My Mantra

Helping brands and leaders be more influential
by embracing their humanity and personality.

Personal Branding Archive

How Cat Videos Are Killing Your Credibility

Real experts don’t talk about cat videos.

There is a strangely troubling trend I have come across recently that seems to be once again afflicting presentations at business events around the world. It comes down to the ubiquitous cat video – and its closely related cousin, the animated cat GIF.  Don’t get me wrong. I like a cute kitten as much as the next guy. But there’s a problem with this feline frenzy.

Cat videos are a backward looking cliche about the insignificance of the web whose time has come and gone – much like the once frequent quip about Twitter being a great place to share what you had for lunch. I think it is safe to say the impact of Twitter is way beyond lunch orders. And the Internet has moved beyond cat videos.

The point, as you probably figured out, isn’t really about cat videos. It IS about all the small missteps in what we say and do that can accidentally minimize our own credibility. It is the errant typo that illustrates a lax attention to detail. Or pronouncing a word incorrectly to illustrate you are a outsider (“Louisville” vs. “Looavull” for example).

Alone, any of these are small mistakes hardly worthy of mentioning or stressing over. But real experts do focus on such things. Real experts know about details and pay attention to them. And real experts are more deliberate about how they use cliché ideas or images.

The late brilliant screenwriter Blake Synder used a powerful image of a cat on the cover of his book Save the Cat as a beautiful analogy for how screenwriters can build empathy for their heroes with a single scene (of the hero saving the cat, for example). Unmarketing author Scott Stratten used a somewhat darker but similarly powerful image of a cat on the cover of his book of tips on avoiding marketing stupidity called QR Codes Kill Kittens.

I’m not saying that the only way to use cats as analogies is to save them or discuss what causes their untimely death, but these are both way better than including cat videos in a presentation for no reason at all.  Experts don’t share the same tired examples– they have a point of view on the world.

Being credible as an expert requires you to rise above clichés. You need to focus on details and learn how people respond to images and visuals. You need to avoid using language or phrases that undermine your own expertise. And you definitely need to trust me about the cat videos.

How To Get Better At Networking: 7 Questions With Porter Gale

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Recently I had the chance to sit down with Porter Gale and pick her brain about some smart tips that can help anyone get better at networking.  Her new book Your Network Is Your Net Worth features a cover quote from Sir Richard Branson.  As if that weren’t impressive enough, she is the former CMO of Virgin America and someone…Read More >>

How To Earn Respect … By Giving Up

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Today was a big day for the Netherlands. Back in January, the Dutch Queen Beatrix decided to abdicate her throne to pave the way for the next generation of loyalty to take over. Today was her final day as queen, as her son Willem-Alexander became the new King and youngest monarch in Europe. As it turns out, Dutch royalty have…Read More >>

Aziz Ansari’s Simple 30 Second Marketing Trick

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Aziz Ansari wasn’t planning to stick around after his show for photos. Most of the people in the packed theater in Washington DC where I saw him perform his Buried Alive Comedy Tour last week probably weren’t expecting that anyway. Despite social media breaking down virtual barriers to conversations with unreachable people (and Aziz has plenty of them with more…Read More >>

One Common Mistake That Can Ruin Any Conversation

There are two kinds of coaches in sports. There are coaches who create a playbook before a game and follow it – and there are coaches who make their playbook for a game based on watching the game and making adjustments based on what is happening. Guess which kind of coach usually leads more successful teams? Being flexible is never…Read More >>

How Men Can Change The Business World For Women

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About four years ago I started getting a lot of unsolicited emails from women. My first book, Personality Not Included, had just come out and readers were emailing me with their own stories of how having a personality had made a difference in their own careers. While school often teaches us that we must remove our personality from “professional” communication…Read More >>

How The Oscars Remind Us To Fix Our Dysfunctional Relationship With Human Resources

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Daniel Radcliffe never auditioned to become Harry Potter. At least, not at first. Instead, it was a fateful moment during intermission at a theater show in London where Producer David Heyman spotted Radcliffe sitting in the audience and asked his father about letting Radcliffe join auditions. Of course, he did – and was eventually chosen. Isn’t that how we like…Read More >>

The Alignment Gap, Concierge Marketing And The Future Of Agencies

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Summary: The story of why I decided to start the world’s first true “Concierge Marketing” service for large and mid-size brands. It all started because I knew the one thing I didn’t want to do. About three months ago I left my role at one of the biggest marketing agencies in the world and the only thing I knew for…Read More >>

Best and Worst of Super Bowl Marketing Strategy: 2013 Edition

Best and Worst of Super Bowl Marketing Strategy: 2013 Edition

Every year there seems to be another Admeter/Adbowl/Adrank type of contest that lets anyone register and vote for their favourite ads. Sure it’s nice when everyone has an opinion, but as any designer will tell you – opinions are like butts … everyone has one, but usually they stink. If you’re reading this, though, you probably care more about marketing…Read More >>

David Hasselhoff, Pinterest and the Upside of One Hit Wonders

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Marian Gold probably never met David Hasselhoff. Back in the 1980s, Gold was the lead singer for a band called Alphaville that produced one of the best known songs of the era. The single “Big in Japan” was a chart topping hit, and has been featured in many films and compiliation CDs since it’s first release in 1984. Hasselhoff, on…Read More >>