December 20th, 2015 - Brand

Heartaches and Hope

Life is gut-wrenchingly scary for so many Calgarians as we enter 2016. My heart aches this Christmas for those who have recently lost their jobs.

Scrolling through LinkedIn there are too many job titles that are blank, or simply state “… currently seeking new opportunities …. Of course there’s also the profiles left as they were, as if the bad news had never been delivered.

And then there’s the new consultants … many, many new consultants.

Over the past few months, I’ve fielded calls from the new consultants, the recently unemployed looking to hang out their own shingle in an attempt to get through the downturn. They need to find work, but they don’t know where to start or what to do … and they certainly don’t know how to sell.

These calls, from real people who are genuinely hurting, have been some of the hardest of my career. It’s one thing if you are helping Corporation X sell more widgets or Political Party Y get more votes. It’s another level of immediacy if you need to help Person Z feed their family. This is real crisis communications.

And of course there’s always the caveat, “I don’t really have much money to put into this …”

So, in the spirit of the season, as my personal gift to those who find themselves looking for work, here’s my guide to personal branding … simple steps to start the sell.

If you know anyone struggling this season, please pass this along. I’d like to help.

Your Personal Brand

Branding is hard work. Personal branding is harder. And it’s uncomfortable. We’re so connected to ourselves, we don’t see who we really are clearly. As you embark on this process, ask your friends, colleagues, family, and, yes, even your former bosses for feedback and input. You’ll gradually get more comfortable with the process and find the clarity that will help you sell yourself.

Step 1: Be Real

In the world of branding, people toss around the word “authentic” all the time. But what does that mean? It starts with answering the simple questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you offer?
  • Why should someone choose you?

When selling, you can’t offer up a shopping list of things that you kind of do okay, hoping something sticks. You have to tell people what you do well and why you’re the best person to do it.

The answer to these questions becomes your brand promise.

Step 2: Be Original

Find your voice. Define and articulate your brand promise – first to yourself and then to others. When I scroll through LinkedIn, I want to see something pop under your photo. Something descriptive and compelling that stands out from the sea of consultants. A name, a title and a narrative that make me pause and ask more. The name Blackcoffee has started hundreds of conversations over the years.

Step 3: Be Remarkable

Refine and polish that brand promise. It’s competitive out there. You can’t tell people that you do something well, you have to tell them why you do it better than anyone else. And remember first impressions and presentation mean everything. 

Step 4: Be Brave

This is going to be uncomfortable and likely scary. You must channel your fear into energy that compels you to play your best game – ever. Share your voice and get noticed. Make phone calls, set up coffee dates, have an online presence. Remember the answer is always NO until you ask.

Follow these four steps – Be Real, Be Original, Be Remarkable, Be Brave – and you’ll be executing your personal brand strategy. Need some help? Let’s chat. We can work together to tell your story.

Shannon –

PS. Brand Identity Package

We want to help you on this journey and we know that money is an issue. So Blackcoffee Studio is offering a discounted Brand Identity Package for new consultants and business start-ups. First impressions are everything, so we’ll help bring your personal brand to life with a logo, business cards and an effective online presence.

With gratitude,

Shannon Larkins

Now that's some good advice

Articles, snippets, or videos that highlight what to do and what not to do in the always changing world of branding and design. 

By Seth Godin @

‘Are you interesting?‘

More interesting than you realize.

An interesting person is interesting to us because she combines two things: Truth and surprise.

The truth: Not necessarily a law of physics, not necessarily a measurable truth in nature, but merely the truth of experience. “I believe this,” or “I see that.”


Shannon Larkins

Founder, Blackcoffee Studio

Over the course of 15+ years, Shannon has grown Blackcoffee Studio out of a love for building brands and reputations. She serves up Blackcoffee as a morning ritual while caffeinating clients and readers on the regular. You can find her at


Blackcoffee Studio

Blackcoffee is a premium brand development agency, offering luxury brand experience to clients at home in Calgary, Canada and around the globe. Brands create experience, set you apart from the competition and drive growth. Anyone can bulid a business but only the exceptional can create a brand. Are you ready?

Shannon Larkins

Shannon Larkins

Hi I’m Shannon, founder of Blackcoffee Studio. A former reporter, spin doctor and politico, I now focus on using my powers for good.

I create mighty brands for clients and share their stories with the world. I’m also rather addicted to my nutty family, dogs with pushed in faces, Mexico and of course coffee … black.