Jon Michail's Personal Branding Masterclass

How to start building your Personal Branding, with Deborah Halpern

July 29, 2021 Jon Michail Season 1 Episode 2
Jon Michail's Personal Branding Masterclass
How to start building your Personal Branding, with Deborah Halpern
Show Notes Transcript

Join celebrated artist Deborah Halpern and Jon in this chat, where they reflect on their personal branding journeys: how they started, the mistakes they made and the tips on how to do it better!

Do you want Jon's help to elevate your personal brand? Get in touch here:


Let's connect:

Twitter: @jon_michail
Instagram: @imagegroupinternational

Episode's guest: Deborah Halpern – Internationally renowned artist


Podcast Editor and Producer: Ana Carolina Alves 

Additional Voice: Charles The Voice 

Music: Have a Smoke by Crowander (CC BY 4.0)


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Welcome to Jon Michail’s Personal Branding Masterclass. Jon is the founder and CEO of image group international and award-winning image consulting and personal branding pioneer established in 1989. This podcast will bring you old school wisdom, inspiring ideas, strategies and hacks for the new tech world. Here you will learn everything about personal branding: the system, the techniques and the right mindset to have a successful personal brand, image and reputation.

JON: Hello, everybody. Today I will be talking with Deborah helping iconic Australian artists and recent recipients of the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) at the recent Queen's Birthday weekend celebrations. Deborah and I have worked for numerous years, and have done some great stuff together. And Deborah will have the opportunity to share some of the things we've done around personal branding, and also how it's impacted on her work and her career. Deborah, welcome. And more importantly, congratulations on your award, the OAM. Please tell us about your experience. 

DEBORAH: Ah, well, I've got to tell you, it was a huge surprise. You know, when you go through life doing what you do, and my commitment is just to, you know, make the best artwork I can that will contribute to the places and the people that they live with. It's a surprise and a what I'll say an honour. But it's really when you work with people, for people. It's just naturally what you do. So it was really lovely. It's a lovely surprise, and I'm grateful for it. 

JON: That's great. Well, it's always great to be recognized. Right? Okay. Because I mean, how many times? Do we go through life doing some good projects? And at times, we don't get recognized? Yeah, so I think that that's great. And I think, definitely, you deserve it. Because you been a very, very famous Australian artist for a long time, well, over 30 plus years, well, over well over, okay. And, and you know, and sometimes you don't get sort of known unless you sometimes wouldn't award or at least get some media attention. So from that point of view, you know, I've got two here today, really, because I want to sort of exploring your life from the point of your art, but also how it reflects your reputation, you know, your brand, and your image overall too, you know, how the public would see you. Because you were also the creator of the face of Melbourne. And that from a branding point of view, I recall putting Melbourne on the map, you know, so how, how would you like to sort of seeing that potentially come back into vogue, you know, and tell us actually how that happened in the first place? 

DEBORAH: Yeah, well, the face, which is based on the affiliate sculpture down at South Gate, or South Bank, as it's now known, they were developing their whole the whole building there that now is down at Southgate, which was just Riverside. And I don't think anybody visited there. So part of that development was to put up works into the whole project. And the great thing was, was the artists were invited to put some ideas forward. Before during the whole planning stage, so it was even, you know, though, no brick had been laid. And so they were already thinking about where the the artworks would go first in that project. So I made a fee. And initially, I designed her to go up on the top level, which is where I thought would be the main entrance, but they thought down on the river level. And then she was she took on a life of her own. So she was moved out after several years was moved out from close to the building right into the main pedestrian promenade. And, you know, she likes sculptures. They are themselves so people relate to the sculptures, you know, they know the sculptures and they love the sculptures and to see a ruler up against the skyline of Melbourne was really, you know, she was in her element, let's say.

JON: Yes, because, you know, having taken many walks down the promenade there, especially with the family. I've seen so many young, young people, including young kids, with their families, obviously getting photographed there, and then like Instagram, right, so obviously, you know, it's, it's my mark, and you know, it's left a mark from the perspective of its prominence, you know, so I would certainly recommend anyone when they do go for a walk down south gate promenade to check it out, and probably get their own insulin shot as well. And that also now leads us to the concept of personal branding. Right? You know, so from a personal branding point of view, what have you experienced in reference to the power of that for you as an artist? How does personal branding affect you? You know, and what impact has it created for you? By utilizing it as, let's say, as a way of being? 

DEBORAH: Well, I'll tell you one of the things just to go back to a failure, in relation to your question, one of the things I saw and was really interested in, was it when Mojo took a failure and turned her into the face of Melbourne. So they took her from a 3d sculpture into a 2d representation, they then took, they then took pieces out of the sculpture to represent different parts of Melbourne. So this was from branding, I was really interested to see how they could use the I mean, it's sort of obvious when you look at it, but the eyes for things you could look at, and the mouth for things you can eat. And they took, they just took apart the sculpture, and use little parts over to represent different elements of Melbourne. And I just thought that was so clever, I thought they could like to really push that whole imagery that I had provided and then create a whole other level tour. So that made me start thinking about how can my sculptures provide that level of value, but other places where they live? So that's a sort of, it's like branding is I guess, advertising, which is communication? And which is the world that I live in? I live in the world of communication and you know, value. evaluating it sounds a bit weird, but...

JON: Yes, so philia became really the platform for town branding. Or city branding.  In Melbourne, in Melbourne situation.  And you've utilized art and sculpture, to create community branding, you know, for small towns, definitely for school here, again, and other localities around the country. So that's definitely part of one form of branding. But what about you as a personal brand? What about you is the brand and yeah, it's a bit like an Andy Warhol. 

DEBORAH: Oh, well.

JON: Look, when you realize one of his last pieces sold for over $100 million at the New York auction,

DEBORAH: well bring it on, bring it I say, look, the thing is, for myself, one of my bottom lines is to isn't what I make contributes to the planet. Yeah, and contributes to people and contributes to play. So it's not just a thing that gets put in a place it actually enlivens. And just, it just adds, it adds to that place and adds to people's experience of the place. So if that's if my job is to bring something to the planet, and then I am acknowledged for say, a failure becomes a face of Melbourne, or Angel, which stood in front of the National Gallery becomes a well-loved sculpture that people visit, years and years after she's made. Or, you know, it means that I'm getting my job done. It means I'm sort of reading the vibe, or there's like, Guys, I'm reading it correctly. So I'm reflecting back, you know, what's what people need what they want?

JON: So personal branding, then for you, would it be a power of you getting the message out? Am I right in saying that? I mean, personal branding is part of your messaging, right? To get the story out? Because obviously, I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, right? You can do great art. But if the world doesn't find out about it, who cares? 

DEBORAH: No, that's right. That's right, Jon. And these days, it's a sort of like a mixed, it's a mixed bag. In the olden days. In the beginning, a long time ago, the beginning of my career, you know, you'd send out an invitation, a paper invitation in an envelope to the people that you knew, then you'd put an ad in the paper. And that was, you know, like, that was the best you could do or you might get something on the radio, but you know, and then it was word of mouth. So that was fine. And that works. But now we've got just amazing things we've got, you know, the internet, we've got Instagram with everything, there's so much so you have to add one person can't do that themselves. That's it, you know, it's you need to work with somebody who's on top of it all and start to really look at all the different lines of communication that we use in the world and use them. 

JON: Yeah. So we're living in a noisy world. So yeah, to get your messages out there, it's not so easy. And also, you know, you as an established artist, of course, you're very lucky because you've been around a long time, and you've done some great work and you've been acknowledged. But imagine you're a young artist today. What would you recommend to a young artist today, in reference to their career? I think that's a good question. What do you think?

DEBORAH: Well, I suppose I would, I would look at it from how it was when I was younger. When you nobody, you know what, you nobody, nobody knows you. You don't even know who you are. And, you know, I just think about throwing everything out there. You know, I love the idea of post putting up posters, you know, being a bit rowdy gorilla, gorilla artists, putting up posters and going to markets and, you know, finding out what's going on and being in group shows and generating group shows and talking to people about, could we have a showing you up shop window, or, you know, and then telling all your friends so it's, it's just really being lively and alive and engaging. And, you know, because you are the, you're the, you're the boss. In some ways, being at the beginning of your career, you are the boss of whatever's happening. And you just have to go for it. You know, I look at say, somebody like Mina Leunig, who's just, you know, she's out there, you know, and she started, I bought some things from her as a little tiny gallery. And now she's on every wall. She doing murals all over the place, you've really very stone terrific work. So, you know, looking at collaborations, you know, Marimekko. So, you know, great high up the list, but you know, you could collaborate with screen printers or make t-shirts. I mean, there's heaps, you could do heat. 

JON: Yeah. And that's probably a great opportunity now with, you know, coming out on lockdown and 18 months of, obviously, the effect of lockdown from an artist perspective. And if you look at Melbourne right now, maybe that's a great opportunity for artists, we also look at reinvigorating Melbourne. Why are you know, so? And that's, of course, great for their brand. And it's great for the, you know, the Melbourne brand and even for my country brand. So from the point of view of other things in reference to getting your name out there. And you're obviously very well known. So, you know, from an experience point , you've caught that, what otherwise, would you recommend and getting your brand out there, especially if you're not so well known like you are?

DEBORAH: I think communication is the key. I think you had to talk to people, I think you have to, it's, it doesn't matter where you are in your career, you've got to throw it out there. You know, I remember, I went to a performance, where everybody got to sing their own opera down at the edge of Federation Square. And I went there with my mom, and Victorian opera was running it currently get the name of the guy. Anyway, so I thought I would love to do some set design with Victoria.  So in the break, I went and approach them. And I said, Would you be interested anyway? took what I took one a two years later, got a call? Would you like to work with the youth department? And it was just, you know, there could have been a yes or no or go away or a comeback. So it's just being you got to be audacious. It's not put anything's personal. People are either going to say yes or no. But as creative people what we do have our ideas, and the world is all about ideas. 

JON: So that's a great point. You make, obviously a bit of Hotspur along the way. . Helps. So from the point of view of again, knocking on that door to open opportunities, what you're also mentioning, and that that's so important in today's world is resilience. Yeah, you know, and if they say no to you just knock on the door again. . Because no doesn't mean no, right? No, just means no, for now. You know, so that's, that's great. And especially, for a younger audience. This is so important, because mental health, exhilarating, you know, and the problems associated with that. Obviously, learning how to knock on doors and not taking no for no is an important part of your ongoing survival. You know, other than daily survival, but also from a career point of view. 

DEBORAH: Yeah, and as we've said, You and I've discussed this before is that with COVID, a lot of things have shut down, people are laying low, keeping it, keeping everything down, stop doing things. But we need to as human beings, open it up again. Yeah, you know, open it up. I mean, you could do, you know, projections on walls or buildings that don't take anybody touching anybody else, or breathing on anybody else.

JON: So what? So what I hear you say is that really you can't stop creating? 

DEBORAH: I mean, you won't, but you can. And the thing is, you know, you can easily create negative stuff, so let's not go there. Let's just create our possibility of possibility. 

JON: Beautiful possibility. Yeah, you know, so, you know, all our listeners can go online and see the great work, Deborah's done from a visual perspective, because this is it's some beautiful work, colourful, enlivening, you know, good spirit from a humanity perspective. So that's why, you know, when she says, Let's not go to the dark side, she's talking about Yeah, because her work is all about the light. Are so other aspects in you getting your name out there? From a branding point of view? We've mentioned social media, obviously, your prominent social media. What other areas do you think, have made a difference? I mean, could be books, right? Okay. Could be podcasts like we're doing today? What are the areas you think would be valuable or have been valuable for you in the past?

DEBORAH: I think it gets it goes back to just being audacious and being an adult talking to people. So say I have a connection with the central goldfields the Shire and the city of Mary Barra. And I'm only seeing possibility, I had an exhibition in the gallery there. And I noticed that they didn't have any windows onto the street. So I just said, I, you need some glass doors, that piece of people could see what's in here. And even though I was committed to it, you know, my life, I wasn't going to turn my life around to have that happen. However, that conversation landed in a way that they really saw that it would make a difference to that gallery for his door. So now this year, the doors are being glassed doors have been put in. That was just because I said it. I said it. And people heard it, and it resonated with them. So yeah, so that was an authentic conversation. Always Well, you can only have, well, of course, you can't. But it is to be authentically engaged and involved and, and committed to contributing something to a place. So you know, central Gulf, your child, lots of possibilities there. 

JON: And that's what we're talking about. Because you know, the work we talk about Indu is about authenticity. Yeah. And you know, sometimes when people hear personal branding or image, they think of the opposite of that. And so what we're saying is personal branding is not spin. It's about really communicating to the world who you truly are. Yeah, including some of the, you know, the light and the dark, because that's who you are as a human being, as opposed to just, you know, making it all pretty and polished and so on. That's not what we're talking about here. Because as human beings, we're not that no, you know, I'm trying to create that is like, so fake. Right. Would you agree with that? 

DEBORAH: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. 

JON: So that some of your feedback regarding how have you built your personal brand has been great. Probably what I want to mention also is, is also networks, and how to build networks. Obviously, my experience having worked with artists and other professionals out there, the networks play a big part here, right, because who, you know, matters. And historically, of course, the app will depend on benefactors. They depend on sponsors. They depend on supporters. Yeah. So how powerful do you think that is, in the whole relationship, to leverage your personal brand, and get even greater known in the community? 

DEBORAH: Well, it's huge. It's, it's pivotal. So when I was a young artist, the people who bought my work as a young person, yeah, I was so grateful. I thought, oh, they're supporting me. That's fantastic. And it was, and those people, so I've had relationships with those people, and they continue on or they have children and they have friends and they have grandchildren. So now those people at this stage of my life, that's a much larger community. And, you know, yes, so that's, that's it's huge. So developing, not developing but nurturing those relationships. That's really crucial. 

JON: That's essential, right? Yeah. So what we're talking about here is you can have Facebook Connect members, but that doesn't mean you have a real connection. . So the real Connections is what really matters here. So to have real connections takes a bit of effort, right? I'm sure you've worked really hard in building authentic connections with people over a long period of time. Do you think that's important today, in a world where, you know, people think a Facebook, you know, connect D is really a real relationship, as opposed to what we're talking about is connections that are real relationships? 

DEBORAH: Yes, I think you need to keep in touch with people. I mean, they are these are real people, real people who are really on your side, and supporting you, and encouraging you like loving what you do, because it contributes to their lives, as much as it contributes to mine. So yeah, definitely, yes. 

JON: So what I want to say to the audience is we're living in times where we think technology is really an authentic connection. And they not unless you make them, so. But the problem is, if you got 1000s of connections on Facebook, you cannot have those as real connections and real life, because to have real-life connections like my grandmother used to say, normally is, on one hand, you know, so so what I would be advising regarding that is really identifying connections that you truly want to be connected to. And I'm not talking about from a mass marketing point of view, I'm talking about real relationships, including clients that you can build relationships with over time, and then put your focus on them, as opposed to trying to get maximum and maximum can neck days, right. And then you get caught up with the vanity of likes and comments that really, you know, what I've discovered recently if your bank manager doesn't care about, okay, you know, so the authenticity of relationships is the key. Would you agree with that? 


JON: And I think I think we've all sort of experience that. I mean, we all know the real relationships in our lives, in our lives. And then we know, of course, the superficial relationships. And I think a lot of social media that I actually utilize as part of our personal branding model that we use, but at the same time, you got to be really careful, because you can get caught up in a world that really does not give you a return on investment. And I'm not talking about just money here, I'm talking about your, your spirit and your soul. So from the perspective of your personal brand and mistakes you've made along the way. Can you think of any? 

DEBORAH: Yeah, well, I mean, what comes to mind is things like when I, I might have put forward an idea for a competition or an exhibition, and I'm not accepted, you know, and I might well stop you. And then I float away as if people should behave differently. And then I will remove myself from the conversation for possibly several years, not realizing it's nothing to do with anything. It's just what's happening at the moment. So you remove yourself from a game that you would love to play? Because you take it all, personally, and what do you just have to get back in? put forward another excellent idea? And see how it goes? Because, you know, nobody's taking anything? Stop personal? No, just what's happening at that moment? 

JON: Yeah, what I hear you say that is we all have egos. And over time, we all get affected by our egos. And what I hate, it clearly says, You got to learn how to manage your ego. Yeah. Well, I mean, I'm happy to share some of my mistakes very clearly. And some of my mistakes, you know, I remember selling an idea in the site to the media, you know, and I thought it was the greatest idea on the planet. And I remember the person, he just didn't get it. And the more I tried to get the idea across, the more he put walls up, and what I discovered from that was, it was my communication. It was the way I presented it. And I wasn't presenting it into his world. I was presenting it from my world, you know, so of course, over time, and you know, and I want to work on myself, because, you know, part of the work I do is always about working on yourself as well. Otherwise, how do you get ever to be authentic? It did not work at that time, but I really pitched it though, to make you know, I lost into a when I read pitch that two years later, and it was like I was talking to a different guy. You know, I don't know if he changed if I changed. I don't know what happened there. But, but we got a win from that. So yeah, I mean, you make personal branding mistakes all the time, including, you know, simple stuff like for instance, you know, we have clients... how they dress. Right? Why is that important? Because it's part of your packaging, you know, and human beings, we think we are so, so real, but at times, we're so, so inauthentic and so superficial, you know, I get that, you know, I get that part of air conditioning, is that right? You know, so we make mistakes. But the important thing here is to own up to the mistakes and just say, all right, I made a mistake. I'm gonna try again, a bit like what you said before the resilience element. Never give up, and just have a go. 

DEBORAH: Yeah. And there's something else that comes up for me, which is happened when I had the first opportunity with the angel sculpture with the National Gallery was that I spoke to a few people, business people before I began that project because it was so enormous, I didn't have I didn't even know how to get into it. And they taught these were business people. And they said, if you're talking to somebody asking them for materials to give you materials or give you funds, you need to get into their world and find out what's in it for them. We know that you want some concrete, steel, or some funds, we know what you want. But what would that what would be in it for them? So they want you to know, they would be interested in advertising, they would be interested in acknowledgement. So what's in it for them from their perspective? So that was really interesting. And it made my job as somebody never have asked for anything, to go and approach people business people who I didn't know, and, and just have a conversation about what do they need? And what can I offer them? So that was, you know, similar to your project? 

JON: So that's operating from a winding approach, right? It's not like a tape, right? You know, if we handled all relationships like that, we'll all be probably better for it. Yeah. So what we'll do now that we're here on mine, is we'll talk about some of the work we've done together. Okay, especially the last few years. So I'd love to come from the horse's mouth if I can use that term. What's your experience regarding this work, our conversations together, coaching, mentoring, etc? How has that helped from a personal branding point of view? 

DEBORAH: So when we first met each other, you know, I came really just wondering, what else could be created by working with another person, somebody who has different perspectives? in the world in the world of branding? And I didn't really know what branding was, but I was interested to find out. And, of course, I will, that conversations were quite, you know, I was a bit, what's the word resistance? Well, you might not have noticed, but your ideas were really about just expanding the world and thinking from different perspectives, and, and I'm like, oh, man, I've been in this world for a long time, and I'm quite successful. And, you know, gosh, why do I need to push into this, all these other worlds, but then when I calmed myself down and started to listen and think about what it could make available, not just for being in my world, because the truth is, as you know, is a really big idea I still do. And being at the stage of my life, when I, I really want to see these come to fruition, and I couldn't see how I was going to get them done myself. So conversations with you. And looking from together throwing ideas around was really valuable. And, you know, we didn't have to agree on everything. But there will there were more things that we had that were valuable and full of possibility and excitement and communication beyond where I've been thinking. So, you know, that's our conversations and our relationship over the last few years has been hugely valuable. 

JON: Well, thank you for that. And, and that's the thing, you know, people think that going through relationships where they have to agree with everything. And I don't think magic happens like that. The Magic you know, the alchemy happens when you get to opposites, right and go, right. So I think you know, and that's important for our listeners, also, if they're working with anybody, just to know that sometimes you're not going to agree with everything. You know, sometimes you don't agree with your partner, you don't agree with your family. And of course, when you look in the mirror, you probably don't even agree with yourself. So of course in a relationship, you're going to have a bit of an RG bhaji. But I think if the spirit is intentional for good miracles to happen, I honestly believe that. And I think that's, that's really one of the keys for, at least for me and probably resonates with you as well.

JON: We're close to the end of the show. I hope you've liked this episode. If you've had a specific question about personal branding, please email me and we can discuss it. The email is on the episodes description. I want to thank Deborah again for being here. It's been a pleasure having you here. It was great to have this chat with you, my friend.  And I look forward to our listeners learning more about Deborah. And basically how they can do that is going to check out the beautiful artwork that's been created, especially some of the iconic Melbourne sculptures. And yeah, and please email us, give us your feedback. We're open to every conversation that's possible. You can also find me on social media. You can follow me on Twitter, john, underline Michail, on LinkedIn is john Michail and on the Facebook group as Image Group International. All this information will be on the episodes description at the end. Also, remember to subscribe to the podcast on a platform that you're listening to. So every time we have a new episode, you'll be notified. If you liked this episode, please share it with your colleagues and friends. This will help us to increase our community. Thank you all and I look forward to chatting again next week. Have a great week. Cheerio.