The Art of Being You: Building A Better Personal Brand (without the BS)

Fu*k the rules, do what’s right for you?
Seriously. Fu*k em. 

Do you remember life without screens? 

I mean the glowing, talking, ever-present & omniscient ones we wistfully while away our lives behind (be they big, medium, small, or pocket-sized?

Do you remember going out with your friends at the dew-drop-dawn of each new day & riding bikes from sun-up to sun-down. Making up rules to games that didn’t exist yet & relishing in the art of unfettered play?

Did you dance on tables for the joy of & not because we needed fodder to feed an algorithm or three? 

Let me tell you… I did. Thank GAWD we didn’t have smartphones & cameras documenting every waking moment of our lives when I was young. Instead we embraced boredom as a challenge. We invented adventures & undertook them fastidiously.

We found joy in recounting our harrowing tales of escaping scorpions, rattlesnakes, & Bob cats (ahem, we never had to escape really – we never saw all the critters we imagined we’d escaped from, it was their trails in the shallow dust that reminded us they were there though). Oh I loved the days before digital applause became inherently tied to our own self-worth.

When was the last time you spent an entire summer afternoon lying in the grass looking up at the sky & watching the clouds pass overhead?
I can’t remember the last time I did it. 
Has my 13year-old daughter ever done this?
Ever? 
I’m not actually sure. 

My own memories moments where I was truly present haunt me like gentle ghosts. Nudging me. Nurturing me. All of them are specters of a past that whisper in my ears “Do you remember…” hey haunt me in rare moments of silence & stillness, prodding at a dusty corner of my consciousness reminding me of the innate joy in doing nothing. Now though, nothingness is frowned upon. 

In a world where we pay to go places without wifi & are easily seduced by the idea of going offline, we struggle when we encounter boredom. We’re now hard-wired for connection 24/7/365. But the connection our brains desire (damn you, dopamine) isn’t real connection. 

We are living in a time where our personal value is oftentimes measured by how busy we are, how many titles we’ve put next to our names on LinkedIn profiles, & how many followers see the photos/videos/words we upload. The measure is simple: if lots of people see the reckons we post & the breakfasts we tweet about (accompanied by inane/clever/snooze-worthy hashtags), then we must be very important & interesting. Right? 

Yeah, nah. 

In the past 20 years the fabric of our connected culture has become shinier, sure. And don’t we just covet the shiny things? We attempt to grab more & more of the twinkly stuff. We show only our highlight reels to the world. The ups. The celebrations. The rising from a fall. The highest of peaks. Sometimes we show glimpses of the hard stuff. But, that’s only sometimes. 

Mostly though, we keep our fears & our anxieties locked away. 
We wallow in our own defeats when defeat looks like us. 
When the person we see in the mirror isn’t perfect we hide them & from them. 

We disconnect to connect.

For most of us, social interactions are a smoke-screen. A proof-point of interacting with a modernity that has over-run us. It’s social media that defines us. All of us. We post dreamy smiles in golden sunlight in the hopes of living up to the expectations of people we’ve never met. Expectations that have yet to be defined. 

We follow. 
We follow.
We follow. 
We follow…

And, in turn, we hope others will follow us.
Why? Because being followable is the new wealth. 

Whether it’s 100 people or 100million, being followed is a new currency by which we buy & sell our self-confidence off of the back of likes, shares, comments & the ever-elusive idea of virality. Our sweet-fix digital culture is killing us though. Quite literally. We’re drunk on algorithms. 

Here at home in New Zealand our depression & suicide rates are higher than almost anywhere else in the world. We measure our value, our lovability, & our cleverness by double-taps on a screen somewhere else in the world. People we will never know hold our lives in the palms of their hands. 

Which brings me to the topic of Personal Brand. 

Google the term or take a wee squizz on any LinkedIn timeline & you’ll find a treasure trove of people talking about cutting through the din of digital content & becoming a thought leader by building a better personal brand than the next person. Millions of articles purport the best tips-&-tricks for hacking human algorithms (not to mention the social media driven ones) & becoming instantly likable. Instantly famous. Instantly worthy. 

This isn’t a new idea, in fact it’s an old one. It’s only the platforms on which we’re meant to sparkle that are different. Le sigh. Hands up if you’re already bored of all of the beaty-chesty congratulatory swill that people post in an attempt to feel any bit of anything at all. We chase this kind of interaction because we’ve forgotten how to say “Thank you,” and “Well done,” and any other nice thing to each other in real life – so we look for kindness online. 

Let me be the first to tell you though, the beaty-chesty stuff isn’t authentic or likable. We’re smart. All of us. We can sense bullshit at a thousand paces. When it comes to professional platforms like LinkedIn I can spot a boot-licker from just as far a distance as a bullshit artist. 1,000 paces. 

The most frequent question I get asked is: How can you tell if someone is authentic or not? 

Firstly, let’s not beat around the bush. If you are wondering if someone might not be who they purport to be – then investigate further. Our guts are great at spotting/feeling when things don’t feel quite right. If you’re looking for something that’s based on a person’s online activity, a good rule of thumb to figure out if someone’s yanking your proverbial chain is simple. 

On LinkedIn, head to their “activity” tab & see how they interact & with whom. A person who never interacts with their own colleagues but who hammers ye olde LIKE button when it comes to the chiefs is an easy pick as a butt-kisser. When I see folks of this ilk, I unfollow/dis-engage immediately. There’s only so much brown-nosing a girl can handle up in a timeline, ya know? But that’s just one way to spot someone who is out for themselves instead of sharing themselves with others.

I believe that personal brand isn’t what you may think it is.

I’m here to bring you a different view on it. Instead of playing by other people’s rules, we get to write our own. We do! No one has to be one thing or another to have amazing thoughts & share them. You don’t have to be extroverted, shouty, or move at pace. You need only be who you are to be seen & heard. 

In fact, every single build a better personal brand article that I’ve read that doesn’t start with: “Fuck the rules, do what’s right for you!” is an article I automatically am cynical about. Cynical because if you’re going to tell other people how to live their lives, you’re not doing anyone a favour. 

So, in attempt to not write something that actually helps, & to answer questions that I get asked a whole heckuva lot, here’s my take on the best rules for building your personal brand online & offline:

  • FOLLOW THE WELL TRODDEN PATH
    Hahaha! LOL. Not. Don’t follow a path. 
    Follow a beat. Be it the beat of your heart, a beat of your own drum, or the beat of your favourite power song – follow by leading with that which feeds you. When you know your values & lean hard into them, then you’ll know the path you need to forge. I’ve always found inspiration in others. People who move through the world completely comfortable in their own skin are people I look to when my own comfort in who I am wavers. 

    The happier I am in who I am, the more I’m able to exist in a state of insatiable curiosity. I ask questions. And, I’m open to a magical melding together of electricity and stardust. To stand out, stand up. It’s not always easy to share. But it gets easier the more you do it. Don’t get stuck in the mud of the well-trodden path. Go on, Tiger. Tip-toe through the tulips instead. 
  • DRESS FOR SUCCESS
    Gross, no. 
    Dress for how you feel. 
    Dress how you want.
    Dress up, down, all around. 

    Just make sure that you are, in fact, dressed. 

    All of us should be able to show up in the world the way we want to show up. We must learn to take up space. To be visible in ways that work for us as individuals. Also, we must allow others to do the same. Celebrating diversity means being inclusive of any kind of vibe we bring sartorially. Obviously some professional engagements call for different attire and formalities. If you need to wear a suit, wear one. By all means. 

    But if you’re keen to wear that blue-flower print that makes you feel powerful, do it. Or, that bright orange number that makes you feel like a million bucks – it’s calling your name & does you no good hanging in your closet. If you’re more comfortable with a traditional corporate attire, that’s a-okay as well. You do you, Boo. You write the rules by which you play. If my penchant for double-denim is anything to go by, you’ll soon find out that when you’re at your most comfortable on the outside, you’re also your most productive & effective. Go on, give dressing for your idea of success a whirl. 
  • FOLLOW/NETWORK WITH EXECUTIVES & C-SUITE
    LOL, soz. No thanks. When I see people only managing “up” on LinkedIn & in other professional settings I instantaneously dry-retch. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t reach out to or follow people in positions you aspire to – just don’t let the idea of a corporate ladder be that which defines your personal branding strategy online (or off). Instead of seeking out the top-dogs only, follow people who inspire you instead. Search out people who have a genuine opinion & who aren’t afraid to share it. I always look for the helpers, the givers. 

    The people who spend most of their time with one aim in mind: to connect. These people are worth their weight in gold & then some. I’ve learned more from following people who are different to me & who are in different roles to me than I have by following a whole heap of CEO’s names John or Dave. With a good mix of colleagues, contemporaries, & kick-ass people who you just seem to gel with, you’ll make a much better impression on just on the world – but you’ll learn a whole lot more & be able to feed your curiosity more authentically.

    Also, things we should do more fastidiously are: 
    Thank people. 
    Compliment people. 
    Ask questions. 
    Banter. 

    Remember, building a personal brand isn’t about kissing asses. 
    It’s about trust, integrity, & being true to who you are as a person. If you’re keen on learning more from people higher up the ladder, follow away. But don’t forget to stop for a moment & look at everyone else around you. It might just be your network of contemporaries who lift you the highest as you move through your career. 
  • SHARE COMPANY STORIES 80% OF THE TIME, PERSONAL ONES 20%
    I see this a lot. Folks who are either a) drinking the Kool Aid hard-out & don’t realise the damage they’re dong to their personal brand by not branching out in their interests or who are b) looking for congratulations & adulation from others within their business alone. In the olden days of LinkedIn (yes, there were olden days & I lived through them) the rule of thumb was to only share stories about the business or industry you worked in, but that was because the platform was originally a hunting ground for job-seekers & HR folks looking to poach top talent. 

    If you were caught on LinkedIn during the Wild West days of the platform, you were always branded a person looking for greener pastures. Lucky for all of us, the platform has matured (hopefully as have we) & the facts don’t lie: to have people engage with you you must be engaging. Seems fairly obvious, right?

    Yet, I quite often see folks who will only talk about XYZ business & XYZ profits & XYZ strategy… blah blah blah. In all reality, if you’re looking to grow your personal brand online, you need to flip the above percentages. Or, be much cleverer in how you share information so that the people you’re hoping to engage with understand your personal drivers. If you share 100% business information, but can do so with a personal interest or a passionate & human spin, then that’s a-okay. Because… you guessed it… that makes the information you’re sharing relatable & valuable.

    I mean, I’m sure your big/small/medium sized business is awesome & that you are truly in love with the CMS, DMP, & campaign PIRs you work with… but tell me something interesting. Tell me something surprising. In fact, share a new idea. Say something bold. Something different. I’d love 100% of you & your ideas… but if you’re on LinkedIn, sure go on & pepper in some business speak. But please don’t make it an 80% love-fest about corporate policy.

    Humans connect. Be human. 
  • POST TWICE A WEEK ACROSS ALL CHANNELS.
    Again, this is another case of the “nopes”! What I mean by this is that winning the algorithm & going viral is kinda like winning the lotto. The odds are stacked against us all simply because of the vast amount of content being made & shared every second of every day. If you’re looking to do anything, look to make an impact on one person. Then two. Then three… etc. 

    Instead of trying to hack an algorithm, simply interact with intention. Quite often even I get caught up in thinking that I need to post to Instagram, or to Facebook, or to LinkedIn on a daily basis. But some days (ahem, MOST DAYS) I really don’t have that much to say. So instead, I fight the urge to post a bunch of waffle & instead I only post if I can interact in a way that gives. 

    When we give people our thoughts & our experience, then they receive the gift of knowledge. I love giving people my attention, my time, my expertise. Be boundless in how you give… give give give. 
    In fact, if you take anything away from this article at all, let it be this: GIVE. 
  • WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE
    A few months ago I called a guy on LinkedIn an asshat. It was the nicest thing I could think to call him after he attacked me via DM & in public on the wall of my own LinkedIn feed. I’ve never met this man & really don’t ever want to, either.

    New Zealand being small & Auckland being even smaller, I probably will end up next to this dolt at a conference or riding home on public transport – but so far, I haven’t had to breathe the same air as him. Without going into too much detail, this poor, triggered fellah didn’t like my language. He didn’t like my ideas. He didn’t like me at all. 

    So, instead of blocking me or just moving on with his own damn life he tried to put his sticky beak into mine. He wrote to my employer. He attempted to continue DMing me well after me having blocked him. He just really needed to stop being an asshat. In reality, what this stranger was trying to do was to quiet me. To take my voice & my freedom of expression. He tried to bully me online, then through my employer (they didn’t bite, either). He tried to make me feel small. At all of these things, he tried & failed. 

    I’m old enough & worn around the edges enough to speak my truth. I do it kindly, I do it often. And, I hope you do, too. To build your brand, use your language. Speak your truth. People can see right through anything that’s not authentic. And, when that happens you lose trust. No trust = no ability to network.

    Never be afraid to use your language. Your own form of poetry is that which the world is ready to drink in. No one is allowed to steal that from you. One of Dr Maya Angelou’s most impactful quotes in my life has been this “A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing, she goes where she will without pretense & arrives at her destination prepared to be herself – & only herself.

    Don’t watch your language, friends – use it. 

So there you have it. 
A lot of words on personal brand that can easily be distilled down into one common theme: build trust by sharing your passion, your knowledge, & by being truly curious about who other people are & why they do what they do.

Also, wear double/triple/quadruple denim whenever you please. 
Your body. Your mind. Your rules.

Dr. Suess said is simplest. 
He said it best.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. 
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Go & do you, Boo. 

My Favourite C-Words

If there’s anything I love in work & life it’s a good deep-dive into C-words. LOL. WTF? Hold the phone…

Yeah, welcome to my mind. Always a bit left-field, but that’s cool. Left-field was always my favourite position on the old baseball diamond anyhow. Seeing that I was born a literal C-word and seeing that C-Word was once an actual nickname that my ex-husband’s ex-girlfriend lovingly called me, it just makes sense to feel close to them.

To me, C-words just feel a bit warm, cuddly, & slightly badass. Think about the beauty of the C.

Clever. Cookie. Craft. Caboose. Capsize. Cheeky. Chuffed. Cervix – a ha! Caught ya sleeping didn’t I? 

As a young girl Cookie Monster taught me that “C is for Cookie, & that’s good enough for me!”And if any song has ever helped me through life it has to be this gorgeous wee love-letter to sweet treats in which flour, sugar, water, & choc-chips are melded into a blob of heavenly nom-noms. That said, I’m not here to talk about Sesame Street, ditties, or naughty words that march along in 4-lettered-giggles. 

Nope, I’m going to dive a bit deeper when it comes to Cs. These Cs are the ones that might make or break a brand, a person, or a profession. Since I’m addicted to the rosy-colored outlook of life, just ahead we’ll be focusing on the things that can make your business stronger, your soul fuller, & your journey through life a wee bit sweeter. Your job? Embrace the essence of optimism inherent in the ideas ahead. 

Buckle up, Team. Here come my fave C-words! 

CREATIVITY

Defined as the use of imagination or original ideas to create something, creativity is my C-word Bae. It’s easy to fall in love with a concept that melds together originality & functionality.

It’s also fun to live & work in a profession where the art of crafting a strong strategy & marrying it to clever creative iteration is soul-filling. Within the bounds of creativity are abundant opportunities to not only find clever ways to deliver marketing & ad campaigns that are both effective & memorable, but there’s also a spark of magic in moments when all of the pieces of a proverbial puzzle come together. 

Call it what you will, I know instinctively when we’ve had an “A ha!” moment. By rights, as someone who can live in big blue sky while still acting as a tether to the reality of business needs, creativity is what keeps me going. I’ve been reading a lot of articles recently on the future of work, the impact of AI on marketing, & on crucial factors for driving business & individual success in a saturated digital marketing world. Of all key attributes & skills required to drive success, I bet you can guess which is the stand-out winner. Yep, head & shoulders above anything technical, creativity is what we need to start teaching our young ones to embrace if they’re going to be successful as they grow.

I should also be completely clear here as I write this. I’m not talking about teaching our sweet young people to be like the presumptuous, wanky, assholish once-were-super geeks who style themselves as savants & name themselves as “Creatives” with a capital C whilst looking down on anyone who doesn’t have the ability to wear tight leather pants or to sit around all day drawing on walls & calling a scribbled storyboard art. Nope. There’s a fresh hell reserved for the creatives who actually believe that their minds are better than those of others. The truth is that every single one of us can be taught to be more & more creative.

We can wire our brains for strategic thought & we can also wire our brains to think beyond the norm – to love playing in the realm of ridiculous.

To do this is pretty simple, we create a cheat sheet (we marketers love a good cheat sheet, don’t we?) Dialling up creativity in any situation can be done in five simple steps. The first step is to understand the problem you’re attempting to solve & understanding associations between questions, problems, or ideas from other fields. When you can look beyond your product or campaign to another & see connections with the idea you’re attempting to harness, you’re on the right path! From associations, the next move to make is one towards questioning

Early on in my career I often fell victim to building ideas upon wobbly foundations – or, rather common wisdom. It’s the job of a creative mind to question common wisdom, to poke at it, to shake it in the box, to break it a bit. When it comes down to it, newness only happens when we step away from the old ways of thinking & doing. Therefore questioning is critical.

From here, we must take the time to observe the behaviour of customers, competitors, stakeholders, & suppliers. When we watch others we often are able to visually see just how things might be done better, more efficiently, & more effectively. If we skip the observing phase of creativity, we miss out on crucial information in building ideas that meld originality & functionality. 

Networking, like observing, is a process by which to introduce & challenge new ideas with people who see the world differently to you & your team. At this point in the creative process it is key to ensure your networking & working groups are diverse. Diversity isn’t just a catch-phrase for modern times my friends, it’s a necessary ingredient to being successful. There are only so many of the same faces & places we need to re-hash before everything becomes banal & yawn-worthy.

After networking & sharing your concepts wider than the team you work most closely with, you’ve now reach the experimenting phase of your creative journey!This is where you get to pull together all of your strategy, information, iterations & ideas & try them out. 

The best & worst part of the creative process is sharing what you’ve created with others. It’s exhilarating & horrifying sharing something you’ve created with people who might not see your vision through eyes that understand the method to your proverbial madness. But it needs to happen.


Brilliance that isn’t shared is brilliance wasted, yes?

Embrace that fear, my friends. Share your ideas – & as you do, take people on the same journey that you went through in concepting. The sell-in is much easier when people understand how you made it from a David Bowie to a pair of skateboarding sneakers.

I couldn’t write about creativity without including a strong nod towards those moments we all have when we just can’t get into the groove of creating. We’re all different when it comes to how we create, too. Some of the most brilliant creative minds I’ve ever worked with can create on the spot, in a room full of people. They feed off of the energy in a room. I can’t do this. In fact, situations in which I am put on the spot to deliver brilliance scare the shit out of me. I need a more hybrid experience. I need time to myself to work through the first few steps of the creative process, & then need others in the networking & experimenting stages to optimise ideas & executions. 

Knowing that we all thrive in different environments is key to being a successful leader & a successful marketer by rights. When I need time away from the hustle & bustle of the office I walk. I leave the noise & head outdoors. I find there’s no better way to understand & embrace a wandering mind than to wander. While wandering I am able to focus on a singular problem & to hone in on a single source of truth that leads to many ways of approaching a solution. Whatever it is that helps you find your creativity, know your levers & pull them when you need to. We’re all creative & we’re all creatives. All of us. 

So own your creativity. Own your art. Own all of it & be proud of whatever brilliant ridiculousness your mind conjures up. Author Liz Gilbert has summed up creativity & the pursuit of living a creative life in a way that I am in love with, she calls it Big Magic. 

And, I’m all for this kind of magic.

COMMUNITY

Talking of magic, another favourite C word of mine is the glue that holds humanity together. Beautiful, imperfect, necessary, & strong without community we’d all be wandering through the world alone. I remember when of social media & online chat started to seep into daily life. I was in college in Santa Barbara & my roommate, Carrie, downloaded AOL Instant Messenger. The interface was so easy, the ability to connect so quickly was novel, & the feeling of community was immediate. As silly as it may seem now, we actually used to chat to each other online while in the same room! Not long after discovering the ease of community building when adding people into chat streams & conversations, the first murmurings around Facebook started. We already had My Space. Why did we need/want/require something other than My Space?!? LOL. Oh how interesting it is looking back on the days before the big blue logo! 

It was my younger brother who was in school mid-way across the country in Missouri who invited me to become a member of The Facebook. My first reaction to the new platform was reluctance. My second reaction (very soon after the first) was happiness. I could see people I know who were super far away from me & check in on people around the edges of my community, too. IRL & online really started to meld into one here. And, for a while the social part of social media reigned supreme. When it came to community & community building it was all of us together. Before we as a media & advertising profession over-pivoted on shouty advertising in a traditionally community space, we stayed fairly kind to each other too.

But things, as they do, changed. From my perspective, change is good. It’s constant. It’s the only thing promised to any of us. But somewhere along the line over the past decade, with a glut of social media channels finding their way into our brains, we seem to have forgotten the heart of what matters most for people as a whole, & that’s the connective power of community. In the past year I’ve lost a handful of men to depression & anxiety. All of these men were young. They had young families. They were talented. But, with the pressure to keep up online with the likes, comments, shares & witty retorts – they lost a true community. For them, even with all of the connections available online, IRL was a lonely place. My heart breaks for those they left behind. My soul longs to do better by our posterity to ensure community is the centermost aspect of any connective outlet we as humans are a part of. 

So, how do we dial up community in an era where ad units, whiz bang interactive ad placements, & more ads hit us on the daily than ever before in human history? Well, firstly we need to invest in our people. Who are our community managers? How do they see the world? Are they taken good care of on & offline? Once we as marketers & business people learn to treat the online world as a place just as beautifully suited for building positive interactions as offline, we’ll literally be saving lives alongside driving business return. Not a bad combo, right? 

Also, when it comes to community, taking the time to banter & have fun as a brand is of the utmost importance.

The gorgeous reality of a democratization of communication in the form of social or online media is that we’re all able to connect better & more frequently on our own terms. We’re able to see, hear, & invest in truly diverse ways of seeing the world.

Basically, community managers who do an awesome job at their jobs are some of the most woke & empathetic people I have ever met. And, if we can shift the conversation to business performance for a hot second, community is the root of all sales. It always has been & always will be. 

This is why there are creative agencies out there who are still attempting to peddle “viral videos” in response documents. They’re not just going to make you a video. Nope, they’re after virality. Why? Simply because social currency & viral sharing are things you cannot buy. They’re at the upper echelon of the community scale online. They’re Wonka’s golden ticket. The only way to cash in your ticket is to invest in community. There are no more happy accidents & social media shortcuts. Humans are mostly immune to bullshit. So why not turn away from the BS & dive into authentic community building? No matter the channel, platform, or space – if you have an engaged community, they’ll follow wherever you are. And that is magic! 

CHANGE

Ah, ch ch changes. Turn & face the strange indeed. When it comes to the most impactful C word of them all, change has to be it. Change is our only constant. It is both a North Star of hope & a black hole painted in shades of despair. Everything & nothing all at once, change is what every movie, song, story, & creative endeavor is about at the core. And, cliché or not, change is both the cause & effect of everything any of us ever do in life. Which means that getting comfortable with it – or rumbling with it as Brené Brown might say – is the only way to live a truly fulfilled. It’s in the rumbling that we build muscle memory & mass. It’s where we gain grit & strength & maturity. 

If we spend our time at home, at work, & at play afraid of change we’ll spend our time in a constant state of fear. And, bleurgh. Yuck. No one wants to live like that. Embracing newness & seeing opportunity in change takes practice though. It also takes communication. When we talk about comfort & joy a lot of the words that we weave into societal narratives are that of a language of stability & relative sameness. We love the idea of jobs that don’t go away, homes that are forever homes, & families that never veer away from what popular culture tells us families should be. I call bullshit on all of this. 

When you think about growing up, what are the stories you tell yourself & others? Are they banal stories of days that turn into months that turn into years that become a life of doldrums & sameness, or are you a bit more like me & see your defining moments as the ones you could never have seen coming? When I was a kid there’s no way I would have guessed that I’d become a professional storyteller living on the other side of the planet in a country smaller in size & population than my home state. I’d never have guessed that I’d have married young. I definitely never would have imagined that I’d have been a young mother, or by rights, a young(ish) divorcee. 

Going through the pain of a broken marriage meant that all I knew was change. And I had to get comfortable with it on ground that I wouldn’t ever describe as common. Far from home in a country that didn’t raise me, I came of age because of change. I became a better mother because of change. I became my truest self through a complete unravelling. I learned that love wasn’t stagnant, but a rollicking ride. A rodeo ride of sorts. One minute I’d be racing around barrels, then there’d be eight seconds of sheer bull-riding terror. All up though, life’s been one helluva rodeo. That’s all thanks to change. 

There’s something superbly beautiful in embracing the grit that comes along with the pearl of change. When it comes to our work, the most important thing we can do as professionals is to embrace the changing nature of communication platforms & to try our damndest to love little moments of newness that shift & change our goalposts daily. The world of a successful marketer is a world in which change is seen as a curveball that we’re well ready to knock out of the park. 


Embrace change, embrace a fun-filled journey. 

CONSCIOUSNESS 

Wokeness. It’s a thing now – to be woke that is. I’m pretty chuffed about it being so, too. For far too long there seemed to be a gap in our knowing & our actions when it came to how we comported ourselves in an ever-growing & ever-churning consumerist society. We learned young that bigger meant better. We were told that the more you have, the more you’re worth (not monetarily speaking). We were also sold the idea that if we wanted to be happy, we needed to not show any cracks.

The end result? We’re all cracking a bit. With an incoming tide that is now allowing us to ride to a shore of soft, sandy wokeness – we surfers of sustainability & circular economies are changing how we live, how we buy, what we consume, what we create, how we worship, how we parent, & what we consider love.  We’re awakening to our impact on the world beyond our own selves & are starting to understand just how potent each & every human being is. All of this is so very overdue, too.

I can remember being a very young child, maybe six years old, thinking about how much trash our little family of four made every week. We had a big dumpster out of the back of our home & wouldn’t fill it weekly, but I’d say we definitely filled it monthly. I remember watching my Dad tie up the ends of thick plastic bags that were almost as big as me. He was strong with big muscles, kinda like He-Man. Still he lugged the rubbish bags out. They were heavy. 

My mind always wondered: 
How in the hell did we create so much waste? 
Where did it go? 
Did everyone else make just as much rubbish? 
Why weren’t we recycling everything?

My heart & head are heavy thinking through all of this right now & the implications of how much I personally have hurt the earth over the course of my lifetime simply by throwing shit away. I’d like to pull out the “I didn’t know any better!” card, but somewhere even in my little girl mind I knew what we were doing wasn’t right. Trash just didn’t evaporate. On the scale of heathen to woke, I’d say I’m still waking. In work & in life I am much more cognizant of how the things I buy & the things I throw away impact the planet & posterity. When working with large organisations I outright refuse to engage in down-&-dirty retail for products that are made without sustainability, longevity & a circular economy mindset baked into them.

How can we work towards helping our brands & businesses become woke? First we need to be aware of our need to awaken. From there we need a plan. A mindset shift away from money being the be all & end all in defining business success needs to happen. And, when we advertise, we need to do so morally & ethically. Yeah, it might take more time, resource up front, & be challenging in the first instance – but we can literally make the world a better place by thinking consciously when we plan our campaigns & content calendars. Waking up can be confusing, but oh what a world to inhabit once we’re all awake together.

CAKE

Who would I be if I made a list of favourite C words & didn’t even make a nod to the deliciousness that is cake. No matter your sweet, spongy, icing-laden tickle of choice, cake just makes the world go round. In good time & in bad, there’s cake. From standard chocolate to funfetti, life is too short not to enjoy & indulge every once in a while. A good life rule: just eat the damn cake. This C word has nothing to do with marketing or business (unless you run a cake marketing business), but has much to do with balance & blood-sugar which means it’s a-okay with this sweet-toothed tiger. 

In conclusion, when it comes to C-Words, we can have our cake & eat the heck out of it… too. 🎂

Hello Bath Bombs, Goodbye Social Media – Why I Respect LUSH’s Decision to Leave Social Media

Last week UK company LUSH (yes, the bath bomb brand that I cannot walk past without having either my daughter or my wife – or both – beg to go in!) told the world that they would soon be “switching up social.” And switching things up, they have done! 

In a statement across channels – LOL, yes, social media channels – LUSH took what I see as the first step of brands bidding adieu to paying bajillions of dollars for little community or brand return. Their move will be one which other brands are bound to follow. Increasingly, businesses are paying to fight algorithms for space & attention.

By saying what many of us are already thinking (that social media is actually making it harder for all of us to connect to each other directly), LUSH peeled back a layer of the banality that social media marketing has become.

Increasingly the lazier marketers amongst us have stopped asking questions & simply open our wallets & budget lines to the main platforms. Believing in “success metrics” that have been proven to be fudged time & time again, we blindly trust in platforms that commoditise human attention, but that pay no attention to humanity itself.

A thoughtless like, comment, or share does not a successful campaign make. Strategy is not found in spots & dots on a media recommendation, it is carefully crafted around human insight & strong stories that matter. We seem to have been blinded (sometimes blindsided perhaps?) by the shiny metrics of reach & engagement

Across the inter-webs, LUSH has riled up a lot of anger & angst amongst so-called social media gurus. They’re seeing red, team. My recommendation: Namaste, my friends. Namaste. Let’s all take a deep breath & then rock into how we move forward in ways that better society & drive the purpose of our organisations. In the wake of the disgusting cowardly attack on Christchurch where the murders of 50 people were live-streamed on Facebook, brands need to do better for & by their customers.

Those who have taken to being 100% okay with wading knee-deep in sponsored posts, collection ads, mid-roll interruptions, & beyond must now start rethinking why, how, where, & what they will spend their money on when it comes to serving their customer bases. Should we still invest in social media marketing? Yeah, I think we should. To an extent.

As someone who’s worked in social media since working in social media was a thing, I get it. I see, feel, & have experienced the beauty of social in changing the lives of customers for the better & in opening up conversations where before there was only one point of view being shared.

However, I see LUSH’s side of things, because I remember those good ‘ol days of social media where the SOCIAL aspect was what made all of the connectedness between consumers & brands beautiful.

Now though, it is time for all of us to start critiquing the nature & quality of what we’re served (& what we’re serving) on social.

From the moment brands started trying to outbid each other for a share of our wallet & attention spans, we’ve become datapoints, our humanity seemingly forgotten. Digital pollution is real. We’ve a glut of soulless content being thrown into our lives, & trends seem to be that we’re disconnecting more while opting for online experiences that are individually tailored to our own needs & wants.

We’re also facing bigger issues than a company that sells yummy-smell-good-products going off of Instagram & Facebook. 

We’ve yet to tackle ethical marketing on these platforms. We’ve yet to consider how much data & information we’re giving up as businesses to platforms that aren’t truly concerned with our purposes. We’ve yet to flex our collective muscles in demanding the major social media players put money into protecting the humans they so desperately need to keep on site. The good news is that governments are getting involved now. Rules will be in place mandating safety & the distribution of factual information over the misleading.

Don’t get me wrong here, I always have been quite the fangirl for social media. I love the democratisation of connectedness & of creating content that can be shared far & wide (or not at all). Social is a great tool for driving business & conversations when used with good intentions. But we’re living now in a time where bad actors & brands with budgets begging to be spent in our timelines need to be reigned in. LUSH’s move to lessen time & resource on social media is only the beginning. 

As I see it, until the main channels put money & effort into creating truly safe spaces & until we as global citizens can value metrics beyond a shallow like or share as measures of success, then we can change the game by not playing it.

If everyone is just going to accept the status quo, then nothing will change. And change is what is needed. From a brand perspective, LUSH still has people ready to talk & interact – just in a one-to-one way that doesn’t originate from a social media channel. Email, DM, live chat, & (shock/horror) phone calls still remain.

Businesses spend the dollars that the social platforms are after. By rights, it is brands that stand in a prized position – businesses can change the world for the better. First though, we need to start looking beyond ROI & bottom line as measures of success.

As we move forward into a time where generations growing up now will never know a world without connected technology, it is on us right here & right now to look beyond the sweet fix of shiny reach numbers & dive deeper. It is on us to to better.

While it might not make sense for all brands to quit social media, LUSH as a brand seem to be putting their money where their heart is. And, if that’s the case, I’m all for it. 

Adding More ‘Me’ Into My Days

Lately I’ve been taking stock of things. You know, adult-y, important, life-y things.

And, in taking stock of all these adult-y & life-y things, I’ve come to a fairly heavy, yet ridiculously common sensical conclusion – there’s just not enough time in the day.

Seriously! I work hard. I support my family. I try as hard as I can to stay in good touch with friends. That said, the time to do things beyond the daily routine seems as elusive as something, erm… elusive.

With time coming out as the main winner in the what-I-need-more-of stakes, I’ve gone around in circles (not literally) to figure out where I can cut corners, clip edges, & add more of time into my days.

Ruh roh, Rorge!

Bad news alert: Other than altering the algorithm of the universe & manufacturing more actual time, there’s no short-cut to making more space in our calendars other than doing just that.

In taking the time (see what I did there) to take stock of 37yr old me, I’ve come to find that I am really good at making time for others. And, by rights, I am shockingly bad at spending time on me. That’s set to change though. It has to.

I’m not sure when exactly it was that I stopped prioritizing time to understand my own thoughts, values, & goals – but I imagine it was when I was staring down the barrel of a traditional lifein my early 20’s.

Married at 23yrs old, child by 24yrs old & wanting to fit into templated cultural standards imposed on me, I went with the proverbial flow – even at times when I felt like swimming against the tide.

Living the ideal of Western adulting was an easy way out. I see that now. The few times I tried to fight to find my individuality, I was put squarely back in my place. Plus, I was  safe, content, mostly happy, & cool with how life felt when there wasn’t any conflict.

So I stopped fighting.

That was then. I built my life & my sense of self on pleasing others & helping others to succeed. This filled my soul almost to full, but the last little bit was always missing. The deeper I dug into what made others tick, the more I realized I wasn’t wholly aware of the things that make me tick.

Not knowing myself made it hard to truly know others, though. And, with the end of my first marriage & in falling in love again, I knew I’d have to really invest in myself to be happy & to make any close relationship truly flourish. Yassssss, ain’t flourishing grand??!?

Let me tell you this: the act of trying to understand oneself is an act of unravelling in itself. It’s also a piecing together of a puzzle that I now realize will always be a whole picture, even when incomplete.

So, how have I been adding more me into my days?

A bit like this…

1.      Allow yourself to be complex

Nothing is simple. Not a single damn thing. Especially not human beings. Humans, as being are inherently a state.

To behuman.

To bein motion.

To beanything is to be human.

Right? So when we try too hard to streamline who we are, or in an opposite turn, ignore who we are completely – then we lose ourselves. By allowing ourselves to be complex & to love the minutiae of who we are, we then give ourselves permission to be imperfect. We strive not for the simple, but for the beauty in the details. And, beyond everything else, when we embrace the complexity of being human – we embrace the beauty of who we were, are, & will become all at once.

2.     Say “Bye Bye” to the Binary         

We all reckon there are only two sides to a coin. But, good news, life isn’t like flipping a coin. Our trips around the sun, should we be lucky enough to experience enough of them, are beyond black & white. And, let’s be honest, Yin & Yang only offer us all so much in terms of understanding the world around us. No singular pro or con, expression of self, or way of being is binary. When you look for them, there are grey areas in which to pay, explore, & discover who you are. In doing so, you learn what matters most to you. And, when you know what matters most to you, you prioritize your time differently. You fill your soul more readily.

3.     Know your tipping point & really feelyour feelings 

We’re nuanced. Hugely so. However, when it comes down to it – we’re our own best judges when it comes to whether or not we’re about to speed full-tilt off of a cliff face or not. My coping method for corralling stress for a long time was to keep moving. My favorite quote was (and sometimes still is, but in a different way) ‘motion begets motion.’ By not slowing down, & by speeding towards a cliff-face I ignored all of my ore-determined warning signals that are in place to tell me I’m heading towards disaster.

Lately however, I’ve been making a concerted effort to really feel my feelings. I’ve suited up, grabbed my goggles, & decided to swim in the mire & murk of confusion. I’ve gotten comfortable with discomfort. And, in the process, I’ve become more attuned to understanding when, how, & why I need to slow down. By tuning in to my gut feelings, I’ve been able to sit in discomfort long enough to change tact. In doing so, happiness & relief follow. Halle-frickken-lujah!

4.     Step away from sameness

Same ‘ol, same ‘ol. There’s comfort in routine – to a point. I find I’m at my most creative, passionate, & driven when I am challenged. Challenges aren’t born of monotony. They just aren’t. When we surround ourselves with difference – time flies, innovation happens, & silliness is welcome in spades. Making a concerted effort to change little things, to shake stuff up a bit, & to embrace the opposite of sameness gives us all a better view of who we are & how we feel when we’re learning. I’ve always found beauty in difference, and as I grow older, I now realize that it takes a truly concerted effort to step away from sameness.

5.    Chase your happy

Listen to your gut, and when it’s feeling happy, take note. Then, chase that feeling. If there are big chunks of time in your day to day life dedicated to things that make you feel anxious or unfulfilled, throw them out. Seriously. Chase your happy. Those notes you took earlier when your gut told you that you were having a good time? Keep them close to you & read them back when you need them. Most importantly though, lace up, stretch, & sprint towards the things that fill your soul. I love to mull things over & wade in worry as much as the next person. But, there’s no better way to be happy than to chase your happy willingly. Go on y’all, try it.

10 Things I Know For Sure At 37 (Well, Kinda)

Cassie Roma Wordpress

I turned 37 this week. Holy moly, THIRTY SEVEN!

This means that I’ve now outlived Hank, Jesus, & Marilyn in terms of years spent on this spinning rock we call home.

I won’t lie to you, 36 was an interesting trip around the sun for me. I had some amazingly high highs, & some killer lows. My family grew closer, my friendships grew stronger. I married my best friend & soulmate! I traveled home to California three times, spoke at some of the world’s most prestigious industry events, & was elected Chair to an amazing Pride organization. I still have to pinch myself when it comes to how lucky I’ve been.

That said, it’d be remiss of me not to take a moment to nod to the lows that happened, too. You know those moments in life when you think “I couldn’t possibly handle another kick to the guts.” & then another one happens? And another. And another… ad infinitum.

Yeah, I got kicked a lot. Right in my soft bits. I also had some unsteadiness in my own identity. I guess you could say that I fell upon some rough times. Author & researcher Brené Brown called her own ‘rough time’ (AKA an early-midlife crisis) an unraveling.

So, I’ll say it: Last year, I unraveled.

In fact, if my journey through this world is seen in the light of being a knitted sweater of sorts – yes, an awkwardly ugly-yet-amazing Christmas sweater is just fine with me – last year was the year in which I tugged a loose string far too firmly & everything came undone. I’ve always had a knack for keeping myself on my toes!

And, as a true adult does when struggling, I found myself the most kick-ass of professionals (yassssss, counselling FTW) to help me learn to re-knit myself together. I’m no sweater, yet. But at least all of the necessary parts are right here in my lap waiting to be spun together in time.

So, without further ado, below are 10 things I know for certain heading into my 37thyear that I’d like to share. Hopefully these lessons are familiar to you, & maybe a little bit helpful, too.

  1. Grey hair, it’s there – embrace it (or colour over it)
    I’ll level with you here, there’s no EASY WAY to find your first grey hair (or have your spouse/child/BFF find it.) There just isn’t. I can deal with smile lines, laugh wrinkles, & diminishing eyesight… but the hair change? Wow. It’s a beautiful reminder of how lucky we are to age. But, it’s also a bit of a wake-up call. Time to really buckle down & enjoy the journey, kid. Now’s YOUR time.
  2. Glasses are cool
    Hair changes. Eyesight changes. Waistline changes. And, the older we are, the cooler we look in glasses. Seriously, this is a proven, data-driven fact. Once you’re in your 30’s, you go from a nerd-bird to a cool-cat overnight simply by wearing corrective lenses. I have embraced the four-eyed-factor of my life & have many a pair of tortoise shell glasses filling my days & bringing me literal clarity. Win-win!
  3. Self-care (book in time for this)
    If you’re not prioritizing your own health (physical, mental, spiritual), you’re not doing time management right. Have too many meetings to meditate? Too many errands to be able to exercise? Nah. Recalibrate. You are your most important person (if you’re not, you should be), & you deserve time to take care of you in the ways you want/need. If you’re super busy at work/home like I am, book in time for you. Early in the morning, late at night, or sometime during the day – you’re worth 30 minutes of you, daily.
  4. Exercise more (seriously, book in time for this)
    Get up & move. Seriously, move your body as much as you can. Remember that feeling of being a kid & running, sprinting, jumping, playing, & sleeping like a rock? Yeah, it was the best! As adults, lots of us have forgotten how to move our bodies. How to spend time on doing things we’re built to do – like walking, jumping, lifting things (no, you don’t have to become an Olympic weight lifter…but it is a fun sport!) etc. Moving your body helps to temper your mind. Make time to move. I promise it’ll be the best time you spend all day!
  5. Who are you? Who, who? Who, who?
    Someone recently asked me “How much of you are you filling your days with?” when I did the math the answer was shocking. None, really. I had forgotten who I was, & how to tease out small selfish pleasures from moments in the day. Now? I take time daily to walk & think. To listen to music. To write poetry. And, simply, to re-discover the beauty of childhood imagination & play that has been dulled down with the marching on of time.

  6. Family matters
    More than anything, family matters. I know most people think this is a big “No duh!” statement – but you’d be surprised at how many folks I know that are pulling long hours, emailing whilst at home, spending time on stuff that seems important…that really isn’t. Our modern culture tells us stories about success that include forsaking everything in the pursuit of money, title, & status. I’m here to call bullshit on all of it. The only thing that’ll matter when you’re being buried is how much you loved the people who loved you back. Spend time on family – chosen or given – & you’ll find that success is in the eyes of the people who need you most looking back at you smiling.

  7. Being a good spouse means being 100% you
    I’m not gonna beat around the bush on this one. I’ve been a spouse to two people now. The first person I was married to taught me a lot about love, giving, & being selfless. He is kind, he is worthy, & he is a big part of who I am still. Marrying so young, I know now that I didn’t really know who I was or what I wanted to become. For a decade I floated through life seemingly at the whimsy of the tides. As I came into maturity, I started to uncover who I was becoming. When confronted with the truth, I realized that I wasn’t meant to be married anymore. I wasn’t fully me – which meant I’d never fully be the spouse I could be if I were 100% myself. Fast forward to marriage number two, I am now fully aware of who I am. And, I am a much better spouse & partner for it. I don’t get caught up in my own head anymore or stay quiet when I want to speak. Being a good spouse, it seems, means knowing who you are & accepting yourself enough to accept another. Ah, love!
  1. Know when to listen & when to speak up
    We have two ears & one mouth – use them in proportion. This little bit of advice was handed to me as a small child & I have tried to live my life by this mantra. Sometimes it works, sometimes my mouth outruns my brain. But, after 37 years of learning how to interact with others, I know how important it is to listen…and I mean really listen to others. Listening without the intent to reply is a skill that takes time to build. As does having the courage to speak your truth when it feels scary to do so. The precarious balance of knowing when to speak/send that email/reply to that text vs simply listen & take in another’s opinion is an interesting one indeed. 
  1. Read Maya Angelou
    Every morning I find a passage, poem, or quote by Maya Angelou to help ground me for the day. Her strength, passion for kindness, drive to be courageous, & ability to weave words together fills my soul. Having someone to look to as a human North Star is so important for me when it comes to staying balanced & in the moment. More than reading her words & hearing her voice inside of my own head, hearing her speak her words & taste them before she speaks them is magical. Her kind of magic, even just a moment of it, is what the world needs more of.

  2. Practice thankfulness by the minute
    Not by the hour, the day, the week, or the year… practice thankfulness by the minute. Spread kindness around like it’s the air that you breathe. Share both as far & wide as you can. And, even when you’re at your lowest point – remember that the simplest of actions (a smile, compliment, or kind email) can make someone’s entire world a brighter shade of happy. Saying ‘Thank you.” & writing down the things that you’re thankful for daily also help you remember just how many silver linings there are – even in the angriest, darkest of rainclouds.

Forget Hacking Algorithms! Do This ONE Thing & Your Content Will Stand-Out Every Time You Post

I’m Old(ish). Lately I can’t seem to muster the oomph I need to get to the gym 3 x weekly like I used to. Long runs have turned into ambling walks where I look at flowers & other assorted flora. And, though it’s difficult to admit, the pre-internet-era was a time that existed in my lifetime.

Seriously, Team. I’m old enough to remember what it was like to live without phones in our pockets & screens in front of our faces 24/7/365.

Some argue that pre-technological revolution times were simpler. Less complex. Some would even say that we had longer attention spans (that’s right, goldfish, we used to be able to look at something for more than 3 seconds before growing abjectly bored by it).

I’ve also heard it said many times that, before tech became interwoven into our every waking (& some sleeping) moments, that we made more meaningful connections with others than we do today.

In our tech-drenched modern world, the beep-beep-boop of algorithms rule our world. Seriously, they RULE it. Whether you’re hyper-aware of it or not, computer learning & AI-driven platforms are behind almost everything we see, do, eat, buy, & decide.

Everything? Every. Damn. Thing.

And, while I love a nice spicy hit of hyperbole just as much as the next person to help start off an article for me, the truth of the matter is this: The machines aren’t taking over – they already have.

I’d wager big bucks (if I had them) that you’re reading this right now on some sort of device that’s connected to the internet. Desktop, tablet, mobile phone, old-school projector on a wall… whatever your poison. You’re online, aren’t you? If you’re not, let us all take a minute & send a big shout out your way for being hardcore enough to have printed this out on actual paper. Whoa, throwback city.

Beyond the fact that I’m typing this on a laptop & you’re reading it online, I’d also put more cash that I don’t have on the fact that us sharing this moment right now is due to an algorithmic equation. Somewhere along the line a mixture of our browsing history, engagement metrics, keywords, & shared sass levels, a mathematical equation brought us together.

With a plethora of predilections when it comes to the kind of content we consume, the algorithm goddesses that rule our digital universe have matched us up today. Nawww… my heart’s a bit warm & gooey thinking about it.

I’d like you to think about your day – how it begins, what you do in your waking hours, & how it ends.

I bet you the morning looks something like this:

  • Wake up & groggily grab your phone
  • Squint to check the time (Gah! Time to start getting moving already?!)
  • Check a newsfeed on autopilot (probably Facebook)
  • Check another newsfeed – less autopilot (though denial grows at wanting to get out of bed)
  • Browse your Insta (#YassssssFeedTheFeed)
  • Click through to watch something inane on YouTube
  • Check emails – click through the interesting ones, bin the boring ones without clicking

Sound familiar?

I can’t pinpoint when my waking moments (those unencumbered, quiet times when we all move from dream-land to waking reality) became heavily laden with the white noise of over-information & buzzy technology.

All I know is that this is my new reality. A new reality for most of us. A shared experience determined by machines with built-in biases. Biases that aren’t our own, but that have become so by default.

The freaky part? We can’t escape them. They hunt us down. Those AI, key-word, audience vertical, & segment driven content proliferators. Those tricky little red notifications that pop up on my phone, Mac, & watch send our dopamine receptors into outer-space.

Sweetly named cookies consume us instead of the other way around. Sugary-sweet promises of relevance are promised in their name alone. Tracking pixels know us better than we know ourselves. And, the algorithmic super-sleuths of search find us.

They all work in unison with one goal in mind…

They want us to consume more.
Click more.
Read more.
Watch more.
Share more.
Create more.
Buy more!

Which, if you’re in the business of reaching people, puts us digital/social/new-age marketers in a funny spot.

We spend so much time & effort trying to gather data (the kind of data that means something) so that we can then creatively extract true insight. And we go to lengths hiring on ‘experts’ who charge exorbitant rates to expensively dig their way to the bottom of the ever elusive consumer purchase funnel.

There has to be a better way? A more cost-effective way of achieving both reach & relevance. Because, as it stands, we’re drowning in a sea of over-information – without a lifejacket to keep us afloat. And as much as “purists” out there don’t like to admit it… we need to invest in reach to then have deep engagement metrics eventuate off of the back of exposure.

Which leaves us with quite the conundrum.

In an ever-changing & very very busy marketplace how do we find a North Star by which to find our way home?

Easy (kinda): we face the truth.

The truth:
We’re all being punked by algorithms on the daily.

What do I mean when I say we’re getting punked by algorithms? Simply put, I believe we’re being distracted. By the new & the shiny. And, by jargon. We’re all so busy talking around solutions & looking for ‘innovation’ that we forget the basics.

I truly believe the basics are the basics for a reason. To change hearts & minds you need to be seen & heard. To grow, you must know how to scale.

But before worrying about any of this, there’s something every single marketer or advertising bod worth their weight in salt (or organic tea leaves) needs to remember.

After 15 years working as a leader in digital & social media marketing I can say, hand-on-heart, that you only need to do this one thing to create impactful, successful & memorable campaigns:

Tell a good story well.

If you do this, the algorithms will sort themselves out. Promise.

It’s that simple & that complicated.

The hard part is the empty page staring back at you when you start.

You can’t just magic up a good story. You need data, then you need to find a true golden-nugget of insight to build a story upon. There’s no shortcut to creating amazing work, either. Creating a GREAT story, takes time, skill, & a truly human connection.

Remember, always remember, that humans are at the other end of your communications. Not clicks. Not CPM. Not any other digital metric – human eyes, human hearts, human minds.

I promise you, if you invest in the people you’re looking to influence, & spend the required time & effort on your story & your brand, you’ll be so far ahead of the competition that you’ll never have to worry about algorithm changes or channel shifts again.

Channels come & go – they always have & always will.

The basics are the basics for a reason. Humans have been telling stories since time immortal. Learn how to weave a quilt of mixed experiences, prerogatives, & emotions into a your narrative.

Thread your needle carefully, thoughtfully.
Welcome people into the fold.
Have a reason for being – & always aim to add more value than you’ll ever ask in return.

If you do that & if you include your audience in your narrative then your story becomes their story.

And, when your story is built upon shared ownership, others will share it for you freely. There’s literally no app, website, or social channel that could track, re-target, or plan for that.

Keen to beat the AI newsfeed?

Dig deep.
Be real.
And have fun doing it.

And, if you’re keen to learn how to build your brand & campaign stories to ensure impact & success, drop me a line. I’m happy to help you do this.

Click here for more information on storytelling for business, & to get in touch!

Get Out Of Town, Literally. Why Taking A Break Is Good For Every Part of You.

The Rat Race & The Human Hamster Wheel

If you’re like me, your life is a bit like a hamster wheel – but for humans. We live out our best years as quasi-robots bound by a monotonous & perpetual cycle that has been colloquially dubbed the 9-to-5. This cycle is what we’re taught as children that we need to be a part of to be a true success. So, we yearn for it, we give our all to it, & we lose out a lot of time, sleep, & dreams to it.

For most of us, our modern professional lives begin each morning in traffic on the way to the office & end each evening in the same way (but in the opposite direction, obvs.) We see little of our family, & even less of our friends. We connect online & see children growing up through social media.

The Exaltation Of Busyness

Outside of the office we’re tired. No, we’re more than that. We’re exhausted. Don’t just take it from me, take it from number crunchers & geeky scientists who tell us that we need to be working less & living more.

Instead of making martyrs of ourselves at the altar of the 9-to-5 (which, let’s face it, is more like 7-to-6 when we break down the long days & the hours we’re working outside of the norm) we need to be paying attention to our relationships, our health, & our goals outside of post campaign implementation reports & P&L ledgers.

We need to stop praying at the altar of Busyness. Being busy is not a badge to be worn proudly, it’s the opposite of such. Restfulness, taking time to think through strategy & projects, & building in space to be creative is necessary now more than ever in professional spaces.

Come Fly With Me, Let’s Fly, Let’s Fly Away

So how do we break the mould & ensure we’re working at our most optimal level without breaking the bank or breaking away from work we enjoy or need to do?

One thing we can all do is simply take a break.

We’re so lucky here in NZ to get 4 weeks off a year paid, minimum. Four weeks! Taken in one big chunk, or broken into mini-vacations or multiple long-weekends throughout the year, it is imperative that we all take time off & out from the office.

At last count, there were over 70 million unused vacation days on the books across New Zealand. WTAF?!?! 70 million. That’s a lot of time for head-clearing, family bonding, & adventuring.

When I talk to people who’ve banked a WHOLE FREAKING LOT of time off, my mind boggles. Whether it be deadlines & deliverables, the perceived cost of taking time off, or simply a bad co-dependent relationship with a job – excuses for not taking time off run the gauntlet of human imagination in full.

My take on all of it? I call poppycock.

Time off doesn’t have to be expensive. You can chose a staycation & stay at home. Get some goals ticked off the list in your own backyard. That is a win in & of itself! Too time strapped & trapped by deadlines? Bah humbug. If there’s no one to take on your workload while you’re away, then set expectations clearly. If you set boundaries when it comes to recharging & you communicate them openly, I have always found that people will respect them.

The Importance Of Time Off

To be your best self – at work & at home – you need to know who you are. Without a title. Without a corner office. Without a uniform on. Beyond the office. Who are you at the core?

Getting to know yourself means you’ll be more engaged, confident, & driven across all verticals of your life.

What follows are the main ingredients in self-discovery that you can only undertake when you’re outside of your routine. When you’re resting up, heading out, & expanding your understanding of the wider world around you.

  • Exploring
    • When you’re exploring a world beyond the usual day-in-day-out that you’re accustomed to whilst working, your health improves on all levels. My family & often I always end up walking a lot more when we’re on vacation. Our physical fitness goes up, not down! And, our mental fitness becomes stronger, too. I’d be willing to wager that the simple act of exploration is the most impactful way of turning off from routine & flipping the switch on self-actualisation.
  • Adventuring
    • As with exploring, adventuring is such an important thing to take & make time for. Adventures can be undertaken anywhere with anyone, so embracing an attitude of fun & discovery is one of the best ways I know of switching off & truly experiencing life. Just last month, my biggest adventure was driving to Las Vegas in the middle of a desert winter – on a whim. Thanks to the whim, my wife & I both ended up not only in Las Vegas, but also dancing on stage with Elton John. Adventurous? Heck yes. Did it change me? Yes, yes, yes. So much so for the better. The more I feel a need to break free, the more I embrace adventure.
  • Learning
    • Taking a break & getting away teaches us all more than any meeting in a boardroom or worship at a conference. By stretching beyond our norms, we learn more about people, cultures, & become more empathetic. Having a larger world view & understanding more about how different people live allows us to come back to our own workplaces more educated. With empathy, kindness, & learning on holiday, we become better business people in the longterm.
  • Refocusing passions
    • When you have some free time & space to explore, adventure, & learn – you invariably will start thinking about your passions. What are the things that drive you & what do you stand for? Do these values & passions translate into your daily working life? What you often find while taking time away is clarity. Clarity of purpose is something everyone’s searching for, most of the time you’ll only find it when you’re not looking for it. It will define you, not the other way around. Allow yourself time to refocus.
  • Setting goals
    • Setting goals is a huge part of taking time out. Whether you run away to a beach where the cocktails are bottomless, or you find a hiking trail that takes you far off the beaten track, one wonderful thing that happens when you get away from the office is that you’re able to set goals on your own. Being able to work through your own goals without the weight of corporate infrastructure means that you’re much better armed to set goals within the confines of a corporation when you’re back. Clearly knowing what it is that you want to achieve makes achieving things easier.

All in all, we live in a busy, fragmented time. A time in which we work long hours & disregard our own needs when it comes to relaxing & recharging.

My advice? Dream bigger.

Take time to explore the world beyond your daily routine. And, when your batteries are recharged, head back to work ready to do the absolute best that you can do!

Manhattan Beach Palm Trees, California

Speak Out & Shout, Every Voice Matters this International Women’s Day

Wake Up To Change 

I woke up this morning as I do every morning. Full of hope for the day ahead. Full of excitement at the promise of new adventures. And, let’s be honest here, slightly sleepy & bleary-eyed after what’s been a manic start to a jet-lagged week after two weeks back home in San Diego filling my soul & recharging my inspiration batteries.

Today’s a special day though.

One a bit different to other days. Today my Twitter stream & Facebook feeds are dominated by headlines of female world-leaders, strong women we meet every day, marches, protests, & (typically) cats.

Seriously, Internet? Cats? Still?

I guess if cat worship was a ‘thing’ for ancient Egyptians, then it makes sense in the internet age – kinda.

In amongst the usual algorithmic clutter of content, & off of the back of over a year of #MeToo, #TimesUp & #NeverAgain cultural movements, I’m heartened to see a huge surge of powerful posts pointing towards the tidal swell towards equality.

Words are forming.
Language is building.
Sentiment is taking shape – we’re moving from impassioned pleas towards demanding action. Now.

Vivid images.
Eloquent text.
And, vivaciously poignant videos.

Sheesh, it’s 7am & I’ve gone through this Kleenex box next to me crying happy tears, angry tears, impassioned tears. I should note here, Team, I’m not usually a crier. But, as I said earlier, today’s different.

A Happy And Heavy Heart

Friends, family, colleagues, brands, politicians and businesses across the world are bringing International Women’s Day to life this year across digital and social media in a way I’ve not experienced before.

My heart? Today, is happy & heavy. Happy that so many people are not merely recognizing today as a tick-box exercise in political correctness, but rather a necessary element of driving informed, honest dialogue around gender inequality at work, at home, and beyond.

Heavy because we still face a large opposition of naysayers. People who love the patriarchal BAU of inequity & inequality that keeps most down, & lifts only a few. There’s also a heaviness in knowing that one day a year of shaking the internet isn’t enough to bring gender parity closer to reality.

Having a day set aside to celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women feels great, but stings just a little bit too. Ya know?

What happens tomorrow? Who among us will continue to talk, argue, scrap, and otherwise fight for women’s rights?

Will we just go back to ho-hum, everyday acceptance of the world as it is. Will we still be supported by our bosses, our lovers, our family if we speak up consistently? I’m not so sure we will be. At some point we are labeled as that feminist or that girl with opinions. 

Will the wheel keep spinning or will our voices quiet again until March 8th rolls around again next year? How will we continue the dialogue daily between all people – women & men alike?

Take Action

This time last year I made a promise to myself, to my colleagues, & to my family to do better. To speak up & speak out. And to call out moments of harassment, mansplaining, inequity, & otherwise detrimental interactions towards women.

365 sleeps later? I’m bloody proud of myself. Slowly but surely I see my younger colleagues – male & female alike – standing up for each other. Allowing each other to speak. And, treating each other with more kindness.

There’s still a lot left to be done though. Old Boys Clubs still run rampant through corporations large & small.  Women are still paid less then men in the same (or even lower) positions. Vernacular & language around leadership are still very male.

Make A Promise

As I did last year, I again am making a promise to do more for women in hopes that we actually start shifting the balance towards fairness. There’s a large piece of work to be done in disentangling visibility from power. They are not one & the same, though they are often treated as such.

My call to action for women & men today? Don’t be complacent. You have a voice, use it. Fight the fear of standing up for yourself or someone else. Do it. Make change happen through your own consistent actions. Small, large… whatever.  Just stand up for something or someone.

Every little bit counts.

Here’s to strong women everywhere.
May we support you. May we lift you up. May we celebrate you. May we be you.
And, may we raise the next generation in your light.

#IWD2018 #PressforProgress 

Expert Tips For Surviving a Crisis Of Confidence

I have something to tell you.

Sit down, grab a cuppa, & buckle up.

This morning I woke up & wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep. To simply find a dark place to hide away in.

Away from the world.
Away from pressures nipping at my heels & responsibilities I’ve signed up for.
Away from my own internal narrative of self-doubt.

But I couldn’t hide. Or rather, I refused to.

Because while getting out of bed was tough, I knew that I needed to move – my mind, my body, my goal-posts. I couldn’t stagnate. I couldn’t let self-limiting chatter in my mind make limitations a theme for the day.

We’re all our own worst critics.

We’re all so hard on ourselves. Why is that? Where does that little voice inside our heads that tells us we’re not good enough come from? When are we taught to second-guess our motives?

I don’t have all of the answers, but I do know that it’s important to acknowledge that we all have bad days. Some are worse than others. And, although they might not happen often, when they do, they can be all consuming.

It would be remiss of me (or any of us) to pretend that life is all about riding the highs. That each day is greeted by rainbows & butterflies with nary a dark rain cloud looming on the horizon.

But that’s what we do online, through social media, & through facades we don in professional settings isn’t it? We pretend everything’s okay, when it’s not. We wear masks & paint on smiles hoping no one else realises that our walls are cracking.

Ready to crumble.

When it comes to confidence & women, research has shown that there’s a big ‘ol gap that separates the sexes. While dudes surely have moments of insecurity & low self-esteem, the weight of these two emotional loads pull women back at much more alarming rates.

I digress though. Moving on, to why I’m writing this.

Climbing without falling isn’t a true representation of reality.

We’d all like to be happy all of the time right? Ride a dopamine wave around loop-de-loops & throw our hands in the air without a worry in the world.

But the roller coaster ride isn’t all fun & rush-inducing. Nope, life is fast, slow, up, down & everything in between. It’s a wild ride. A broken, yet beautiful, journey that we all travel.

So, here I am. Tippity-typing my innermost thoughts. Before you ask, yes, I’m slightly afraid to share them. Shedding light on anything other than a perfectly crafted veneer is uncomfortable for most of us.

But, fear not, I have great news!

Moments of darkness, confusion, & sagging self-belief aren’t all bad. In fact, it’s taken many a crisis of confidence, in my life to build me into the *mostly* consistently confident person that I am today.

Keep on truckin’, Team!

All of those quotes about ‘fall down seven times, stand up eight…’ resonate with us because they are rooted deeply in the fallible nature of humanity.

And, seeing that we’re all humans, understanding that we’re inherently flawed is a good thing to learn ear.y.

Like all of us, crisis moments are all unique. No two moments of self-doubt or crisis are the same. They can be as quick as a flash-in-the pan or last days (or weeks or longer) depending on the situation.

And as cliche as it is to say this, the deeper the impact, the higher I’ve risen afterwards.

By using lows as starting points for growth, I’ve learned to ride the rough waves towards a sunny shoreline. And, I’ve taken time out over the course of my professional career & in my personal life to hone skills in utilising techniques around positive self-talk.

No more limitations. No more negative trolls between my ears.

Over the years, the following four tips are the ones I come back to time & time again to get me out of bed, out of a rut, & back into a positive frame of self-reference.

I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me. Sometimes the simplest things (perspective, conversation & context) are the most helpful weapons we have to fight self-doubt.

1. Take a deep breath
Breathing is what keeps us here. It’s what grounds us. It’s what moves us forward. Being able to control your breathing means you control your body. When your body is settled – then you can take care of your mind. Taking a deep breath also means pausing & evaluating your current situation. You’re allowed to cry. And I big, ugly, feel-it-in-your-soul crying. But once you’ve done that, take a deep breath. Then another. And then, find a way to be calm. Sit with yourself & allow yourself the time & space you need to move onto tip number two.

Which is…

2. Talk to someone you trust
Oftentimes I try to solve my problems without letting anyone else in on them. Why? I’m not really sure. But, I think it’s probably got something to do with appearing weak, imperfect, & not enough for others to want to be around me. My goal in life is to spread goodness, not to be a drag on others. So, for a long time, I’ve hidden away things that bother me or that cause me to doubt myself. Talking to someone, be it a friend, family member, or therapist is a good thing. Most of the time other people want to be there for you. If someone reacts badly to your truth, find someone else to talk to. Find someone who wants to help. I promise, you’ll be amazed at the level of love & support you’ll get by opening up in your own, genuine way.

That then leads us to…

3. Make a plan
Making a plan doesn’t have to be onerous & time consuming. It also doesn’t have to be a forever-plan. Making a plan can be as simple as getting up & getting dressed – & from there, going for a walk or writing down your thoughts. The important aspect of planning is that you’re focussing on moving forward, not looking back. You don’t have to solve your problems all in one foul-swoop. But you can start to tackle little pieces of problems in a way that gives you hope, belief, & purpose. Not all big moments stem from big plans. Start small. Do what you can with what you’ve got – & move forward at the pace you can move at in the moment.

From there, it’s time to….

4. Celebrate the small stuff
This is something I try to do as often as I can. Taking notice of, & then celebrating small milestones gives us a realistic way of approaching our days. Be it at work, at play, or in our pursuit of joy – practicing appreciation for moments that become building blocks is super important to creating a habit of positive self-belief in all of us. I don’t mean for this to sound trite, but I reckon if we all really celebrated each other & our little moments of victory more often, that our workplaces & homes would be filled with so much more love & our crisis of confidence days would be less and less. So remember, Team, celebrate yourself. Celebrate others. Celebrate more & more to be more & more!

Back to good.

Right, so those are the top four ways that I personally employ to get my head back in the right place – a place of positive self-talk, confidence boosting thoughts, & of forward movement.

Here’s hoping you’re having an amazing day. If not, take a deep breath… & then rock into a future of motion begetting motion. Success begetting success. And, a life of mostly confident self-love!

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time & any feedback you may have.

Also, because I’m sucker for a good, pithy quote I’ve added some below. Enjoy!

Cassie Roma

Walking A Tightrope: Braving The Unknown

Here’s the thing about young, handsome Argentinian lifeguards on beaches… they’re very convincing.

VERY.
CONVINCING.

Maybe it’s was his accent, my broken Español, or the casual way in which his eyes lit up when I said “Is that hard to do?” that I decided to go out on a limb yesterday. Literally.

(NOTE: my decision may have been swayed simply by the fact that I am competitive as f*ck, & a cute kid decided to go before me – I couldn’t wimp out & still be a semi-cool-Mom after that!)

Tightrope walking, I can assure you, is not for people afraid of falling. It’s also usually not something 36yr old mother’s who have never tightrope-walked before do at a public beach on a super windy day.

But, what the hey. My inner voice whispered seductively to me “New year, same me… let’s do this, Cass. You wanted to adventure more. You wanted to make memories & try new things. Here’s your first shot at it. And, you’re only three feet above the ground.”

Damn you, seductive inner voice. As awkward as you are, you sure are convincing. Potentially just as convincing as our new, tanned friend from Argentina. So, with a little gust of wind catching me up the backside & along the path towards the tightrope (as well as a healthy cheering on from my beloved & my bestest pal) – I kicked off my jandals & climbed a tree trunk (not very high) to the springy, stringy thing I would soon be walking – or falling – across.

Lucky for me, mi amigo nuevo, saw I was nervous & gave me his hand. Though he was there to steady me as I took my first VERY uncertain first step, he also talked me through where my line of site should be, how to relax & unravel the tension in the rope through my balance, & showed me how to have fun while completely terrified.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I used to be terrified of heights. Strangely, over the years, I’ve gotten much better with heights – but walking that uneven & unsteady rubber-band was pretty nerve wracking for me.

I may have only been three feet above Terra Firma, but it just as easily could’ve been 30 or 300 feet as far as I was concerned in the moment!

Making it all the way across, I learned a few things in the minute I spent without my feet firmly planted on the ground.

Mostly, I learned these key lessons:

  1. Be courageous
    This is seriously not as easy as it sounds. Most of us like to think that we’re daring… at least a little bit. But, in practice, I personally end up turning down opportunities to try new things for fear of what others – and even my own inner-voice – might think. I consistently tell my daughter that she can’t be good at everything. You have to start somewhere, and somewhere is usually right at the beginning. No one starts off as a master. Masters were always once beginners. So, while I might end up sounding like a $.50 fortune cookie, I reckon we should all start at the beginning. Without fear. Without judgement. But, more so, with hope, joy & a sense of adventure. Courage is contagious – pass it on.
  2. Don’t Look Down
    As my Argentinean friend told me as I started walking from one tree to another “Look only ahead, not down, not to the side.” This really resonated with me in the moment – and resonates even more now thinking back on his words. We oftentimes spend so much time looking in a direction other than that in which we’re heading that we lose sight of our end destination. Even with strong winds whipping at your back, or with wobbly footing, if you look ahead & focus on what you’re hoping to achieve – your chance of getting there inherently grows by leaps & bounds. I always tell my teams at work that, as a manager, it’s my job to provide a ‘North Star’ for them to steer towards. It’s their job to get there – whether it be swinging across Orion’s Belt or sliding through the big dipper. Keep your eyes up. Move with intent.
  3. Have fun falling
    This is something I’ve grown to embrace & love over the past few years. Falling, itself, is fun. It’s the landing, if you’re not prepared for it, or it comes too soon, that hurts the most. It’s taken time, but I’ve started to not just face my fear of falling (and, failing) but to embrace it with my eyes wide open. Most probably squealing all the way to the bottom where a soft landing (or slight thunk) awaits. Falling, like flying is all part of the journey. If you embrace each moment, you’ll find fun just around every corner.

 

So, there you have it. A small moment. But, big lessons. Here’s to more travelling South Americans on Auckland beaches this summer, helping us all face our fears – while reminding us, there’s no shame in having a helping hand to steady us while we learn.

Gracias, amigo mio. Que te vayas bien.

 

Tightrope walking!
Tightrope walking!