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!

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Does Sensationalism Help or Hurt Conservation?

greenpeace activistAnyone familiar with conservation knows that there are those who prefer to make headlines rather than make actual headway on the issues. Not that these tactics don’t have their place – there are times when the only way to get attention for your cause is to make a bold move.

The trick is to know when splashy headlines and other sensational PR strategies will work and when it is better to maintain a slightly lower profile. While impressive when they work, these types of strategies have a low success rate and in some cases may do more harm than good.

When Greenpeace activists dangle from bridges, disrupting traffic, costing consumers time and money in the process, are they really furthering their cause, or are they actually moving backwards?

Another example – consider the group PETA. Many people automatically associate PETA (which actually does accomplish good things) with extreme activist methods including dumping animal remains into cars, throwing paint onto wearers of fur, breaking and entering and destruction of private property. The question you have to ask is: What has all of this done for actually furthering the cause of ethical treatment of animals? Case en point: If you ask the average Joe on the street what they know about PETA more often than not you get an anecdote about the groups reputation rather than something positive they have achieved. What’s worse, most of those same individuals are not even sure what PETA even stands for. (To be fair, many of the things they are associated with are no longer tolerated by the group, however the negative reputation remains.)

So how do you know when your extreme tactics are working and when it might be better to maintain a lower profile? Here are a few tips I’ve learned from my days of crazy over-the-top activism.

  1. Consider your audience – young people may become inflamed about an issue, but have little money to give. Do you need funds or simply a voice? Knowing this can help you decide who you want to reach and those you would prefer NOT to alienate.
  2. Have a plan – just because an action seems crazy doesn’t mean there is not a carefully laid plan behind it. Most publicity stunts are actually the result of a carefully scripted plan.
  3. Have a plan B – always have a contingency plan in place and know when to re-evaluate and maybe back off.
  4. Always look at the big picture. Maybe your crazy stunt will get some press coverage but don’t fall for those who insist that any press is good press. If you gain a few extreme followers but lose out in the short run, as many extremists do eventually become more moderate with age, are you potentially losing your future supporters.

Bottom Line: Always think first. Maybe having a hundred body bags dumped on the front steps of a leading tobacco company makes for great press and awesome commercials- that does not mean that those type of tactics will necessarily work to stop big business from destroying the last known habitat for a rare turtle.

Conservation must take into account a larger ecosystem/landscape approach if we are to truly make a difference. We as a species must consider that there is more than just a few animals and plants at stake. Understanding the psychology, culture, history and economics of a particular conservation issue will help to create smarter management plans that just may work, and probably better than just shouting at whaling vessels with a megaphone. GERMANY  G8 PROTEST

Social Media Changed My Life

webNot to long ago I was asked to write a post about why I am glad I had to study social media. My former professor and blogging mentor currently teaches public relations and social media at the University of Georgia and I can honestly say that without her class I might not be where I am today.

I work in public affairs for state governement. When I was hired I was told that one of the most attractive things about my resume was my involvement with and knowledge of social media tools such as blogs, social networks and video and photo sharing applications. The world of PR and journalism is changing rapidly and it is all many organizations can do just to keep up. My employer wanted to “upgrade” their media relations tactics and felt that I would be a good person to spearhead the initiative.

I have now been employed here for a year and a half and the changes are dramatic. We have gone from just emailed news releases to being on Youtube Twitter and having an agency blog. I think that the best thing about all of these changes was that I basically got to create my own position, write my job description and then continue to modify it as needed. I have made contacts that would never have been possible without the use of social media and have been able to indulge my passion by creating an initiative that will help conserve wildlife in the state of Georgia in a totally new way.

Yes I am glad I had to learn about social media. My blog has become a job in itself, with a loyal readership and is syndicated on three different web sites. I receive invitations to speak on social media at conventions and have even been interviewed about my contributions to conservation using social media. I have grown as a PR professional, a writer and as a person and all because I decided that Dr. Russell wasn’t crazy after all for being so excited about this thing we call social media.

Hopefully you will have an equally valuable experience whether you are in her class or just a fan of her blog. Here are just a few lessons from her class to show how learning about social media and its various tools helped me to get to where I am today.

Blog to be a Better Writer
Starting a blog was a class assignment. While I was hesitant at first, I quickly realized that writing for such a public medium made me more aware of my writing style and really helped me to develop my writing skills as far as being able to market effectively to a select audience. Writing in a conversational style forces you to consider your content in new and different ways. You have to ask yourself, “would I want to read this online?”

Blog to be a Better PR Professional
PR is all about building relationships, building trust. Blogging has helped me to learn about how to do that in an entirely new way. Getting your content in front of more eyeballs is one of the biggest challenges for those in PR. Using the blog-o-sphere requires that you understand how to distribute the content in a way that won’t immediately go into the trash/spam folder. Blogging taught me about writing more concisely, creating quality over quantity, getting to the point and how to reach out to new and unconventional audiences.

Understanding the Power of Social Networks
Like many college students I created a Facebook page and a Twitter profile while in school. What I didn’t realize at first was the power and leverage that these social media tools can provide. Although I do use my Facebook page for personal use, to connect with friends, share photos, etc. I also use it in a professional sense in that I have developed personal relationships with many of my media contacts and I use my Facebook platform to share things I think they might find newsworthy. For example, when I come across an interesting news article that talks about wildlife conservation or DNR, I share it on my Facebook page. I also post the occasional news release or photo from the field. There have been many times I have gotten a message on FB about these posts from my media contacts. The same goes for Twitter. I tweet about just about anything that I find interesting or relevant to my line of work. As I gain followers I pay attention to where they are coming from, which gives me an idea of where my content is being read.

I hope that you found this useful. Good Luck!