It’s Hard to Help People Help Themselves

Photo Cred: Dimitri N.

A couple of months ago, I hosted an event in Philly.  It didn’t have the turnout I was expecting  and so I was a little bummed.   My friend Valeria Maltoni came up to me and said “It’s hard to help people help themselves.”

Those words really stuck with me.  I’ve given it great thought. Why wouldn’t people want to be helped? Are they just lazy?  So lazy that they wouldn’t even do the bare minimum to get something?  Or is it something else?

Then, I read Chris Brogan‘s newsletter today…and it all came together.  He said,

Look at your efforts through others’ eyes. Now, in measuring your self-worth, your own eyes are the only ones that matter, but in trying to better understand how well you’re serving people’s needs, try to see it from their side. Are you quick to pounce? Do you have their interests at heart or yours? The more clarity you can bring to this, the better you’ll do.”

So many “professionals” claim to be providing a valuable service, but are really just interested helping themselves. They have a backwards mentality.  Instead of building a more valuable product, they’re concerned with making their product LOOK more valuable. They’re pretending to help customers.

There are many of you that are really trying to help.  Unfortunately [potential] customers don’t believe that you’re actually trying to help them.  They think that you’re trying to take their time and money for your own gain.

They don’t believe you because they’ve been fooled too many times.  They’ve lost trust.

That’s why it’s hard to help people help themselves.

Are you really helping or are you just pretending to help?

Edit: Marissa Pherson left a comment on this post over on Brazen Careerist and linked to a speech that I thought was really smart and relevant.  It speaks about the difference between “helping” and “serving”.

btw…if you haven’t signed up for Chris Brogan’s newsletter yet, you’re truly missing out.  It’s really the only newsletter I’ve ever enjoyed and the only one I actually read through. I highly recommend you try it out.

Mentor Monday: Chris Brogan

Mentor Monday is a series where I feature people that have helped me when I needed it, whether or not I asked for it, and whether or not they even realize it.  I am extremely thankful for these people, and would not be where I am today, or where I will be tomorrow, without them.

Feel free to join in and thank your mentors for everything they’ve done every #mentormonday.

The Brogan.
The Brogan.

Chris Brogan

His Blog.

His Twitter.

Chris definitely falls under that “whether or not they even realize it” mentor category.  He had no idea who I was, but had such an enormous impact on me.

I began reading his blog a little over a year ago when I was doing an internship at Ruder Finn Interactive and first started getting my hands dirty in social media.  As his blog was highly recommended by others in the space, I subscribed, and followed him on twitter.

I quickly found myself overwhelmed with excitement and passion as I read his blog, and found that he was writing about things that I understood almost too naturally, and could completely relate to.  His ideas and concepts hit home with everything that I wanted to build in my career.  I began to look up to him as a role-model, and a mentor.

Completely unrelated, I also had the absolute pleasure of connecting with Kathryn Jennex, Chris’ assistant, who is an awesome lady that has helped me a great deal, especially when I was first getting started blogging.  So I know Chris surrounds himself with great people.

Chris inspired me to start blogging, to get into “social media” and to strive to be a better professional.  Though we’ve only actually begun communicating recently, he’s been helping me for a long time, and I hope to one day be return the favor.

Thanks Chris.

Real Relationships

Photo cred: Olga
Photo cred: Olga

We all have an agenda.  We’re all here, connecting online, to get something out of it.

In #socialmedia chat this week hosted by Chris Brogan, this topic came up and drove a pretty solid conversation.

Can we claim to develop truthful, real relationships when we’re ultimately looking to get something out of those relationships?

I love to connect with people.  I value the relationships I have built online and consider many to be close friends.  At the same time, I am online with an agenda to build my career, to create valuable professional connections and to create opportunities.

Take this one step further.  You’re supposed to engage before you pitch.  Build a relationship with a blogger before pitching them.  But if the relationship is a means to an end, where you’re ultimately looking to get coverage, how real can that relationship be?

I think you can do both.  Be realistic but be real at the same time.  You’re there to get something out of it the same way those around you are there to get something out of it.  But the existence of an agenda doesn’t mean that you can’t develop real relationships along the way.

Here’s 3 ways to know if a relationship is real…

  1. The relationships doesn’t end after the lead. Engagement will follow through.  As I said in the chat, relationships should be timeless even after the sale, or they’re not relationships, they’re leads.
  2. The engagement is mutual and meaningful. Both parties engage consistently with each other in more than passing bits of conversation.  They must have sincere interest in one another.
  3. It’s not all agenda. Is one party only engaging when they need something?  That’s not a relationship.

In the end, only you know whether or not the relationships you’re building are real, or just part of your agenda.

Are you creating real, meaningful relationships?  Or are you pretending to create relationships in order to generate leads?  Where’s the “line”?

My Problem with Personal Branding

Beard Branding

Personal Branding is misleading.  It is deceiving.  It focuses on creating awareness of your self and manipulating the perception that others have of you in order to make it seem as valuable as possible, regardless of whether or not you are in fact, valuable.

A harsh exaggeration? Perhaps…but while this may not be how everyone approaches personal branding, but by the Beard of Brogan! some certainly do.

Alliterative “Anchorman” references aside, lets look at Chris Brogan.  Now lets look at his goatee.  It’s magnificent isn’t it? It radiates success.  It’s obviously where he derives his power.

Therefore, if you were to grow out a goatee similar to that of Chris Brogan’s, you would obviously be perceived to have the same amount of value that he does. Correct?

Ridiculous.  That thought is completely preposterous but scarily relevant.  People think that if they fit the look of a social media expert (there isn’t one), slap “social media expert” on their bio, start regurgitating the things they read on other professionals’ blog on their own blog, communities and message boards, that they’ll have created a powerful personal brand and will be successful.

It gets even scarier when other companies or community members actually buy into that crap.

Personal branding is important.  It’s important to be consistently recognizable on platforms across the board.  It’s valuable to be recognized for your talents.  Your reputation is a vital aspect of your career.

My problem with personal branding is what many have made it into.  A shortcut.  A manipulative success tactic.  A way to make yourself look more valuable than you actually are.

Dan Schawbel, in a LinkedIn discussion on personal branding, said that “[your personal brand] should be determined by you before you even participate in a community.”  I think describing personal brands in this manner is dangerous, because it assumes you can choose your personal brand, rather than earn it.

The key to Personal Branding isn’t what you say about yourself.  If you provide value in your words and actions, and make it very easy for others to recognize that value, across the board of tools, communities and anywhere else you are present, you will have established a strong personal brand.

It’s not the beard that makes Chris recognizable, its Chris that makes the beard recognizable.

Ultimately, your actions will determine how your personal brand is viewed by your community.  To determine your personal brand before you participate in a community is to assume you can manipulate the community’s perception of you to be something other than a representation of your actions.  If you provide value, isn’t your only goal with personal branding to make your community aware of your actions?

It’s not your personal brand that makes you valuable. It’s you that makes your personal brand valuable.

Important Disclosure: yes I have a similar facial hair situation to Chris Brogan right now…but he obviously copied me…and I’m obviously just trying to get onto Stuart Foster’s next beard post.