Category Archives: Personal Development


Here’s what I tell my clients: you become the expert when someone else acknowledges your intellectual property or your level of accomplishment is so profound that you’re called to the table to assess and bring perspective to a situation. Put plainly; you earn the title of an expert!

It seems everyone is buzzing about being an “expert.” Or how you can become one. I’ve even been in workshops where attendees are told by “marketing gurus” to be confident enough to add expert to their title—and people will never question them. In my opinion, this approach is dangerous for the person, consumers, and the marketplace.

From experience, I have interviewed and even hired people who proclaimed to be experts only to discover they were fumbling their way through, learning as they go. It is likely you know how frustrating it is to learn that someone is “faking it until they make it” on your dime.

Let me be clear about my perspective. Everyone has a start point as they build their credentials and credibility, but to blatantly mislead, manipulate and tamper with people’s hopes and dreams with emotional marketing tactics such as declaring yourself as an expert before achieving said status, is baffling.

You may be asking, “S. Renee, what do you believe? How does a person can become an expert? When is it appropriate to add ‘expert’ to your title?”

Here’s what I tell my clients: you become the expert when someone else acknowledges your intellectual property, or your level of accomplishment is so profound that you’re called to the table to assess and bring perspective to a situation. Put plainly; you earn the title of an expert!

There are many paths to expert status. I’ve been the expert at work—serving as director of public relations at a university. This led to serving in the cabinet and as an advisor to the president. And now an industry expert—both required building a brand through an intentional process that steadily increased credibility and visibility.

Here are the five steps I took to get started:

Step 1: Recognize Your Internal Conflict: Most people have desires, dreams, and hopes. On the other hand, they have uncertainty, fear, and doubt. The first step to building a brand is to successfully manage your thoughts.

I’ll share the steps I took to begin my journey. I’ll go into detail during my webinar series Pivot Toward Success…Your Brand Development Webinar Series. The first webinar is How I Built a Brand to Become an Industry Expert–And You Can Too!.

Step 2: Resolve the Need to Be Successful Today: You are already a success. Stop looking to emulate others and find your unique value proposition.

Step 3: Own Your Dream: Many people get excited about fulfilling their dreams and sharing them with others. Then give up when they find themselves doing the work by themselves.  Most people will not help push your wagon until you reach a certain level of success. It’s your dream. Don’t be afraid to travel alone.

Step 4: Track Your Life: Assess your personal and professional experiences. This is necessary to identify your brand story that aligns with your brand’s value. For example, in the ’90s, a university official reached out to me about a job. After working as a recruiter for three months, I realized I was overqualified for the position. I assessed the university’s needs against my work experiences and skills. Within months, I negotiated a $15,700 pay raise and a new leadership role. 

Step 5: Get Clear on Your Brand’s Substance: You may not be the expert today, but there’s something you have that others want. This can become the foundation of your brand’s success. Identify what it is and start building.

© 2020 S. Renee Smith helps employees and small business owners become more likable, marketable, and credible to increase their income and influence. She’s a branding and communications expert, author of six books and media resource. Sign up for her webinar series: Pivot Toward Success…Your Brand Development Webinar Series.  


 you cannot know what you will discover on the journey, what you will do with what you find, or what you find will do to you.” – James Baldwin

Author S. Renee Smith

I was scheduled to meet with a CEO at “The Metropolitan Club of the city of Washington.” The club is where Ambassadors, Senators, CEO’s and other dignitaries hold membership and build relationships without notepad pages flipping or cell phones buzzing—neither is allowed. 

We were meeting to discuss possible business opportunities and how I could best plan and position myself to sit on national boards. During our conversation, the CEO shared this:

Time is up for men who look like me (white). It’s becoming a woman’s world.

He was referring to the #metoo message that was surging as a leader in shifting power dynamics in the workplace. However, since then, the #blacklivesmatter movement has taken center stage. Protestors, advocates, and everyday people from all walks of life have united their influence on social media platforms to create radical change that is transforming workplace cultures.

What I’m noticing is that by joining forces, space is being created for employees who are marginalized to call leaders out for disrespecting them, and negligently hindering employees career success. Once an incident is posted on a social media platform and likes and retweets multiply, the national media picks up the story. With massive exposure, the offender comes forward with a sorrowful apology and submits a shameful resignation. 

Employee and customer power, what I call public empowerment, is even shifting company policies at drastically rapid rates.

According to reports, Starbucks reversed a standing policy that bans sporting gear that advocates for religious or political movements, including Black Lives Matter,” after staff and customers threatened to boycott. This recognition is also shifting the perspectives, strategic plans, and resources of organizations. Such as the case with Comcast, who posted a multi-year strategic plan on June 8, 2020, dedicating 100 million dollars to advance social justice and equality. And they aren’t the only one.

What do these transitions mean for you? 

I believe they are ushering in a new consciousness and countless opportunities to make a difference in so many spaces.  

Companies are pivoting and will continue to be forward-focused and employee-centered. As such, it’s likely, what you did before February 2020 will no longer suit the needs of an evolving workplace.

For this reason, you have to reinvent yourself. I suggest you start observing where companies are headed and what role you want to play as an employee or as a business owner. 

Here are a few thoughts:

Rewrite your brand story.

  • The story you shared before the health pandemic, economic crisis, and racial awakening most likely will no longer fit due to the all drastic adjustments we all have had to make to survive. Rethink what new experiences you’ll share and craft an innovative message based on them.

Assess your brand equity.

  • How much is your brand worth? What have you learned from the current challenges, and what intellectual property have you acquired? Get clear on what you can offer and how much it’s worth to an organization.

Evaluate your network.

  • Although not impossible, as a result of being in quarantine, it’s difficult to build reliable, trusting relationships with new people. List the people who know, like, and trust you. Think about their brand equity and seek their assistance in helping you expand your brand and network.

As you pivot to reinvent yourself, take the time to craft, communicate, and market your message effectively.

© 2020 S. Renee Smith is an executive and communications and branding expert. She helps senior leaders increase their income and influence by becoming more likable, marketable, and credible. She is also the author of six books on communication, branding, and self-esteem. For more tips, visit Want to reinvent yourself? Learn more about S. Renee’s upcoming workshop here.


For the first time, I owned my experiences that I learned to avoid calling racist for fear that it would create roadblocks to my success.

Author S. Renee Smith

Like many people, I’ve had anxiety about the pandemic and concerns regarding the economy. As I watched the murder of George Floyd and the unfolding events thereafter, I moved from sadness to anger to reflection to curiosity!

My personal interest and position as a Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer invited me to many conversations about racism, inequality, diversity, and opportunity. I’ve watched with amenity the protesters and their persistence to drive change.

I’ve even had moments when I thought of myself as a coward because I wasn’t among the thousands of people who risked their lives to march in the scorching sun, hold signs, and chant, “I can’t breathe” to demand a shift in racist behaviors. 

It wasn’t until family and friends reminded me that I was in the fight when I spoke up in boardrooms about over medicating black and impoverished children and the need to recruit more black police officers. And that each time I fought for my humanity by challenging leadership when I was mistreated due to the lack of inclusion, I was impacting change. Further, I helped gift the world with generations of future leaders when I founded an academic scholarship for black students (now an endowment at DSU an HBCU) needing assistance to help navigate university corridors that would otherwise have been closed to them.

I came to realize that by sharing my story in my first book, There Is More Inside (2005), about my three white friends who “came to me and said that they could no longer be my friend because I was black,” and in the same book encouraging diversity was my way of influencing transformation. Here some of what was published:

“In social situations, I notice that people segregate themselves. It has been proven that people are more comfortable with people who look like them, but it has also been proven that there is tremendous power, insight, and creativity in diversity. Because I believe in the power of diversity, I try to keep an open mind in all situations.

 In social situations, I make it a point to meet someone different from me. I’ve met some amazing people employing this method. I especially like going to tables where people are different from me. Yes, it can be intimidating, but I simply walk over and say, “Hi! Is anyone sitting here?”

It seems like time stops as they all look at me in a daze. I then hear, “Oh no, help yourself.” I do this because I think it is essential to send the message that I’m comfortable with you and myself — regardless of our differences — and that I don’t have to only be around people who look like me to feel secure. If you get to know me and I get to know you, our lives will be enriched because of our time together. Sometimes I’m received with friendly, open arms, and sometimes I’m not. And that’s okay. “

Today, I wouldn’t say it’s okay–because it’s not. The Black Lives Matter movement has sparked confessions of white privilege, disclosure of disingenuous diversity and inclusion programs, and utterances of shame for failing to recognize personal biases and behaviors that uphold a system that mistreats people of color. None of us benefit from continuing to cause America’s soul to ache. We have to continue to press and push for equality and fairness in wherever space we occupy.

General C.Q. Brown’s (the first Black U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff) speech What Am I Thinking nails it! As tears rolled down my face, I saw myself in his stories. I felt his pain, saw the distress in his eyes, and heard the impact of racism on him and his family.

Most importantly, for the first time, I owned my experiences that I learned to avoid calling racist for fear that it would create roadblocks to my success.

General Brown’s power and eloquence in reflections provide “Why?” the time is now. This is a God glory moment. The United States Declaration of Independence declares that “all men (woman) are created equal.” In living the fullness of who I am, I want to live out that decree in love, understanding, and peace and I’m willing to do the work that will help get us there. How about you? 

If this article speaks to you, please like, add a comment and share it with others. Thank you in advance.

© All rights reserved 2020 S. Renee Smith is recognized self-esteem, branding, and communications expert, and author of six books. They include Self-Esteem for Dummies, 5 Steps to Assertiveness – How to Communicate with Confidence and Get What You Want and Harness the POWER of Personal Branding and Executive Presence.