By Sigurd Neubauer
If you’re looking to bring out the best version of yourself, fear not! Bestselling author Aliza Licht has written a must-read book on how to excel at the office – wherever you may be in your career. The premise of her second book, On Brand: Shape Your Narrative. Share Your Vision. Shift Their Perception is as straightforward as it is an easy and enjoyable read. It is all about: what do you want to be known for?
Licht knows a lot about both professional and personal branding. In 2009, for instance, she created and was the voice of the anonymous social media phenomenon DKNY PR GIRL. The Twitter account had over 1.5M fans worldwide and generated over 230M media impressions. She has over the past two-decades transformed herself – and her brand, of course, – into one of America’s preeminent branding experts.
Following the 2015 publication of her first book, Leave Your Mark, Licht was recognized as one of ‘America’s Next Top Mentors’ by The New York Times and Business Insider’s ‘Top 20 Most Innovative Career Coaches.’ Licht is also a podcast host who has garnered over 1 million downloads to date.
In short, it is safe to brand Licht nothing short of a ‘branding guru.’
In On Brand, Licht also addresses how to tackle psychological traps such as fearing the “imposter syndrome,” which is when the best of us second guess ourselves and the value that we bring to the workplace.
At a time of rapid social change in the United States – where traditional norms are often turned upside-down within a short period of time – what constitutes normal, let alone professional behavior at work, may be very confusing, to say the least. In one of her most poignant recommendations, Licht warns against what seems to have become fashionable as of late: bringing your whole self to work.
Licht is the creator and was the voice of the anonymous social media phenomenon DKNY PR GIRL. The Twitter account had over 1.5M fans worldwide, and generated over 230M media impressions
She writes: “’Bringing your whole self to work’ is a trendy recommendation by workplace experts (who usually don’t actually work in the offices, by the way), the truth is that not everyone should bring their whole self to work.” To drive home her point, she cites WeWork founder Adam Neumann – who became extraordinarily successful before eventually facing public disgrace – as he built what Licht describes as “a cult-like environment” at WeWork.
“Neumann’s bizarre antics included everything from walking around barefoot everywhere…to jumping on tables to scream at people when things didn’t go his way.” He didn’t last at WeWork.
Another useful recommendation provided, which should be common-sense but, in a climate, driven by social media influencers where perceived ‘internet fame’ is linked to wealth and opportunity, Licht advises against making one’s personal brand a company liability. Here, the author is referring to the-one-and-only Elon Musk who is, of course, one of America’s most prominent business leaders and formerly the world’s richest person. On Brand, we should point out, was published before Musk acquired Twitter for a staggering $44 billion, which is now known as X. Musk has more than 158 million followers on X. Since taking over the technology company, the entrepreneur extraordinaire has found a way to dominate the news cycle as he appears to have ‘permanently’ interjected himself into America’s never ending ‘Culture Wars.’
“Musk pushes the boundaries of what’s considered safe for a CEO to say. At SpaceX, several staffers wrote an open letter criticizing Musk and making several demands including: ‘SpaceX must swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand.’ Those employees were investigated and fired,” Licht points out, then quips: “No matter your level, everything you do can affect your company standing.”
Another premise of Licht’s book is how to establish positive, meaningful, and lasting relationships, including with peers and prospective clients and collaborators. Throughout her book, the author provides various exercises on how one can rebrand, including on how to telegraph personal success stories with the ultimate goal of leveraging them strategically.
Licht also provides invaluable insight into everything from how to negotiate a better salary, a contract, or increase one’s social media following – without of course –getting canceled.
But one of the wonderful aspects of reading On Brand is that throughout it, one can get a sense of Licht’s personality, her personal strength, and professional rigor. She does not take kindly, for instance, to what has become an all-to-familiar pattern in American life: the-tear-down-culture.
In Licht’s On Brand, she refers to them as: “Zero F**ks Given People,” or ZFGP. She writes: “ZFGP have decided that public opinion matters less than staying true to who they are and how they want to be heard. They have a laser focus on who they market to, and essentially block out all other noise.”
Joining this select group of people – and there are many of them on social media as any participant in American life can attest to – comes with severe reputational risks. Some of them are, Licht argues “not immune to the collective memory of the internet. Your words will always come back to haunt you…Being a ZFGP makes you a liability to brands and may cause you to lose deals or worse, like being added to a ‘do not partner with’ list of people.”
On the upside, one of Licht’s foremost recommendations for those seeking to extend one’s network is to launch a professional podcast. Because Licht is a process-oriented person, she lists every step it takes to launch one. A podcast enables the ambitious to network across industries by interviewing targeted individuals for it. Most people, she deftly points out, like to be interviewed and talk about themselves. She also encourages being open to new connections while offering to help them – as opposed to arriving with an immediate ask – to help build authentic and lasting relationships. An old mantra is: the more one gives, the more one gets.
Musk pushes the boundaries of what’s considered safe for a CEO to say: Licht
“The more people you connect with and help in their endeavors, the more your name will pop up in peoples’ minds.” This, over time, enables one to earn ‘social capital,’ which Licht describes, as “the direct result of the personal brand you have built.” One cannot, of course, buy social capital. On how it is built, Licht writes: “You build social capital by delivering on your promise time and again, showing your network that you are reliable.” Should your social capital “go up in smoke,” Licht has recommendations for how to tackle it, which is another example of how her book is a must read.
Because Licht’s book is all about personal empowerment in the pursuit of professional growth and excellence – which are required for success – a good place to end our review is by citing another mantra: “If you’re in the room, you belong there.” Once you’re there, Licht recommends: “Instead of focusing on how you got there, focus on what you can do now that you are there. What contributions can you make? What impressions can you leave?”
On Brand: Shape Your Narrative. Share Your Vision. Shift Their Perception (Union Square & Co., 2023. 304 pages.)
Licht encourages being open to new connections while offering to help them with building authentic and lasting relationships