Cheryl Cole’s 8 creativity and career lessons for brand ‘You’

The unwanted headline

The recent sacking of ‘X Factor’ judge Cheryl Cole has valuable lessons for your creativity – and your career.

Whether it is a job or an idea, the innovative and creative manager has to learn to deal with setbacks, obstacles and people saying ‘No’.

Here are 8 tips you need to take on board from Cheryl’s experience.

 1.      What exactly is your Brand?

All of us are ‘brands’. You don’t have a choice to be a brand or not: you have a choice of how to manage your brand.

What are the things other people know you by? (How are you described when you are not in the room?) Is you brand in accordance with your mission in life and what you want to achieve in your next steps?

Was the American X Factor actually the right move for Cheryl’s brand?

2. Do you have a relevant ‘Brand Story’?

When you move onto a new challenge is your ‘Brand Story’ appropriate for your new context?

Evidently, the American audience had either difficulty understanding Cheryl’s accent, or were bewildered by it; one studio focus group apparently were confused why she didn’t sound like Kate Middleton!

Cheryl’s brand story consisted of: ‘a television celebrity who is a Geordie singer, who overcame the odds and a deprived background to be a star.’

With this brand story to a UK audience she had rapport, shared emotional experience, and was giving back to her world by being an inspiring role model.

She just had to open her mouth and her Brand Story was validated.

In the United States, where they probably think a Geordie is a dyslexic person called ‘George’, they would not pick up any of the informal cues and signals to Cheryl’s back story.

Does your brand story, and its back story, fit with where you want to go?

3. Ensure your brand is defined by your successes – not your failures

Crucial parts of your brand architecture are your Icons – the pictures in people’s heads when your name is mentioned.

The challenge for Cheryl – and anyone else who has suffered a setback – is that you can be defined by the failure: ‘Isn’t Cheryl Cole the lady who was sacked by the American X Factor?’

Your strategy here is to ensure your previous ‘Icons of Success’ are amplified as much as possible and create new icons from your future prophecy: what new things are you planning to do, which you can plant as memorable seeds of Icons in people’s minds?

4. Use your networks

Cheryl Cole evidently landed the role in the American ‘X Factor’ thanks to her links with Simon Cowell. She now needs to go back to her networks and encourage them to help her future.

Key advice I give people when they want to re-build their career is to get in touch with every one – no matter how remote the connection, to alert them of your new situation and what opportunities you may be looking for.

Who are the Simon Cowells of your network?

5. What new skills and learning do you need?

One apparent reason for Cheryl’s sacking was she did not take elocution lessons to ensure the American audience would understand her.

What new skills do you need to acquire? How have the world, and your world, moved on? What do you need to do to acclimatise or be successful in any new transitions?

6. Go back to basics – your core skill, your Brand Essence

When someone has said ‘No’ to you, rather than define your future by their rejection, what are your core skills, talents and brand qualities that you got you where you are?

What is your Brand Essence – where only you can offer…? What ways can you return to basics and re-charge your batteries, focus your energies, and re-fuel your rocket to go forward?

7. Your Adversity Quotient – your bounce-back-ability

A fundamental characteristic of innovative and creative people is the ability to bounce back after a setback. I call this your ‘Adversity Quotient’.

Informally mentoring a friend recently, who was facing her own ‘Cheryl Cole moment’, I suggested that the mark of a champion is how they too get knocked down, suffer defeat: but their quality is in picking themselves up again. 

8. Get a relevant role model

The advice I gave my friend was to find a suitable role model. I thought she needed someone like the boxer ‘Rocky’ to describe her recent story and provide her with a script going forward. Boxing however, didn’t inspire her. 

Knowing her interest in horses, I suggested she should explore for an equine role model. She responded with a Grand National winning horse: in order to face the challenges in her life she needed to be like ‘Red Rum’, capable of overcoming setbacks, proving their critics – along with the so-called experts wrong, and going on to greater achievements.

I wonder if Cheryl is inspired by horses? If not, there is sure to be a suitable alternative role model for her – and also for you.

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