Toward a Theory of Personal Branding (Part II: Blog to the Score)

Theorized: With only slivers of time, one can create good content and thereby expand one’s personal and professional brand.

Sometimes a personal brand gets built by accident. In late 2008, I presented to my firm leadership a trend report on social media. At the time, social media was poorly known. LinkedIn was a fledgling service and Twitter had not yet met Oprah. Most of the principals in our industry who heard me talk laughed nervously about how Facebook was where their teenagers lived. But when I delivered my trend report, something happened. The doubters acknowledged that this might be something big. I was asked to give the talk five, ten, 15 more times, to audiences representing a wide range of companies.

Four years later, I decided to start a blog under my own name. Although by this point I had developed websites, blogs, and social media campaigns for the firms I had worked for, I began to feel that I had to drink my own KoolAid: I had to create and measure social media for my own personal brand. While there is much work to do to develop this brand, there is one trick already worth sharing, and that is to work within a score.

What is a score in this sense? In certain forms of improvised dance, a score is employed to give dancers a structure to navigate through a performance. It is a set of rules or limiting factors. These limiting factors serve to wedge the writer (that’s me) into a spot where creating content is simplified.

The first aspect of the score that I designed (by accident) was effective yet radical. I chose simply to blog about my experiences, with no apology. This was contrarian thinking for a professional marketer, someone who has always spoken from the customer perspective first. Every day that I face the blog, I draw only from my unique anecdotes and stories. The difficult hurdle is continuing to believe that to do so is valuable. When I was a young writer in high school and college I heard a constant refrain, “Write what you know.” However, a decade or two in business has squashed much of that truth as I am paid mainly to edit the writing of others, whose technical expertise I understand only vaguely and whose core business is somewhat of a mystery to me, it must be confessed. The main value that I bring to the table is to write clearly enough that a typical client audience can understand the gist of the technical gems.

The light bulb went off again when I realized that drawing from my past, including my very recent past, would be valuable to my desired blog audience: other marketers whom I could inform or inspire. From the perspective of organizational development and human capital, I provide, as you do, as everyone does, unique accomplishments, beliefs, experiences, experiments, and the list goes on. Seeing this list so objectively suddenly made it easy to hoist stories up from the well. The anecdotes I have from my experiences are unique to me. Therefore they must be told, because not to tell them is to deny others access to that capital. It’s the product that is under development. And in the privacy of my blog, I forego the market, I relax about the market. I focus on product development. The product that is perpetually invested in by my own and others’ human capital: me.

Blog posts therefore, are pretty speedy to write. I recommend looking through sent emails of the past week or excerpting from almost any formal document you have contributed to. There is always a kernel of brilliant accomplishment to be found in the detritus of our work. The score is permanently inscribed in the blog’s categories: Accomplishments, Beliefs, Experiments. Stay within the score and hit publish.

A puny little blog like mine is hardly the end-all be-all for personal branding or organizational publicity. In fact, studies are beginning to show that a person’s presence across various social media services is what builds traffic because we inspire trust when we participate authentically in many conversations. We are trustworthy when we both listen and speak. Yet more evidence that in the era of social media, building and believing in our personal brand is of paramount importance.

Marketing Communications Toolkit

A friend and I are giving a talk soon on the basics of marketing communications. First, we will put the idea of marketing communications in their proper context of building business in professional services. Then, we will attempt to prioritize the list of communications in rough order of importance while giving examples of each type. The sequence is approximate, yet relevant whether working at a new firm, small firm, large firm, or established firm.

Level One: Essentials, or the Core Press Kit
1. Website, which is today’s (fixed) brochure
2. A print-on-demand (customizable) firm brochure
3. Stationery, including business cards, email signature, letterhead & notecards

Level Two: News and Press Releases
4. Project news via e-blast or newsletter
5. New hires at the senior level
6. Firm milestones
Must Have: Mailing List of Clients and Media Contacts

Level Three: Client Development 
7. Holiday cards

Level Four: A Going Concern
8. Focus brochure: market sector or methodology

Level Five: Modern Social Media
9. Blogging
10. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest
Must Have: Keyword Strategy

We will probably wrap up with a few statements about lessons learned. We may finish on a note about tying the above items into an annual marketing budget and plan.

Big Birthday Experiment

My husband has a big birthday coming up. What should we do? We could go skydiving, like my friend Vikki did the other day (just saw it on Facebook). We could work on a volunteer project, like the Boston Natural Areas Network  Community Garden events held in Boston’s poorest and most densely built neighborhoods. We could go to a rock concert or a Celtics game. I could buy him a bottle of his favorite cologne. We could have family gather around for an all ages party. We could have dinner with ten friends in a fine restaurant. I could hire a caterer to cook at our home for ten friends. We could have a mixed family and friends party.

Some of these ideas will have to wait until next year. Cupid’s birthday is tomorrow, Valentine’s Day!

Architects are Great Party Guests

Assembling the SMPS Boston interview of Robert Brown, managing director of Perkins+Will, was a formidable feat, due to the many topics we covered in half an hour. As I read and re-read the transcript, I was reminded how likable architects typically are, and that they are often great conversationalists.

Growing up , my parents had friends who were architects, and they have lasted as friends for decades. I have a few, now, too. They are creative of course, and often overflowing with observations on their environment and life.  They are futurists, visionaries, grand schemers, too. Sometimes so fiercely analytical as to be caustic, but usually with a sense of humor that softens the blow. A great dinner party should include a few architects, artists, musicians, writers, and journalists.