The “Inspiration of the Month” goes to…

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In lieu of my regular “Brand of the Month”, I’ve decided to feature inspirational individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during these unprecedented times.
My first “Inspiration of the Month” goes to

Joe Wicks 

Here’s why…
By now, you’ve probably heard about Wicks, also known as The Body Coach,  and his online fitness sessions. To help kids stay active during the UK lockdown, Wicks is currently hosting live fitness classes for children on his YouTube channel. In the first two days of offering his programme, Wicks’ YouTube channel, The Body Coach TV, had more than five million viewers.


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Words can’t express how happy and proud I have felt every day this week as the nations P.E. teacher. I’ve been overwhelmed with the response and the support it’s had from everyone. ❤️ As a result of so many people viewing the #PEWithJoe workouts on YouTube the advertising revenue generated has been unlike anything I’ve seen or experienced on my channel before. So I’ve decided that as long as I’m the nations P.E. teacher, every single penny of the money generated on these videos is going to the place where we need it the most right now. All of it is going straight to the NHS, to support the real heroes right now. Thank you for watching, joining in and sharing… I’m loving being your P.E. Teacher and now you can watch again, knowing you’re not only staying fit, you’re also helping raise money for the NHS. See you Monday at 9am 😃

A post shared by Joe Wicks (@thebodycoach) on


“It’s about giving people that 30 minutes in the morning to get up off the sofa, move your body and get your heart pumping.” He went on to say that “this isn’t about getting people lean, it’s about saying, ‘Do this today to feel good’. Then, when your kids sit down to do some academic work, they’re energised and mentally prepared for a lesson at home.”

Wicks shared that his channel had seen advertising revenue “unlike anything I’ve seen or experienced on my channel before”. He is therefore donating “every single penny” of money made by his online sessions during the coronavirus pandemic to the NHS:

“So I’ve decided that as long as I’m the nations P.E. teacher, every single penny of the money generated on these videos is going to the place where we need it the most right now. All of it is going straight to the NHS, to support the real heroes right now.”

Before finding fame on YouTube, Wicks originally trained to be a PE teacher at St Mary’s University. He has now become the (virtual) PE teacher for the entire UK during a time when staying activity and healthy couldn’t be more important.

We at Golden Notebook salute you, Joe.  THANK YOU!


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From Survive to Thrive: A Toolkit for Getting Through Covid-19 , Part I

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Dear Reader,

We at Golden Notebook have decided to do what we can, and have created a quick and dirty toolkit to help us deal with the changes that are occurring almost hourly. This part of the toolkit will look at the very real issues that are affecting us right now: Coronavirus anxiety, dealing with change, isolation, and other practical problems. In addition to general tools to manage these challenges, we also offer insights and tools specific to your personality type. 

We hope this toolkit will not only help you as an individual, but also allow you to better understand why and how others might be coping around you, and provide some insight into how we can help each other.


Download the toolkit for free here:



Be safe out there everyone!


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One man’s journey to discovering his authentic personal brand

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This month’s guest post is a story of inspiration. It’s a story that encourages us to step back and look at where our compass is truly pointed. Following it takes courage, but you may just find this journey realigns your brand, providing it with direction, purpose, passion, vision, and values direction.

Our guest blogger, David Harden, started travelling aged sixteen when he hitch-hiked to Greece from London during a school summer holiday. After leaving school he set out from the UK to travel overland to Australia, but only made it as far as Afghanistan.

Returning home he went studied Management and Engineering before carving out a career in the car industry.

(But) After spending fifteen years in the corporate world he returned to what drives him forward, namely taking photographs and recording ambient sounds, interviews and narratives which he publishes on his personal blog –

Here’s his inspirational story.

It was not a straightforward journey nor a particularly quick one. However, after about a year I can say I got there.

But let’s start at the beginning. The very beginning. I’ve always thought I had a creative streak in me. As a young boy you are not aware nor inhibited by the labels adults like to define you and each other by. To me, being creative was just ‘doing stuff’.

I got my first reel-to-reel tape recorder when I was seven-years-old and an old box brownie camera the following Christmas. My earlier years consisted of many happy hours with my mates recording dramas that we devised which, on reflection, seem to be solely about battling the forces of evil in one guise or another.

Around the same age I spent hours in the local library fuelling my curiosity for far flung countries and cultures. And from that early age I decided that I was going to travel the world recording people and taking pictures. But then life got in the way. Or to be more precise, the education system got in the way, which in my day, restrained creativity to an hour’s art class a week.

Don’t get me wrong, school was good. I enjoyed learning, so much so that I did not notice how less often I was ‘doing stuff’. Later, I was like most other students at university, intent on maximising social enjoyment whilst minimising academic effort. And before I knew it I had gestated into a corporate worker bee.

Soon enough I met a wonderful women and together we had a couple of children. At the same time my career steadily progressed. I worked as an engineering and commercial development manager for a well-known car brand. I do remember once being told by a boss that I had a ‘creative’ approach to my work. It wasn’t meant as a complement. In the car industry the ‘old ways’ were the only ways.

When the children were growing up we encouraged them to be both creative and expressive. And through that wonderful period in a child’s life when experimenting is all, it slowly dawned on me that I was vicariously being creative through our children.

So I bought a camera, started taking photos and began looking at the world in that slightly different way I had so long before. Still, it began to niggle that the photos I took just languished unseen on SD cards. It felt like I hadn’t quite closed the circle.

The vibrant Kalasha community in Pakistan. Photo by David Harden

In parallel with the children getting older and more independent, my small area of expertise took off and with it my reputation and status within the industry. So I set out on my own as a consultant, quickly becoming very busy as I became known as a ‘creative’ problem solver. I was working full-time, often travelling and generally enjoying the sense of freedom working for yourself gives. But, to me at least, that sense of freedom was illusory inasmuch as I was working just as hard as I had when employed full-time.

Then over a few months the stars began to align. The children had all but left home; the mortgage was paid off and I was just finishing a tough assignment working on a project for a Chinese company. On my last flight back to the UK from China I decided it was time to step back. I would work on fewer, shorter and smaller projects so that I could use the time in between to get back to ‘doing stuff’.

I didn’t know it at the time but that became the first stage in weening myself off work entirely.  Between projects I managed to travel for extended periods through those countries I had read about so long before. I spent weeks making my way across Uzbekistan on one trip. Travelling through Iran on another and further afield to South East Asia on yet another. All the time writing notes, taking pictures and recording sounds.

Eventually, I stopped accepting any projects in order to dedicate my time to work on project ‘doing stuff’.

Kalasha woman in Pakistan. Photo by David Harden

But stepping back was not as easy as I may have made it sound. For me stepping back was not so much about risk (loss of income) but more overcoming conditioning. I don’t know if it’s a ‘man-thing’ but during your working life it is easy to be defined by your job. To give an example. Often when meeting someone new you are asked what do you do for a living. Up until a few months ago, I would always tell people what I used to do rather than what I am actually doing. Which for the past year or so has been travelling (Pakistan, overland through Bulgaria and Turkey), taking pictures, recording sounds, producing podcasts and creating my own personal blog.

But now I’m here. I now allow my mind to wander. I daydream. I stare out of the window and revel in the joy of watching trees swaying gently in the wind and autumn leaves dancing on a cold breeze instead of wishing I was somewhere else.

As I’ve already said, it was not a straightforward journey nor a particularly quick one. At times it felt like I took two steps forward and one back, but to my mind that was still going in the right direction.

Knowing what I know now, would I have done anything different when I was younger? Well, of course, 20:20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. But, to be honest I’m too busy ‘doing stuff’ to worry about it.



To learn more about David Harden, his inspirational work, vibrant photos and to discover his ambient sounds, visit




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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. My latest Personal Brand of the Month goes to

Billie Eilish

After picking up five Grammys, landing the coveted James Bond theme (the youngest singer to get the gig) and sending it straight to #1 in the charts, Billie Eilish is having a moment.

Her hauntingly beautiful voice, unique personal style and refreshing authenticity certainly make her brand a distinct and memorable one.

But what caught my attention this month was a recent interview with Louise Minchin on BBC Breakfast.

No Time to Die can be purchased here:

In the interview, Eilish spoke out about the impact of social media on her well-being, particularly the negative comments on Instagram, where she has around 55 million followers. She shared that she made the decision to no longer look at her followers’ comments. “I stopped reading comments fully because it was ruining my life,” she said. “Once again.”

She continued, “It’s weird, the cooler things you get to do are, the most people hate you. It’s crazy.”

Eilish was being interviewed alongside her brother Finneas O’Connell, who co-wrote No Time To Die, the new Bond track.

Billie Eilish The Ultimate Fan Book can be purchased here:

“The internet is a bunch of trolls. A problem is that a lot of it is really funny. I think that’s the issue, I think that’s why nobody really stops.”

Eilish highlights a growing concern. We’ve recently seen how the toxic side of media has impacted Meghan and Harry, and more tragically, Caroline Flack. While the media’s invasive and negative side has long been a societal woe, social media opens up a whole new can of trolls, cyberbullying, fake news and witch hunts. It’s now well known that young people and those with underlying mental health issues are particularly vulnerable.

Given that social media is an important part of personal branding, how do  we stop its dark side?

The first step is for us to raise awareness around these issues and do exactly what Eilish did, speak out.


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Swipe-rightable branding: Making your best first impression online

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It’s the big V-day, so we’re taking a look at using your personal brand to find that special someone online. Part of whether Cupid will strike online is down to chance of course. That numbers game. But there’s part of it that’s down to what you can control: your personal brand.

Our guest blogger this month is Lucy Williams, founder of My Heart Skipped photography. Lucy is passionate about helping people to quickly transform their online dating experience with authentic portraits that attract amazing people. Here she shares her top pointers on how to get noticed online.

Here’s Lucy…

It’s estimated that 1 in 3 couples now start their relationships online. It’s where over half of us will meet our potential future partners by 2031 (eHarmony).  Whatever your thoughts on online dating you can’t ignore that it’s a great place to meet someone, but with over seven million of us using online dating in the UK, how do you make sure your online dating profile is one of the ones that stands out?

Here are three easy ways you can enhance your dating profile…

1. Professional Photos

As a professional dating photographer one of the questions I get asked most is ‘do people actually pay for their photos?’ Yes, they do, And with amazing results. I couldn’t quite believe it myself when I first started offering the service! If you are serious about a) meeting someone like-mined who you connect with, and b) not wasting hours and hours on online dating sites, then having professional photos is the top way you can boost your online dating profile.

A good professional photographer will go to great lengths to help you feel relaxed in front of the camera. I particularly love taking time and building a connection with my clients because I believe that is what gets the ‘real’ you across in your photos.

Professional photographers are also adept at noticing all aspects of your photos from what’s happening in the background to whether your outfits are sitting right. They’ll give you a range of photographs from headshots to full length, and most importantly they’ll give you a set of photos that are visually interesting and eye-catching. Photos that will stop potential dates in their tracks and invite them to click on your profile. We all know the phrase ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’ and nowhere is that more true than on online dating. You have literally seconds to have your photo clicked on, so make sure it’s a great one!

I already have photos but don’t know which to use…
Choose well-lit photos with you central in the frame and aim to use smiling photos that look friendly which are statistically the most attractive on online dating. Try to avoid selfies, photos where you can’t really see your face (sunglasses/ hats/ too far away etc) or ‘tiger-stroking’. 😉

If you are getting a friend to take some shots for you then choose locations that have good natural light. Make sure you check out what is happening in the background and avoid visual distractions like lots of people, trees/ lamp posts appearing out of your head, photo bombers, etc.!

A good tip is to use at least four or five pictures including a close-up or mid-length photo as your ‘opening’ portrait, a full length photo which shows your body shape, a mid-length of you in a different outfit or location, and a ‘conversation-starter’ photo like you doing an activity you love or amongst a group of friends (ensure you are visible in this shot and that you stand out).

I hate myself in photos
If I had a pound for every time someone has said this to me…

I do understand. Unfortunately, it’s a necessity for online dating so take a deep breath and trust that your photographer will take the time to make sure you are looking at your best and that the photos reflect who you are.

I need to…. lose weight / get fit / buy new clothes, etc. before I book a shoot
This is an entirely personal choice of course, though do bear in mind that it could also be a way of avoiding getting on with dating. Often, we never feel ready for photos, especially ones that are for attracting a date! In my experience your smile and how friendly you look are what will most attract those matches.

Where should I have my photoshoot?
Somewhere you love to go can be a great place to start. Consider the kind of person you’d like to meet, will they be someone urban, arty, outdoorsy, sporty, etc.? If so, choosing locations that may subconsciously speak to them can also make your photos more appealing. Natural light is often best for portrait photos so think outdoors with interesting or non-specific backdrops.

If you are having a professional shoot make sure you discuss locations with your photographer as they’ll have plenty of ideas of places that will work well for your pictures and give you lots of variation in shots.

Do professional photos look too professional?
Professional photos are well-exposed and visually attracting. They will look natural and help you stand out. I guarantee that potential dates won’t suspect (or care) that you’ve had a professional shoot, especially when it’s led to them finding you.

2) An inviting written profile

Once you have photos that are making potential dates stop and take notice, you’ll need to put together a bit of blurb that enhances the picture they are building of you. Most people find this difficult to do! On Tinder you’ll need just a paragraph, on other dating sites you may need lots of paragraphs. Do fill them all in.

My top tip for enhancing your written profile is to embellish.

Instead of writing ‘I like to cook, read books and do yoga’ consider WHY you like those things. Here’s where your personal brand can really come out.

‘I love cooking especially Italian food to share. In my spare time I like reading, the last book I read was ‘How to be more Pirate’ which gave me lots of useful insights!! Once a week I do yoga, it’s amazing how zen it makes me feel for the rest of the week’.

I just wrote that quickly, but you get the idea. Already it’s starting to tell a story of who you are, how you live your life, invites somebody in (who can resist sharing Italian food?) and, most importantly, gives a potential date lots of ways to open a conversation with you.

3. Update your profile regularly

After all that hard work putting your online dating profile together, it’s tempting to never change it…BUT online dating works best when you do! Changes indicate to the dating app that your profile is active so, even when you make small adjustments, the algorithms will ensure you’ll come up higher in new searches.

Changes can include swapping in one photo for another or altering words in your profile. Having a wide selection of images helps because you can use different photos across a variety of dating apps and also changeover photos on one dating app to keep your profile looking fresh and ‘up there’ in the searches. Some dating sites also give you questions to answer, if you can fill in one a day that will really help keep your profile visible.

Thanks Lucy! When it comes to online dating, perhaps a picture really is worth a thousand words!




Lucy Williams is a portrait photographer who offers eye-catching online dating photography and support with writing natural, engaging dating profiles. She founded My Heart Skipped photography in 2010 and initially photographed couples and weddings before falling in love with dating portrait photography.




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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. My latest Personal Brand of the Month goes to

Ed Sheeran

For the last decade, Ed Sheeran has been a powerhouse. In fact, he was just named the UK’s artist of the decade by the Official Charts Company. This milestone came on the heels of a combined run of 12 number one singles and albums between 2010 and 2019 – more than any other artist. During this period, he’s held the most weeks at number one (79 weeks in total) on both album and singles charts.

Impressive indeed, but that’s not why he’s my Brand of the Month.

Ed Sheeran’s No.5 Collaborations Project available to purchase here

Sheeran also decided to use launch his own foundation, the Ed Sheeran Suffolk Music Foundation (ESSMF) to help young musicians in his home county with “small but hopefully useful grants” that can be “used for anything from buying an instrument to funding music studies”.

Fantastic stuff. I’m a huge advocate of adding social responsibility into your brand. But there’s something else that shone through this month — his announcement to take a break from music — and for me, it aligned beautifully with his authenticity.

In a vast sea of shiny pop stars, Sheeran has always stood out as our boy-next-door, maintaining a sense of genuineness in all aspects of his brand. His songs in particular capture that authenticity, connecting with listeners in an honest and powerful way.  Sheeran’s last album, No 6 Collaborations Project, essentially represents his struggle to maintain this authenticity while globetrotting and hobnobbing with “the beautiful people”, preferring to be back at home with his wife. Perhaps this was another signal to his audience that it was time for a break.

There’s a refreshing authenticity to knowing when to step back, put yourself first, and take a take a break from it all.

This month, I wrote about brands that “step back instead of stepping up”. Like Prince Harry and Meghan, Sheeran may be stepping back this month, and in a way that will likely strengthen his brand. His announcement to take a break from work and social media “until it’s time to come back” on the back of his wild success is a surprising but understandable one. Then it’s about how you deliver the message.

Unlike Prince Harry and Meghan, Sheeran’s communication isn’t constrained by Buckingham Palace of course. He also doesn’t risk upsetting the balance of an entire institution with his announcement! While the messaging may have been less challenging, the decision behind it likely wasn’t an easy one.

Here’s his post on Instagram, shared right before Christmas:


View this post on Instagram


Brb x

A post shared by Ed Sheeran (@teddysphotos) on


Sheeran’s Instagram profile picture has been changed to a black-and-white image of BRB – for “be right back”.


There’s another probable factor in his decision, reflecting an important dimension of branding: knowing when you are satiating your target audience. If you are, you risk losing them.

Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp seems to get this. He admitted that Sheeran’s ubiquity ran the risk of “overkill”. “We are very conscious of too much Ed Sheeran,” Camp told BBC Music Introducing’s Does My Music Suck? podcast.

To “know thyself” is an important part of authenticity, and authenticity is an important part of personal branding. This includes knowing your limitations, knowing when to disengage, unplug, and knowing when to take care of yourself. It comes from the opposite place of ego (which certainly could have been inflated given recent accolades!). This also involves having an honest look at when to step back when becoming “too much of a success”. And ultimately, that’s not a bad problem to have.


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Stepping back instead of stepping up: When brands do the unexpected

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The year has just begun and we’ve already had our fair share of personal branding bombshells.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s surprise announcement to “step back” from their high-profile duties as senior members of the royal family has left the country in a tizzy, dominating headlines and causing a social media meltdown. For some, this “new arrangement” deepens pre-existing negative sentiment or prejudices towards the couple, particularly Meghan, the outsider. For others, their renegade move elevates the couple to hero status.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry on the official birthday of the British Sovereign. Photo: Pete Maclaine

Regardless of personal opinion, reasoning behind their decision and a path forward remain decidedly murky. We may know the broad brushstrokes — they plan to “carve out a progressive new role”, “work to become financially independent”, etc. — but the driving factors are still unclear. Was it the royal pecking order restraints Meghan encountered, or even something more insidious? Strains that may come with primogeniture? The intense scrutiny of the media? A deepening division in the family? Rumours abound about this unprecedented royal divorce.

Their surprise announcement has had a significant knock-on effect. There’s the disappointing breakdown of strong joint-branding (“the fab four” royal team of brothers and their wives is now fractured), but also an overall destabilizing effect on the entire royal family. The Queen’s response to the Sussexes’ announcement has also set the mold for a new form of royal history. These shake-ups can change also our perceptions of an entire institution and how we relate to it.

The royals may have taken center stage this month, but we’ve also seen Ed Sheeran taking a step back from his music, announcing an undetermined hiatus after he was named the UK’s artist of the decade by the Official Charts Company. An unexpected move indeed, as was Lord Tony Hall’s recent announcement he is stepping down as director general of the BBC in the summer, two years early than expected.

Whether it’s leaving a longstanding career, culture, religion or even gender, surprise announcements can be confusing and leave your personal brand in limbo. When the motive seems shrouded in mystery, people are left to connect the dots, and as a result, you can lose control of your personal brand.

Assuming you’ve taken a careful look at what’s prompting this change (have talked it through with the right people, done enough soul searching), how can you effectively deliver your announcement in a way that doesn’t diminish your personal brand or the likelihood of transitioning into a strong, new personal brand?

Soften the blow

Take a look at whether your “step back” needs to be a bombshell announcement in the first place. Such bombshells can of course work if your aim is a radical change in your brand. But if not, ask yourself:

Can you plan a slow build-up so as not to shock and awe your target audience with your decision?

Who can you talk to and what early messages can you send to alert people to not leave them blindsided?

In all fairness, Harry and Meghan did show us glimmers of discontent. However, given that a royal step back of this sort is unprecedented, many of us never saw this one coming.

Get your messaging straight

Craft a statement for your target audience clearly stating why you are making this radical change…and why now. Be honest, without dragging names (of individuals or institutions) through the mud, unless you have an agenda to do so (e.g., naming and shaming, Harvey Weinstein type stuff).

If you are still experiencing some ambivalence about your decision, this messaging can also serve as an exercise to help you work through uncertainty and solidify your decision, perhaps even strengthening your resolve.

This was another obstacle for the Sussexes, as the royal family have historically been restrained by careful, tightly controlled statements coming from Buckingham Palace. Hopefully this will prove less of an issue for the rest of us.

Know when an apology is in order

This is about managing the emotionality around your decision.

Will you be letting part of your fan base or target audience down? If so, recognize this. Acknowledge that transition can be difficult on both ends.  Again, this is part of clear and effective messaging.

How can you mitigate the disappointment and reactions of others?

Remember that you may not be able to control the reactions of others, just how you relate to it. If this is a well thought out decision, one that is congruent with your personal brand, such reactions may be more about them and their loss than what’s best for you.

Harry deserves some credit with this one. Here ITV reporter Chris Ship captures Harry giving a heartfelt speech at a dinner for Sentebale, a charity for children and young people affected with HIV in Lesotho and Botswana:

Let core branding attributes shine

Personal brand core attributes include your passion, purpose, vision, strengths and values.

How can you continue to live in accordance with these attributes after this transition? What are you determined to take with you or hold onto?

Which of these attributes (e.g., passion, purpose, values) can you consistently highlight?  Communicate them…over and over.

The Sussexes appear to be maintaining some values inherent in the royal institution. For one, they have agreed to uphold the values of the Queen (essentially refraining from any commercial deals that are likely to compromise the Queen’s brand or Buckingham Palace).

By being allowed to keep their charitable links, they are also in a position to exude their own personal values. Meghan has been an advocate of rescue dog adoption and has committed to issues of female empowerment, and is likely to continue to support such causes on both sides of the pond. Harry is also focusing on several causes, including mental health awareness projects such as his upcoming Apple TV series with Oprah Winfrey. There’s also his involvement with HIV/AIDS initiatives (particularly in Africa), a legacy to his late mother Diana, Princess of Wales. They will likely be expanding their charity portfolio, and it will be important for them to repeatedly broadcast their initiatives, stepping up media exposure around social responsibility to strengthen their brands.

Harry and Meghan Attend Wellchild Awards.The event is held to praise the courage of seriously ill children and their families, and thank those who care for and support them. Photo: Pete Maclaine

Reevaluate your target audience…and your relationship with them

This step involves taking a look at the receiving end of your message, in particular those individuals who matter the most for your brand — your target audience.

Do you need to completely shift your target audience? If the answer is yes, take some time to define your new target audience, those individuals who will become instrumental in helping you to reach your new goals. Think about your new ideal clients, colleagues, managers or members of the appropriate group or industry.

If the answer is no, who can you bring with you on this journey?  Identify the subset (if not the entirety) of the target audience that you’d like to maintain during this transition.  The previously mentioned steps (clear messaging, apologizing when needed, maintaining and exuding your core attributes) will certainly help here.

The Sussexes may be able to retain their own joint trademark brand, Sussex Royal, as a vehicle to cultivate their relationship with their existing fans, however this remains unclear. There will be other challenges for Harry, whose brand not only has a strong association with Buckingham Palace but also the UK military. Given he is now restricted from being involved with the military in the UK, he will need to find another way to maintain this important part of his brand and its target audience.

Better late than never

If your “step back” was a sudden one and few of these proactive steps were achieved, it’s never too late, particularly in terms of messaging.

While the Sussexes may not have given us that initial clear and consistent messaging around their decision, it still has the potential to be a good branding move if they can communicate effectively. This will need to be done carefully and respectfully. If they do decide to come forward and “tell their story”, the type of format in which they do so can of course make or break their brands.  Do they want to put a light spin on it? If so, then perhaps a talk show format like Ellen might be the best fit. If they want their brands to move in a more serious direction, then a format like 20/20 might be more appropriate.

Only time will tell how Meghan and Harry decide to redefine and position their brands, but one thing is for sure, the world will be watching.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the Endeavour Fund Awards ceremony, London. Photo: Pete Maclaine



You 2.0: Making Tech part of your Personal Brand

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As we usher in a new decade, the digital world continues to advance all around us. It’s not uncommon to feel a bit overwhelmed by it all! Should we  adapt to these advances, upgrading our personal brands to a more techie version?

Our guest blogger this month, Heather Black of is an advocate for women in tech, and actively develops new talent. She was named one of the 100 most influential women in tech in the UK last year, and is open and passionate about balancing her career with her family. Here she talks to us about how to “tech up” our personal brands.

Photo: Pixabay

Here’s Heather…

If there’s one thing that will make your personal brand feel up-to-date and equipped for the future, it’s adding tech to your brand. Good tech skills are in shortage worldwide. recently said “research shows seven in ten businesses in the sector have found it more difficult to hire staff in past year.” But tech skills are needed everywhere: from animation to teaching; from AI driven marketing to digital publishing.

This shortfall in appropriately qualified and able people is the perfect opportunity for you to upskill and make yourself more desirable. Think about being the go-to person for something technical and what respect that can add to your own personal brand. My own business Supermums focuses on reskilling mums (not exclusively, we have some dads and some non-mums too) in the Salesforce ecosystem, rebranding themselves as tech savvy and so able to find work that is well paid and flexible – probably of interest to just about everyone, not just parents!

Tech can be a key

Tech can be the key to getting into hard to break in industries like fashion or film or even landing work with big names that you’d love to have attached to your personal brand. One of our Supermums graduates, Emma Johannsson, retrained as a Salesforce admin with us and now works for Aston Martin, something that will forever look impressive on her CV. Emma says, “For those thinking of retraining into tech, I would say do it. Don’t be afraid to try it out and don’t be scared if things seem complicated. Just keep trying and don’t be afraid to fail. You will fail at things but it’s not a big deal. If you hang in there and keep at it, you will succeed. There are lots of jobs out there.”

Move with the times

Finally, one of the most compelling reasons to do it is that perhaps soon, you may not have a choice. Take marketing for instance. Marketing is fast becoming more and more sophisticated: we can track users around the internet with AI, we can automate the customer journey from sign up to sale and beyond, building up a relationships that just weren’t available to us previously. Our Salesforce Marketing Cloud course takes traditional marketers and upskills them in all the tech they need to be at the top of their profession today and hopefully tomorrow, helping them future proof their careers, as long as they keep on top of new trends and innovations.


Getting over the mystery

Words like “tech”, “cyber” and “digital” may sound as though they are for the left brained chosen few, but these are just words. Tech is all around us: from the App that lets us order in a takeaway to the framework that takes a payment from our phones, to the electronic sign-in machine in the Dr’s office. Cyber is just another word for Cyberspace, a.k.a., the Internet, and Digital means an online version of something. A great example would be Marie Claire magazine which has now gone completely digital, i.e., online as that’s where they see the future.

You don’t have to completely change your brand

Adding tech to your brand is just that, adding it to how people already think of you. One of our graduates, Simon Des Forges, is now currently the Salesforce manager for a charity called Education and Employers, but he talks about how his “old” brand was still very valuable and how important it is to think about your transferable skills: “My old job was around user involvement, getting people with mental health or drug and alcohol problems views included with commissioners and providers which must seem very far away from Salesforce. Part of the role of admin, however, is to have a good understanding of what people’s needs are and to balance those and integrate those into the org and with each other so you’re working together as a team. It’s useful for people to take a little step back if they’re worried that they might not fit into doing what seems a technical role and consider the skills that they already do have and how useful they are. Mine have most certainly have benefited me here as far as working in different projects and teams and knowing how to work those views into something manageable.”

Becoming confident with Tech

For the very non-technical this can feel a bit daunting, but I have some observations of our course participants that may make it a little easier:

  • Start off with a course that will get you into the learning mindset, but also provide support. Perhaps your employer can even send you on one as they’ll reap the rewards too. Simon Des Forges was sent on his first Salesforce Admin course by his then employer and that opened up a whole new world for him
  • Accept that, like everything new, there is learning to do. You will get there. It’s just a matter of putting the time and effort in
  • Get excited. Think about all the opportunities your new tech savvy personal brand can offer you – and all the frustrations you can now bypass (having to get someone else to upload onto your blog for instance)
  • There will be times when you fail or just don’t get something. A break and a clear head can sometimes work, but do remember that you can always ask for help

The Tech community and your Personal Brand

Joining a tech community in one way or other is a perfect way to accelerate tech into your personal brand. You’ll get the support you’ll need, new contacts and over time, start to feel more and more comfortable, pushing yourself as you reach goals and see them disappear behind you. You can find these communities in real life and online and I urge you to take advantage of what they have to offer.


As well as the Supermums project, Heather runs webinars, attends panel events and speaks on flexible working, retraining, working parenthood and women in tech.

To learn more, you can see a video she recorded here.

The Supermums’ Marketing Cloud course launches in early 2020 and you can find out more here.


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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. My latest Personal Brand of the Month goes to

Sir Patrick Stewart

Here’s why…
Sir Patrick Stewart is of course widely known for his iconic roles in television and movies, most notably Star Trek’s Jean-Luc Picard. There’s also his illustrious onstage career. I’ve always admired him as an actor, but a discovery earlier this month made me fall in love with his personal brand.

It started with a poster. I’m not a huge Star Trek fan, but an advert for the upcoming series, Star Trek Picard, recently caught my eye. It shows a stoic Captain Picard standing in front of a vineyard with a dog by his side. What an unexpected detail: Picard has a dog, and a pit bull nonetheless!

I did a little research into this, and the popular consensus was that Picard’s four-legged companion was Stewart’s idea. It turns out that Stewart has been a champion of rescue dogs, particularly pit bulls, for some time now. He and his wife have fostered several pit bulls themselves, and Stewart often shares photos of his foster dogs on Twitter. I may be late to the party with this one, but upon discovering this, I connected with his brand in a completely different way. We shared a cause.


Not only does he foster rescue dogs, but Stewart has embraced this cause in different ways. For example, he works hard at changing perceptions about pit bulls, by effectively being his own anti-stigma campaign, educating us about the breed over social media. He has also spoken out about the cruelty of dog fighting, highlighting the work of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in finding new homes for dogs previously used for fighting. He shared on Facebook: “We know dogs are born to enjoy walks in the park, play with toys and enjoy belly rubs – but not fight.”

Here in the UK, Stewart has called for the repeal of the Dangerous Dog Act of 1991 in favour of better education on dog ownership. His involvement came after he and his wife were not able to bring their beloved foster dog, Ginger, to the UK, as the UK (where they live for part of the year) does not allow pit bulls into the country under the Act. He shared on Twitter: “We learned about the UK’s antiquated and tragic breed-specific legislation that includes “pit bulls”. The legislation itself is opaque, draconian, and truly hard to decipher.”

He candidly talked about leveraging his personal brand for the cause: “There aren’t many times when I’m comfortable leveraging the “Pstew Card”, but this was absolutely an instance where I wanted to pull out all the stops. We called the British Consulate and we called the RSPCA. We spoke with every expert we could, and as it became clear that there in fact was no “clear” answer, we realized we just couldn’t take any risk with Ginger’s life. I could go into more detail about how we came to this decision, but the short version is that we chose to do what was best for Ginger.”

From this personal experience, Stewart has become a vocal opponent of the Act: “It is essential that the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 be re-examined. Caring, good-natured creatures are being denied homes and their owners and potential owners deprived of a healthy and loving partnership.” A few years ago, he backed a petition signed by more than 200,000 people which demanded that Michael Gove repeal of the Dangerous Dogs Act without specific permission from a court.

I truly applaud Stewart’s efforts here, particularly as this Act nearly deterred my husband and I from moving here in the first place (our gorgeous rescue boy at the time may very well have been crossed with a Pittie breed, and we were very fortunate to have gotten him through)!

In closing, I hope this Brand of the Month shows just how important it is to share the “personal” side of your personal brand — your values, passion, purpose, what you stand for. It’s a great way to leverage a brand’s relevance and establish a sense of connection on a deeper, more meaningful level.


Bravo, Sir Patrick!


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The “Brand of the Month”…is in conflict

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In lieu of our traditional Brand of the Month, I’m taking this month to explore a brand conflict, that of…

Jamie Oliver

Here’s Why…

Our favourite cockney Naked Chef often comes to mind during the festive season. Whether it’s for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for Americans, Christmas recipes, dinner parties or just quick dinner ideas, Oliver has become our trusted go-to gourmet guy. And just this month, he announced his plan for international expansion, with the Jamie Oliver Group opening 19 new branches and rebranding two Jamie’s Italian restaurants in Asia. This comes just months after the UK chain’s collapse.

As many will know in the UK, Oliver has become a figurehead for campaigns for healthier kids and a healthier planet. His brand has made tremendous strides in the last decade, positively impacting school meals, government initiatives on obesity, and climate change. As such, both his personal and corporate brands have become synonymous with a healthier future. Not to mention his impressive range of cookbooks, TV shows and restaurant chains that have helped make him a household name.

But Jamie Oliver has had a tough year, and both his corporate and personal brand have taken a big hit.

The most glaring is of course is the loss of his restaurant empire back in May. His 25 restaurants went into receivership, a British form of bankruptcy protection, at a cost of about 1,000 jobs. Oliver followed the announcement with “a high-profile apology campaign, admitting his glaring faults as a business owner and vowing to keep going with the food ventures that made him a star at just 24 years old”. This collapse comes after months of financial struggle, which may explain his co-branding misstep earlier in the year…

Regardless of whether you drive or not, you’ve probably heard about Oliver’s “healthy” deli range at Shell Petrol Stations, Jamie Oliver deli by Shell, by now. The range was made available in 500 Shell service stations since early this year.

Truth be told, when I first saw this branding partnership early this year, my initial thought wasn’t a thought at all. It was a cringe. This isn’t all that surprising considering the visceral reaction that strong brands can elicit. But if we take a moment to think about this co-branding, on one level it does make sense. Healthier on-the-go options at petrol stations are much needed, and Oliver is a huge advocate for making healthy food choices more available to the masses. As a result of this partnership, 80 healthy food items are now available to a wider range of consumers.

But there’s another dimension to this co-branding that just feels off. A huge part of Oliver’s personal brand is being a vocal UN environmental campaigner, and paring with an oil giant feels like a gross misalignment between his corporate brand and his personal brand, and it’s tarnishing both. Jamie Oliver deli by Shell feels like a different brand to that of the Jamie Oliver who lobbied hard for the sugar tax, campaigns for climate initiatives and wants to save the world one school lunch at a time. Strange bedfellows indeed.

Shell’s marketing strategy on the other hand was a shrewd one, given its mission to shift its image, particularly as the brand has consistently topped the list of the most hated brands in the UK. The marketing team have also been clever, clearly having fun with this venture: ‘From A to BLT’, ‘A new direction for food on the go.’ Partnering with a brand like Oliver’s could certainly work to improve Shell’s reputation, however Oliver appears to be getting the short end of this branding stick.

In defence of this £5 million partnership, Oliver shared, “I think I’ve earned trust over the last 20 years and I would hope that people think I’ve thought about it correctly. I can stick up for what’s in the stores and where it’s come from.”

It’s true that Oliver has built an admiring following over the past two decades, and we know in branding that such a reputation is steadily earned over time. However we also know that it can be wrecked in a heartbeat.

But if Oliver does in fact go back to his celeb roots – the Naked Chef days and what made him a star at age 24 – our celebrity chef’s brand just might emerge stronger and healthier in 2020.


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