Can Your Online Persona Strengthen Your Brand?

Not long ago I had a very interesting conversation via TweetChat with someone who is excellent at one thing, Branding.  We talked about how many of us bloggers have a unique online persona, one we share with the “world” as it may and one that may be different than our random everyday personality. Good or bad, it does happen and if you do it right, this may just  help you to succeed in the craziness of the online social media world.

From the feedback I received I realized that this idea is hardly new. Since the dawn of Hollywood and before, people have been using their public image to enhance their brand. I may not be a movie star, but many of the same techniques still apply. As a PR person, I learned many of these tricks and tips in school and thought I would now share them with you. So here is just a quick refresher on how to use your online identity (public persona) to help solidify your brand.

1. How important is a name? If you make a point to use your full name in all of your online interactions, that’s great…but remember that not everyone will agree and using your real name can inadvertently create enemies. As long as you remain thick skinned, this should be alright though. Another important thing to remember – if you use your name, all of your revelations whether they are professional or a rant against an insane boss are all linked to you. This can come back to bite you so if you choose to use your real name….be aware of the consequences that come with it. It is a good idea to go ahead and purchase your own domain while you’re at it. (oh and if you are curious…Google yourself and see what comes up – apparently I am an exotic dancer/stripper in Texas….who knew?)

2. According to Erik Qualman (@equalman) the author of the incredibly awesome book, “Socialnomics” , if you choose to develop your online brand based on a singular persona, (real or not) it is very important to have a singular image across all of your social media outlets. This may be a logo or even a picture. I really had no idea that one image could be that important, and then I felt silly since this is one of the first things hammered into your head in all advertising and marketing classes. We are a visual species, and more than remembering what is written, we will remember an image whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, FriendFeed or a blog. Therefore, pick an icon/image/photo that truly represents your brand and use it across the web. Soon, those who are interested in you and what you stand for will begin to read your online responses, or notice your “ads” simply because they see your icon, regardless if they are actually interested in the topic of the blog post or article.

3. No matter how “big” you become online, remember that you have a life…in the real world. When approached or contacted to speak, give presentations, be a guest-poster etc, remember that you are representing both your online persona (the person/brand the world is familiar with through your blog) and you as a person. If there is too much of a gap then your brand awareness could become tarnished. No one wants to feel they have been lied too or led on. While this may seem contradictory, one of the main things I have learned is that although I have deveoped a brand through my work online, I am still me and that is the person that I want people to respect.

Have thoughts? Has your personal brand ever interfered with your personal (off-line) life? Please feel free to share.

’till next time!

Karma for bloggers?

Girl twins with laptop computer.The Golden Rule Still Applies…

I have always been a big believer in karma, the golden rule, or whatever you choose to call it. Basically I try hard to put forth the same kind of energy that I hope to receive back from the world around me. I know this may sound idealistic, but hey that’s how I roll. I recently came across a similar viewpoint expressed very nicely on one of the blogs I follow,  The Urban Muse . Her post really made sense to me about how karma relays to the online blogosphere. I read several blogs regularly and I always try to pass on the tips and tricks that they so eloquently put forth. So therefore, in that vein, here are a few recent posts that I have come across that may help you in your quest to become a better blogger, writer and social media participant.

This is great stuff for helping your organization or blog to really develop your brand using social media.Here is an excerpt:

“In the Wild West of social media, over-protection would seem to be a natural response when faced with loss of control over the conversation, and indeed of the firm’s intellectual property, and yet this is almost certainly the wrong response.

Those brands that take the counter-intuitive path of celebrating their customers (even when they are infringing IP) and of sharing more of themselves (even if that means giving away more of their IP) will be the ones who will win.”

The next one, Understanding Social Media Guidelines for Employees – by Don Sears who writes at Careers, is probably one of the best short set of guidelines I have found for integrating social media into employee policy, which as we all are aware is moving to the forefront of many organization’s lists of concerns. He says:

“Protecting business and fighting negative perception are important to every company. The last thing they want or need is for employees to be out their in the social media sphere of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or anywhere else spouting false information, making their work life too transparent or arguing with other employees publicly.

Two companies taking social media seriously are Intel and IBM. Intel is taking it so seriously it apparently has created a department dedicated to the practices of smart social media, says ZDNet’s Jason Hiner.

From a human resources perspective, it’s a really wise move to have clear guidelines and policies, and for most employees, it’s good to know where your company stands on posting information–especially with issues of legality, copyright, company secrets and the like. I could very well see other companies borrowing from Intel’s and IBM’s social media guidelines.”

Well that is all I have for now. Hope you found this useful and if so, please pass it on, as in essence, that is how karma works. What goes around, comes around, the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Changing of the Guard: Understanding people’s reactions to change

My graduate nonprofit class spent a great deal of time today talking about change. It got me thinking about how change can be harnessed, how people react to it, study it and how the concept of it is used everywhere from altering school board decisions to winning presidential elections.

Human beings are naturally resistant to change. We are creatures of habit and crave the comfortable security of our same-old, same-old comfort zones.

I’ve written before about the changes that the public relations industry is going through and how we must either adapt or be left behind. This post delves a little deeper into the process an individual (PR pro or otherwise) must go through when confronting change on a large scale, whether they are taking on a new client, electing a new president, accepting a new position or simply deciding that maybe your old ways of doing things are a little outdated and need a face-lift.

There are a couple things that one must take into consideration first, when contemplating a large-scale change within their current organization.

Create readiness. NEVER spring a sudden change upon staff or clients. You set yourself up for failure by doing this and may find yourself the victim of mutiny (or as it is called in the civilized world, a hostile takeover).

Show, don’t tell. Provide real examples; show the discrepancies between what works and what doesn’t. Having examples of successful organizations or firms that implemented similar changes are a huge plus and a strong motivational tool for those on the fence. Let them see how they will benefit and then on the flip side, provide examples of those which have remained stuck, with little innovation. The more extreme the distance between the two examples, the better tool this will be.

Okay, so you have implemented your changes. Excited, you expect big things but there is just one problem, not everyone is on board. Now what?

Overcoming resistance

There are three types of resistance to change. Cognitive, Emotional and Behavioral.

Cognitive resistance usually manifests itself in the most frustrating way. It is hard to identify and can be a real challenge when trying to educate your clients/friends/constituency or whatever. This is the person who smiles and nods and then politely ignores everything you have to say.

Emotional resistance has deeper roots and is harder to identify, but has some telling signals. It is generally based on years of decision-making and deep-seated convictions which will cause a person to shout, cry or become overwhelmed. It can be tough to remain calm, because an emotional person will look for you to be reactionary. Don’t play that game. You won’t win. Just be steady and tow the line.

Behavioral is the easiest resistance to spot – usually because the person is either screaming in your face, or if you are really lucky, throwing garbage or animal parts on you. Do not engage in retaliation. EVER. You will never appear to be the victor. As with those who cry and scream, remain calm, walk away and keep your finger’s crossed that eventually they will come to at least agree to disagree without any obvious sabotage.

So in light of all this, what do you do? Here is some information that will hopefully help you get through it, without having a nervous breakdown.

My place of employment is fairly resistant to change. It is still run primarily by men in their 50’s who look at me like I’ve grown a second head when I start talking about social networking and blogs. To be fair, they like the idea of it all, they just don’t really GET it, or how it can help their bottom line. Anyways….

There are three stages of change, much like the stages of grief. My professor did an awesome job of communicating the idea to us using the analogy of a sky-diver. First you make a decision, get over your fear, whatever. Then you have to go to the place and go through the safety course and then actually get on the plane. Lastly you have to jump. That’s a big one, involving a huge range of cognitive, emotional and behavioral sparks that all have to come together in your brain just right for you to actually get out the door of that airplane.

The first stage, oddly enough is the ending stage. This is where you are acknowledging that the way things have always been done is coming to an end. In my industry and many others this is known as the “changing of the guard“. It is a tough time for many. Letting go of your comfort level can be extremely difficult. You can help your employees and clients through this time by providing adequate support, additional resources for information and showing examples of those who have successfully gone before.

(This is assuming that you are not the first!! If so, then you just have to go for it or sit back and wait for someone else to fall on their face. )

The second stage is the neutral stage. In this stage you have pretty much accepted that things are changing, but you are not quite “there” yet. You are not fully opposed anymore, but you are not fully on-board either. You still have doubts. This stage is crucial. Think of the swing states in the election, the undecided voters. This is your chance to really shine and show what you are made of, and why the change will be so beneficial. This stage is all about showing, reinforcing and providing support. You must be prepared for setbacks, and it is not easy. You will have backsliders, but if you persist, you can and will reach the next stage…

Lastly you have the beginning stage. Ahhhh…new beginnings. Doesn’t everyone just love the honeymoon stage? Everyone is excited, and anything seems possible. You mustn’t lose sight however that you are not the first person to implement change. It is a never ending cycle of slowly fixing a system that is broken or appears to be now, but wasn’t always that way. Like a clock with a million tiny parts, it might take some time and effort to figure out not only what is wrong, but after fixing it, how to put it all back together again. It doesn’t always work the way you think it should, but that doesn’t make it wrong either. You may just have to modify your perception of what is “right” and “wrong”.

It is important to remember that real change takes time. Just as with all the excited people (me included) that got Obama elected, I can really feel that there is a fervor in the air that is truly palpable. Change is possible, but you still must go through the process, nothing good is ever easy.

We, as a nation must go through these steps of change together and my hope is that we make it through the tough times, in order to truly celebrate a new beginning.