Personal Branding Lessons From My First “Senatorial” Client

My 12-year old son Garrett Tiebens started middle school at a new school, and during that weekend he told me, “Mom I want to run for 7th Grade Senator for the Associate Students Board ASB. I said, “Great! Let’s go for it! How long do we have to create a banner and a poster?” He said “Two days…”

Argh!!! I wanted to protest and say no way but I was sooo proud of his initiative that I couldn’t and will not be the one to snuff out his fire so I told him, “Son, we will make this happen!”

I have never done anything like this. I don’t really know what messages children his age will relate with so the research began.. Then the speech.. Then the banner design followed by the poster.  We had our “VIP Session” where we brainstormed and he answered the usual questions:

Question #1:  What do kids your age like to hear – are they into serious stuff or lighter stuff? We initially thought of addressing the issue of not wearing masks and that Garrett is there to be your advocate to make sure there is harmony in school.  We made some calls and asked our friends at Excel 360 where Garrett goes for after school studies and from their experience, they recommended that we make it funny and light.

Question #2:  What are the schools guidelines regarding campaigns? Would they allow you to give out promotional products? The answer was no.

Question #3:  What do other school election banners typically look like?  We did a Google search on how banners are laid out.

Question #4:  What are the most common taglines that candidates used?  The used very short slogans that rhymed and were easy to remember.

So we sat down, discussed our options then solidified our message and we were determined to put these ideas onto a poster or a banner.  Armed with this very short but powerful research, we decided to go for it and went to the Arts and Crafts department at Walmart  to get poster boards, stencils, decals, markers, etc.  Mind you, this was in between client appointments and coaching obligations.  Our shopping cart was starting to fill-up, when I started thinking, “There is no way I can finish this in time… ”  Honestly though, the thought of creating a banner and poster from scratch was very daunting!  I just knew there must be a better way…


And there sure was!

I knew I can design images and font on a very old and simple program on my PC called Photodraw… It’s not Photoshop but it does the job beautifully!  Then I researched overnight poster printers and discovered that Staples offers quick turn-around on poster and banner printing.  At midnight, I designed the banner, uploaded the file to Staples’ website and the next morning it was ready!   When Garrett saw it, he was soooo excited! It turned out beautifully! Here he is beaming with pride for his banner!  The best part is the biggest hug I received from him and his words, “Mom, you really are the best! Thank you for making this happen…”  To me, that’s the best reward ever!

Yes, we know we could have done better with the slogan… “Don’t Be A Carrot” doesn’t mean anything.. it’s really vague and makes one wonder? What??? Why would they use that? It doesn’t make any sense, right?  Well, we did add another slogan before that, that does mean something, “Don’t Be A Fool, Be Cool For School…”  That’s Garrett’s real message.

So, Garrett came home that day, thrilled with the response he has received! He said the teachers and students LOVED his banner and it’s the only one of its kind. The message may not be as “meaningful” but it sticks and people remember it!  He said the kids started cheering him on and saying, “Garrett we will vote for you!”  The children were repeating, “Be Cool for School”, and “Don’t Be A Carrot”! It became a conversation piece for everyone!  Sure there were a handful of students who told him, “Seriously, couldn’t you think of something better?”  His simple response was, “Not really… I didn’t need to… I think it’s cool… do you have a better suggestion?”  None of them could come up with anything… We just knew that what we created was something quite effective.  It built a momentum of its own.  Here are the banners and posters as displayed in their multipurpose room:

Election was a week after the banners were hung, which was that Friday but on Monday morning, all candidates had to deliver a 1-minute speech on video which will be shown simultaneously in all the classrooms before the actual elections around school dismissal in the afternoon.   Garrett’s speech was basically an extension of what he has already said on his banner and posters, but now the students actually saw and heard him saying it which game them a feel of who this person really is.  Garrett said his entire class roared with pride and cheered him on after they watched the video!

So, at school pick-up, as I was sitting in my car waiting for them to get out, I heard on the loud PA System, “Okay… we’re ready to announce the winners of today’s elections… For ASB Senator – GARRETT TIEBENS!”  I was sooo happy, I shed tears of joy.. I just knew what this meant for my son and his desire to serve and empower other children.  I just know that this goes beyond him having the title of Senator… This proves to him once again that HIS MESSAGE MATTERS… that HE MATTERS and that he has a mission to empower other to be the same.  As the other students walked to their parents’ / guardians’ cars that day, I still hear them talking about, “That’s so cool the “Carrot Boy” won!  He seems really nice… ”

Here is a picture of a grateful and happy son with his very proud mother!

The moral of this story?  When you make a decision and you say yes, the momentum starts taking shape and you just never know where it will take you!  You cannot steer a parked car! Keep saying yes to more things… Take more risks… you may fail but knowing that you gave it your best shot will get you more comfortable in taking more risks while tapping into your inner strength and leveraging your mastery.  And that my dear friends is the true secret to success!

If a 12-year old child can give himself that experience, how much more can you achieve?


Cheering You On!


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