STB 023 | Karen Tiber Leland

Attract the Right Attention with Your Personal Brand with Karen Tiber Leland

Karen Leland is a Branding and Marketing Strategist and Implementer. There are a lot of things she’s seeing right now in the online space that are making her go, ‘Oh, no!’ As people are starting to get used to working from home and going digital, some of the ‘standard’ ways of how we are doing business are going away, like wearing professional clothing during a meeting! Your personal brand can do so much for you during this time as more people are looking online to find the right candidate to get the job done.

Attract the Right Attention with Your Personal Brand with Karen Tiber Leland

Hello, good day, beautiful lady. It’s nice to reconnect with you. I have the beautiful Karen Tibor Leland in the, what? Do I have her in the, in the studio? No, that would be a lie. In the house? No, on the show. On the show, and I guess I’m in a little funny mood, but let’s get more serious here because Karen is amazing. Karen Tabor Leland is the founder of Sterling Marketing Group, a concierge branding and marketing firm that works with clients on building stronger personal team and business brands. Let me say that again because if you aren’t aware, there is such a thing as a personal brand. So personal team and business brands. She is the bestselling author of nine books. That was not a mistake. Nine books which have sold more than 400,000 copies. Her latest being “The Brand Mapping Strategy – Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand”.

She writes regularly for,, among others. Basically, you can find her online most anywhere. She’s also been interviewed by The Today Show, CNN, Fox News, and Oprah. She has spoken at Harvard, Yale, TDS and I’m sure lots of other places. She knows her stuff. That’s why I wanted to have her on the show. She’s worked with clients like Twitter, LinkedIn, Apple, American Express, Google, all the big players. So, what Karen has to say, you want to listen to, you know, I’ve been sprinkling in here in their conversations with experts in their field around topics that I believe are pertinent for women in leadership. And that’s you. That’s me. And Karen and I get up to all of the goodness for you around personal brand. So, without further adieu, let’s get started.

Of course I’ve got a nugget or two that I want to plant. Maybe I don’t have a nugget. Today I have seeds I would like to plant for you as you listen to my conversation with Karen. You know, I’m just gonna out myself here and let you know that one of the reasons I felt it was so critical to have this conversation with Karen is because of how I’m seeing some of the women that I’m interviewing or reaching out to or connecting with, just surrounding the show, how I’m seeing them show up. And more importantly, what I’m not seeing. And it surprised me. It surprised me and I think that we are all at on a different journey and spectrum of where we’re at. But I want to sprinkle the seeds and I want to heighten your awareness around the importance of personal brand.

And what I love about this interview is we get up to quite a few different things. We talk about what most executives struggle with when it comes to articulating their brand. And when is a good time to be focusing on this. So that’s the key point or the key takeaway or what’s been on my mind. Why are some people thinking about this and why are others not? Maybe because it’s not in your sphere of awareness, but a good time, and Karen and I talk about this to focus on personal branding is any time you’re looking to get that next level of promotion in your company. If your planning to leave your organization and want to get a leg up into a new job or a new company. Certainly, if you’re seeking a corporate board appointment, a corporate board seat would be a great time.

And there’s a few more that Karen talks about in our conversation. So pay attention to that and think about where you are, where you want to be and potentially if there’s a gap in your personal brand or is your personal brand there to support you in making that leap, shift, or change that you’re looking for. I believe this is of critical importance. Now is the time. You’ve always been making a digital impression whether you liked it or not, but post-crisis and Karen and I talk about this, it’s going to be more critical than ever to you, for you to be thoughtfully orchestrating and creating your personal content to let people know who you are. All right. I have a few more thoughts around a couple of things that I would love to highlight for you. I will pop back in before we wrap for today, but now let’s hear from the beautiful miss Karen Tiber Leland.

Let’s talk about, it’s getting from there, from musical theater major to where you are now. Like how, what did you go out into the world and do initially?

Well, because I had a theatrical background, I was good at speaking in front of people. And so at first, I had a lot of sales jobs and then I had met someone at a workshop, a professional workshop, and he was doing these time management programs for companies around the United States and he said, you’ve got a really great speaking presence, how about getting trained to lead my management, my training course, right. My time management course. And I thought, well that sounds interesting. That’s a subject I’ve always been interested in. So he trained me to lead this time management program. So I did that for years. And then of course that got me into consulting with people on time management, which got me into consulting on productivity, which got me into being a management consultant because by the way, after I left, after I realize, okay, being an actress is  not going to work for me, I left the school I was in and I left the musical theater program and I went to Antioch.

And what I studied was organizational development. So, I was really well set to do that. And then I started a management consulting firm. And then about 10 years ago I started a branding and a marketing firm. So, you know, I use those skills every day that I learned as an actor. I use those skills every day, but I just do it. You know, I used it for sure when I was keynote speaking. I use those skills a lot when I was keynote speaking. When I’m leading a webinar, I use those skills when I lead a webinar. You know, they’re very valuable skills to have. You learn a lot being an actor, you learn about teamwork, you learn about thinking on your feet, you learn about, you know, the show must go on, stuff happens and you just don’t get rattled. You know, you learn how to improvise, you learn how to present in a way that’s interesting. There’s a lot of skills that you develop studying, acting and musical theater in particular. So you know, I sort of started on that path as a speaker and a presenter and a trainer and that led me into wanting to go deeper into the more organizational pieces of this and you know, then the path just eventually led me here.

I think people really do underestimate if they don’t, if they’re not in the arts, like they really underestimate the power of and the skillsets and just being on stage.

Absolutely. And in liberal arts in general, you know when you look at some of the research on people that do the best in performing in their jobs, they’re often people that have had a liberal arts education because the broadness of reading, art, art history, theater, it does give you certain skills and certain ways of looking at things that as it turns out, are actually quite useful in the business world. I mean, I can tell you as a branding and marketing strategist working with CEO’s and executives on their personal brands, my ability to coach people for being on TV, giving speeches, all of that is amazing because I was an actor.

Yeah. What is, so kind of going down that road, what is, if I’m a fly on the wall with you and some of your clients, what is some of the biggest challenges that executives face when you’re helping them become more, let’s say media ready?

Well, you know, one challenge people have is people think they’re clear about what they’re saying and they’re not. So for example, the easiest example of this is what I call is the cocktail party talk, right? You go to a cocktail party and you say to somebody, what do you do? And then a half an hour later you have no better idea what they do then hour earlier you’re like, Oh wait, I think they just brought out the egg rolls. I love those. I’ll be back in a minute. I write in the book, in the brand mapping strategy book. I write in the book. I tell this really funny story and it’s a true story about how I was at a conference speaking, and they put me at lunchtime next to a woman at the table, and I said to her, Oh, hi, I’m Karen.

She’s whatever. I said, what are you doing? She goes, well, I help women be happier, and I said, Oh, that’s interesting. How do you do that? Well, I help them find their passion. Oh, how interesting. How do you do that? Well, if they’re happier, they have passion. Oh, that’s really cool. What’s your process for helping them find that? Well, really it’s about them being happier. Okay. But that’s great. How do you do that? Well, okay, but it’s really them being passionate. I was like, okay, how’s your chicken? Because I realized I was actually not going to get an answer out of this woman. It’s not that she was intentionally being that way. She did not know how to clearly articulate in a way that was gettable very fast, what her brand was, what she did, what made it different, what her focus was.

And that’s a big challenge. It takes me, believe it or not, often anywhere from three to six hours just to go through the brand map process with people, to have them be able to articulate their brand. And the six or seven ways they specifically have to articulate it. And this is true by the way, with CEOs for their CEO brand executives for their executive brand or businesses for their business brand. It’s really no different.

Right. You know, I was having a really interesting kind of brainstorming, I don’t know, dinner conversation with my husband yesterday and we were just talking about how there’s a lot more, I mean, before the pandemic of course there was already a lot of what I was seeing momentum for just executives, people you know, in corporations to start having and putting a brand out there. But now, post COVID, I think that there’s going to be even bigger initiatives for what your footprint is digitally, but also kind of the content and the brand that you put out there for yourself because companies are going to be much more comfortable leveraging virtual channels.

Yeah, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. You know, one of the big changes that I’ve said is coming and is actually you can see happening right now is we’ve lived prior to COVID-19 in a “or” world when it came to virtual. Right? So you had live conferences or virtual conferences, you had live meetings or virtual meetings and to more or less a degree, depending on the organization, virtual was considered sort of the stepchild, the ugly stepchild of live, right? Live is always preferable, but if we have to do virtual, we will. And I think that one of the big changes you’ll see post COVID is it’s going to be an “and” world. When it comes to virtual, it’s going to be live and virtual. So I think this component, I don’t think virtual will be the ugly stepchild. I think this component of virtual will probably get woven into almost everything.

So you’ll have a live conference, but they’ll always be as super strong virtual piece of it. And then what is great about that is more people get brought to the brand. So you’re asking about the challenges. One of the big challenges is CEOs or C suite executives will often say to me, well, you know, I don’t really think LinkedIn is that big a deal is what you know, it’s like I’m doing, why do I have to be that big on LinkedIn? Nobody really cares. Well actually one, they do care. About 77% of the people who you are going to interact with, they’re going to check you out on LinkedIn. And that’s your first digital impression. Right? And you know, the other part of it is that it’s not only that they do care, I think post COVID, it’s going to be even more important as you said, what your digital footprint will be.

I, this really hit home when I heard somebody say they were talking about, you know, they were still hiring and needing to get key positions in place in their organization. And so what they were doing right now, like literally right now is of course, you know, looking at their profiles and, any assets that they could find about them online, not to determine whether or not they were a fit for the job, but to get a better sense of who they are. And I thought that was really powerful and I started thinking, wow, you know, just using content to get access to the jobs you want, the people you want. I mean, this is coming in full force, very quickly for not just entrepreneurs anymore.

No, it’s for everyone. So, you know, I think that’s why it’s, I don’t think rather than it going away, it’s going to get stronger. And the other reason I think it’s gonna get stronger is I think we’ve had a lot of what I call shiny object syndrome, right? A lot of flash because anyone could hang out a shingle and say they’re anything. And I think one of the post COVID changes is going to be as people are really going to be digging deeper into the substance of who is that person? What do they know rather than just the hope and the hype.

Yeah. You’re not going to really be able to hide from yourself anymore. People are known and they’re going to be looking like, well, why don’t they have anything out there, right?

Yes, that’s correct. Yeah. I had somebody, a luxury realtor tell me the other day that one of her clients had a $10 million house to sell. And he said, Hey, I looked for you on Twitter and you’re not there. And she goes, yeah, we don’t have a Twitter account. He goes, what do you mean you don’t have a Twitter account? You’re selling luxury real estate, how can you not have a Twitter account? And she was very surprised by that. And I said was, no, actually, if you look at the statistics a lot, there’s a lot of hashtagging and a lot of conversation about luxury real estate on Twitter. So, I think people make these assumptions, but they’re not based in anything. They’re just based in sort of their opinion, but they’re not actually based in research. So, part of what I always try to do with clients is base my recommendations in actual research because that I think people are going to need to go more towards this model.

And by research I don’t mean you have to spend six months researching something, but just the kind of basics of looking and seeing where are people listening, what’s going on, what’s making a difference, what are the trends? And I think people need to be aware of that. I’ll give you an example for personal branding. I do a lot of CEO personal branding and it used to be that the CEO had their LinkedIn and then they had another bio on their company website. Well, one of the big trends that’s happening now is CEO’s having their own websites, right? So they’ve got their CEO brand website. So, and a lot of the CEO branding I’m doing now, we’re not only doing the social, but we’re actually creating a website for the CEO so they can go a little broader and as you said, show a little bit more of who they are in terms of building their brand, which may or may not be appropriate and often isn’t on their company brand.

Like if you’re a CEO and you’re really into fly fishing, that’s not going to be on your company. It might be a line in your bio, but you’re not going to post about it on your company blog.

That’s a good point. And now it leads me to a question, Karen, of do you think that those lines are going to start to blur more then?

I think they’re already blurring. I think people are really hungry for more of the who the person is. Like of course people want to know that you know your stuff and you know your content and you’ve got good information and you can deliver. But I think people are also hungry for a sense of who people are. And I think that also translates to corporations. I think employees are going to be very hungry to see who are yeah. As they pick who they’re going to go work for.

And it’s not just going to come in the form of like a B Corp certification for example. They’re going to be looking for content and story.

They’re going to be looking at their social and saying, how do these people show up in the world? Right. How are they represented in the world by what they talk about, what they say? I’ll give you an example and I don’t want to say who it is cause I don’t want to disparage anyone, but I was doing some research for this luxury real estate client and I was looking on Twitter at all these different real estate companies and I came across a very large real estate company. One of the biggest, every single tweet, every single one was like me, me, me, me. Look at us. We’re doing this. Look at us. They didn’t retweet anyone else. They didn’t talk about anything other than their company. There was nothing useful on there. It was all me, me, me, me, me, and I thought that – one, they’re missing an opportunity. But two, I think they have no idea the damage they’re doing to their brand by at this point in time, having such a self referential, social media.

Yeah, there’s, you know, there’s a lot of moving parts for companies. That’s a lot to manage. It is a lot to manage. So do you recommend them not being there then?

No, no. I think you have to be there. But I think first of all, I don’t think all social media sites are created equal for all companies. You have to know where your audience is.

Like I was talking to a client today a CEO in her senior C suite executive today, and they were saying, well, this particular group, we know that they’re really on Facebook. So that tells us that we have to have a certain strategy for Facebook, right? Because it’s going to hit that market. It doesn’t mean we’re not on Twitter, but we probably can have like a lighter strategy or less stuff going on on Twitter and put more of our attention onto Facebook.

That’s why I say the research comes in you, you know, cause what happens is somebody says to someone, Hey, you should be doing Facebook ads. That’s the hardest thing right now. You can have a million, you could sell a million dollars worth of your product if you want Facebook.

I have one friend, she spent $7,000 on a course about how to do Facebook ads and I tried to tell her, don’t do that. But she didn’t listen to me. And when she came back to me and said, yeah, that didn’t work out. It was like I could have told you that. I’m not saying, by the way, it isn’t ever worth doing that. Sometimes it is, but there’s a lot. You really have to separate the wheat from the chaff. You really have to separate the hype and the hope from what’s really accurate in research for your particular business, your particular market, your particular customers, your particular brand. And that’s true by the way, whether we’re talking about a CEO brand and executive brand or a business brand.

Yeah, I love that you’re consistent on that. It’s no different. So your brand mapping strategy, it takes six hours to pull out of them what they actually to what, what would be, what are they most surprised by when you bring them through the process?

You know what’s funny? The most common comment I get is something like this. We’ve been working on this for three months, six months, a year. I think the most was six years, and we can’t believe in one day or six, you know, if it’s an individual, it’s usually a series of sessions. But we can’t believe in one day we got this! And I think that is the thing people are the most surprised at because, and by the way, that is not a function of that I’m brilliant. That’s a function of that. If you have people, if you ask the right questions and people are looking in the right places and you make some distinctions, you can come up with what you need. I think a big part of the problem is people don’t ask the right questions and they’re not being asked the right questions in a lot of cases.

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So you have a tried and true framework.

I actually was funny because about a year ago I started giving him money back guarantee when I do this process because actually it was two years ago because so many people made that comment about this, I can’t believe that we got to this, that I was pretty sure that it was always going to work and no one has ever asked for their money back. So knock on wood, always a first time for everything.

It’s interesting because I think the other thing people are surprised at is how important the specificity of languages. In other words, if you say to somebody, what do you do back to the cocktail party, right?

If you say to somebody, what do you do? And they say, I’m a life coach. Well that’s useful in the sense of that you understand that that’s a category, right? Or if you say to somebody, what do you do? And they say, I’m a consultant, or I’m a branding strategist. Useful, right? Because they can understand that as a category. And if people can’t understand a category, they stop listening. So if you say to somebody, what do you do? And you go, well, I help women be happier. Immediately, your brain, it goes on the Fritz. Because that can mean so many things. At least a life coach is a thing, right? As opposed to, I help women be happier because your brain has to really stop and try to figure that out. So, but there’s a difference between that and more specificity in language.

So if you say, you know, well, I’m a life coach and my specialty is women who are leaving the corporate world to start their own businesses. That’s a lot more, it’s like crunchy, right? And specific and that’s very specific language. If I say I’m a branding and marketing strategist and you know, my specialties are doing social research for companies, then turning that into a brand strategy and then implementing it for them with do it yourself services, that’s a lot more crunchy, right? If I say I’m a branding and marketing strategist and I help CEOs and executives really create a much stronger personal brand online and off, there’s more to that. It’s not even that long, it’s just that you get it right. You can see, Oh, this is what this person does. And so I think the specificity of language, and by the way, that’s only one.

There’s seven parts to the brand map. That’s what I call the anchor statement or the elevator pitch. That’s only one of seven. There are six others that you have to articulate, but I think people are often surprised at the specificity of language and the difference it makes.

Well, and it’s so difficult when we’re talking about ourselves or our companies. We’re so close to them.

For sure. It’s so hard to do this for yourself. I mean, I can’t do it for myself. I’ve been working on rewriting my website and redoing some of my stuff and it’s just time for me to rebrand that stuff. I can’t do it myself. I had to hire people who do what I do, who I trust to help me with it. I always say that you can’t see the inside of your own eyelids.

You know? I get called all the time by marketing people in branding people and they’re like, okay, I can’t do this for myself. I’ve tried. It’s just like a doctor can’t operate on themselves. It’s just too difficult to see it for ourselves. We’re too close to it.

When is it appropriate for someone to come to you for help with personal brand? Like what are the, what are the signs and signals?

Well, I think one is if you’ve got someone and they know that they should be being represented on social media in a way that’s much stronger and better than they are, that’s a good time for people to come to me and they know that they either don’t have the time or the knowledge to negotiate those waters. That’s a good time for people to come to me. When someone knows that they really have mastered something in their field and they really have something to contribute, but they either don’t have the time or the expertise to get out there and become a thought leader, but they know they’re really ready to get that out there and start to become an industry or a thought leader? That’s a good time for someone to come to me. When they feel like there’s an opportunity for them to be getting moving in, they’re moving up in their company as an executive and they’re just not getting that traction. That’s a good time.

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That’s one that maybe people aren’t thinking of.

Oh yeah. I’ve worked with so many people who go, you know what, I want some better opportunities in my company. I’m going to need to really bring my brand up to do that. And so I’m like, okay, great. That’s a perfect time to start working on your personal brand. And there’s one other time, which is when you are at a company and you realize that you don’t want to stay at that company and you want some other opportunities in other companies, that’s a perfect time to start. People will come to me to start working on their brand.

And probably getting a corporate board seat. I have a lot of women getting that.

And I’ve done that with people. I’ve worked with people to help them get corporate board seats. But it’s interesting, you’ll often see people who want a corporate board seat, even if they’re a CEO. But when you look at how they look, if you Google them and you look at how they show up online, they’re not helping themselves by the way they’re being represented online.

Right, right. I mean, I can even just from this show, I can tell you that how some of the people show up surprises me.

Yes. You know, this has happened on several occasions. I’ve had numerous media people who I’ve been talking to about a client or pitching something to me, not about my clients, but about other people. You know, I wanted to interview this person because I thought their content was great, but when I looked them up online and I saw their LinkedIn or their social media or their website, I realized I couldn’t use them as a source because if I use them as a source and a reader went and checked them out and saw their website or their social media, I as the writer, as the reporter, as the journalist, would look like I don’t have credibility because I didn’t do my homework. Isn’t that fascinating?

See, this is just another really tangible example of how what you need to be putting stuff out there and there’s no, how you show up matters.

There’s absolutely no option. You know, people who think there is are just deluding themselves.

I mean I would argue for anybody rising in “fill in the blank”, anybody rising in a company, right, right?

Well and anybody looking for opportunities, I mean, you know, and of course there’s various degrees of this. It’s not like everyone needs to be doing this to the same degree, but everybody’s certainly needs. Certainly, if you’re a CEO or a C suite executive, you absolutely are. You’re not being responsible. If you’re a CEO, you’re not being responsible to your company if you’re not building your brand. Because there’s a lot of research that tells us that the CEO brand absolutely has an impact on hiring retention and customers. So if you’re the CEO, it’s your obligation to do it cause you’re basically the chief branding officer. If you’re an executive, you’re not being responsible to your career. If you don’t do that.

Right. Boom. That’s it. That’s the gold right there.

This, as far as I can tell from all the work I’ve done, you must have, you know, stats with your clients.

I mean is it like a no brainer? Once you work with them that they get the corporate board seat, they get the next CEO job, they get the “thing”.

I wouldn’t say it’s a no brainer but because, so this is where this is, this is where I was talking about before as opposed to just hope and hype. You know if you, because I do research first, then I create a strategy based on that research and then we make some reasonable assumptions based those two things and then we have a plan and we follow the plan about 90% of the time, whatever the objectives were, the business objective, the personal objective they get met because not again, not because it’s magical, not because it’s rocket science, not because I’m so brilliant.

Although I do think I’m kind of brilliant in this area, but I think just to the point is sometimes I don’t do the implementation. Sometimes I just do the research and create a strategy and give them a strategy and they implement it and it still works 99% of the time.

Most of the time that works if you do it like that, that’s really the key. The key is you have to have a strategy that’s based in research. Like you know there’s over 40 different tactics you could use to build a personal, a CEO brand, an executive brand, a personal brand or a business brand, right? You’re not going to do all 40 you don’t have the time, you don’t have the money and all 40 aren’t even really necessary. So, a big part of this is doing the research to figure out, okay, what is the best ones of those for you to be doing in order to achieve your objectives? So, it’s a bit of a matrix, you know, what are you good at? Where does your customer base live, what are your objectives, you know, etc. And then where does which social fit into that.

Right. No, that makes sense. It’s finally sinking in. Karen, you’ve said it enough.

Let me see how many ways I can ask her so I can really understand this. You’re consistent though. That’s what I love. I’m like, I get it now. I get it. Now I need to know do you incorporate this into your work with people acting?

You know, where I incorporate it into my work with people is when I’m coaching them to be on radio or TV or to give an interview when I’m coaching them to give a speech. Right.

When I’m coaching them to lead a webinar, those are the places where I integrate that.

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You know, that’s such a timely topic right now. I’ve been on quite a few different virtual online meetings.

There is a real skill set needed around that.

Yeah, there definitely is. I don’t think there’s any question about that. I’ve been thinking a lot about this, kind of teasing out some of the things that I just do naturally because I’ve been working virtually for so long. But what do you think some of the main differentiators are like running, let’s just say I’m a workshop, in person versus virtually. Does anything come to mind for you in terms of what’s different? And how you’re facilitating it?

Yeah. Well, you know, remember virtually people are not seeing your whole body. They’re only seeing your shoulders and above. So, there’s a lot of hand gestures that gets lost. There’s a lot of other body language that gets lost. So even though we’re seeing people, which is a good thing, there isn’t all the body language. So that’s one big difference. You know, because I do a lot of art direction for websites and creating decks and things like that. And I have to tell you, I have to help people with their presentations. I’m actually a certified color strategist and I think one of the things people are not thinking about is they’re really not thinking about, what colors and how color impacts things on a webinar and clothes. Wearing the colors in the background. Like I don’t show, like I’ve got a virtual background up now, I don’t have my apartment showing in the background. So, I think that these are all sort of small things that as we start to use this more, I mean there is a ginormous learning curve going on for using it.

Oh my God, I was watching, I mean we’re talking about, yeah, C suite executives. They were doing a panel and I was, I’m involved with the organization so I was listening to that and they had like a cat scratcher in the back. Somebody was walking by and I was like, Oh my God. Right? Like how is that impacting your brand?

Well, I mean I think it does impact your brand because what happens, right, is people, yeah. People see what you’ve got in your background and then they get certain, I don’t know, ideas or thoughts. Now I was reading something where they said, Hey, it’s really great because it’s personal and people can see what’s in your background. The problem for me with that is what’s missing is context.

So I feel like that’s not necessarily, especially in a professional, if it’s a group of friends getting together for a virtual cocktail party, okay fine, who cares? But if it’s a professional webinar you’re leading or if it’s a business call. I think curating what’s in the background is actually quite important.

Yeah. And not using this time to kind of let your wardrobe lax, I have people showing up in t-shirts and ripped jeans.

No, I mean, yeah, I mean somebody was leading a business webinar the other day and they were in a t-shirt and I thought, dude, that is not a good thing to be doing.

You know, what I’ve learned is that people look, they watch and look at you more than I’ve ever experienced in person. Like, and I’ve had more people in the last five years ask me about my skin, my eyelashes, my eyebrows, lip color. Like they’ll comment on what I’m wearing and I’m thinking, wow, I had no idea. I guess, I show up pretty good anyways, but I’m like, I guess people are really paying attention or all they have is time to look at me.

And because they’re only seeing your face they’re focusing on that.

Yeah. That’s what I picked up from you is I hadn’t thought about as, they don’t get to see the full body, so like they’re just like looking at every hair, which is why it makes a difference. So yeah. And jewelry and everything. Like people say, Oh my God, I like your nail color. If my hand just happens to pop into the video.

Yeah. Unfortunately my nail, I haven’t had my, I was walking with a friend the other day and she said what do you miss the most? And I said, pedicures and manicures and getting my hair done. I’m like, Oh dear God, that is, I hate to be shallow, but yeah, that’s top of my list. I haven’t had a manicure and forever. It’s horrifying. Fortunately if you use a virtual background on a zoom, it actually darkens your head. So you know, it’s like you you can get away a little bit longer than you normally do.

I love these tips. What other kind of secret little tips do you have?

Well, I mean besides like, oh it’s definitely have a background. Definitely the colors you’re wearing. Definitely look into whether you should be doing a webinar or a call. I think people don’t often make a distinction. Like for example, on zoom you can set up a webinar or you can set up a call. If you’re setting up a webinar, you don’t see people’s videos, they don’t see each other’s videos, they just show up on the participants on the right. And it’s more like when you’re leading something and people can raise their hands and they can, you can mute and unmute them one at a time to share.

Whereas if you’re in a call, everybody can see the videos if you want. But also, people can put them in breakout rooms, you can use a white board, you know, so there’s different tools for different things.

That’s a good tip. Let’s go back to the colors because are there certain colors we should tend towards or avoid or what are you saying? Like what’s the meat around that?

Well, part of it is, you know, the color, there’s a whole, like I said, am I, as a color strategist, I often will work with people on what color, what I call dressing for purpose, rather than what they’re in. Here’s how most people do a webinar. Oh, I’ve got to lead this webinar today, or I’ve got to lead this business call today, or I’ve got this business call today.

Oh, I feel like wearing red. So they put on red, or I feel like we’re in blue, or I feel like wearing black, or they feel like we’re in green. Or they’re just like, Oh, I’m so bored of being at home, whatever. They just grab something, which is more likely these days. But there really is a psychological impact to color. So for example, if you’re on a call, a business call and you really want to have a lot of authority, then there’s certain colors that predict project that authority depending on what your color tone is. Cause it’s different for different people. But just like for example, deep blue in general tends to communicate a sense of authority or knowing what you’re talking about. So if I was on a call with a potential client, there was a video element, I probably wouldn’t wear red because red is more like dynamic and energetic and I wouldn’t want them to feel like I was the star of the show.

They should be the star of the show, right? But I probably would wear something blue so that I had that sense of credibility to me. Little things like that.

Yeah. What does black say?

You know, black is black is tough because believe it or not, most people in the population, if you actually I do a lot of what we call color toning with people, which is finding out what their tone is and then suggesting colors they should wear very specifically. The vast majority of the population, really black does not work for them. I live in New York so I know everybody like you know, I know that that is good. I know there are some people listening that are thinking she’s a heretic. That woman is crazy.

Uh, no, I only, I mostly only wear black!

You might be one of those people that looks good in it, but you know, black is one of those colors that will come off very, very serious. If it works on you, then you wear it. But you have to know what you’re creating as a mood of seriousness.

Yeah. I’ll give you a perfect example of this. I was watching the news channels the other day and I don’t remember which day it was, but it was one day where I think something had happened. The death tolls were really high. All the anchors, the female anchors were wearing either a muddy brown or a gray. They weren’t wearing their usual like red or blue or green. They wearing like a muddy brown or a gray. And what was fascinating was how much less I was taking their message seriously in those colors. Cause they were just very neutraled out.

Yup. All kinds of good things to think about and really, really important right now is everybody’s engaging in a hundred percent online meetings.

Yeah. And like I said, even when we go back to face-to-face meetings, I think we’re going to see a gigantic increase in virtual. And so, this isn’t going away anytime soon.

No. So it’s not just a learning curve of Hey, how do I get on zoom meeting and how do I mute and unmute myself? But the T shirts gotta go people, the t-shirts have to go!

The tee-shirts gotta go, t-shirts go bye bye!

Thank you so much Karen for being on the show, it was such a pleasure. I really enjoyed it.

Wow, there’s some really good tidbits in there. She gives a lot of stuff, I think you can really chew on and you know all you need, beautiful lady, is one great insight. One great insight to go – I can now go implement or make the shift! And if you didn’t catch it in the interview, I wanted to say this as well. The media is looking for sources. Karen talks about this. They might find that you are an excellent resource. You’ve got a book or a paper or something. You’ve got wonderful content out there, let’s say on blockchain just as an example cause that’s top of mind for me right now. And they do a internet search on you and find that you’re showing up in the digital with your digital footprint, not looking so sophisticated and professional and the media source will more than likely pass you over because it’s a poor reflection on them if they use you as a source, even though you could be the number one subject matter expert. Like that alone should have you taking notice and Karen and I talk about that probably about 20 minutes into the interview.

So, if you miss that, go back and listen for that because I think that is the most powerful piece of information that needs to land in your brain. The other piece is where I was chatting with Karen about a personal experience that I had hearing from an executive who was still hiring even though they couldn’t be meeting candidates in person. They had critical roles in their organization that they were looking to fill and how he mentioned he was doing research on candidates, not to determine if they were qualified or not. That was already a foregone conclusion. But to be able to learn more about who they are, what they’re commenting on, what type of content they’re engaging with and what type of content they’re putting out there.

I mean, again, boom, that should blow your mind and get your attention to say your personal brand matters. And didn’t you just love all of her tips at the end of this conversation around virtual meetings? I wasn’t planning to ask her about it. It kind of popped into my head towards the end of our conversation and I am so glad I did because she gave all kinds of wonderful ideas around body language, the colors you’re wearing, your background, webinars versus call. So, lots of good information to chew on in this conversation. I would love to hear what stood out most for you. You can email me directly. I respond to everybody. I’m at

All right, beautiful lady. And the gentlemen or two out there who are listening. I will talk to you soon.

About Karen Tiber Leland

STB 023 | Karen Tiber Leland

Karen Tiber Leland is the founder of Sterling Marketing Group, a concierge branding & marketing firm that works with clients on building stronger personal, team and business brands.

She is the best-selling author of nine books, which have sold more than 400,000 copies. Her latest is The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand. Karen writes regularly for, and others.

Karen has been interviewed by The Today Show, CNN, Fox News and Oprah. She has spoken for Harvard, Yale, and Tedx among others.

Her clients have included Twitter, LinkedIn, Apple, American Express, and Google.

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