Costumes, Characters and Fun: Halloween Personal Branding Lessons

Americans will spend an estimated $6.9 billion on Halloween in 2015, with $74 being the average amount spent per household on spooky decorations, candy, costumes and more for All Hallows Eve. There are the enthusiasts who take time to plan and are willing to spend more of their hard-earned money on props and over-the-top costumes, while the procrastinators are forced to pick over whatever is left at the pop-up party stores.

When thinking about Halloween you need to be creative, whether your costumed as a ghoul or beautiful princess, you want to attract attention. To have fun at a Halloween party and create a buzz you can’t just walk into a party with a hat on your head saying that you are some character- you need to put in time, thought and effort into your Halloween ‘look ‘ in order to stand out.  Sound familiar? These are the same strategies that apply when you want to grow and build your personal brand.

halloween-kidsHere are tips and strategies that you can use when crafting your Halloween costume that also apply to your own personal branding efforts:

  1. Planning – is necessary if you want to wear a really great costume on Halloween – a store bought costume is OK, but the best costume for you will result from your imagination, time and effort.  This is true as well when creating a really great Brand; it requires imagination along with time and effort. Your objective is to get the attention of your audience and to enhance brand recognition.
  2. Attract attention – a quality costume is one that stands out from the crowd and turns heads. How many scary clowns, zombies and generic vampires have you seen at a party or trick or treating? An attention getting costume will bring greater rewards and help to build relationships.
  3. Be creative – think about your costume; do you want to be one of the 20 pirates at a party?  Let your imagination shine and think about how you can express yourself.  Create your own costume or embellish one bought from the store.  Different is always better, the same goes with your personal branding.  Focus on your differentiators whenever possible.
  4. Be memorable and different – I have seen many memorable costumes over the years. By far the most memorable one was one I saw on my way to a Halloween party on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the late 90’s.  While on our way to the party, we saw a man in costume turn a corner about a half block away from us. He was dressed in a huge Transformers costume made out of painted cardboard boxes that looked completely authentic, as realistic and detailed as the CGI beings from the Michael Bay films. The back of the costume had fins, didn’t look very comfortable, and the guy inside might have had lifts on.  It was painted and decorated perfectly, down to the smallest details. Even more surprising, there were about 20 people following him with cameras; an Autobot Pied Piper. It was a rolling event the closer he got to us. Suddenly he approached and everyone waiting to get into the party (30 or 40 people) started to applaud for what seemed like minutes. This is the classic example of creating a buzz and being remarkable.  This guy did something so unique and special and almost so perfect he attracted amazing attention.  Long before social media, people “followed” him – he created his own parade and people applauded him (“Liking” him) and commented in the street about how awesome he was. Cheers and shouts, applause and whistles fill the street.  It was a memorable happening.  It shows that with planning, creativity, commitment and a great idea amazing attention can be garnered.
  5. Be committed – Go all in with your costume; if you are going to do it, do it right and go all the way – here’s a modern day example of my story above about a costume that took 1,600 man-hours to build.
  6. Be clear – Ever see somebody in a costume but you don’t know what they are trying to be?  Be clear in what you do when you brand yourself.  You should never get the question “What do you do?” after somebody has read your blog, follows you online, has seen you speak or watched you in a video. They should know exactly what you do, why you do it and what you’re passionate about.
  7. Have fun and act the part. Part of dressing up for Halloween is the freedom to be something different and play a role. Understand your characters, do some research, know some facts and have some fun. Live the character for the day or for the party and this interaction will allow you to have more fun; allow those you are with to enjoy your personality. Your career should be fun, embrace your brand and live it with passion.
  8. Be appropriate – Have the right costume for the right event. If the party is for adults you know how to dress; if it is a kiddie party you will not want to be too grotesque or too sexy. The same is true for networking and when you’re in the business world. Dress appropriately for all occasions. Use your look to your advantage and make it part of your brand. I have discussed this in other blogs but take the time to think about your look and how it helps you to convey who you are, what you do and why people should work with you and trust you. Inappropriate activities such as hard selling or getting involved in controversial issues will drive people away vs attracting people with whom you want to work.
Group of children dressed up in costumes for Halloween

A Ggoup of children dressed up in costumes for Halloween

Halloween is a great season and one that allows for us to be creative and have fun. Growing your brand must be fun and you must be creative.  Have a plan for your brand and examine all of the factors that play a part in who you are, what you do, why you do it and why others should trust and work with you.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 



Scary Trade Show Marketing Mistakes

Trade Show FloorIt’s the week before Halloween, stores are full of merchandise, homes are decorated and kids are getting ready to trick or treat. Recently, I participated in a local business to business trade show – Trade Nassau in Farmingdale, NY, where over 1,000 people attended and over 100 businesses exhibited their products and services. Shows like this are where businesses and businesspeople introduce themselves to prospects and contacts. Participating in this show got me thinking about the mistakes business owners and entrepreneurs make when they decide to take part in this kind of an event. Thankfully, most of the exhibitors at Trade Nassau did a solid job marketing. However, there is always room for improvement.

Throughout the year businesspeople spend significant amounts of funds and resources on trade shows. From attendee reservations, exhibit space, displays and marketing materials as well as promotional giveaways, they want to have a presence. The concept behind shows is to make a good impression and attract people to your brand. Efforts should get those passing by to engage with you and enter your exhibit space.

The four biggest mistakes that small and medium size businesses’ make at trade shows are the following:

  1. Inadequate preparation – no plan for trade show activities (before, during and after).
  2. No advanced promotion – failure to market to attendees and prospects
  3. Poor presentation – e.g., an unprofessional booth; no time invested thinking about the impression the company will make at the show.
  4. Inattentiveness – failure to look for opportunities to engage. Too many people at trade shows sit behind their exhibit tables all day texting, reading, making calls and looking disinterested.
Trade show attendees at Trade Nassau in Farmingdale, NY on Oct. 21, 2015.

Trade show attendees at Trade Nassau in Farmingdale, NY on Oct. 21, 2015.

Why do businesspeople attend trade shows? The answer is simple: to attract attention and build relationships. To do this you have to create the best temporary environment to generate those conversations. This starts with strategies for drawing people to or into your booth. Quality signage, video monitors, interesting product displays and open layouts all play a part.

Have trouble standing for long periods of time? Bring a high chair or stool to enable you to make direct eye contact with attendees as they pass by or enter your space. To draw trade show attendees’ attention, your booth needs to be visually pleasing and interactive whenever possible. Use your iPad, a laptop or other screen to show off your business, show success stories, provide product demos, re-purpose news media coverage. To succeed you must stand out from others in your industry as well other exhibitors. Being different, as I have emphasized in the past, is critical. If you look and sound too much like others, your message will never be heard.

Once you have attendees’ attention, you should welcome them into your space. Create a space that will coax them to enter and stay. For small businesses and small business shows, during setup you should push your table back to create a larger area for you to have a conversations and conduct demonstrations for people. This gets people out of the isle and they won’t get pushed by passersby.

At Corbett Public Relations we are all about education and making people better marketers. We work with businesses to get their brand message heard in the media and for individuals we work with them to grow their personal brands.

Bill Corbett (l) interviews WRHU radio host Tim Healey (r) at the Corbett PR studio at Trade Nassau on Oct. 21, 2015.

Bill Corbett (l) interviews WRHU radio host Tim Healey (r) at the Corbett PR studio at Trade Nassau on Oct. 21, 2015.

At the recent show we differentiated our booth by creating a show within the show. We did this by setting up a unique video and audio studio environment. Throughout the day we interviewed sponsors, business leaders and exhibitors in talk-show fashion. This was done live on Periscope; we also recorded on video and audio. The interviews will be used as a future podcast and as videos to further support the show’s value for our firm and for the show producer.

Earlier, I mentioned the importance of planning for trade shows. I worked with my team for weeks to plan and prepare but the effort paid off in several ways. We attracted considerable attention during the show with attendees stopping by to watch and also take photos of what was going on. Some of these photos were posted on social media creating an additional buzz. We took photos with guests and these were shared online. The process created content for my soon to be launched podcast and videos for the Corbett Public Relations YouTube Channel. The investment of time paid off with leads for business. We helped to strengthen our brand awareness and recognition in our home market of Long Island.

Bill Corbett Jr. at Trade Nassau on Oct. 21, 2015.

Bill Corbett Jr. at Trade Nassau on Oct. 21, 2015.

During the recent show I played “double duty” as a featured speaker for one of the seminars. For those who are speakers or offer seminars at a trade show, remember you need to give your audience an incentive to visit your booth after your presentations is over. I offer tips sheet on how to use LinkedIn more effectively and questions to ask to identify your key differentiators.

There is a saying that the “real” trade show starts after the trade show ends. This is when you will follow up on your leads. Unfortunately, there are those who expend their time, energy and money at shows but never follow up. An estimated 61 percent of trade show leads are never followed up on – truly a frightening statistic.

Remember to block off a full day to follow up after the show. I usually wait one day then follow up with my best contacts. Have a follow up system and process. Identify the best prospects and work your way down the list. You may have to try to reach people four or more times. Keep trying, you made the investment and this is why you were at the show to begin with.

To avoid such horror stories, remember to plan out your trade shows activities including marketing strategies. Think about what you are going to do and be sure to follow up with what you are going to do after. Take the time to assess your show activities, examine what you did well and identify areas for improvement. Review your plan and make notes about how you will make your next trade show more successful. Avoid the scary mistakes I have outlined and look for ways to be different, attract attention and find more prospects.

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 



Being Different is Your Competitive Advantage

different[1]In May of this year, included some of my thoughts about how to be unforgettable. Many believe that demonstrating and promoting how or why you are “the best” is the most effective strategy to take. In the marketing and ad driven world that we live in today, “the best” message simply does not resonate. To be effective you must identify and show how you are different and how you approach challenges differently than others. Different is better than best.

When teaching personal branding, I always focus on ways that people can show how they are different. Below I have listed some of the questions you need to ask yourself when developing you brand message and identifying your key differentiators.

Determining how we are different is something that many people struggle with. This is not a surprise; it is hard to look at ourselves and be honest and realistic. We want to be the best, we want to believe we are different, but it is a challenge to identify what makes us different from competitors or simply others who are vying for the attention of potential customers. However, determining your key differentiators will allow you to identify your competitive advantages and this is critical to career and business success.

What makes you different? What makes you remarkable? What makes you interesting? Why should anyone care about you and what you do? These are compelling and important questions to ask to start this process.

In a time when we have just a few seconds to make an impression, we need to think about the messages we are projecting and their value. Your message must show how you are different and you need to consistently project this message for it to resonate.

Now we get to the big question – What makes you different? Have you ever thought about this, have you ever written it down? Get a clean sheet of paper or a blank screen on your computer and get to work now. Start with these questions:

  • What makes you different? (skills, experience, passion, commitment or creativity)
  • How do you communicate differently? (This can be in writing, in person, on video or through social posts)
  • How do you listen differently? (Do you actually listen? Many people don’t)
  • How do you ask questions differently? (Do you even ask questions or know what questions to ask?)
  • How do you follow up differently than your competitors? (A majority of small businesspeople fail to even follow up once)
  • How do you build relationships differently?
  • How do you provide value differently? (How do you go beyond the services you offer or the products you sell? What is the added value you provide?)
  • How do you empower or inspire others differently?
  • How do you do what you do for a living differently than others? (Get specific, there may be a number of reasons)
  • How is your leadership style different and more effective?
  • How is your ability to achieve success for your clients or for your organization different?
  • How do you show you care differently than others?

You are different and you need to think about it and have a plan for using it.

From a practical standpoint here is what you can do to move this effort forward. I have presented before many networking and business groups. Although each group is different, they share a common goal. Networking groups focus on building relationships which will generate business. Elevator speeches or introductions are a primary way people describe themselves. Unfortunately, they are often boring; too sales focused and fail to highlight why a person is different. Take a step back and think about how you do what you do differently and clearly state it.

  • Some approaches that work well include:
  • Tell a success story with an example of a winning outcome
  • Talk about a challenge that you overcame or helped a client overcome
  • Tell a story about how you went the extra mile
  • Discuss what you are passionate about in terms of business and charity
  • Relate a personal or businesses strategy that worked
  • Talk about the added value you bring to relationships
  • Tell people how you are different than competitors
  • Talk about how you empower and help

Don’t make a sales pitch, this alone will make you stand out in many groups

Are you still stuck on how or where to start?  Try this – “Hello My name is… I’m a different kind of (fill in the blank).” This is basic but it is a good place to start.

When you have the opportunity, practice and see how this approach works. Compare responses to how your pervious introduction was received. See if people mention your approach and ask others what they think of it. Do more people come up to you after?  Your elevator speech and introductions do not have to be set in stone; change them until you find what works. Practice and ask for feedback. You will also need a few versions of your intro. Have a 10-second, 30-second and one-minute versions of your elevator speech in your arsenal and ready to go.

Home Work

Write down how you are different. Start by looking at this in a big picture way then narrow it down to specific business related actions and activities, personality traits and personal approaches to life and business. Remember to focus on you and who you are, these are personal branding questions, they are not about what you sell.

For a free key Grow Your Personal Brand Personal Differentiator Questionnaire, email

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 



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