Is Branding Just BS?

For a number of reasons we are all resistant to the idea of assessing or even creating a brand. As a small business or start-up we think, “Well this isn’t a priority. I haven’t even made money yet. A fancy logo and sales language can wait.”

I posted an article on Facebook a few weeks ago dissecting the notion of brand as a luxury expense but I want to tackle this from a different angle.

I consider myself very lucky so far that in my career as a branding coach I have come across almost no one who didn’t have some idea of why branding is good. Then, just as my comfy couch of perfect clients was starting to form its perfect butt indentation, something or someone jabs me in my left ass cheek. Perhaps its because I’m forced to use words like branding and marketing when even I find them cringe-worthy. I hate having to rely on industry jargon to simplify my ideas around marketing. It makes them feel empty and manipulative.

Coming from an arts background means my education opened up my world vastly. So vastly that it let in a lot of ugly lofty thoughts and judgments about the value of creating. Art school teaches you many valuable things but when it forces you into a competitive environment with yourself and your peers, creates a highly structured grading system, and tells you that you should be “industry ready” by the time your program ends, it does something to your creativity. It eats it up and spits out cookie-cutter thoughts disguised as discerning taste, analytical thinking, and success. It took me a long time to shake the feeling of being inadequate or not living up to that lofty idea of what a true artist is. I still fall into this trap. Most days though, I am reminded of something inherent in all creators – resourcefulness. I am reminded of this because each and every day I work with clients who introduce new levels of scrappiness into my world.

Innovation, creativity, and art are all forms of resourcefulness. It is about using our imagination to stretch beyond the immediate meaning or use of the thing in front of us. When else do we see this? Well, when we play – or more accurately, played. So is our job as creators then not to create the most bad-ass sandbox to play in? Is it not to immerse ourselves in an environment where boundaries are bendy and following rules is failure. This doesn’t sound much like any education system, does it?

Before I digress into one of my most adored ranting topics –education – let’s keep this train on its tracks.

This is how I define branding – being able to express who you are, what you do, and how you do it in both a literal, symbolic, and visual way. Good branding should be so embedded in who you are at your core so that whether people are looking at your website, hearing you speak, chatting with you over a glass of rouge, or working with you, they know what type of experience they can expect from you. Before you can get to that though – you’re going to need your sandbox. You’re going to have to forcefully inject creative problem solving into your world. Now you try explaining this to someone who has no concept of branding. It’s seriously fucking hard. So you turn to your marketing jargon encyclopedia and begin spouting out buzz words like “social media engagement”, “conversion”, “web traffic”, and “sales”. No doubt these things are all extremely important. But they are not at the core of a brand. YOU are at the core of the brand. YOU are the common factor. Your thinking, your method, and your obstacles. Those other things are – mind you quite amazing – tools to help sell, get people to read your authentic content, and spread your good-hearted message to the world.

Think of your business as that beautiful sand castle you want to build. The things you find in the sandbox are the tools or add-ons for your biz that can help you build it, and make it better. The other kids in there are people who will believe in and work for your vision. So what’s missing in all this? Well kids, the sandbox. Part of what I teach in brand coaching is play. Get back to that core version of yourself. That version of yourself that could build worlds, delegate roles, invent new rules, and solve problems creatively with only sand and discarded, often broken, tools or throwaway toys. That version of yourself that could intuitively spin a tale and have people begging to be a part of the crew, even it is only to scoop and pile dirt.

Branding is not just developing your credibility, reputation, and visual language, it is knowing on an intuitive level who you are, how you do things, and how you solve problems. This is what you want to communicate consistently to your clients or customers. That is how you become a many-pronged market superstar. In a nutshell, be the shit out of yourself and share it with everyone. If you can’t do this – cool. Hire me. I will be that nurse you love/hate who injects play back into your world.

Ps. Warning. This blog is sweary.

 

The Mindful Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs are often a labeled as aggressive, stubborn types who let nothing and no one stand in the way of their vision. I have no qualms with this type of entrepreneur. They have given us Facebook, intuitive tech and software, and agency to customize our daily experiences from apps that track our monthly cycle (down to our eating and pooping habits) to adjusting to our music tastes to give us only what we desire. But I am finding another type. They have existed for a long time but their space is opening up in a more integrated and interdisciplinary way. These people I am going to call “Mindful Entrepreneurs” and as it happens, my clients so far all fall into this category and it’s exhilarating.

These are some traits I have found these people to possess in various combinations:

  • Holistic in their approach
  • Their mission involves contributing to a social good
  • They desire a “tribe” and often feel lonely or disconnected in traditional friendships
  • Their inspiration can reach the heights of Everest but just as quickly they can get caught up in a web of existential worry about their own worth.
  • They’ve undergone at least one major transformation if not more
  • They have not always known exactly what they wanted to do but they had a pretty good sense of they wanted to feel about what they do
Photo by Kaj Peterson. Licensed under CC at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/
Photo by Kaj Peterson. Licensed under CC at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

So why do we need to pay attention to these people? They are going to be the ones who connect the two seemingly disparate paths of our desire for the simplicity of the past and the drunken lust with which we stumble to our complex futures. When I talk about the past I mean our dreamy vision of “simpler” times where language was less important than spirituality and storytellers played the roles of healers and magicians. I also mean our own simpler pasts as children. The time where we felt an inherent connection to the dirt beneath our feet and freedom felt like outside.

So now that we understand these types a little better let’s talk about their typical business challenges and is often what brings them to me:

  • How to monetize (this being the biggest and most difficult challenge)
  • How to balance maintaining professional relationships without comprising their natural desire to connect deeply with people on a truly personal level
  • What to call themselves (job title, position etc.)
  • How to make a sustainable business out of doing but also teaching others how to do
  • How to make a living doing what they love without losing the love by making it about money
  • When to protect their ideas and when to share them with anyone who will listen

An unexpected calling that has revealed itself to me this year has been to understand these challenges and find solutions for them that resonate with the mindful. Second to that, I feel a strong need to curate these ideas and solutions into a larger vision for the world to start seeing how valuable these people will continue to become.

I’m not one for New Year resolutions since my feeling of renewal and the need for freshness only came Jan. 8th after an impromptu night out with my tribe. That aside, I am on a clear path to deep dive into these topics and challenges. Because I believe that we do not need to be afraid of business. We do not need to feel like a cop out. We just have to pay attention to what we are offering in the exchange between us and a client or a customer. Because while money is a necessity of modern life, we are all capable of more meaningful exchanges and one does not erase the need for the other.

 

 

ARTPRENEUR 2015

Chicklets and chuckles – this past weekend I attended a seriously rad event. It is a trade show held at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans for artists of all kinds looking to turn their craft into a business. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend any of the seminars as I was the only one at my table and had to guard my free chocolates with my life (and my mouth…sluurp). It was my first trade show and I as such I wanted to share my findings and observations. Keep in mind I wrote these as the day went on so they don’t necessarily reflect my overall view. This is more of a play-by-play of the day.

  • Some delegates only come to give YOU advice. Not the nice encouraging kind either. The mean kind that leaves you eating mini chocolates for breakfast.
  • The size of your display is meaningless. It is the size of the personality behind the display.
  • Make friends with all the vendors. Not only are they totally awesome people but they will send people your way.
  • Everyone likes chocolate.
  • Artists are apparently a step ahead of the game. Their outfits were so rad and so reflective of their personal brand that I was inspired!
  • DO NOT make a sales pitch. Engage in real conversations and give out real advice! It was like a free focus group and I’m so pumped to work on content aimed at artpreneurs over the next couple of months.
  • Anyone can inspire you if you just ask the right questions.
  • Art organizers are such a wonderful and entertaining combo of jaded and passionate.
  • Mini Crunch bars and by far the favourite.
  • If you see people you know tweet at them to come to your table. They will bring friends!
  • I need a cool hat.

Wrecking Ball: Miley Coyote

My first experiences with social media were limited to adding university pals much in the same way I collected passport stamps. Then, like an intelligence agent, sifting through the photos my camera-happy friend tagged me in. Other than that, my timeline was a bit of a ghost town.

In fact, I resisted social media at every turn. I thought it was vain, superficial, and most egregiously, gave us a false sense of connectivity with other humans (and the occasional cat).

Now, I spend my days blogging about the importance of an online presence and even worse, I help people find their inner twitter bug. Gross!

So I am of two minds. On the one hand, I am a huge judgmental naysayer. On the other hand, I am incredibly motivated by our interactions via social media. It has become a huge source of information for my consulting and I think, made me a little braver. With that inherent rebelliousness and a now an actual business need to use social media  – I’ve decided to give my social media persona a name. Her name is: Miley Coyote. The meaning of social media is not love or hate – its those rare moments where the two come together to share a new meaning altogether.

The 9 Golden Rules of Being Wile E. Coyote: Committed for Life

The creator of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, Chuck Jones, had 9 golden rules when producing each episode. Stay with me. To understand Miley Coyote we must first look at the coyote (moon howling is obligatory).

  1. The Road Runner cannot hurt the coyote.
  2. No outside force can harm the coyote except the backfiring ACME products.
  3. Coyote was driven only by his fanaticism – otherwise he could stop at anytime.
  4. The only dialogue is “beep beep”.
  5. The Road Runner can only be on the road.
  6. All the action can only take place in the setting of a generic southwest American desert.
  7. All materials, weapons, tools, or products used must be purchased from ACME Corp.
  8. Whenever possible, make gravity coyote’s biggest challenge.
  9. The coyote is always humiliated by his failures rather than injured.

These rules not only dictate how the world of this cartoon works, but also how the characters can be expected to behave inside it. So why is this cartoon so engaging? Is it because each episode is predictable and therefore we don’t have to use our noggin or is it for some other reason? Before we explore that further let’s look at a creature far less appealing with a seeming disregard for anything shaped like a rule.

An Unlikely Advocate

Miley Ray Cyrus has been dubbed a social media dominatrix. Her behaviour on and offline is not dictated by the social rules set forth for any of the “normative” roles she is partakes in: female, pop star, fashionista, celebrity. Like a horror movie, we enjoy the gore, fear, and suddenness of it all.

But wait! A dominatrix follows rules as well, she just creates them herself and enforces them on willing participants. A horror movie still scares us even though the genre is as predictable as an episode of The Road Runner. Why? Because both require two things:

  1. Willing submission for the pleasure of involuntary reactions
  2. Suspended disbelief

In horror movies (you can make the kink comparison yourself I’m sure), despite us knowing whats waiting for us, we allow ourselves to fall into a space of submission. We want to be startled, scream, see gore beyond what we could handle in real life, and feel the suspense and fear of the characters themselves. In order to have these reactions (in fact, which we pay money to have) we have to suspend our disbelief. We have to believe the coyote will continue to hunt the Road Runner despite numerous injuries and a track record of irrefutable failure. We have to make room for the irrational decision of the lead character to go into the creepy basement where the noise is coming from.

So how does this apply to social media?

Credibility Isn’t Cheap

Coyote is the masochist to Miley’s sadist. Is social media not just the same thing? A balance between pain and pleasure, love and hate, appropriate and inappropriate? But how did these two characters become credible sources of this behaviour? Consistency. Sure, Miley flaps around like she makes her decisions via magic eight ball but the truth is, her social media persona is as formed, as branded, as committed as Wile E. is to the rules of Chuck Jones. The credibility of a persona relies on key indicators that amount to an authentic being. The most important one being consistency.

This is no easy thing. Yes, sometimes being on social media can feel superficial and disconnected. The way I see it – it’s a costume in a play. I ask people to give me willingness to submit and I ask people to suspend their disbelief. But I do it in exchange for a story. I use my persona or character as a vehicle to communicate complex relationships. Even if it is to demonstrate the complex relationships we have with ourselves. In the space where Miley and Coyote come together we learn about the similar truths existing in seemingly contradictory characters.  Some of the most abstract art produces the most authentic feelings.

Sometimes I rant, sometimes I share content I feel strongly about, sometimes I laugh at the very things that inspire me, sometimes I choose to leave out a very specific element of myself to make the story stronger. My in between truth – I am an explorer. I do not sit comfortably in the middle. I need to engage every part of myself on every platform available to me. I just don’t like to do it all at the same time.

My brand is Miley Coyote. Whats yours?

(Un)Social? – by Clio Em

We’re discussing social media personas here on this blog. Each of us has one, like a sort of digital patronus. We control them and give them life, but they can take on a life of their own, too.

Clio Em, online, is me. This reflected self is creative, fun, and occasionally irreverent. She sings as well as I do but never hits any wrong notes, wears pretty dresses all the time and doesn’t lounge around the house composing at the piano in dance pants like I do. She is not a mobile photography enthusiast; she is a photographer.

There are many ways of being social, just as there are many ways of sharing one’s work. I very much like using Facebook daily, updating my friends and acquaintances on what it is that I’m up to, especially from the artistic angle. Same with twitter and Instagram. I use VSCO Grid to share my best photos, and showcase my audio creations on SoundCloud. I have separate accounts for various music projects I work on, and these are tremendously useful as documentation of my work, little windows into the world in which I create. I love sharing my photos, not only because I enjoy taking them but also because I feel that if I can spread a little more beauty in the world, then it’s a post that was well worth it.

Yet artists sometimes make the mistake of directly equating followers to fans and likes to true emotional connection. Of course this can be the case. But online, a like or follow can also indicate friendship, professional reciprocity, or it can be an efficient form of bookmarking. It’s helpful to understand who’s reading your posts, but also to realize that offline interaction is important, too.

The real value of social media, for me at least, is its use as a communications catalyst. Without Facebook or twitter, I could never have looked up and written to many musicians I very much admire and forged meaningful collaborations, which led to such opportunities as study, research, performances, and compositions. In all these cases, social media was the medium for communication. I used it as an initial contact point, and then jumped off from there to meaningful discussion, meeting in real life, and making music and art together. But there comes a point in my day when it becomes crucial to actually get offline and create, purely in the analogue world. To play an instrument or to sing, without distractions.

We digital natives no longer have the luxury, or the curse, of existing alone most of the time, and so when we do get this rare time alone offline, we tend to either value or reject it. At one point or another throughout our day, even during quiet moments, we are often in heavy and constant contact with others through our smartphones and computers. Others’ thoughts and feelings influence ours, and vice versa. For me as an artist, this means that I can work more easily with others. Sometimes it helps me get inspired. I can find performers to play my compositions at a moment’s notice, and I can seek out an ensemble to sing with just as easily. I can apply to festivals, grants, and other opportunities online. I can communicate with the people behind these opportunities faster and more easily. Yet it also means that at times, it is difficult to take the time to unplug and think things out without that online influence.

In certain situations, social media belongs in a concert setting, for example in digital and net art, or during live electronics performances and so on. But in the vast majority of cases, it’s probably a good idea to separate our online personas from our offline selves.
Photography by Georg Aufreiter

Clio Em is an award-winning musician, writer, and creative on a mission to discover new sound worlds. Drawing from her extensive classical piano, composition and voice training at institutions such as McGill University and the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Clio’s distinct crossover style fuses elements of pop, folk, classical, and electronic genres that blend together into an arresting whole. Her work with text complements her music. Clio Em’s instruments of choice include piano, various guitars and ukuleles, her own voice, electronics, found objects, and the occasional touch of cello, accordion, and small percussion instruments. Born and raised in Alberta, Clio Em now calls many places in the galaxy home, Canada and Europe among them. She writes at clio-em.com.

When Personal is Professional – by Catherine Brunelle

Way(yyyyy) back in the early days of high school, I was 25% keener, 25% nerd, and 50% wall flower. But you know what else I was? A hundred percent hoping to be noticed. Between my highs and lows, all I really wanted was to be seen. So here’s what went through my brain most days: “Put up your hand! Say what you’re thinking!” Quickly followed by: “But what if you offend someone? What if other people know better? Be safe, say nothing!” A gag of nerves stifled my voice.

Then and Now

All this was before social media entered my life. It was also before I did a lot of other things like realize everyone is insecure and to some degree we’re all afraid of screwing up. However, for the sake of this post’s theme around online personas, let’s just stick with the whole ‘social media changed my life’ thesis, because it did. It really did. And I’ll prove it to you with three quick stories: Voice, Social and Career.

 Voice

“I didn’t realize you’re funny,” said my friend after reading my blog. This was itself hilarious since I’d known her literally my entire life and my blog was about having breast cancer. But I took it as a sign of a good thing.

At first Bumpyboobs was a secret from everyone, even my parents who I hadn’t then told about my suspected disease. Because it was secret, the blog was easy to name. If it had been created for the eyes of others, I probably would have called it ‘my super noble journey in conquering breast cancer’ or something like that. But this was for my eyes only, so I named it exactly what made me laugh most. The name was my unfiltered voice, aka, the endearing smart ass. That way of starting things, of doing it for myself and not others, has stayed with me over the years of writing.

Number one personal rule for blogging: If it’s my blog, it’s my story. As someone writing about breast cancer, after the blog went public I was quickly labelled a cancer blogger – people would email me asking to review their health products or just expect me to write about cancer all the time. But it’s my blog and I associate it with my identity both offline and online. Adhering to an imposed label, even one that gets attention, was just another form of self-censoring and I didn’t need that. I’m a whole lot of things and that is reflected in the posts. Those readers who dig it, dig me. It’s that simple.

My website has since changed to CatherineBrunelle.com to shake off expectations. But I have to say, it was always a secret thrill at executive networking events to direct politicians, CEOs and government officials to my website: “Bumpyboobs.com.”

Social

Once upon a time, someone I know complained about a person on their Facebook. He didn’t understand why they kept posting so many updates about their day. Who cared? Not him, that’s for sure.

These words stuck with me for a while and I had to chew them over. Why bother saying anything online? Who was I to share a stupid reflection, or picture, or anything? But then I realized, these thoughts felt like high school all over again. I don’t want to put that gag back on. And so I thought about it, and came to realize something important: different platforms, different expressions.

It’s absolutely okay to tweet a stream of observations while riding the bus in Ottawa. But if I did that on Facebook non-stop, it would flood timelines. It’s important to know your platform, regardless of whether you’re talking personal or professional. A while back I did a photo shoot of two dolls in love, which were definitely best shared on Tumblr. Any and all food pics go on Instagram. Business and life articles on Linkedin. Articles and vacation pictures go on Facebook. But best of all is Twitter, because it’s my catchall.

Be respectful, have fun, and know your platforms. If social media is a voice box for things you find interesting, weird creative experiments, and brave introductions to awesome people – then I say just go for it. Who cares about “Who cares?”

 Career

Here’s the thing. I say all this about voice and expression, but I also realize that the first thing many employers or clients do before working with you is check your social media. What we do socially reflects upon us professionally. This is a GOOD thing.

I wanted to write, so I started a blog. Suddenly I was a writer. I wanted to talk about writing, so I co-founded a podcast, suddenly I was a presenter. I wanted to become an author so I crowd funded online, and suddenly I had a novel. I was sick of being a cancer blogger, so I redesigned my website to cast off the pink ribbon vibe and suddenly I felt better. When it comes to the internet, you create the impression. There are no grades or degrees to be won – we gain our cred by taking action, and there’s no limitation on the actions we can take.

This might sound naïve, but it actually does work. I landed my first writing gig by attending a networking event and simply telling everyone there that I was a writer. All I had was my blogging and guest posts to back up that claim, but it was enough to secure steady work. It was an incredible feeling, and no one at any point said, ‘you can’t do that’; instead they said, ‘can you do that for me?’ Since then, I’ve literally created opportunities and expertise through experiments online. Today I get to work an incredible marketing job in a position that resonates deeply with my interests and values. It’s awesome.

(And even if I’m making it up as I go, at least I’m going!)

So there you have it. Three very quick stories about creating an online persona helped me find my voice. Thanks to Red Brick Rooster for this opportunity to share a piece of my story!


Catherine Brunelle is a content creator, marketer and author of the perfect book club novel, Claire Never Ending. Visit her website at CatherineBrunelle.com and do be sure to say hello over on Twitter.

State Suites and Titillating Tweets – by Eliot K. Waddingham

whichever-800wi

My name is Eliot Waddingham, and I use gender neutral pronouns.

Did you feel that? That tight little clench in the back of your neck, like you’ve just heard someone announce a radical political view?

Don’t worry, I felt it too.

You’re feeling it because you’re thinking, “Oh boy, here’s another one.”  I’m feeling it because I know that’s what you’re feeling, and I just wanted you to refer to me using neutral pronouns.  I can’t do that, however, without inadvertently making statements that cause the majority of people I interact with to assume other things about my identity.  I’m a communist, a vegan, and a militant feminist. Probably. You never know with those people.

But wait! There’s more. I’m also a Christian. More accurately, I’m a theistic rationalist.

I know, I know. That’s an unnecessary level of detail when you haven’t even bought me a coffee, yet!

I attend St. Alban’s Anglican in Ottawa, and between frequenting the music team and occasionally giving a sermon (http://eliotinterchange.com/2015/07/13/telling-our-stories-me-the-ethopian-eunuch/) , lots of people know my name there even if I don’t always know theirs. As part of my leadership at St. Al’s, I’ve also lead two workshops about gender and sexuality and how these things intersect with faith. I was once on a panel of ‘millennials’ talking about why we still go to church. Despite my incredibly verbose and awkward manner of speaking and just generally taking up space, people seem to be interested in my opinions on things there, and I share them.

So, that’s my personal life, which honestly, is not as simple as I’d like it to be. Being queer and Christian is not something that comes without contradiction, or, rather, contradictions have to do with what people assume I think or feel about [insert religious/queer rights issue here]. If you were friends with me on Facebook, you’d see a collection of religious memes, political posts encouraging Canucks not to vote for Harper in October, and a lot of geeking out about how Nepal just created third-gender passports. Oh, and pictures of my cats. Kind of a lot of pictures of my cats.

You would also see on my Facebook a number of reposts for whatever is going on with my job. I am very privileged to be the head of research for an “edutainment” company called Bold & Mighty. (You KNOW you wanna click through that one. Did you do it? Don’t worry, I’ll wait). I post daily “On This Day in History” posts, in English and French, corral a pretty rad team of researchers, and occasionally write more in-depth blog posts about historical events, like this one about an air raid on a German dam that would make a great blockbuster film (http://www.boldandmighty.com/blog/2015/5/17/5-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-dam-busters). Though I usually feed most of the social media posts into a bot that will post them for me at higher traffic times, occasionally, I have to do things manually.  Because our Facebook page insists on being tied to my “personal” Facebook account, when that happens, the feed will show that: Eliot K. Waddingham on behalf of Bold and Mighty posted this. This can sometimes be sweet, because people like my grandmother will post on our daily history facts and comment about how much she loves my job.  It’s also a little frightening.  I work for a company whose spoken purpose is to educate Canadians about Canadian military history.  Military buffs, by and large, tend to be conservative people, who probably wouldn’t like the pride flag gradient I’ve had over my profile picture for a month.

When I was growing up, I lived in a (small-c) conservative family. My father and his parents come from a very British tradition of keeping your business to yourself. My family was, and still is, very involved in the church. For as long as I can remember, a particular sort of tension often cropped up in church life about having, “private,” issues you dealt with in the family, and having, “public,” matters you shared with the broader community. Churches have a lot of good to them, but anyone who’s gone to one for an extended period of time will know that gossip is a vicious weed in those circles. Everyone talks about everyone else. It is allowed, to a certain extent, because churches were considered to span that bridge between, “public,” and, “private,” life. It used to be that we had this expectation that people–average people, less so for celebrities or politicians–would leave their personal problems in the personal sphere and put on a private face for work. And similarly, it didn’t matter what your political views or sexual identity were as long as you could get the job done. As Pierre Elliot Trudeau once put it, “there is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

The historian in me needs to point out that this idea has always been a fallacy–in the 1920s, Ford famously implemented his “$5 A Day” wages, which were only for workers who were married, kept their house in good order, and ideally abstained from alcohol.  Look at the British royal family or the Clinton affair. Look at any tabloid magazine in any convenience store! We’ve always been obsessed with the “personal,” and frequently have let the personal impact the political.

This is particularly relevant now, as never has it been so easy as it is today for the political to monitor the personal. How many articles have you read about the importance of curating your Facebook page, avoiding those drunk photos and keeping away from expressing too strong a political opinion on anything? How many times have we been told that potential employers are looking for your Facebook–they want you to have one, and they want to see something about you, something personal, but something positive. Well-put together, ideally with at least one quirky interest, but nothing you wouldn’t show your great-grandmother.  This is where things can be difficult for me.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of my identity (even more than the Queer Christian thing) is that I am open, and always have been, about my ongoing struggle with mental illness. I’ve always made it a point to be open about that part of my life.  Similar to my more-recent coming-out as queer, I find the only way to decrease stigma is to talk about myself with candor – and occasionally, humour. While that’s a cute little life philosophy, what doesn’t fit on the convenient business card blurb is the anxiety that comes along with it.  I lay it out pretty clearly on my blog that having depression makes me a crappy 9-5 employee (http://eliotinterchange.com/2015/07/17/on-salaried-existence-spoon-theory-and-digital-nomadism/), and that can be off-putting to some.

This is about the time where I’m supposed to sum up what I’ve written in something pithy you can post as a tagline if you share this on Facebook (which, hey, I hope you do! I’d love to get talking about this in the comments). But the truth is, I don’t have an easy summary for this, nor do I have concrete conclusions about what it means to be a Complicated Human in a Digital World. I do my best to own my contributions to that virtual cork-board where we all create ourselves, status by status, share by share. Some of these contributions are complicated — it’s not easy to be queer, to be Christian, to be both. To be chronically depressed and clinically anxious, and still hold down a job and some university courses.   Paradox and ambiguity characterizes many of these, which makes them hard to pare down into simplistic views and soundbites.

In my opinion, all we can do — and admittedly, I’m not always great at this — is think before we talk, and try to be who we are. The century we live in has brought us a lot of cool stuff through this Internet thing.  It’s never been easier for me to find those people who fit in the Venn diagram of queer and christian, geeky and introverted, mentally ill and wanting to talk about that. The cost, of course, is that we’ve also got problems like Weinergate, a Facebook timeline that has forever chronicled that stupid stuff I wanted to share with everyone at age fifteen, and subreddits about creepshots.

The internet is holding us to a level of accountability we’ve never seen before, and it’s brought the “personal” and the “private” so close together that the letters have started to blur. There may be no place for the state in our bedroom, but we did make space for our smartphones. To mix metaphors–we’ve built a new bed. Let’s start talking about how best we want to lay in it.

 

eliotw

Eliot is a 22-year old self-described “gender bandit” with a big heart and a weakness for Bridgehead lattes. Professionally, they do research and monitor social media for Bold & Mighty. Personally, they like to knit, embroider, and watch 80s sci-fi. You can find them at eliotinterchange.com

 

Social Media Personas: Who am I?

One of the best things about my job is that I get to meet such a wide variety of people both on and off line. So naturally I want to share some of the insight I have gained from these individuals with you guys!

I’m so generous.

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some guest pieces written for THIS HERE BLOG about online personas. I have picked writers who rely heavily on social media for either their profession or their professional hobby and have unique challenges in terms of how to represent themselves online.

We all navigate the tricky waters of personal vs shareable. Let’s see what advice these folks can give us. Then at the end of the series I will be posting my nuttiest blog yet summarizing my thoughts on how to figure out what you should share and what you should spare.

Happy reading ready readers.

 

 

 

Crazy Little Thing Called Clients

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Let’s crack open the elephant egg in the room – clients. You may want to buckle up, because we are going to talk about this via my favourite source of inspiration – online dating.

Why, you ask? Two words: personal branding. Online dating was a moment of confidence and clarity in my life. I knew who I was and what I wanted. So when I was faced with doubt and anxiety at finding clients I turned to that experience for help.

Spoiler alert! Despite my best efforts to avoid being a poster child for anything conventional (convention, yuck!), I am a poster child for online dating. I joined on a Tuesday and on that Friday I went on my first date with the man I would end up marrying 2 years later. And ladies, this is not some Cosmo bull$h*t on how finding a husband is like climbing the corporate ladder. This is instead about a trend we should take note of in terms of how we connect to people online and offline.

Personal Branding

Your typical online dating site works using a three-pronged system; photos, match %, and a descriptive profile. While I could easily draw conclusions about the use of photos and personality-based metrics, for the sake of space I will only focus on the third-prong: the personal description.

Lets start off by filling out a profile on OkCupid and along the way I will show you how in meeting my husband, I learned an incredibly important lesson in branding and client hunting.

Fill in below and find love instantly…

Below I have copied the sections from OkCupid that they ask you to fill in. As an aside, this was no random choice. I am not just a fan of this site for delivering me my husband (express): I am a fan because they really understand what connects people. The questions below may look fairly standard but in them is a goldmine of critical information. You just have to know how to read it and then write it.

* If you are interested in doing this personal branding exercise – scroll to the end of the post and print out the detailed list. I encourage you to try and fill it in before reading the rest of this post and then again at the end of reading this post. Please feel free to share some of your insights in the comments section.*

  1. My self-summary
  2. What am I doing with my life
  3. I’m really good at
  4. The first things people usually notice about me
  5. Favourite books, movies, shows, music, and food
  6. The six things I could never do without
  7. I spend a lot of time thinking about
  8. On a typical Friday night I am
  9. The most private thing I’m willing to admit
  10. I’m looking for
  11. You should message me if

Step 1: Who am I?

Imagine for a minute that you are doing this exercise for the purpose of dating. You may see self-summary and think, “I will list all my relevant experience to prove how valuable I am”. You begin with a list of your schooling, dating experience, relationship skills, and end with an account of all the high-fives you’ve received in your climb to being an excellent partner. We do this when we look for work so why don’t we do this in dating? Because we know that this is not how real connections are made. Entrepreneurship relies on the relationships you build with customers and clients. So why do we forget that when we enter a professional situation?

There is evidence all around us of the things we are good at. That evidence doesn’t just take the forms of certifications, awards, recognitions, and degrees. Open your mind and think about all the things that you do well: all the moments in your day/week where you feel particularly strong. Here are mine:

When I first did this exercise (as in, when I decided to go off on my own) this was my list:

  • Video production
  • Project management
  • Strategic thinking
  • Team work

The list goes on but I think you get the idea.

Now I will show you my list after I decided to open my mind and take away those pesky boundaries that are reinforced in resume writing:

  • Meeting new people
  • Connecting friend groups
  • Hosting parties
  • Public speaking
  • Caring for pets
  • Communicating my boundaries
  • Getting people excited about something new

I look at that last list and see a few themes pop out at me. One of those themes is nurturing. So how does that translate into my work? It is important for me to feel like I contribute to the quality of life of the people (and animals) around me. So maybe instead of presenting myself as a digital media service, I should talk about how I love to: nurture projects, understand each clients needs, and help clients develop a work environment that strengthens the type of work they do.
Boom! I am good at that! It is my authentic self. “Nurturing Toni” is going to attract much better suited clients than “video production Toni”. Why? Because not only is it authentically imbedded in my sense of self, there are way more access points for a conversation about my skills as a nurturer than my skills in video production.

Step 2: What are my tastes?

Ira Glass says it best when he says:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.”

Your taste is important because it foreshadows your professional thinking. Even in online dating, this section can be the most revealing if you know how to read it. Some people will list EVERYTHING they like. The “cover my bases” thinking is counter-productive. If you want someone to taste a new wine, you don’t drown them in it, you give them a small glass of something you’ve carefully selected based on their palette. Under ‘what books I like’, you might only put those you read as part of your high school curriculum. This could mean you aren’t a big reader, or perhaps you fear admitting you don’t like to read (or, even worse, that you secretly only like to read trashy crime novels). But imagine going on a date with someone who is super into literature and was attracted to your profile because you like the modern classics. Well by lying you’ve not only become unappealing but also untrustworthy. If you’re not comfortable with your own taste (or you’ve misrepresented it), how is a client expected to trust the choices you’re going to make for them?

Step 3: Are you my taste?

Clarifying your tastes will also help reveal the type of client you want. Filtering out the incompatible types is often a self-reflective exercise in business. It is about understanding your authentic self to attract the right fit. I am in no way suggesting that you are responsible for attracting shifty clients or dates; even the best of us can encounter people who misrepresent themselves. This is certainly not some sideways argument on short skirt means open invitation.

“I’m looking for” and “You should message me if…” exists for good reason. If you can define yourself, you can define your ideal client. If you can define your ideal client, you will have a point of reference to begin your search.

So here’s the deal – there is no way to get clients without doing the modern day door-to-door; talk to everyone you know about what you’re doing; cold call companies you’d like to work with; look for other small companies where you might compliment their services. However, if you have the tools to describe exactly what you do, how you’d like to do, and with who you’d ideally like to do it with you are sure to hit the target more often.

The Exercise

Now look at the questions below, fill those suckers in, and tell me what you discover!

  1. My self-summary – I encourage you to fill this in last. Treat it as the section on your website or Facebook page where you would describe who you are and what you do. You’ll need more info before diving into the belly of the beast. So come back to it!
  2. What am I doing with my life – What you are doing with your life in a combination of what you are currently doing (for real) and what you are working towards.
  3. I’m really good at – Take a look at Step 1: Who am I?
  4. The first things people usually notice about me – These are usually aesthetic. Start thinking about how your personal style reflects your business personality.
  5. Favourite books, movies, shows, music, and food – Taste! Check out this video for more of Ira Glass’ supreme wisdom. Don’t just think about your favourite things – think about your favourite apps, entrepreneurs, inventors, writers etc… and figure out what it is you like about their work so much.

  6. The six things I could never do without – If you are finding that what you need to do relies too heavily on resources you cannot yet acquire, think about shifting your offered services to reflect more accurately what you could immediately do. This will save you a lot of grief and self-doubt.
  7. I spend a lot of time thinking about – Your aspirations, fears, academic obsessions, etc… Knowing what you want and what you are afraid of can put you ahead of the obstacles you are going to face.
  8. On a typical Friday night I am –translate to – how do I imagine a typical/ideal work day?
  9. The most private thing I’m willing to admit – “Willing” being the key word. This doesn’t mean share beyond your comfort zone. Take a look at the previous blog post I wrote about vulnerability in business: Why Women Need to be a Part of Your Business Plan
  10. I’m looking for – Take a look at Step 2: Who are you?
  11. You should message me if – Take a look at Step 2: Who are you?

Until next time!