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Connecting internal communications and branding with Greg Monaco

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On this episode of Culture, Comms, & Cocktails, we have Greg Monaco, Brand Coach at Monaco Branding and Creative.

Culture, Comms, & Cocktails is internal comms served straight up, so settle in, and drink in the knowledge. Some shaken, some stirred, and maybe even some with a twist, and enjoy the top shelf guest I have lined up for you. I’m your host, Chuck Gose, Senior Strategic Advisor at SocialChorus. On this episode of Culture, Comms, & Cocktails, we have Greg Monaco, Brand Coach at Monaco Branding and Creative.

Monaco is an independent brand consultancy led by Greg Monaco. Greg helps companies create brand magnetism through communications. He and his national network of talent create work designed to stir emotions, fuel passions, and move people into action.

A personal branding exercise, just that inward look, can be a powerful way for anyone in business to not only recognize their own strong points and weaknesses, but to help others understand that powerful storytelling can help move the organization in the desired direction.

Culture, Comms, & Cocktails Episode 41 Transcript

Chuck Gose: Hello everyone. This is Culture, Comms & Cocktails, the podcast with Internal Comms Served Straight Up. I’m your host, Chuck Gose, Senior Strategic Advisor at SocialChorus. And on this episode of Culture, Comms & Cocktails, we have Greg Monaco, Brand Coach extraordinaire at Monaco Branding and Creative. Greg, welcome to the podcast.

Greg Monaco: Thanks Chuck. I am so happy to be here.

Chuck Gose: It has been a few years since you and I first connected, I think it was at an event in New York City when our paths first might’ve crossed and obviously, on LinkedIn and Twitter, we see each other around. So again, thanks for being on the podcast. Before we get into the podcast questions, Greg, how are you and the people you care about doing during this pandemic?

Greg Monaco: Well, it’s hard for my kids, I have to say. I’ve got a couple in high school, so they’re doing either the hybrid approach or quarantining and it’s sort of week by week. So I lament for their experience in high school right now, because they’re not able to see their friends as much. But other than that, we’ve had a chance to really connect with each other and go out on a lot of hikes. And from a business standpoint, I’ve gone global, which is great. So it’s great being able to do things on Zoom and where the boundaries have dissolved.

Chuck Gose: Yeah. When you think about what kids are going through, I have a couple in school as well. That’s my dog barking, so he wanted to chime in. It is a challenge for them, I worry about, not worry, but also wonder about, what are they going to think 20 years from now when they think back to 2020, obviously a very memorable time for them. And hopefully, they do focus on not, “We’re wearing masks all day long, but no, we got to go on these hikes with dad.”

Greg Monaco: Yeah. Yeah. It’s weird because I mean, we’re experiencing something, that the last time this thing happened was 100 years ago and you read about it and you thought, “There’s no way that’s going to happen again.” And here we are, in the middle of it and it’s just surreal, how we’re dealing with it. Yeah.

Chuck Gose: Well, let’s go ahead and get into the questions. And when I hear the name Monaco, obviously, maybe it’s because I’m in Indianapolis, I think of racing. That’s what I think when I hear the name Monica. So Greg, playing off a bad cliche here, what drives you, Greg Monaco? And where does this passion come from?

Greg Monaco: Oh, I love, well Monaco, the name, I’ve actually been to Monaco before, so I haven’t seen the Grand Prix, but my namesake actually got me, absolutely nowhere in that city. But what drives me is, I’ve always had this kind of ability to follow what I like doing. I’ve never been good, and I’ve noticed this in my son, if he likes something, he goes for it 1,000%, if he doesn’t like something, forget it. He’s not going to pay attention to it, it’s not going to be something that he develops a care for.

Greg Monaco: So I’ve been fortunate enough to be brought up in a family structure that allowed me the ability to pay attention to the things that I love to do. And that’s really, what’s driven my career or me as a person and it’s been a circuitous route. But I’ve just tried to find joy and happiness and what I’m doing, and that’s taken me here, a 25 plus year, long career.

Chuck Gose: Now, as I mentioned, you and I first originally met at an internal comms event, but you’re a brand guy out there. So how did these two paths cross, of internal comms and branding?

Greg Monaco: Branding is fundamentally, it’s a feeling people have about you and communications is kind of the cloud of ways to connect with other people, so they’re intrinsically tied to each other. I grew up as a copywriter at an advertising agency, and then I opened up my own branding consultancy in New York City. And as we started really developing our ability to help companies brand themselves, we realized that the strongest type of branding actually happens from the inside.

Greg Monaco: So when you have your cohort of employees, really rowing in the same direction, that is a much stronger foundation for brand building, than any of this external stuff. It’s less expensive to do because you’re not buying media necessarily, and it’s also, more powerful as well. So I shifted the focus of my brand consultancy to more of an engagement consultancy, helping companies engage with their employees for the betterment of brand building, so they’re really tied together. And now what I’m doing is, I’m actually working with individuals about building their own voice in the world, on personal branding.

Chuck Gose: And we all have favorite clients and maybe perhaps more importantly, types of clients that we like working with, whether it’s that company where you’re looking at from the engagement side, or it’s this individual where you’re looking at the brand side, their personal brand, what’s your favorite type of client to work with?

Greg Monaco: Well, like I said, individuals are really my favorite type of client. When you work with companies and organizations, the challenge in brand building revolves around getting people to align around ideas. And so there is a trick in facilitating conversations that objectify the brand, meaning, pull it out of the individual’s points of view, so everybody, leadership can look at the brand and say, “Yes, this is how we want to move the brand forward.”

Greg Monaco: With individuals, there is no filter, the only alignment that needs to happen is, aligning with your energy, aligning with what lights you up, what you want to do, the impact you want to make. And when I see brand development take root in an individual, in a way that they’ve given themselves permission to go for it, in expressing themselves fully through their brand voice, there’s nothing more rewarding or satisfying, as a brand builder, for me. You can see that in fits and starts with organizations, but it requires, there’s a lot more complexity and variables in there, to build that brand. So I really love working with individuals and helping them realize the power of their brand storytelling.

Chuck Gose: And when you put a customer or a client you’ve worked with in your mind and share an example of the type of success you’ve seen them achieve, going through this personal brand discovery work. Because we all have a personal brand, whether we recognize it or not, whether we focus on it or not, there’s a brand that ends up developing. So what’s an example of someone you can think of, that’s really gone through this journey and what’s that success look like for them?

Greg Monaco: Well, I’m going through this journey. I think we all are, and it is a journey. That’s why they call it branding, is because it’s evolving, always evolving, and it has infinite depth, which is exciting to me. I’m learning more and more about it every day and I’ve been in the business for 25 plus years, so there’s something to be said for that.

Greg Monaco: There is one example that really fills my heart and it’s a woman, her name is Kara Richardson Whiteley. And she is a plus sized adventurer. So she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro three times and she’s 300 plus pounds. And it’s really an inspiring story for a huge cadre of people here in the United States, to hear what she has to say and how she’s overcome so many obstacles. So she wrote a book about this called, Gorge.

Greg Monaco: And she called me up, we had coffee together, back in the day, when you could have coffee together. And she said to me, “Look, my book is going to be made into a feature film. And I know that I need to become more precise with how I tell my story and I know I need my website to reflect something. I know that there’s going to be sort of a rush of people coming to me and I don’t feel like my brand has caught up to where I am as an individual, there’s a gap there.” So she wanted to make sure, she was thinking about the journey of her potential customers coming in, hiring her to be a motivational speaker, maybe to be a coach. So she realized that there was going to be, her brand structure, her system, was going to fail.

Greg Monaco: So we helped put together the right foundation, so people could come in and experience the real side of Kara, that mattered and fully express her in all of the channels, not just her as a person, but in every way that she communicates. And that’s really what branding is, it’s sort of this organizing principle for an individual, a personal branding. So that to me, is one of the best case stories that I could share.

Chuck Gose: Now, that’s a great example. Let’s take a step back from that, and let’s say, I am an internal comms director at this ginormous enterprise global company. What value does my personal brand have then, in that case? And if I want to develop it, what are some easy things that comms director could do to either build their brand inside the organization, or perhaps even outside the organization?

Greg Monaco: Everybody has their individual way of leading. So this internal comms director, there is something, a spark. You asked me what drives me in the beginning? There’s this sort of internal spark that they have, that is differentiating, it’s just them. But also, if they recognize it and they understand who they are intrinsically, this understanding will help them become more aligned with the type of leader they are and the type of people they’re going to enroll and how they want to get things done.

Greg Monaco: So a personal branding exercise, just that inward look, can be a powerful way for anyone in business to not only recognize their own strong points and weaknesses, but to help others understand that by powerful storytelling, to help move the organization in the desired direction. If you’re not doing that, on the other side, if you’re not doing that, and you’re somewhat rudderless, what could happen is that, you could become a victim to shifting trends.

Greg Monaco: So one of the principles of branding is consistency of message over time. So when you develop your own brand voice, you can become really, enrolled in your own conviction to create change in your own way. So this is something that I think is really vital for leaders.

Chuck Gose: Now there’s a term you use and it’s called, a designed future. So first off, what does that mean? And then, what are your best tips for creating a designed future?

Greg Monaco: A designed future would be an antonym for a default future. So if we’re not paying attention to who we are and how we’re being in the world, we’re basically moving towards a default state. It’s just, we haven’t recognized any goals or any kind of stretch for us, any kind of gap for us. A designed future is actually an intentional path of shifting perceptions, of moving towards a desired trajectory out into the future. So that’s what I mean by a designed future, is actually literally, designing your future. And then what was the B parts of that question? Sorry.

Chuck Gose: So what are some tips for someone? I like to use that word intention, because that’s immediately what went into my mind when you were talking about that. Is that a map that people begin going on? How do they get started when they think through that designed future? What’s some early first steps or early tips for them?

Greg Monaco: Well, one of the first things I ask and all of us have these moments in our careers. It doesn’t even really have to necessarily, reflect your career, but I call them hand of God moments. And you’re a basketball player, Chuck, so there must have been moments on the basketball court where you felt like you were being guided by invisible hands. Like you could not miss a shot, you were all over the basketball court. I played soccer, so I felt like that many times. I’ve also felt like that in my career.

Greg Monaco: So I’d like for people to recognize those moments, where they felt like they were in a state of flow, where they were unstoppable, where time just didn’t exist. And there are moments in our career and to reflect upon those and to actually catalog those in our minds and think about them, is a powerful way to access that energetic source, the things that drive us, the things that we love, just naturally, to do. And that is a powerful way for us to create kind of a golden thread through this designed future. If we’re accessing that part of ourselves, that loves to do what we do, then the path to that designed future is achieved with more ease and grace.

Chuck Gose: And what would you say to someone as they begin, whether it’s this looking at this designed future and how their personal brand plays out. Let’s take it back to that internal comms person, inside that large enterprise. What would your advice be, if where they see themselves and their brand, and this future runs counter or parallel to the organization, that they’re a part of, how do they handle that conflict?

Greg Monaco: Oh man, that’s a juicy question.

Chuck Gose: That’s why I asked them, Greg.

Greg Monaco: One of the perils of personal branding, is actually creating what I call, the great filter. And the filter is maybe, you aren’t aligned, maybe this isn’t the right place for you to be, for you to access what really matters to you. So if you feel like your power source, that energetic spirit within you is being squashed, I think it’s actually a blessing that you are able to create discernment between what’s in and what’s out. I also do an exercise called phone it in moments, in those moments where we’re not feeling it. And I’ve had moments like that in my career, where I’m just literally there in body, but not in spirit.

Chuck Gose: Yeah.

Greg Monaco: So if you’re not aligned with the organization as a whole, if your personal realities of income and all these are able to give you runway, to make a change, it’s time to make a change.

Chuck Gose: Now in this, and especially trying to make a change during this pandemic that we’re in and the climate and all this uncertainty. There are some people that fear change or people that embrace change, but a lot of people right now, are seeking security. They want answers, they want information, they want to know what’s going to happen. Do you see people now, is now a good time to take that leap of faith in creating your designed future, or is now the time to just say, “No, let me sit tight and let’s see what these next few months hold true.” What do you see people’s mindsets being, right now?

Greg Monaco: Well, nothing is guaranteed, that’s for sure. So what I don’t want to see, is for people to wait for a better, quote, unquote, time for this to happen, because all you have or all you don’t have, is time. So the goal with personal branding is to become integrated with context at all moments. So we happen to be in a very challenging situation here with the pandemic. But if you are again, accessing that energetic source of what lights you up, the context can take a back seat to what matters to you.

Greg Monaco: So I think this is an amazing opportunity because change is actually being kind of shoveled upon us right now. So most of us are experiencing some change in how the organization is working, everybody’s working from home. And as I said, in the beginning of the podcast, I went global, almost within a month. I had to transform my business to being one of, one-on-one coffee time conversations, to Zoom, as everybody has. So this is a great time because everything else is changing. Why not?

Chuck Gose: Yeah. I wonder if it becomes a great time for people to reflect on values, on what’s most important. When there is so much upheaval in other areas, maybe now is not the time to sit tight, it is a time to look inward, at yourself.

Greg Monaco: Yeah. Yeah. And again, I mean, we have to take into account, many people have different personal realities that they have to deal with. But the idea of reflection, Chuck, as you put it, I think can be agnostic of those personal realities, just doing the inward work, to really understand yourself in this process and what matters to you. It’s not that much of a time investment actually, and then you can make the right choices.

Chuck Gose: And you and I talked about it before we started recording, around setting aside time for yourself. It is giving yourself that discipline to give yourself that time to reflect. If you’re in a privileged environment, where you can set aside that time to do it, then absolutely do it. And you might learn that you are in the right spot. You are doing the right things. You are working with the right people, or is now a time to make that change? Before we get into the last question and some people think it’s the most important question, Greg. I don’t think it is, some people do. What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you, if they have questions and want to go on their own personal brand journey with you?

Greg Monaco: Yeah. So my website it’s, letsgomonaco.com and Monaco is spelled just like the country, so letsgomonica.com. And then if anyone would like to set up a half an hour consultation with me, I’m happy to have that conversation, so there’s a link right there on my website.

Chuck Gose: Well thank you, Greg, for being on the podcast. Again, it’s called, Culture, Comms & Cocktails. We talked about some communication, talked a little bit about culture, now let’s talk about cocktails. So has there been a go-to beverage of yours, during this pandemic, Greg, or what’s your recommendation to the listeners out there?

Greg Monaco: I am not much of a cocktail guy, I have to admit. I’m more of a beer and wine guy and it really depends on weather, for those. So right now, we are in the fall, and so I go for the heavier beers, right now. So a nice Porter, a dark, rich chocolatey kind of beverage that I can sit by, I built a fire pit in my backyard and it seems like everybody’s building fire pits. But I built a fire pit, sitting there with a nice beverage with a fire raging and having family around me, just talking, hanging out, enjoying the weather. That to me, is golden.

Chuck Gose: Yeah. You had mentioned going on those hikes before, what you just shared is something we’ve spent a lot of time doing, even in the summer when it was maybe a little too warm for a fire, it’s still nice to have that gathering spot and bring people around and there’s something very therapeutic about being in that environment.

Greg Monaco: And I would suggest in the summertime, you switch the beer to a lighter beer, like a Pilsner, that is nice and refreshing. And then of course, the fire’s optional and you just hang around the little pit.

Chuck Gose: Yeah, I go toward the Hefewizen’s, that’s my go-to in the summer.

Greg Monaco: Oh, those are delicious. Yes. Yes.

Chuck Gose: Well Greg, again, thanks for being on the podcast. If you want to learn more about Greg Monaco and what he’s doing, go to letsgomonaco.com and book that 30 minute consultation with him. Greg, thanks again for being on Culture, Comms & Cocktails.

Greg Monaco: My pleasure, Chuck, it’s been fun.

Chuck Gose: If you enjoyed what you heard from this episode and want to check out others, find Culture, Comms & Cocktails on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen and when you do, hit that subscribe button, so you don’t miss any future episodes. This has been Culture, Comms & Cocktails, Internal Comms Served Straight Up. Thanks for listening.

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Chuck Gose

Chuck Gose

I am a self-proclaimed Skyline Chili connoisseur and Duran Duran fan with nearly 20 years of experience in marketing, corporate communications, and internal communications. My passion and enthusiasm for the communications profession began early in my career at General Motors and Rolls-Royce, Since then, I have focused on weaving internal communications and technology in creative ways. I'm also the co-creator of The Periodic Table of Internal Communications and The Very Hungry Communicator. But most importantly, I got to fly in a blimp once.

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