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A Case Study in Building a Brand with Leslie Beck

Leslie Beck is a Registered Dietitian with a private practice at Medisys in Toronto, and Globe and Mail columnist who has published 12 books since 2000.

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I entered my first year at UBC with the intention of becoming a lawyer. I took biology courses too because I had always loved the subject. I decided early on I wanted to be a corporate lawyer so, during my second year, I focused on courses that would lead to a commerce degree. But they just didn’t interest me like the sciences did. In fact, I nearly failed my economics class. At the end of the academic year I told my mother I was going to quit university and become a flight attendant. My mom was a pioneer really: she earned a MBA while working full-time and raising two kids on her own. She wasn’t happy about my desire to drop out of school (neither was I), so I researched degree programs in the human sciences. That’s when I learned about dietetics and I’ve been in the field ever since.

When I first started working as a dietitian in private practice, I was incredibly motivated to build my business. I was putting in long hours, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was developing a brand. And in the 20 years since, I feel I’ve learned a few things about branding yourself.

1. Be an early adopter
When I started out, desktop publishing was cutting edge. It’s a term we never hear or use anymore, but I jumped on it back then. I worked as a dietitian and ran a side business from home, publishing newsletters and communication materials for the Canadian Diabetes Association, for medical journals and other groups in the health field.
The brand impact: I learned how these organizations needed to market themselves to their audiences; how they could best present their messages and brand. And that helped me when it came to doing the same for myself and my business.

2. Create opportunity
I was asked to do a health segment for a local television station and when it was over, the producer said, “That was great. We should do it again sometime.” I went home and drafted a proposal for a weekly
lunchtime spot and faxed it to him the next day. He loved the idea, but said there wasn’t any money to pay me. So, I drafted another proposal and secured a sponsor. That first year it was the Ontario Milk Marketing Board—they paid me as well as station. After, Quest Vitamins sponsored the segment.
The brand impact: That tv spot lasted for six years and led to other tv appearances, including hosting a daily show on the Discovery Channel and 14 years as an on-air expert for CTV’s Canada AM. These platforms helped me expand my practice and become known as an expert in my field.

3. Upgrade constantly
Things in my industry change quickly as scientists uncover new findings about diet and health. In order to do educate my clients and readers on how the latest nutrition findings—and foods—apply to their lives, I have to stay on top of it all. I spend weeks at a time attending conferences and taking courses in the United States and Canada. Researching and writing books and my weekly Globe and Mail column also keeps me current.
The brand impact: I’m able to present my clients and readers with the most up-to-date information and advice, which increases their odds of succeeding with their goals. And it solidifies me as an expert.

4. Choose partners carefully
If a public relations firm asks me to do a media campaign for their client, I have to be extremely confident in that brand to even consider the proposal. I am very careful about how my brand is positioned.
The brand impact: Integrity matters. Be known for having it.

5. Maintain the brand
In the early days especially, I sat on committees that interested me. I was definitely one of those people who said “yes” to volunteer opportunities in my field (until I learned you have to start saying no). I probably didn’t realize I was doing it at the time, but I was networking.
The brand impact: I was meeting other people who could help me at a later point in my career; it was great exposure for me and for my future brand.

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Lesie was a 2014 Women of Influence Health Panelist – beginning in Toronto and travelling to Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal – helping women battle stress and encouraging them to put their health FIRST. You can also watch the video of the Toronto event here!