“You, Inc.” a New Way To Look At Your Personal Brand

Photo cred: Thomas Hawk

Do you get emotionally affected when someone criticizes your professional work?

Do you get depressed when business doesn’t go your way?

I’m reading the War of Art (affil) by Steven Pressfield and he discusses a concept he calls “Me, Inc.”  It may be more relevant to the self employed, but it really has me thinking…

Pressfield separates himself from his work by looking at himself as two different entities: Him as a Person and him as a Corporation.

“Making yourself a corporation (or just thinking of yourself in that way) reinforces the idea of professionalism because it separates the artist-doing-the-work from the will-and-consciousness-running-the-show.  No matter how much abuse is heaped on the head of the former, the latter takes it in stride and keeps on trucking…

If we think of ourselves as a corporation, it gives us a healthy distance on ourselves.  We’re less subjective.  We don’t take blows as personally.  We’re more cold-blooded; we can price our wares more realistically.”

Then this really resonated with me…

“Sometimes, as Joe Blow himself, I’m too mild-mannered to go out and sell.  But as Joe Blow, Inc., I can pimp the hell out of myself.  I’m not me anymore.  I’m Me, Inc.”

Is this the same as what we call “personal branding”? Are you the same as the personal brand you’ve created?  Or is your personal brand a separate entity from yourself, created to distance your emotionally driven personal self (You) from your professionally driven corporate self (You, Inc.)?

I think if you separate yourself in this way, personal branding, the way we understand it, becomes more acceptable.  You’re not promoting yourself, you’re promoting “You, Inc.”  Because really, that’s why we’re here right?  To build our careers or corporations.

Sure the personal and professional lifestyles are become intertwined, but that doesn’t mean they’re one and the same.

What do you think?

The Forgotten Art of Research

Photo cred: Troy Holden

Research.

It’s an art.  One that we practice for many years, but forcefully forget.

It’s something that was drilled into us since the first day of school.  If we wanted to learn something, we had to read about it in a boring, overpriced textbook.  We would then have to take a test, write a paper, or do something to prove that we actually did the research.

It sucked.

It sucked so much that the second that diploma is handed to you, you feel a huge sigh of relief knowing that you’ll never be forced to study again.  You can now spend the rest of your days reading what you want, and learn by doing.

Research is still valuable long after you graduate but you avoid it because it feels like homework.

The professionals and entrepreneurs that really go far are the ones taking in as much information as possible related to their topic.  If you want to be great at your job, you have to research the crap out of it.  Read books, blog posts, case studies…do anything you can to make yourself more savvy and get an edge.

BUT…relying on blogs or twitter to learn everything won’t cut it.

Bloggers don’t dig deep enough…and twitter lacks any depth whatsoever.  Google the term “research”.  The number 1 result is Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is the cliff notes for the cliff notes.  They can all be great research tools but will only teach you so much.

Don’t forget about research.  It takes time and commitment.  It’s not easy to find the right information.  In the end though, it will pay off.

When was the last time you really researched something?  Has the art of research been forgotten?

If you have any good research tools or practices, share them in the comments.

The Blur

This is a guest post from Carlos Miceli.

Photo cred: Ségozyme

There are two reasons why anyone would want their business life to meddle in their personal life: more money or more freedom.

If your job or projects are going to get in the way of your leisure time, they better make you some cash, or help you enjoy life more. The problem is most people are working harder and the money or freedom never comes.

Take social media for example. There’s an air of business-like responsibility once you get involved in it. Business concepts like deadlines and networks get together with more philosophical terms like authenticity and transparency, and the result is a set of rules that you can’t ignore even if you are there “just for fun.” The reason this happens is because in social media there are no fences. People doing business and people being social are in the same room.

This is positive for those that work with social media. But for those that don’t, they see their social life getting tainted by these professional impositions like personal branding that force them to be more professional in their social life. I’m not even sure there’s any way to avoid this, but I’m sure many people didn’t choose it. And the worst part? All these people are not even getting richer; they are just getting busier.

These rules brought more responsibilities and fewer payoffs.

The real opportunity of this blur is to get more freedom, but it’s not what capitalism wants you to do (despite its claims of the contrary). People that have let their business and personal life unite in a positive way, have improved either the amount, location, or schedule of their work. Sadly, very few people have made this possible. To pull it off you need either a very valuable set of skills that let you negotiate effectively your professional life, or you need to be very good at critical thinking to develop a customized professional life of your own.

In the end, this fusion of rules may be disguised as a positive change, but I doubt that most people are enjoying its perks. It seems to me that we are only complicating our lives with it.

What do you think? Is this change good? Did we want this to happen?  Would you go back if you had the choice?

Carlos is an Argentinian philosophy lover, who surfs through life smiling, debating and reading. He blogs at OwlSparks, and is also co-founder of Untemplater, the guide to shatter the template lifestyle!  Follow him on Twitter @carlosmic.

Too Much Networking Makes Bad Marketers

Photo cred: Andy Beal

A marketer’s ability to do their job relies on how well they understand their audience…

Same goes for you PR professionals. You too advertising pros!

…so unless your audience (the one you were hired to understand) consists of mostly marketers, focusing so much time and effort on them will not make you much better at your job.

One could argue that lately, many professionals are equally (or more) concerned with building their personal network as they are with being good at their job.

This is especially an issue for young communications professionals and students.

We’re just starting out, and the first thing we now learn isn’t to start studying people and marketing, it’s to use social media to network and build a personal brand.

When you focus on interacting with other communications professionals all the time, you lose touch with the people that you’re supposed to understand…the ones you’re getting paid to understand.

Learning how to reach out and engage with communications professionals will usually be very different from engaging with other people.  If you’re focusing too much on the former, you’ll quickly find yourself failing at the latter.

A communications professionals has to understand what people want, what triggers them, what turns them off, how to reach them, how to build trust with them, etc… and strictly communicating with other marketing professionals will only take you so far.

Is the value of a professional’s network starting to outweigh the value of their ability as a professional?

What happens when we focus more on meeting communications professionals than on becoming a better communications professionals?

Stop Begging for Favors

Photo cred: GreyBlueSkies

If you find yourself constantly asking for favors in business, you’re doing something wrong.

This spark came  when I was watching Alpha Dog the other day.  Yes, my inspiration for posts come from some really weird places…

The one guy was pitching a drug deal to Emile Hirsch’s character.  When Emile started questioning him, the guy said “I’m not looking for any favors… if it makes sense, then do it.  If not, fuck it.”

Whether you’re pitching bloggers, seeking partnerships, looking for funding or seeking any other kind of business arrangement, you can’t go into it with the mentality that you need them, and that they’d be doing you a favor by helping you.

I see it all the time.  I’ve even done it myself.  You reach out to others to see if they’ll be kind enough to promote your blog post, or your projects.  You want them to help you.  You need them to help you.  How else can you succeed?  This causes a few problems:

  • You come across as needy. It makes you look bad and degrades your image as a confident professional.
  • You become reliant on others. Always relying on others to help you succeed, you’ll quickly fail as soon as that option is no longer there.
  • You use up your resources.  People aren’t going to help you all the time.  You cash in on a favor, and you may not get many more.  In fact…
  • You’re indebted. Asking everyone else for help means that you would now be expected to help them whenever they call.

Instead of looking for favors, look for opportunities to help them.  If you can propose a deal that benefits both parties, you’re not doing each other favors, you’re doing business.

When reaching out to bloggers, don’t ask them to review your website.  Explain to them exactly why your website will be valuable to their readers, how else you can provide value to them and explain what you would expect in return.

When you’re creating partnerships, make sure you’re identifying value for both parties.  They need you just as much as you need them.

I’m not saying you should never turn to others for help.  It’s important to know when you can use someone else’s help and be big enough to ask for it.  Business can be personal, but it’s still business.  It’s exchanging value for value.

Are you focused on asking for favors or doing business?

How Advertising Lost Half Its Credibility

Photo cred: Scotty Perry

Advertising has gone through some huge changes over the last few years.  Today, we’re seeing major brands dropping their Superbowl ad spots, newspapers quickly declining in numbers and even online ad spending has dropped for the first time since 2002.  Do you think advertising is failing? Perhaps only part of it…

Advertising tends to follow a simple model: provide entertainment to catch people’s attention, then make the pitch.  It essentially aims to accomplish two things: Increase Brand Recognition and to Convey a Message. I’ll argue that the latter is no longer effective.

The advertising message is dying.

Today, if you put up a commercial of a guy getting rocked in the balls, people will watch, and probably be entertained, UNTIL you try to sell them the cup. That’s where they tune you out.

So, if people pay attention to the content and ignore the message, we can understand why advertising on the internet is failing. Online, the content isn’t in the ad, it’s on the page. Internet ads, usually just make a sale (there isn’t much room for entertainment), which is what we’ve become so good at ignoring.  Online, it’s very easy to take in content without paying any attention to the ads.

One area of advertising that continues to grow is in online video ads and that won’t change soon.  As more viewers move from the television to the internet, so will the advertising dollars.  Watching a show on hulu feels just like watching it on tv, just with less ads (for now). Similar to television though, the message will be lost.  It’s even easier, since you can click on something else for 30 seconds.

It comes down to credibility.

Brands shoot for two kinds of credibility with their advertising campaigns:

  • Credibility as a brand
  • Credibility in the message

Seeing a well produced ad (especially on television) lends credibility to the brand name.  It lets the consumer know that the brand is the real deal. So credibility as a brand is still gained through advertising.  Whatever they have to say about their product in that ad, however, has no credibility, and would be lucky to make it in one ear and out the other.  Credibility in the message…cut.

Brands, I don’t care what you say your pill does, or how much your competitor sucks.  Hearing about it from you, or the actors in your ads, means nothing to me.

So is advertising still worth it simply for the brand credibility? Would businesses be better off investing in other platforms to share their message?  How will advertising campaigns adapt to these changes in 2010?