A Touching Story About Personal Branding

By Skip Lineberg

West Virginia University Athletic Director Oliver Luck All of the cutting-edge social networking in the world pales in comparison to the effect that a thougthful, personalized one-to-one interaction can have on your personal brand. Nothing illustrates that more clearly than this wonderful, true story I’m about to share with you. To begin this story, allow me to introduce you to the characters:

Glenn is a personal friend of mine, a college classmate. We attended West Virginia University (WVU) together in the mid-1980′s.

Gillian is Glenn’s 10 year old daughter, a sixth grader.

Oliver Luck is the newly-hired athletic director at WVU. He also starred at quarterback at WVU in the early 1980′s. Oliver went on to play in the NFL. His playing days were followed by a successful career in sports management, notably with the NFL – Europe league.

Now, let’s proceed with the story. Glenn is a great father. He frequently takes his daughter and son on road trips for fun and education. He is especially fond of exposing his children, who presently reside in New Jersey, to his former “stomping grounds” in West Virginia.

Recently, Glenn and Gillian took a trip to Morgantown to visit WVU. Following this trip, his daughter was left with a question. As Glenn explained:

My daughter is convinced that she is going to WVU even though she is just going into the 6th grade.   She plays pretty competitive travel softball.  I pointed out to her that WVU currently does not have a softball team, and she asked why.  I explained that a university-level sports team is very expensive to run and she asked me who she should talk to about the university getting a team.  I told her to write a letter to the new Athletic Director, Oliver Luck.  So she did… and he responded!

Who knows if she will keep playing or ever play at the college level.  But I think an awful lot of Oliver Luck for taking the time to draft a very detailed response, and for him to offer her up advice on her future.  Pretty cool!

Now, here’s the good part. The following is the text from a personal letter that Athletic Director Oliver Luck sent in response to Gillian:

Dear Gillian:

Thank you very much for your letter of July 22. I congratulate you for taking the initiative to send a letter to me–that’s very impressive for a 10-year old. Regarding your issue and women’s softball; I can tell you that I would love to add a number of sports to the WVU Dept. of Athletics, including softball. It would be a great step for us to be in a position to add sports like men’s and women’s golf and men’s and  women’s lacrosse as well as the sports that we eliminated a few years ago – men’s tennis and men’s track and cross country.

I am sure that you understand the financial implications involved in adding additional sports. We estimate that any additional sport will involve at least $1 million in operating costs and of course there would be significant capital costs required to build a new field, locker rooms, etc.

West Virginia University prides itself on having a financially self-sufficient Dept. of Athletics, one of only a dozen schools in the nation to make the claim. My predecessor, Ed Pastilong, did an incredible job of maintaining this “fiscal independence” and I am determined to continue this under my watch.

Gillian, as I learn more about the Dept. of Athletics and the overall University, I will begin the process of looking at the possiblity of additional sports being added. Will we add any in the future? The short answers is I don’t yet know. But I can tell you we will look at the possibility.

Please allow me to give you one last bit of advice, something which I have shared with my four kids, including my oldest children who are competing in college athletics: choose a school primarily for academics, not athletics. You want to come out of college as prepared as you can to enter the work force (or perhaps attend graduate school). Your academic success is going to be the key to your success in life. Don’t get me wrong – athletics is tremendous and you will learn a good bit about yourself as you compete in junior high and high school. But you should always focus on your academics.

Thank you again for your letter and I hope to see you enroll at WVU in the Class of 2022!

Sincerely,

Oliver Luck – Director of Athletics

How is Oliver Luck’s personal brand trending these days? No job is without challenges, but Mr. Luck’s reputation is certainly strong and rising, in light of this story and (presumably) many others like it. In conclusion, I will share with you the fact that Glenn distributed this letter to 200 of his friends via e-mail. Without a doubt, he and Gillian have shared this story–and sung the praises of Oliver Luck–with hundreds more.

Skip Lineberg is co-author of “Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out and Move Up at Your First Real Job.” His book is filled with lessons, like this one, about leveraging the incremental edge to ignite your success and boost your personal brand. Incidentally, Lineberg who was, himself, a high school quarterback, met Oliver Luck at a summer football camp at WVU in the early 1980′s; he was impressed back then–now, even more so!

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