewis Hamilton for a while now. My father, a former race car driver, and I had the thrill of meeting him (briefly!) at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2009, where he captivated audiences with his charisma and some mean donuts. Since then, he has become one of the greatest race car drivers of all time.

Image: Shutterstock

It’s been a historic year for Hamilton. Just earlier this month, he was voted the 2020 BBC Sports Personality of the Year. He equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles and surpassed the legend’s record of 91 grand prix wins. He also recovered from Covid-19 this month, and still managed a podium finish in Abu Dhabi after 10 days of isolation.  Not to mention that just today, Hamilton has been knighted in the Queen’s New Year Honours list!

As today’s honour has recognised, there’s a lot more to Hamilton than his passion for motorsport and mad skills on the track. And you don’t have to be an F1 fan to know exactly what he stands for. Here are three ways Hamilton exudes the core attributes of a strong brand: passion, purpose, vision, values, and most importantly, authenticity.

Racial equality activism

As the first and so far only F1 black driver, Hamilton uses his position to shine a light on issues of racism and inequality. He hopes to increase diversity in motorsport and the power of sport to bring positive change with the Hamilton Commission, a programme he created last year.

When asked about any concern about risks associated with his activism in a BBC interview, Hamilton explained: “There is no way that I could stay silent. And once I said that to myself, I didn’t hold any fear.” He also stated, “People talk about sport not being a place for politics but ultimately it is a human rights issue and that is something we should be pushing towards. We have a huge, amazing group of people that watch our sport from different backgrounds and cultures and we should be pushing positive messages towards them, especially for equality.” His Mercedes team have largely backed Hamilton in his messaging, and have even painted their trademark silver cars black for this season, a symbol of their commitment to inclusion and diversity.

Image: Shutterstock

Over the past year, Hamilton’s visibility as an activist has increased dramatically, particularly with the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement. He participated in the BLM march earlier this year in London, in demonstrations before every grand prix, and has promoted anti-racism messages by wearing slogans on the track. Like an increasing number of the most influential celebrities, he is actively and visibly using his fame to support the causes he believes in.

 

Hamilton’s sense of passion and purpose has also fuelled his performance, sharing that the Black Lives Matter movement helped drive him to achieve his seventh F1 championship. He described on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme having “extra drive in me to get to the end of those races.” He went on to explain, “It was a different drive than what I’ve had in me in the past – to get to the end of those races first so that I could utilise that platform [for Black Lives Matter] and shine the light as bright as possible.”

Environmental awareness

Although race car driving is admittedly not an obvious “green” platform, Hamilton has voiced a commitment to lead a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and to reduce his carbon footprint and this has the potential for also delivering his message to an audience who might not otherwise hear it. He is a vegan, insists on being transported to and from airports in electric vehicles, and has also sold his private jet. He no longer drives his supercars, only his electric Mercedes EQS. Hamilton also owns a team that will compete in the Extreme E racing series for electric cars, which will hold its first events next year.

The Mercedes EQS. One sexy electric. Image: Shutterstock

Even Hamilton’s clothing line is environmentally conscious. Hamilton has partnered with American designer Tommy Hilfiger to launch an entirely vegan fashion collection. The Fall 2020 TommyxLewis line emphasized recycled and more sustainable materials throughout the range.

Animal rights activism

The Game Changers can be found here on Amazon.

Hamilton went vegan after watching the 2017 documentary “What the Health.” He has since become an advocate for animal rights and uses his social media platform to inform fans about animal welfare issues. In one hard-hitting post showing a pig with her piglets dumped in a dumpster, he wrote: “We all have a voice, I have this platform and so to not use it correctly would be wrong [of] me. Nobody is perfect, I certainly am not but this is actually happening every day to so many animals worldwide.” He frequently mentions that going vegan was “the best decision” he has made and that he’s “healthier and happier” than ever.

He has also taken on various projects, including being an executive producer of The Game Changers (2018) on Netflix – a documentary about vegan eating, protein, and strength. He also puts his money where his mouth is, backing the Neat Burger chain, a plant-based restaurant which will be expanding in the UK and to the US.

 

 

So what does the New Year hold for Hamilton?

“I’m trying to find a balance. I like to live life day-by-day because you just never know when your days are up,” he shared in Autosport.com. He further reported in a BBC interview, “The happiness and success of winning these championships is a wonderful thing, but it’s short lived.”

No matter which direction he decides to pursue, Hamilton is sure to leave a lasting legacy, one that will inspire generations to come and perhaps even make a broader contribution to our world.

Image: Shutterstock

I couldn’t think of a more appropriate end to this series. Talk about going out with a bang!

 

Lisa

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Done with doing it all: The art of delegation

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Now that many of us are working from home, it might just be a perfect opportunity to step back and evaluate our time management, prioritise business objectives, and focus in on what we are good at. Before getting sucked back into wearing every hat, Susan Moore of Moore Business, an award-winning virtual assistance company, reminds us to pause and consider what we could delegate whilst building our personal brands.

Here’s Susan:

The past few months have given many of us the space and time to work on our business, finally get around to completing projects and move to an online business model.  Getting clear on our plans for the next year and beyond means we can concentrate on what we’re good at and focus on increasing sales and business growth.

Winning clients and new projects are the lifeblood of any business but also bring added pressure to provide the level of service your clients expect without sacrificing your brand values and integrity.

Now that we’re all working from home, is this the time to grow your team?  How could a virtual assistant help build your brand?  Virtual assistants (VAs) are used to working remotely and are usually adept at prioritising tasks, managing multiple projects, communicating with stakeholders and adapting to ever changing business needs.  How do you go about choosing someone who could be a pivotal hire for your business and building a successful working relationship?

What do you need?

Create an outline of the type of support and skills you need.  It’s tempting to recruit people like ourselves but if you’re a creative who prefers looking at the big picture, perhaps you need support from someone who is more analytical and focused on the details.

Who are you?

Share your vision, your purpose and your brand values.  Understanding what you’re trying to achieve and who you work with really helps a VA focus on what is most important and come up with ways of helping you achieve your objectives.

What are your brand values?
What do you stand for?
How do you demonstrate your authenticity, professionalism and willingness to go the extra mile?

Communicate your culture

An insight into your personal brand and culture enables a VA to act as an ambassador for your organisation, a valuable asset whether they’re responding to emails, posting on your social media profiles or email marketing.  An understanding of your client’s needs and your style of communication and tone of voice sets the bar for best practice.  Internally, an open, inclusive and respectful culture encourages your VA to speak up and share their experience with you and your team.

Engage in regular communication

Regular communication – at least once a week – gives both parties the opportunity to keep appraised of new developments, to ask questions and discuss shifting priorities.  Agree who is responsible for what and confirm expectations for both parties.  Share as much detail as possible early on so that your VA can refer to and update a working ‘How To…’ document.  Keep all documents in a shared space.  Encourage your VA to communicate any issues in a timely manner so that steps can be taken to remedy any problems swiftly.

Build trust

Build trust over time by empowering your VA to work on her / his own initiative.  Delegation isn’t always easy when you’ve built your business singlehandedly so start with specific tasks or a small project until delegation becomes second nature.

Don’t forget to celebrate!

The most rewarding part of being a VA is seeing your clients’ wins and feeling that you have contributed to their success.  Take time out to celebrate and include your VA in the celebrations – a remote coffee (or cocktail) and cake does wonders for team spirit.

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Susan and her team of multi-talented VAs combine their tips and tricks for getting things done with their little black book of business contacts so that their clients delegate more and concentrate on what they do best.

To find out more, go to  https://moore-business.com/ or contact https://www.linkedin.com/in/mooreva/ or @MooreVA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Location, location, location…and what it says about YOU.

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Can a location really influence your personal brand? It’s a question I started to explore in a previous article, “How to bring a little New York City into your Personal Brand”.  I recently revisited the topic with our very own Paula Gardener, Golden Notebook contributor and founder of Scarlett Thinking and The Bitch Network. Here, Paula expands on this very unique and often overlooked aspect of co-branding: aligning a particular location with our personal brands.

Manhattan Woody Allen iconic Queensboro bridge scene, available on Amazon.

One intrinsic thing about your personal brand is your location. If you want to be seen as hip and happening you may want to work in Shoreditch (or whatever the equivalent may be for your area). If you live in Kensington it says a certain thing about you; living in the countryside broadcasts another. Often these things happen naturally without us giving them much thought, but there are strong personal brands out there who actively chose to align themselves with a location in order to convey a certain message about themselves.

One such brand is no stranger to our pages. Fashion designer Zandra Rhodes has recently created stunning bright pink art work for the Seven Dials area in London. Using her designs from the swinging sixties, Zandra says “I am really excited to have had the opportunity to create some of my artwork for Seven Dials to celebrate everything the area has to offer. I myself had my very first studio on the corner of Neal Street in Seven Dials and there are so many good memories from my time there.”

It’s a clever brand tactic and one where both sides can benefit. You can read about the collaboration here.

Business

Aligning yourself with a location can be good business sense too. One great example is Charlie Mullins and his multi-million-pound business Pimlico Plumbers. Charlie revolutionised the plumbing industry, bringing in plumbers with branded vans, smart uniforms: “no one wants a plumber getting out of his van with his arse hanging out of his trousers” is one of his favourite sayings. No longer limited to the area of Pimlico, nevertheless the company recently rebranded to Pimlico as they now include service like installing air conditioning. That name certainly worked for them!

Arts

We also see it over and over again within the arts. The poetry of Robbie Burns conjures up Scotland and there is even a night dedicated to him, Burns Night, which is also a celebration of Scottish food and culture. Charles Dickens set many of his works within the poorer areas of Victorian London: something we now call “Dickensian.” The Bronte sisters, especially Emily, are inextricably associated with the wild Yorkshire moors they lived on and wrote about.

For years film director Woody Allen was synonymous with New York through his films ManhattanHannah and Her Sisters and Annie Hall. The Manhattan film still of Woody and Dian Keaton sitting on a bench on the banks of the East River has graced many a wall. After a stint of films in other locations, Woody has returned to his New York roots with his recent film, A Rainy Day In New York.

The Beatles have been associated with a number of locations: Liverpool where they came from, of course, but also Carnaby Street, home of the fashionable sixties, and Abbey Road, thanks to that iconic street crossing photograph. U2’s first album, Under A Blood Red Sky, focused on the troubles in Ireland, and they stood out as edgy and political as a result. In the nineties, the members of Oasis played up their Mancunian roots at a time when Manchester was the cool place to be, so much so that it ended up in a rivalry between Oasis and London-based Blur that was also a rivalry between which was the coolest city: Manchester or London.

Bronze statue of the Beatles stands on Liverpool Waterfront by Andrew Edwards. Photo: Shutterstock

Sometimes, the link can be accidental. Bowie moved to Berlin in the mid-seventies as a way to be anonymous and away from the lows and decadence of a drug-infused lifestyle. Over time, he healed and poured his energy into three albums, Low (1977), Heroes (1977) and Lodger (1979) that are now known as The Berlin Trilogy from The Berlin Years.

However, it can sometimes go badly wrong. After Madonna’s marriage to Guy Ritchie and move to London, she was slated for trying out a British Lady of the manor style image with tweeds and a Barbour jacket – not the Madonna we expect at all. TV Chef Jamie Oliver has also been criticised for cultural appropriation through both his Italian recipes and Jamie’s Italian chain.

What you buy

Of course, what you spend out on has implications for you brand too. We all know people who have location preferences – they may only drink New Zealand wine for instance, or are famous for their Asian cooking. Some people will only buy German cars or always holiday at the same place in Cornwall. Even seemingly unimportant things like these can form part of your personal brand. The fan of German cars probably likes things to be safe and reliable; the Asian cook (if they are non-Asian, of course) may be keen to experiment or have a love for the regional cooking from a past visit to the area. People will notice these things about us.

What does that mean for us?

First, it has to be authentic. To truly align yourself with a place or location it needs to either be part of your history, or share your values. We all know that Madonna was trying on a new look in her London years, and it just didn’t feel right. She had no or little history with the location, and somehow the countryside look didn’t seem to fit.

Think about where you are living and working. Do they truly feel like they fit with the real you? What do they say about you? You could be working somewhere young and groovy, which was fine when you first started out, but now long to find somewhere more traditional that is more in tune with your family values. Perhaps you are living where your partner wants to be, and have just gone along with them for the ride?

What are you spending on? What brands, regions and countries are you supporting with your cash, and are you happy about that?

Are you proud of your roots, or do you hide them and try to fit in? If you live abroad, do you stick with the ex-pats and have an easy life, or have you made a real effort to integrate?

Perhaps there is somewhere that is calling to you? Maybe, Covid-19 allowing, you could embark on an adventure and see how you can incorporate that into your personal brand.

Zandra Rhodes to bring a signature splash of colour to Seven Dials, London. Photo: Sevendials.co.uk

 

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The “Inspiration of the Month” goes to…

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As we are in a second lockdown here in the UK,  I’ve decided to post an “Inspiration of the Month”, featuring inspirational individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during these unprecedented times.

This “Inspiration of the Month” goes to…a co-brand!

Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin of BioNTech

As the whole world knows, German company BioNTech and the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced earlier this week that their vaccine candidate had surpassed expectations in phase 3 trials, proving 90% effective in stopping people from becoming ill with Coronavirus. The spectacular results have firmly placed BioNTech/Pfizer as the frontrunners in finding a cure for a disease that has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide.

Husband and Wife team Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin of BioNTech Photo: ft.com

Enter the Power Couple behind BioNTech

The powerhouse behind BioNTech is married couple Ugar Sahin and Özlem Türeci. Sahin was born in Iskenderun, Turkey. His family moved to Cologne, Germany when he was four, during which time his parents worked at a Ford factory. He followed his dream of becoming a doctor and became a physician at the University of Cologne. Early in his career, he met Türeci, the daughter of a Turkish physician who immigrated to Germany from Istanbul. She had aspirations to become a nun but instead went to medical school.

The two medical students followed almost identical routes, combining a medical degree with a doctorate: For Türeci, it was molecular biology, Sahin, immunotherapy. They met in the early 1990s, when they discovered a shared goal to create cancer therapies.

In 2001, Sahin and Türeci founded Ganymed Pharmaceuticals, which developed drugs to treat cancer.BioNTech was then founded in 2006. The couple sold Ganymed for $1.4 billion in 2016. Last year, BioNTech sold shares to the public; its recent market value has rocketed past $21 billion. They are now one of the richest couples in Germany.

The couple had become friends with Albert Bourla, the Greek chief executive of Pfizer. In recent interviews, they had bonded over their shared backgrounds as scientists and immigrants. “We realized that he is from Greece, and that I’m from Turkey,” Sahin said. “It was very personal from the very beginning.”

In Germany, and in many countries, immigration continues to be a fractious issue. This was captured by member of Parliament, Johannes Vogel, who tweeted that if it was up to “Alternative for Germany”, a far-right party, “there would be no #BioNTech of Germany with Özlem Türeci & Ugur Sahin at the top.”

Shared passion and purpose

Commenting on the couple’s similar passions, Türeci shared “We found that our academic fields were complementary.  So we married them, and each other.”

Even on their wedding day, the newlyweds made time for work and returned to the lab after the ceremony.

Their shared sense of purpose and commitment to a vaccine began two years ago with the prophetic words of Sahin, who made a bold prediction at a conference in Berlin; he announced to a roomful of infectious disease experts that his company might be able to rapidly develop a vaccine in the event of a global pandemic using its “messenger RNA technology”.

Work on the Covid-19 vaccine was initiated in January, after Sahin was convinced by an article in the medical journal The Lancet that the Coronavirus would rapidly become a full-blown pandemic. The couple cancelled vacations and got working on what they called Project Lightspeed.

“It could be the beginning of the end of the COVID era,” Sahin said.

Shared values

In addition to their work ethic, modesty is a clear value shared by Sahin and Türeci. Despite being multibillionaires, the duo plan to continue working on mRNA vaccines targeting cancers including prostate, ovarian, and pancreatic types. The couple could be just a few years away from developing individualised cancer therapies, a dream of theirs since 1991.

“Ugur is a very, very unique individual,” Bourla, Pfizer’s chief executive said. “He cares only about science. Discussing business is not his cup of tea. He doesn’t like it at all. He’s a scientist and a man of principles. I trust him 100%.”

The scientist billionaires live with their teenage daughter in a modest apartment near their office. They do not own a car and instead ride bicycles to work.

Sahin and Türeci learned about the efficacy data last Sunday night and celebrated their achievement by brewing Turkish tea at home.

Lisa

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The “Brand of the Month” goes to…

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Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world an interesting and distinctive brand. This month, for Halloween, I’ve decided to feature a Brand Legend:

Frankenstein

While Brand Legends come in all shapes and sizes, they tend to have the same ingredients; they are highly differentiated, unique, compelling, relevant, and certainly memorable. It just so happens that one of our most famous classic monsters, Frankenstein, fits the Brand Legend bill. He has worldwide, trans-cultural appeal, not to mention one of the most recognisable faces in history! Given it’s Halloween, I thought I’d ask a real-life Frankenstein enthusiast to shed some light on this Monster Mega Brand. Here, I interview Comedian, Musician, and Radio Personality Scott Douglas, AKA Scott Ian Von Frankenstein, to help us “dissect” Brand Frankenstein.

Boris Karloff as The Monster with Marilyn Harris as the little girl in Frankenstein. Photo available on Amazon.

What, in your opinion, makes Frankenstein such a Brand Legend?

I would say the larger half of it is due to the Universal Studios horror films and Jack Pierce’s monster design. It was a huge departure from previous looks the monster had on stage, screen, and in art: boxy, lanky and gaunt, but still very human, ill-fitting jacket, flat head, neck bolts and everything.  And that is still the basic design everyone would recognize at nearly every store this time of year. I would also have to put a large amount of his appeal into the empathy James Whale added to the monster in Frankenstein (1931) and maybe even more so Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Those films really speak to feelings of alienation, sadness, and really show the monster’s depth of feeling. The Doctor and the villagers are the real villains of the films. Many of the other classic monsters have similar circumstances that make them far from evil. The Gillman has his natural habitat infringed upon. The Wolfman was a victim of a curse that caused his change, he had no control or memory of what he did during the full moon. Dracula, not so much. Maybe iron deficiency?

At the core, do you think the Frankenstein we know today is the same character that Mary Shelley created, or has pop culture shaped his brand into something very different?

I think it is drastically different. His physical appearance is wildly more bizarre and disturbing in the novel, he speaks eloquently as the novel goes on, and so forth. I think the biggest change took place in the 50’s and 60’s (which effectively came with a name change, from Frankenstein’s Monster to simply calling him Frankenstein). The 50’s and 60’s really started the craze of “Monster Kids”. At the time television was showing the old films more and more often. Theaters were dusting off the old prints to show horror marathons for the new enthusiasts with costumed creatures as the special guests. Then magazines, toys, and all sorts of collectables pushing the needle closer to where we are now.  “Monster Mash” is still a Halloween radio standard and Frankenberry cereal has made up a least 15% of my Instagram feed all month.

Crestwood House “Frankenstein” Monster Series can be found on Amazon

How did you get hooked on him? Is there a story?

My grandmother’s bookshelf had these fantastic Crestwood House Monster Series books. Just simple children’s books with each volume being based on a different movie monster, add to those a few of my uncle’s remaining monster magazines, and daily Munsters re-runs I was basically hooked for life.  My mother and grandmother would always come up with fantastic costumes, but for reasons beyond my control, that simple boxed Collegeville or Ben Cooper Frankenstein mask and smock was always more alluring. Why wouldn’t Frankenstein wear a smock with his face and name on it? Made sense at the time.

In what ways in particular do you find him compelling?

Even from the earliest age my family constantly moved, leaving me feeling like an outsider wherever I had to restart. That lonely sadness, no feeling of belonging anywhere, is something that definitely attracted me as I got older. Even the wild take in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) had a wonderful effect on changing my life and view of the world, yet still ends tragically for the Doctor and his Creation.

How has he inspired you over the years? How do you use that inspiration in your own personal brand?

Frankenstein always comes back. Even the Monster Squad (1987) where things seem to be leaning towards a happy ending for Frankenstein, he ends up being pulled into an endless void. It’s a constant cycle of life and loss, defeat and reinvention. To me, that’s about as inspirational as it gets.

Image: Shutterstock

Your Facebook name is Scott Ian Von Frankenstein. Using his name is some pretty serious co-branding! How else do you co-brand with him?

I’ve been dressing like the classic Frankenstein solidly since 9th grade. Boots, jacket, tee. My first set of tattoos were asymmetrical stitches on both my wrists and a lightning bolt. In high school I had my first two stage names. As a solo musician I was The War of the Frankensteins, in bands I was Scott Prometheus Jones. It just continued from there.

Compared to other classic horror movie characters, what makes him so likeable/relatable, compared to, say, Dracula (is it his human or gentle side that we know is in there somewhere?)?  

I would say it’s about his child-like confusion and vulnerability.  Dracula was a human at one point, too, if you follow most vampire lore. So I’d put it more on the fact that he’s considered a monster without any nefarious plan or intentional harm.  He just reacts to the way people react to and treat him.

Is there a favourite Frankenstein tag line?

I’m going to go with two of my favorites to show the difference in dialog between the novel and early films.

“I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.” Frankenstein by Mary Shelly (1818)

“Mmm… Smoke… Good…” Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Do you have a favourite or little-known Frankenstein fact that you’d like to leave us with? 

In the novel, the reanimation was simply glossed over and left to the imagination with the Doctor working in secret in his closet. When James Whale was preparing for his film, he gave the lab design duties to studio electrician Kenneth Strickfaden. Strickfaden’s work was so impressive it became one of the film’s most unforgettable scenes. Pieces were used for years in dozens of films. The machinery was given its final starring role in Young Frankenstein (1974).

Fascinating stuff, thanks Scott!

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To find out more about Scott Douglas, check him out here
on Facebook and Instagram.

 

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Adding a Personal Touch to Social Media

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Everyone has their own approach to social media, but Eddy O’Shaughnessy has a very personal approach to LinkedIn, in which he initiates a one-to-one call with everyone he connects with. In today’s fast-moving world of gathering connections this is quite rare, and definitely part of his personal brand. We asked Eddy why he uses this approach and how it has worked for him.

Here’s Eddy:
Like a lot of people I began to use Social Media a while back, first using Facebook to connect with friends, family, etc., and keep in touch. Then I read that for business contacts LinkedIn was the place to be, so I joined up and began to build my contacts there. However, I began to notice that unlike Facebook where I personally knew almost everyone, LinkedIn contacts, most of the time, were strangers to me.

I saw that there seemed to be two types of people on LinkedIn, those who never posted, and those who never stopped posting!

A lot of the content looked very serious/professional which I suppose fitted with the platform ideal of business owners promoting themselves and their business. As my business is very much about building long term relationships, I thought that I needed to do something a bit different.

My idea to contact people for a chat came from the realisation that even though I am connected to lots of people on LinkedIn, I don’t actually know very many of them, so I feel that there’s something missing. I think it’s close to impossible to refer people, connect people, or introduce people, which I believe is the objective, unless I have at least had a short chat, it would not be fair on my own contacts, or the new ones.

Many years ago, I was involved with Business Network International (BNI), which was one of the first business referral groups to set up in Ireland. I did a bit of consultancy work with them and helped them set up the first batch of groups around Ireland. The principal behind BNI was, and still is I imagine, to learn as much as possible about your fellow members, and vice versa, so that you could help them with business referrals, contacts etc. The key element was to get a feel for the person.

I decided to adopt the same approach with my LinkedIn connections. I think it’s even more relevant as most of us tend to hide behind our keyboard and post how great we all are. I have even stopped looking at Profiles as sometimes the person I get to chat to can be very different from their profile.

My experience is that a lot of people never reply to my message. Perhaps they may not read their messages regularly. Some do reply with a refusal, which is fine. I get the impression that they may find it a bit strange that someone would actually want to chat. They may prefer to hide behind the keyboard, which I can understand, but it’s why I do what I do in asking them to open up a bit on a call.

But I have had many great chats with the most interesting people, doing some amazing things. One was the lady who quit the corporate world to follow her passion for yoga. There was also the guy who lost a leg on a building site due to his own neglect and now gives presentations to groups on safety in the workplace, a very positive guy who refused to stay down; the fellow who decided to do a few online interviews during lockdown, which he thought was going to be short lived, but went on to do over 100. He invited me to tell my story on one of them. The lady who left her role as a TV presenter in Ireland and went to India to run a hotel, and so many more. My favourite was the retired American lady who used to be a Bounty Hunter, she had some amazing stories, of course there has been the odd, sometimes very odd ones as well!

I always try to help them if I can with a contact, an introduction. With most of them I would watch out for their posts, like and comment if I can, and keep building the relationship.

From a business point of view this is what I have been doing for years, and this has helped me change from working as a stressed Accountant to have a global business which has given me time freedom.

I believe that making the effort to connect properly with people, in this case by speaking to them, pays off not only in business terms but also in the human element of life, which today tends to be more and more an online experience.

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Eddie mentors people in developing their own business, part-time or full-time, so they can spend more time with their families, travel more, stress less, and work when they want, where they want, if they want.

You can find him on LinkedIn, of course!

 

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Remembering A Brand Legend

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In lieu of our “Brand of the Month”, I felt compelled to jump on the bandwagon and pay tribute to the passing of a feminist judicial icon:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Regardless of your political leanings, there’s little debate that she was a powerhouse with one incredibly strong personal brand. There is so much I could say about this icon it’s a little daunting, however here are three things that I instantly associate with her legendary brand.

The New York Magazine, Oct 5th 2020

She was a trailblazer…who followed her passion, purpose and vision

Through her distinguished career as Supreme Court Justice and co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU, Ginsburg was a true champion for gender equality. She was only the second woman to sit on the US Supreme Court.

Despite her diminutive stature, Ginsburg gained a strong reputation as a towering force to be reckoned with. She was passionate about giving a voice to the voiceless; fighting to protect the marginalised and speaking up for women, minorities and the LGBTQ community.

Even after her death, Ginsburg continues to make American history as she became the first woman to lie in state in the US Capitol, 168 years after the first man did so.

She’s celebrated as a pop-culture icon

Ginsburg was fondly nicknamed the ‘Notorious RBG’, a play on the rapper Notorious Big’s name, to celebrate her liberal values and landmark Shelby County v Holder dissent. Mourners have flooded social media with various memes to celebrate this feminist hero, often with the popular hashtag #NotoriousRGB. Her image can be found on Notorious RBG. T-shirts, figurines, art, as well as fabric designs.

 

“Women’s rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, trained on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom all people should enjoy.” –  Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Her simple yet evocative trademark

Found on Amazon

Tributes to Ginsburg have been dominated by a simple yet powerful trademark: a white lace collar on a black background. Ginsburg often wore a collar over her black robes, to incorporate “something typical of a woman” into a uniform which had been designed for men. The collar became a meme around the same time that Ginsburg became a pop culture icon.

During a 2014 interview, Ginsburg described one particular collar decorated with dark shimmering rhinestones as her “dissenting collar” because “it looks fitting for dissents.” She wore it the day after Donald Trump was elected in what was perceived to be silent protest, prompting a flurry of “dissent collar” merchandise.

Ginsburg died at the age of 87 on September 18th of metastatic pancreatic cancer at her home in Washington D.C. surrounded by family.

Rest in Power, Notorious RBG.

Lisa

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Using your personal brand to get you through redundancy in three steps

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Redundancy is hitting millions of people right now; people who this time last year would not have imagined they would ever be in this position. It’s natural that to feel confused, lost, scared and unsure at this time. However, it’s also the moment when we need our personal brands more than ever. Our brand – what differentiates us, makes us unique and compelling — is what is going to get us through to that interview and sign that contract.

Having a strong personal brand can also help us through the difficult times; it can help us feel grounded, remind us of our path and what we want for the future. Let’s have a look at how we can do this.

Step One: Reconnect with your values

If you’ve been made redundant it can be tempting to rush into getting a job, any job, but this could potentially leave us feeling unfulfilled and in the wrong place if we end up with a role that isn’t aligned to our values.

Values exploration is an important part of personal branding. Values bring purpose and meaning into our lives. They represent our fundamental beliefs – what’s most important to us. They embody what we want to be in this world, what we want to stand for, and how we want to relate to others.

If you know your values, you’ll be instinctively drawn towards the right job for you in the right organisation. If being respectful of the environment is one of your core values, you’ll be able to spot those organisations that cross this line and avoid applying for them, as an obvious example. If your own learning and education is one of your values, then enquiring about opportunities for training and development is something that would be important an interview, for instance.

When evaluating personal values, here are a few important questions to consider:

What do you want to stand for?

What sort of person do you want to be?

What really matters to you, deep in your heart?

What types of initiatives or causes do you want to align yourself with?

How do you ideally want to behave?

It’s really helpful to look at a list of values and narrow them down to your top ten.  Here’s one example of a values list.

Of course, values exploration requires putting aside some time for personal reflection. However, what it will bring to your personal brand — and your life — will be well worth it.

Step Two: Work on your confidence

Confidence is something that may well have taken a hit as the result of redundancy. We can get stuck in thoughts of why me, especially if we were one of a small few that were let go. Here are my top strategies for how to build that confidence back up.

  • Take action anyway

Oftentimes, people ascribe to a “rule” that says that they need to feel confident before doing something important to them, e.g., “I need to be confident before I can apply to this job that feels a bit out of my league at the moment”.

This very rule is often what keeps people stuck and prohibits them from developing confidence. However, you don’t need to be confident in order to achieve your goals. In The Confidence Gap,  Russ Harris shares the golden rule of confidence building: “The actions of confidence come first; the feelings of confidence come second.”

Harris makes an important differentiation between these actions of confidence and “fake it ‘til you make it”: a big part of confidence building is about being true to yourself (as opposed to faking it), while taking effective action in the direction of your personal values and goals, regardless of your self-doubt. You can still behave like the person you want to be in the situation and take action even while feeling fear and uncertainty.

There’s a great exercise in the book that asks us to imagine ourselves in a world with unlimited confidence. In my private practice, I usually use this exercise as a visualization with clients. By imagining a confident version of ourselves, we can start to take steps in that direction. If you had unlimited confidence, what jobs would you consider, what companies would you approach, what career change could you envisage?

This of course is easier said than done. It takes practice, time, and a lot of effort to work through negative self-talk and effectively handle feelings of fear and discomfort. But the idea here is that by practicing confident behaviours and stepping out of our comfort zones, genuine confidence will follow. But first, it has to be earned.

  • Get back to the moment

When our heads are filled with negative chatter, and/or we become more preoccupied with what others think of us or how we “should” act, we become disconnected from the present moment, which can set us up for a big confidence wobble.

As a first step, try identifying the content of this chatter. Are these worry thoughts about what might happen? Do they start with “what if”?

Are these self-sabotaging beliefs or self-criticisms? If so, you can put these thoughts in the “unhelpful category”, as they are most likely of no use and costing you confidence.

Try to shift focus to what you can control while building acceptance around what you cannot. Is there a skill you can improve upon or practice more (be careful of the perfectionist trap here)? Is there additional preparation or other measures you can reasonably put in place? Can you get more familiar with tech for instance, to allay your fears that you won’t be able to compete with someone younger and more tech friendly?

A confident person is one who is engaged…in the moment, with the audience, in the conversation.  One effective technique for this is mindfulness. Mindfulness, in a nutshell, is the practice of engaging in the moment with attention, openness, flexibility and curiosity. The ability to be present, in the moment (and not constantly distracted by negative chatter), also opens up space for positivity and self-belief.

There are so many great resources out there to cultivate mindfulness: Apps, YouTube, books and countless websites.

  • Be authentic and own it

 Finally, the ability to “own it” – who you are – resides at the core of a confident brand. What I mean by this is that when you own it, you have accepted and are comfortable with who you are in your present experience, not who you “should” be or who others want you to be. You are just you, unapologetically.  In other words, this is about owning what makes you authentically you…your thoughts, opinions, quirks, and feelings, both positive or negative.

By “outing” the feelings that sabotage your confidence and owning them, you allow them to have less power over you (which paradoxically has an empowering effect).

People who own it tend to exude a certain charisma and magnetism. They don’t try to be something they are not. Instead of being people pleasers or trying to fit in, they create and follow their own path in life. There is something extremely liberating about owning it, as you are genuinely at peace with yourself and the present moment.

Needless to say, there are many more variables that factor into confidence — one’s personality, ability level, mental health, etc. — however the actions listed here can be practised by anyone to move towards building a more confident personal brand (with the key word being practise), you need to put in the work.

Step 3: Do a little work on your outer-brand

Your market will be the companies that you want to work for, and this is where we will turn to your outer brand. Your outer brand is what you portray to the world, and this can include everything from how you appear in your Zoom interview to your digital footprint.

While it’s important that you are authentic and true to your values, your potential employer needs to feel that you will fit in – that your personal brand complements their company brand and values. Steps to help promote this include looking at their values and incorporating them into the covering letter, or a personal style that fits the industry or company (you may need to do some research here of course).

Your outer brand also includes how you come across during your interviews. You might want to record yourself on Zoom to see how you come over on camera (it’s highly likely that many of your interviews will be online at the moment), and get a second opinion from a trusted friend, coach or someone who knows the industry. Don’t forget to take an objective look at what’s in the camera frame. You want people to be looking at you, not drawn to the kitchen cupboards, knickknacks and what’s bubbling away on the stove behind you.

Finally, any recruiter will be taking a look at how you portray yourself to the world. You may want to ensure your Facebook profile is private, update your LinkedIn content and profile photo, and edit out those Instagram posts you made when you were hurting from your breakup. A definite no no is anything you’ve publicly said against your previous employer, however unfair you think they have been. Delete and move on.

Other articles that can help:

Five ways your video calls are tarnishing your image

Bringing your personal brand into your CV 

Top expert tips for regaining control over your personal post-lockdown style

Journaling to help your discover your values 

 

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