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What words and phrases come to your mind when you think of companies such as IBM? Coke? Apple Computers? Whole Foods? Southwest?

Companies invest time, money, and effort to carefully curate what we think of them, differentiate themselves in the market, and target specific customers. They spend millions and have hundreds of people dedicated to branding their product, all in an effort to demonstrate why they are different and valuable through intentional messaging. Simply said, they are deliberate about defining, promoting, protecting, and evolving their brand image so that customers will always think highly of their product or service and, most importantly, choose them.

Every company has a brand image, whether they manufacture products or provide services.  Their brand demonstrates their value and is directly linked to the words and phrases that the customers use to describe that company. Like big companies, we too have abrand that demonstrates our value to our managers, colleagues, customers and community.

“Products are made in a factory, but brands are made in the mind”

How does this apply to us? Why does understanding our professional brand essential for professional growth?

In 2008, I was working for a fortune 20 company, earning a great salary, and leading global teams of engineers. I was identified as a top talent and was on the executive track. Externally, I looked accomplished and fulfilled. But, internally, there was something deep down nagging me: I did not feel passionate about my job despite my perceived success. I was always wondering what I could be doing differently. One day, I remember being on back-to-back conference calls, and in the middle of frantically transitioning from one call to the next, I caught myself wondering, “Why am I even doing this job?”  After that moment, I couldn’t stop asking myself that question, but I could never give myself a good answer. After months, I decided to search online and looked for an executive coach to help me update my resume and to guide me through the career transition process.

In the first meeting with my new coach, I was excited to get down to business and hit the ground running with my career transition. Eagerly, I gave her my resume and asked her to update it. She smiled knowingly and responded, “We will do that eventually, but first we need to define your brand.”

“Define my brand?,” I said with confusion. “What does that mean?”

Then she started asking me a list of questions:

  • What words do people use to describe you?
  • What do you bring to work that others do not have?
  • How do you differentiate yourself?
  • What are you known for?
  • How do others perceive you?
  • How do you communicate your brand?

I stared at her nervously not knowing how to answer most of these questions with anything but vague responses and “I don’t knows.” I left our first meeting flush with embarrassment and with a deep pit of sadness in my heart, because for the first time, I felt like I didn’t even know who I was. I couldn’t tell her anything that made me unique and I definitely could not articulate why a company should hire me over someone else—much less someone else who knew their worth and uniqueness. For days, I was in shock and disturbed by my inability to express the basic facts of who I was and the value that I offer.


How I felt during my first meeting with my executive coach is not uncommon, in fact, many people struggle to define themselves, their value and their uniqueness. If you feel that your situation is similar to my story—you have the education and experience, but have not thought about your brand—here are few steps to start to understand yourself and your brand:

1. Complete Personality Assessments

These are great tools to help us understand our strengths, communication styles, the way we think, and how we tend to manage conflict. Once you receive the results, don’t judge them or be critical of yourself. There are no right or wrong answers. Instead, review and highlight the areas that you believe apply to you, and in another color, highlight the words and phrases that do not apply to you. Review with your coach or a friend to discuss deeper. Some of my favorites are: Strengths Finder 2.0Emergenetics, and Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument.

2. Ask Others Around you what they Think your Strengths and Weaknesses are

It is always uncomfortable to ask for feedback; however, it is extremely important to understand what messages you have been projecting to the world about your brand. A tool that I like is called 360 Reach. This is an anonymous survey that you can send to people you choose (co-workers, family, and friends) to ask them questions about your strengths, weaknesses, and their perception of you. Once you receive the final report, look for patterns and consistent messages that people use to describe you. One important thing to keep in mind is to be selective with the individuals to whom you send the 360 survey. The goal is to get input from people that believe in you and want to support your personal and professional growth.

3. Start Consciously Observing Yourself

Take note of your communication style, how you behave, how you introduce yourself, what words you constantly tend to use, etc. Additionally, observe the activities that you enjoy, the kind of skills that you are good at, and the type of projects that ignite excitement in your heart. Discovering your brand is about being mindful and increasing your self-awareness. Keep note of what you observe and reflect on this.

Now, I will ask you the same questions that my coach asked me. Reflect on these questions, and even if you do not know the answers immediately, they will eventually come to you. What matters is to open the door for personal exploration.

  • What words do people use to describe you?
  • What do you bring to work that others do not have?
  • How do you differentiate yourself?
  • What are you known for?
  • How do others perceive you?
  • How do you communicate your brand?

My coach and I worked on the above three steps, and my top strength that kept coming up from my assessments and surveys was that I develop others and coach them to advance in leadership. The area of talent development was very different than what I was working on at that time which explains why I was not happy with my job. By gaining a better understanding of my brand, I gained a clearer view of my strengths and the type of career that aligns with my passion. It is amazing how our brand, our strengths and our passion are all connected.

The process of discovering and developing my own professional brand taught me some important lessons about how to get the process right.  If you are ready to define and elevate yourself as a brand, here are some takeaways that you should being to implement now:

1.     Align Your Brand with Market Demands

It is important that we continue to understand the skills that the market needs, and to continue to align our brands, strengths, and value that we offer to fill these gaps.

2.     Promote Your Brand 

Many women are not comfortable with promoting themselves and worry that they come across as bragging. The challenge is that we end up missing out on opportunities. Demonstrating our value and our uniqueness are definitely not the same as bragging. Bragging is about the ego and showing off, while promoting our brand is about problem-solving, supplying our talents to fulfill a demand, and demonstrating our ability to bring value.

3.     Keep Your Marketing Materials Current

These are things such as our resumes, social media bios, LinkedIn profiles, and websites. These materials are a summary of our brand in words. Many people do not update their marketing materials for years for various reasons. If you are one of these people, an idea for you is to remember to update your information twice a year, and use every day-light savings as a reminder. Block a couple of hours and get your information updated. This way, when an opportunity shows up, you will be ready with a clearly documented brand. 

4.     Protect Your Brand

Our brands are our identities, and it is important to be protective of them. We need to be on-brand all the time and with everything we do - our words, how we present ourselves, our quality of deliverables - everything about us needs to be aligned with our brand. In addition to protecting our physical brand image, the digital brand is just as important. Some of the things that you can do to protect your digital brand include:

o   Google your name periodically and make sure that you are ok with the information that comes up.  Otherwises take action to get any negative information deleted (if possible).

o   Add your name on Google Alerts.  This will notify you via email when your name is being mentioned online.

o   Be careful of what you post on social media. Nothing is private or protected online. Instead, everything is public knowledge. Be selective about the information and the pictures that you post. Also, if someone tags you on a picture that you feel does not align with your brand, then untag yourself.

5.     Continue to Evolve Your Brand 

Just like our interests and goals evolve over time, our brands evolve as well. This is a journey of continuous growth and continuous self-discovery. The foundation to this process is to stay true to ourselves and to stay connected with our authentic self.

It has been a decade since I reached out to my coach and asked her to help me with my resume. The journey of defining and expressing my brand was a life-changing experience. Now, I wake up excited about my work everyday. The clarity that I gained from branding myself and understanding my value and uniqueness fueled me with the desire to work on projects that are aligned with my strengths. It started with volunteering to give leadership training and mentoring anyone that asked me for help. Shortly after, I was offered a Talent Development Manager role within the same company. I loved every moment of it. I loved it so much that a few years later, I decided to resign and start my own company focused on developing leadership skills in others. I take everyone I work with on a journey of brand-discovery, because it is the most powerful, transformative method for professional satisfaction and for tapping into our authentic-self that we bring into business.

It seems like we are not much different than IBM, Coke, Apple, Whole Foods, or Southwest, when it comes to branding after all. Let’s continue to be focused, intentional, and deliberate in discovering, promoting, protecting, and evolving our brand.


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Millennials are different from generations before them: they have different values; they have different work styles; and they have different needs.

The traditional work environment is challenging for Millennials to adjust to and they tend to not perform their best in strict environments. As a result, they leave hoping to find a culture that aligns more with their work style and values, and they repeat this until they find it. 

As I coach Millennials, there are four consistent reasons that come up for why they leave their jobs—none of which deal with compensation—and it’s critical for employers to be aware of these reasons in order to address them:

1.     Not Feeling a Sense of Purpose

Millennials are driven by the desire to make an impact and have a sense of purpose in their work. This poses a challenge for some industries as not all companies’ missions can be to change the world. To address this, companies should communicate internally and externally about how they are positively impacting their industry and community. When millennials see their companies engaging in community service, working on projects focused on improving their communities, or their companies are innovating the industry, they will find that bigger, deeper meaning they are looking for.

2.     The company is not investing in their professional development

Study after study has shown professional development and career growth are extremely important to Millennials. They want to be challenged, developed and mentored and will stay with or leave companies based on their individual growth outlook. In fact, according to Forbes, 89% of millennials said they would stay with the same company for 10 or more years if just two criteria were met: opportunities for upward career mobility and a regular increase in compensation. Employers can address this by establishing a formal mentorship program, investing in career development, and communicating plans for career growth. If millennials feel like they’re being developed and have a clear career path in a company, they will be motivated and stay longer.  

3.     Limited Innovation

Millennials came of age with rapid innovation and new technologies—they love and crave this kind of change and want to work for employers that are challenging the status quo. Millennials feel things need to evolve and want to be part of innovating their company. However, if they’re at a company where leadership isn’t challenging the norm, they become frustrated. Companies can go a long way by listening to its millennial employees with ideas for changes and actually taking action and addressing their ideas. Not only will your employees feel more valued as they’re making a difference, your company will grow and become more completive through innovative, efficient, and progressive thinking.

4.     There is No Work Life Balance

Millennials have spent a large part of their lives dictating their own schedules and doing work on their laptops in coffee shops or in their living rooms. Transitioning from a flexible college work style to a strict 8-5 is an extremely difficult transition many companies aren’t aware of. While Millennials are excited to advance in their careers, they’re not excited about giving up freedom and flexibility, nor do they believe it is necessary. Though many companies can’t have remote working situations, allowing for more flexibility in employees’ schedules is a good first step. By allowing employees to have more control of their schedule and work to live, employers will see better retention.

Millennials are the future of business. They make up 38% of the workforce and will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. We must adapt to their work styles and values instead of forcing them into molds that they can’t fit into. If companies don’t adapt, they will lose talent rapidly and not be competitive in a changing market

Finding meaning in work, mentorship, career development, innovation, work life balance, and flexibility is important for everyone. The only difference is Baby Boomers and Gen Xers have adapted to a strict, traditional work environment, while Millennials are causing disruption and striving for change.

By adapting to new, innovative ways to work and run businesses, we can create more satisfied, happy, loyal and productive employees across generations, and therefore better business results.



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My name is Holly-Anne Palmer!  I'm the Owner of Happy Hour Entertainment and a proud member of MPI Gulf States.  I'm honored to be a part of the Communications and Event Team of MPI this year and am looking forward to a wonderful year of blogging about current members, trends and exciting changes in our industry!  For my first interview I reached out to my dear friend Valerie Grubb, the powerhouse behind Human Resource Consulting and Training Firm, Val Grubb and Associates, author of best selling books including the newly released "Clash of The Generations" and the newly minted President of the New Orleans Film Society.   Check out what she has to say!

H-A – Val, I'm so thrilled to get your feedback for our MPI Gulf States Blog for August! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me! 

VG – My pleasure to have the opportunity!

H-A – For our members that haven’t had the incredible opportunity of meeting you, please give us a little bit of your background.  

VG – I’ve had my own HR Consulting and Training practice, Val Grubb & Associates, for nine years.  Prior to this, I helped to found the Oxygen Channel for Oprah Winfrey, Geraldine Laybourne and Marcy Carsey. It was fantastic fun (in addition to being a lot of work) and when we sold the company to NBC Universal, I took a senior role at the new parent company, but it just wasn’t the same.  I yearned for the freedom that comes with running your own show and thus, I went out on my own, specializing in Human Resources/Operations.  I regularly consult for small to mid-range companies wishing to expand, and larger companies seeking efficiencies in their operations.

Meanwhile, I’m a recent transplant to New Orleans (I moved here in January of 2016 after 18 years in NYC) and a few months after arriving, a dear friend approached me about joining the Board of the New Orleans Film Society.  I immediately said yes and am thrilled to share that I took over as President of the Board July 1st, 2017!  I’m honored to be helming the Society as we enter into our 28th Film Festival this fall!

H-A – Now that you have been in New Orleans for over a year? and have begun to immerse yourself in the event community, what do you find are some of the strengths of the New Orleans event industry versus New York, where you have spent a great deal of time? What makes New Orleans stand out?  And what can be improved upon? 

VG – Oh my goodness! I thought New York was a party town – NYC has nothing on New Orleans!!!! NOTHING!! There is such a love of life in New Orleans that is unlike anywhere else in the world and that joie de vivre shows up everywhere: parties, galas, Mardi Gras and other holidays.  The general frivolity and excitement of events in New Orleans constantly permeates the city. There is a lightness of spirit in NOLA that NYC just doesn’t have and I think that allows for greater FUN here. New Orleans allows you to be who you are - and events can really reflect what matters to a person at their core.  NYC can be about “upping the Joneses” while here it’s about catering to your soul. And NOLA knows soul. That is certainly one thing that makes NOLA stand-out from NYC and the rest of the world to be honest.

Other strengths of the event community here is the Southern Hospitality element.  I thought that was a myth before moving here but people really do care that you have a great time at an event and that you feel well taken care of at every turn.  You’re not a number here – you’re somebody who matters!  As an example, I’m pretty involved with SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management), which hosted its annual conference here in June of this year, and I threw several parties in conjunction with the conference.  One party at the New Orleans School of Cooking was particularly concerning for me as it was for current and future clients.  I cannot even begin to tell you how NOSC  went over-the-top to ensure that my event blew my clients’ socks off! They cared as much as I did and that is unique and very special. That’s simply just not the norm in NYC or a lot of other cities. And I’ve seen that same level of caring in other parties I’ve thrown for the Film Society.

Hmmmmm…improvements. That’s a tough one for me as I’m just so in love with New Orleans right now!  Ha, ha, ha. Can I say parking?  I’ve gotten thousands of dollars’ worth of parking tickets and I drive a Vespa! So better parking would be great! And holy cow FIX THE POTHOLES!!  Oh wait, not sure MPI members can fix that, but ya never know!

H-A – What type of environment do you want to focus on when planning your upcoming NOFS events - for example, VIP Parties, Your Fall Opening Party, Your Spring Gala?  What do you think will make NOFS's events stand out, and why? 

VG – The Film Society parties really span the gamut! The opening night party to kick off the Film Festival (October 11th, 2017) tops out at 1,000 guests and really requires a va-va-voom environment to WOW sponsors, celebrities and guests.  And this is just the beginning, as we host parties every other night during the Festival, including the filmmakers awards ceremony where prizes are given out to the top movie picks.  It’s a really magical (but exhausting!) nine days in October.  Over the coming weeks, I will be excited to share hotels, restaurants and party spaces that we’ve partnered with for our upcoming 28th Film Festival!

Each Spring we hold a fundraising gala that absolutely requires a WOW factor.  We like to have our guests celebrate the achievements of the year and celebrate in fantastic Great Gatsby style.  This is typically one of our top rated events, and I love to see our guests feeling so decadent on this fabulous night out!

H-A – What has been the BEST event that you have attended in New Orleans thus far, and why?  What stood out?  What was memorable?  

VG – Wow this is a Sophie’s Choice moment – how can I pick just one?!?! I hate to say it, but I’m not sure I can pick a single event as I’m still a kid in a candy store while mom and dad wait outside! I’m loving every party I go to and feel I’m still learning and exploring. I must admit though that those parties that stand-out are those that embrace the culture of New Orleans such as including a Second Line, serving local dishes and cocktails, incorporating masks and boas or other Mardi Gras themes, providing entertainment from a brass band or other local favorites. Those small touches can go a long way for tourists hosting events in New Orleans as well as locals who all have a very hefty sense of pride in our community.

H-A – Let's say you're looking to put together a team building event for an HR client after giving a talk about how to better communicate in the workplace.  What would the "after hours" team building event be?  What would the goals of the event be, and how could a planner help you to achieve them? 

VG –  Another event I hosted in June during the SHRM conference is a great example of how a planner is such an asset when planning an event.  I led a workshop on themes from my new book Clash of the Generations: Managing the New Workplace Reality (which deals with how to manage multiple generations in the office).  I needed a space that was conducive to hardcore networking including several activities that required interaction amongst the generations, a working lunch and break-out space that varied in size throughout the day.

My planner started with my goals for the workshop: learning, interaction, flow, intimate yet large enough to move around, multi-purpose, etc.  Then she had me walk through the presentation, focusing on the exercises, and we talked through logistically how we could accomplish everything in the same space.  I was originally thinking of renting one large room with smaller rooms nearby, but she was able to create a lay-out that gave privacy amongst the groups. It was perfect as I could move quickly and easily from group to group (and I figured out it would have been a nightmare if I had to move from room to room). I needed to see when the teams as a whole were done so I could move on (and not lose anyone because they finished so early and got distracted).  Another thing she was very cognizant of is my pet peeve with hearing dishes clanging while someone is speaking.  It sends me over the edge.  My planner made sure that didn’t happen!  In addition to all of this, she helped me plan all my after-hours festivities which built on the themes from the day, while also highlighting the beauty of the city.  It was a marvelous day (and most importantly, I got business out of the event!).

A great event planner educates me on how they can help me achieve my goals. They take the burden of logistics off my back, but they go beyond that to help me create a brand image that makes attendees want to work with me. And THAT is an AMAZING thing and really separates the great planners from the merely good ones.



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On this day, 20 years ago, MPI Gulf States Chapter became official! As an organization, we provide innovative and relevant education, networking opportunities, business exchanges, and act as a prominent voice for the promotion and growth of the meetings industry. We are proud to be 172 members strong and look forward to the next 20 years as the premiere meetings and events organization in the Gulf States.

Join us in celebrating 20 years at 11:00 AM on Friday, January 20, 2017 at Marché for our monthly luncheon and education topic “TRENDS & PREDICTIONS IN THE MEETINGS INDUSTRY”, presented by Michael Dominguez, Chief Sales Officer of MGM Resorts International and a member of the MPI International Board of Directors. 

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