Category Archives: Personal Branding

My resume cloud

Just for fun and visual cognition, I made a Wordle Cloud from my résumé.

Screen shot 2009-10-29 at 10.15.17 AM

I think a lot of hiring managers would benefit a lot by running résumé through a word cloud so see the major words and concepts show up quickly. Maybe some already do.

What does your résumé word cloud say about you? Would it get you hired?

Image above generated by Click through to make your own.

Happy pigeons

pigeonhole_choicesI sometimes think the happiest people are those who have found a pigeon hole for themselves, something that specifically and entirely defines them.

I am not one of these happy pigeons.

Staring at life from the other side of 45, I can not give you a succinct definition of who I am, what my company does, what my hobbies and interest are or what I do for a living. I also can not tell you truthfully where I see myself in five years or what my retirement plan is, though this has possibilities.

I am not in a pigeon hole, partly because resisting that pigeon hole allows me to have varied interests, to do things outside of what people expect me to do and remain flexible enough to accommodate and affect change.

But, this resistance to being pigeon-holed comes at a very steep price. My blog is hard to keep on focus, my résumé does not sort neatly by sorting software, speaker introductions are always being re-written to remove irrelevant material, warranty cards are tough to complete and on and on. The world has not yet labeled a pigeon hole “Gerard McLean” as the target population of pigeons is negligible. Ok, only one.

Simple questions like “So, Mr. McLean, what do you do for a living?” at a party becomes a very difficult question to answer truthfully without becoming a bore. I sometimes make up stuff like, “I launder money for Columbian drug lords” or “I’m a licensed bum,” both of which stop a conversation cold, causing the conversation-initiator to look uncomfortably for the soonest break to get away. In the event it actually does start a conversation, it becomes a lively one that could lead anywhere, but mostly truthfully about who I am and what I do. And most of the time, it is with someone else who is also not a happy pigeon.

Simply put, from the outside looking in, my life appears to have no focus. I am not a teacher, doctor, plumber or construction worker. I don’t have a sound bite occupation like “Joe the Plumber” as I am simply “Gerard the… ummm.. well..” though I do frequently hear people refer to me as “that guy who walks those two dogs every day.”

The fact that I am not in a pigeon hole hits me every time I sign up for a newsletter or Digg an article. The industry choices are not quite what I do. The Digg topics* are never quite the topic of the blog entry. Yet, I sense that there are a lot of folks for whom the topics and titles work perfectly. They are the happy pigeons.

Why am I sharing this? I dunno. Partly because I find a ton of irony in being in an industry that purports to support the randomness of varied interests, yet constantly asks you to define yourself through the values of a drop-down menu. Partly because I needed an excuse to write off-topic. Partly because I needed to justify changing my tag line above. Mostly because I needed an entertaining, interesting and authentic article for this blog.

I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I enjoyed driving.


*My choices for this? Offbeat, animals (pigeons and dogs), lifestyle… see what I mean? It just doesn’t fit.

Branding is getting out of hand

I think many folks may have overcomplicated the purpose of branding.

Here is a way of looking at branding: The purpose of a pencil is to make marks. Now, that pencil, in the hands of a skilled artist can create a masterpiece that sells for millions. Or, in the hands of a store clerk, nothing more valuable than a list of SKUs to stock a shelf, to be tossed away thoughtlessly. But, the basic function of a pencil is still to make marks, regardless of what it has the potential to create.

The basic function of branding is to create need that makes a sale. Nothing greater. How it is done in the hands of a skilled marketer is either going to create a masterpiece (Jaquar,, Obama) or a dud (@aplusk, AIG, New Coke, David Beckham)

Products are not just “things” but thoughts, ideas, processes, empathy, people, action, presidential elections, etc. And, just like a pencil, you may need to make a million separate marks, each in a different shade of gray, to create a masterpiece that moves people to “buy” what you are selling.

Branding exists for employees, community, policy makers, etc. to enable the entity to sell stuff to a benevolent crowd. That is the only goal. Study Walmart in more detail and watch how they “brand” to a community they wish to become “partners” with. Watch how they treat that same community when sales don’t rise to expectations. Walmart is not an anomaly.

Branding, at its core function, is nothing more than convincing someone to do something. I think this new round of social media might just be creating a lot of activity that suggests purpose. I think we need to start examining the basics and understand why we do what we do.


Written in response to Shannon Paul’s Very Official Blog post on humanizing brands. now featured in

Looks like I made the big time. Posted as a news release at my employer’s web site.

Gerard McLean, President/CEO of Rivershark, Inc. can now officially claim he “kicks ass” as his blog, has been included in the Egos section of the popular magazine-style web site The RSS feed for McLean’s blog can be found at Additionally, you can see what other blogs McLean read by visiting his MyAlltop page at

“It’s like being invited to the ‘cool kids’ table in the lunch room even if it is at the end of the table,” McLean jokes. “I’ve been writing content on the Internet long before it was known as ‘blogging.’ If my writing helps people make better decisions about something, that’s great. helps me potentially help more people.”

McLean’s blog contains a mix of thought leadership on topics such as branding, social media use in trade associations, marketing and an occasional rant on issues he is passionate about.

“I care about issues that leave this planet a better place than I found it,” says McLean. McLean also edits the popular as his alter-ego dog which appears on under Pets.

Rivershark, Inc. is a closely-held Ohio Corporation dedicated to cultivating and building brands that take advantage of technology and satisfy a need for human whimsy. It was formed in 1995 and is headquartered in Englewood, Ohio, with offices in Brooklyn NY, Minneapolis MN and Aalborg Denmark. The web address is


The paradox of personal branding

This week, I had a need to print a limited run of personalized white papers in color. I called my printer with whom I had been doing business for 20+ years. He was no longer there and the new sales rep didn’t know why he left, where he was or even if he was in the printing business. (I think he was down-sized)

I would try calling him at home, but I guess that would make me as creepy as Melvin Udall in As Good As it Gets (1997, Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear)

Here is the rub. John (not his real name) knew me. He knew what kind of paper I wanted when I said “corporate-y.” He understood that if there was a typo in the copy I didn’t catch, he could correct it and it was ok to do. He also knew that I never signed off on proofs and that if it was my fault, I would pay for another run. He knew what I meant when I said RED-red, deep blue and very rich black. He knew to offer alternative, out-of-the-box suggestions when I was struggling with a “need it to look cool but I have no budget” problem. He knew that I would take care of all pre-press issues and what I gave him would image perfectly. He would shave off the cost of this piece here and add it to another piece down the road when I did have budget. He was, in any definition of the word, personally-branded as the company to me.

And now he is gone. And probably out of the printing business as any smart man would be.

And now, I am looking for another printer because while he was only right around the corner when we did our first piece of business, he is now 35 miles away. And I willingly drove those 35 miles because of him, but I won’t do it any more for his replacement. She just quoted me and asked for the paper weight, brand and Pantone® colors — like I was just another number.

It is the same amount of work to do business with a new printer who is closer to me, but will require less driving time. And I will probably go through a few before I find another John.

As a small business owner, my personal brand is my company. But, for John’s printing company, his personal brand cost the company a client. I have no particular loyalty to the “company” and if I knew where John was working, I would take my business there.

Yet, the paradox appears to be that to gain a customer’s trust, you should be working toward building a personal brand, even as you work for a large corporation. However, the strength of that personal brand will most likely cost the employer a client when you leave. Brands can’t NOT allow this, nor can they really allow it.

It’s a pickle but one the market will ultimately solve. I’m just glad I have box seats.