The power of an unapologetic brand: Leslie Knope

I am a performer and entertainer at my core...that's what I tell people when I meet them for the first time. My theater training and background absolutely informs how I consider the world around me (like this fun fact: Did you know anger is a secondary emotion? Google it. It just might change your life!) Because of this influence, I often compare personal branding to good character development in storytelling. It blew my mind when this first occurred to me...a good brand is just a character! Well-developed brands have experiences that are the foundation for their motivations, they have parts of themselves that they want others to see (and parts they don't...), and good brands use stories to explain who they are. Characters are the same way! Writers consider a character's motivations, hopes, goals, preferences, etc. when developing the fictional person you see on your screen. Characters are nothing more than personal brands come-to-life! THIS PUMPS ME UP! I actually think I did a dance when this connected in my head! So, with this premise, I'm excited to bring you a blog series featuring some of our favorite characters of all time and draw your attention to ways they inform personal brand as you work to build your own. I hope you enjoy these, and if you have an idea for a new character, never hestitate to EMAIL ME (I read all of the emails I get - promise!)!

An unapologetic personal brand: Leslie Knope
"I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself." - Leslie Barbara Knope

You all remember when that "describe yourself in three fictional characters" thing was floating around on Instagram? Wasn't that fun? It was fun. The first person I used in my collage was someone I relate to on a deeply personal level, and someone who has become a role model for #girlbosses everywhere. She is, American heroine, Leslie Knope from the NBC television series Parks and Recreation:

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Leslie Knope, according to the solid-as-a-rock source Wikipedia, is described as:

"extremely cheerful, ambitious, hard-working and optimistic. She is firmly committed to the belief that government should provide a service for its people, and regularly goes above and beyond for the benefits of Pawnee's residents"

Isn't that just lovely? Amy Poehler does an incredible job of bringing this powerhouse protagonist to life on the series. Aside from the obvious shared name, I won't go into the many parallels between Ms. Knope and myself, but I will share that my good friend Amanda of NASHchic created this personalized makeup bag for my birthday this year based on a classic Knope moment and I did, in fact, SOB...and this thing goes with me everywhere:

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Here's what I love about Leslie Knope: She never offers an apology for her quirky and insane self. Throughout her escapades in Pawnee, Indiana, this woman leans into those unique qualities that make her the adorable, persistent, nuts, and indomitable, and once you meet Leslie Knope, you will not forget about her. Our personal brands, the things that make us who we are, should do the same for others. Here are three ways Leslie Knope is unapologetic in her relentless adventure through existence:

  • She prepares: One of Leslie's go-to preparation mechanisms is to create binders. Fat, colorful binders (you can even take a Buzzfeed quiz to identify which well-organized binder you are...how cool and totally useful is that....?) She stays up all night and thinks of all scenarios that could play out for the given situation. Then, she shows up prepared and ready. However, some of us may recall the Emergency Response episode in which she scrapped the binder in lieu of a better alternative. This tells me that a solid personal brand shows up ready for situations where the stakes are high, and doesn't apologize for being prepared. There may be moments, however, when preparedness takes a backseat to experience and intuition, and that's ok too.
  • She celebrates important moments: Leslie Knope throws a MEAN birthday party. So mean, in fact, that Ron Swanson (fellow government employee against his better judgement) goes to great lengths to ensure his birthday is kept a secret, for fear Leslie would rent bouncy houses and hire clowns to surprise him on his special day. When she finally discovers his birth date, does she throw an extravagant party? (SPOILER HERE!) No, she doesn't. She gives him a gift that is tailor-made for him. Strong personal brands celebrate the things around them with care and consideration. They take time to see important milestones, and they give them room to breathe. This may be a goal you've reached, or a project you completed. Take the time to reflect and celebrate the little and the big!
  • She does the right thing: I think one of Leslie's strongest character traits that we can apply to our own personal brands is integrity. In the series, Leslie Knope is constantly battling the government/citizen relationship as a member of the Parks department, and eventually, city council member. During that time, we see that injustice is cause for a public forum, dishonesty leads to an honest confession, and sloppy execution is motivation for a better second go-around.  I look at Leslie Knope and see someone who will do the right thing despite any negative outcome (except for TP-ing Greg Pikitis' house but comeon who wouldn't...little twerp). As we build our business and personal brand, are we willing to be unapologetic in our conviction to do what's right?

Leslie Knope exemplifies what it means to be unapologetic in who you are as a person, and its impossible to separate who you are from your various life ventures. So, the question is, when people meet you, are you afraid to be who you are? I hope the answer is "no," but if you nodded in response, maybe you might find a few minutes to think about why. What is causing you to "apologize" for who you are as a person/brand/company? Identifying these hindrances may help you prune out some less-than stellar qualities and build upon the ones that make you unique and special.

Perhaps you find it difficult to succinctly articulate who you are. I'd love to share a tool with you that I created for myself when I went on my 2017 Company Retreat (it was just me. And a piece of cake. And a whiteboard. And it was magical)! Some day I'll share more about that, but for now, you can sign up for my email list to receive this free exercise that helped me narrow down who I am as a person, and how that affects my personal and artistic brands:

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