I blogged a bit about story telling the other day, and it seemed to touch a nerve, so here’s more on my take on personal brands and brand stories.
Marketers talk about Brand Stories- what does a brand say to you and why? This can translate into the rest of life as well. Calvin Trillin spoke of this concept in his books Family Man and Messages from My Father, about the underlying messages families have such as “We have Worked Hard to Provide You With Everything We Did Not Have” or “Success is Demanded Of You At All Costs”. These underlying themes or core messages that could be termed family-based brand stories.
It’s like family mission statements, but they’re not always as explicit. The great American Public Media Business Show, Marketplace, recently had a show on Family Mission Statements among the wealthy, and places like the Child Development Institute also have resources for developing your own family’s mission statement.
The brand stories in many family circles are not explicit, but it’s the message that gets sent- the current that runs through your life and interaction with them. Not everyone in the same nuclear family gets told the same story, either. Girls routinely used to get very different messages about what was expected of them than the boys, those about home and hearth versus jobs and business. I think I was lucky to get many explicit “brand stories” about self-sufficiency and independence as a young girl, about building skills and education, which were not the norm for my Mom growing up.
Taking the Brand Story Idea to the Next Step- What is Your Brand About?
We all create our own personal “Brand stories” at every interaction we have with other people. And each subsequent interaction continues to tell the story about you. And this is why, with an internet that holds infinite information and has a very long memory as well, you need to be genuine, authentic, kind and above all, yourself.
This requires knowing yourself- your good points and your bad, and accepting them. One great thing to do this is try the Clifton Strengthfinder or try working through The Artist’s Way book and workbook by Julia Cameron. This will let you learn more about what you are good at, confront some of your personal “stuff” and become more comfortable in your own skin. It worked for me, anyway. Some of you may be saying- “Yeah Yeah, find yourself, sure. New age, blah blah.” It’s really more than that, and it’s let me articulate and pinpoint qualities in myself, allowing me to act on them and build on them in more specific ways than ever before. After all, you can’t tell your story until you really know it well yourself.
And this was never more obvious than with the recent Up in the Polls, Down in the Polls, “crying” thing with Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency. The Clintons are very good politicians, and they have stylists and consultants out the ying yang. Yet, the thing that resonated most with everyone was seeing Senator Clinton just be herself.
I was talking to a friend on the phone the other day, and I said I thought the last eight years of Government had so abused and used up the public’s trust and blind faith, that there is really no other choice for public figures than to be themselves all the time. We are tired of seeing image- we want to hear the story, and we want to hear the truth. Sure, everyone wants to believe the fairy tale, but we all also know it’s a manipulation and it’s just smoke and mirrors. And the shocking thing is, we all love the honesty and openness more that we ever loved the gloss and glamour.
What is Your Story, Anyway?
Your story is who you are and how you communicate those qualities, beliefs, ideas, and values to others. For product brands, this is a summation not only of the stuff you sell, but what the CEO is like, what the sales force does, and what every interaction someone has with an employee. It’s the overall impression. And with the web, you need to open yourself up to hearing the critique you used to be able to ignore and block out. Because if you don’t listen and respond, you can’t participate in the conversation- and it won’t slow down the critics, either.
People will frequently learn about you first through Google and your online presence. As a result, the smart ones among us are not interested in bringing other people down, being trolls, hurting others, but simply doing the best we can for ourselves and those we care about. Unless the brand story you are trying to cultivate is one of being difficult and hard to work with or please. I hope not.
Blogging and Being Yourself
When people ask about whether they should blog about something or not, it should be an easy question to answer- Is this part of your brand story? Is this something you would tell any and everyone you know, or nobody at all? If it’s just venting, think twice about whether you want a piece dominated by a bad mood to follow you around forever. If you are sharing information about your experience and opinions, knock yourself out. If you are criticizing someone, do you have your facts straight, and is this something that should be handled in a blog post, or is there another useful way to handle the situation?
Your blog, your twitter posts, your emails- they all say something about you every day. This means having integrity, being authentic and being open is simply an easier way to build a better brand that will serve you for years to come.
This post has wandered somewhat from its core as stories as learning, but in the end, it is about being yourself, so the stories you tell about you, and the stories others tell about you are pretty much the same- they are authentic, real and not for show only. These stories are what people (and the web) will remember, so make that information wandering around the electronic and biological database be the best it can be.