Spark Plug Radio: Personal Brand Leadership ~ Melissa Dawn Johnson


Radio Interview: Why Personal Brand Leadership is Important

Spark Plug: Welcome to People You Need to Know on Spark Plug Radio. I’m your host, Spark Plug, publisher of Metro Atlanta’s premier businesswomen’s spotlight magazine. At People You Need to Know Magazine, we’re proud to promote women in business and give them world-class recognition along the way. Tune in every week as we introduce you to some of the most knowledgeable, helpful and creative businesswomen in America. Our show today is brought to you by our new official corporate sponsor, Staples, “That was easy.”

In this segment, we’re going to be talking about personal brand leadership, what is it, and why it should be important to you. My guest today is a native of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and a graduate of Northwestern University. Currently, she is president of Atlanta-based Velvet Suite Marketing Consulting Group. They are a global consulting and leadership training company designed to empower and inspire individuals and enterprises to be great leaders in times of change. We are honored to have on the show today, the current People You Need to Know Magazine Person of the Week, Ms. Melissa Dawn Johnson. Welcome to the show.

Melissa Dawn Johnson: Oh, thank you. I am so excited to be here. Happy, happy Wednesday to you, how are you today?

Spark Plug: Fantastic and I’m trying to get better. Melissa, are you ready to talk about personal brand leadership?

Melissa Dawn Johnson: You know I’m always ready to talk about personal brand leadership. I find that what I’ve discovered is my life’s work, so it’s very easy for me to talk about what I love, what’s my passion and, so I’m ready.

Spark Plug: Well, let’s get right into it, okay?

Melissa Dawn Johnson: Alright, let’s do it.

Spark Plug: For some of our listeners, what is personal brand leadership?

Melissa Dawn Johnson: Well, you know I think it’s very interesting because right now the word “personal branding” is one of the hottest buzz terms, and so you hear it from how to get more followers on Twitter, to how to get more exposure, to how to better network to get the job, to start the business to get the next client, and I think all of those things are great, but I really believe and have the philosophy of personal brand leadership. It is a little bit more than that. It really is about discovering your authentic value and positioning that value consistently over time that allows you to make choices that will ultimately make a difference for your life and those around you and those choices are not necessarily always easy. But it’s about leadership, it’s about positioning yourself to be someone who is standing in character, standing in integrity, and ultimately at this time — I think a great time for personal branding leadership to happen because there’s so much going on and people are looking for answers. There are so many problems and having the conviction to stand up and say, “This is what I stand for —  this is what I believe is my passion, it’s to solve someone else’s problem, and I will go through whatever it takes. I will be a leader in order for that to actually become true and real and ultimately make a difference in my life and the lives of others.”

Spark Plug: Well, I think you kind of answered my second question, but you might want to take it a little bit deeper for us. Why is personal brand leadership so important especially today?

Melissa Dawn Johnson: It is critical, Spark Plug, because I believe that we’re living in a day and age where we have more problems than we have solutions. If you look at the economy, if you look at the environment, if you look at our educational system, if you look at politics, if you look at the realm of energy, there are so many.  You can watch TV, watch the nightly news, you know I’m on CNN weekly and part of the reason why I do my segment called, Morning Motivation, is to give people some inspiration and motivation to move forward in a very difficult time economically, and all the other factors I shared with you. And so I think why it’s so critical now is that brands are about solutions.

Brands are about … now, I’ll give my clarity of authentic branding because I really believe … with my background in developing brands — I’ve developed the brand Swiffer. I worked on Mr. Clean and Victoria’s Secret and Nationwide. I’ve done the rebranding of Nationwide.

This is a part of what I’ve been educated to do, but it’s also within my practical experience and the lessons that I’ve learned that are practical for today that really answer that question — it’s about authenticity. It’s about standing up and having a conviction and an answer for a real problem that people are going through. It’s about being able to position yourself — to be at the right place at the right time to meet opportunity. And a lot of people need that today because the way that we thought it would work, with the jobs that we thought we have, with the things that we banked on in terms of our investment and where we were going have changed. So now, we have to reposition ourselves to meet new opportunity and we have to have persistence. I think that’s very critical now, because it’s not easy and the reason why in my book that I wrote, Brand Me: Make Your Mark: Turn Passion into Profit, I talk about the passion and the profit. The passion and the profit — you know it really is not just about, “This is what I love to do,” but the passion gives you an ability to persevere. And more than anything, people now need to know that they are going to have to persevere and we’re going to get through to better times, but it’s going to take time and the passion is going to keep you going in the meanwhile.

Spark Plug: Well, Melissa, where does an individual begin in creating a personal brand?

Melissa Dawn Johnson: You know, it’s very easy to recognize that branding is really about the mark that you’re making, so the truth is you already have established the mark. The question is if it is positive or negative. And in a very fundamental way, people usually make their mark immediately. The statistics say within the first three seconds of someone meeting you, they’ve made up their mind about your value and who you are, and within the next ten seconds, they’ve changed their mind multiple times. So you’ve got to be so proactive. We all have to be more proactive about managing our message. What we say is less than 80% of that. Eighty percent of that is what we do and how we show up. So it’s so important right now to start off with the fact that, “Okay, I have value,” and I say you’ve really got to internalize that.

What we talk about at Velvet Suite is branding from the inside out. You’ve got to start with understanding what is your core value, meaning who are you and then from there, you can brand that into the image that people see, whether it’s how you dress, whether it’s what you talk about, if it’s your business card, if it’s the services that you provide in your company, if it’s how you go about working on projects on the job, you’ve got to begin to be consistent in order for you to become branded by the message.

If you think about our President, you know for 18 plus months, he went around the country talking about “Yes, we can,” but it wasn’t until months later after touching people in the market, after being on media, after consistently giving his message over and over and over again that that message branded him. So we all have to be more intentional. We’ve got to understand who we are, package our message, be consistent in the image that we give and ultimately, we’ve got to deliver. If you are not someone who can execute it, if you don’t do what you say you do, you lose all credibility no matter what you look like and no matter how you package your message.

Spark Plug: Well, how does a person reinvent their brand?

Melissa Dawn Johnson: You know, I think many people are in the process of reinvention. I mean from my personal story, that’s really what happened to me.  I had the education and worked at like over five different global brands, Fortune 500 brands, all in branding, brand development and communication. And I had a situation that happened to me in my life that really had me put my life on pause. It’s one of those defining moments. I had a tragic loss and I said, “You know what, really, what is life going to mean for me?  What’s my purpose?” And I didn’t want to just be defined by a great job, and I had many accolades and a great resume. That’s all fine and good, but really I said, “I want to understand a deeper purpose in my work,” and I really reinvented myself as an entrepreneur. I did what I needed to do. I did my homework, that’s one of the principles.

Number one, I think, before you even do your homework is you’ve got to really ask yourself some tough questions, “Is what I’m doing counting? Does it matter? Am I fulfilled? Am I financially fulfilled?” And what I preach and what I talk about is that you can make a living doing what you love, but it takes some thoughtful strategic direction. It takes getting advice and counsel from others.

Spark Plug: Well, Melissa, before we bring this interview to a close, where can we find more information all about you, your book, when you’re on CNN, your company, and more importantly how can you be reached?

Melissa Dawn Johnson: Absolutely. Velvet Suite Marketing was my first company that I launched in 2006 and you can find out about us on the Internet at That’s for established companies and established individuals where we do full service brands, consultation and marketing execution. And then my Reinvention was after I wrote the book, Brand Me, I realized that it didn’t matter if you are CEO, if you’re a clerk, if you are a student, if you are an entrepreneur or someone in between, everyone wanted to know how to build an authentic brand. And Myles Monroe wrote the foreword to my book.  He said, “Melissa gives what companies pay millions for and she gives it to the masses.” And so I began to see the opportunity for a second business called, Brand Me International. And that is We have a social network community. We feature expert bloggers in different areas. We’re going to hopefully get Spark Plug on our radio show that happens on Wednesdays on Blog Talk at noon.

Spark Plug: Alright, well, Ms. Melissa Dawn Johnson, President of Atlanta-based Velvet Suite Marketing Group. Thanks for spending some of your most valuable time with us today.

Melissa Dawn Johnson: No, thank you so much for the opportunity and I wanted to just say congratulations to you for what you are doing, and the difference you’re making in featuring women who are changing things right now because we are making moves and we’re doing great things and it’s because of you that we get to let the world know what we do, so thank you.

Spark Plug: Well, alright. You’ve been listening to People You Need to Know on Spark Plug Radio — the radio station connecting you to America’s leading business professionals like Ms. Melissa Dawn Johnson. To listen to even More People You Need To Know, just Google Spark Plug Radio or visit our website at, so be sure to join us on our Facebook page at PYNTK.

I want to take a moment to thank my executive producer, Ms. Jacqueline Benjamin-Thomas for doing another terrific job. This is Spark Plug encouraging you to keep supporting women in business because when women succeed, the nation prospers. Until next time, always remember that you can add a spark to whatever you do and thanks for tuning in.

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Tags: Inspiration Melissa Dawn Johnson Motivation People You Need to Know People You Need to Know Magazine Personal Brand Leadership PYNTK




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