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. 

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!

The Case For Writing (And Investing In) Your Brand Story

What’s your story?

No, really. What is it?

Humour me for a minute – let’s try an exercise together.

I want you to think about how you might answer the above question. Try to formulate a storyboard in your mind about your story. While thinking through it, allow your mind to wander. Allow your biases, for just this exercise, to fall by the wayside for a brief moment in time.

This is your story. You get to write it.

First things first. Where would you start? Would it be at the beginning (birth), or would you choose a different beginning that’s not your literal ‘start?’ If you default to a starting point where work becomes a focus – you wouldn’t be the first. We so often live our lives in the context of meeting each other and asking ‘What do you do?’ Swapping corporate titles like social currency. Park the titles & the jobs. This is about your STORY. Start at your beginning…but make it about you. Not society.

From there, head into the gritty, gusty, beautiful middle of your narrative. How do you, in your own mind, segue from the beginning to the middle of your narrative? Was there a big shift in geography, in relationships, in maturity?

Think through the moments that you see as definitive to you & your journey.

You know the moments already. They’re at the front of your mind often. They are those moments that you look back on often, laugh about with people who knew you when, & even the ones that might cause your eyes to leak just a little bit – emotion still just beyond the surface.

Those are your personal narrrative building blocks. They offer depth, authenticity, growth, & change to occur. They are little pieces of stardust.

From your defining stories, it’s time to lead into a wrap-up of sorts. Your story, as yet unfinished, still needs to end somewhere. As humans, our minds need a finite lesson, or stopping point. But, your story continues.

Do you it end now, in front of your computer screen wit a pithy qupte? Or, do you pick a recent moment that allows you an open end?A hope, a dream, a goal.

However you chose to close your story – you’ve just created yourself another starting point. And therein lies the power of storytelling.

The power of storytelling in life & in business is the power of new beginnings.

For me, for you, for all of us – starting over & over again allows us so much beautiful space to fill empty pages of time to come. By going through the above exercise, you as an individual have a story now. A unique voice. A singular journey.

It can be shared, re-told by others, & written into cultural folklore even!

To ensure continual growth in business – whether as marketers, brand strategists, social media OGs, or CEO’s – you need to understand your brand’s story in-depth. Because when a brand stands for something authentic, human, & unique it’ll always rise faster than those businesses without stories.

Stories are currency, you can bank them & trade them.

I’m going to go WAY out on a ledge right now & say that stories are the most valuable asset to a company after people. People first, always. But, as a close second, stories are the secret sauce that spices up a brand’s offerings & products. As such, they should be just as heavily invested in.

The more people understand why they’re buying what they’re buying – the more likely they are to remain loyal to a brand. Why? Because magic happens when our personal narratives & brand narratives become intertwined. It’s very, very hard to untangle stories once they’ve been melded together. Thus, you create camps of people who then tell your story for you.

Me? I’m an Apple girl. A lifelong Nike gym junkie. Someone who buys Coke over Pepsi. Someday I’ll own a Ford truck. When I shop, I take time to notice my biases. I physically stop myself from defaulting to my favourites… and often wonder what it is in the back of my mind that causes me to reach for one brand over another.

In every instance, I can follow my choices back to stories.

Unpacking memories, it’s the happy tickles at the back of my lizard brain that cause me to truly become invested in a brand. That part of my brain simply acts & reacts based on past experience. I can remember Nike ads from the early 80’s (I was a toddler!), & still am able to sing almost every jingle for breakfast cereals written in the USA from 1985-1999. I remember the Say ‘No’ To Drugs campaign with frying pans & smashed eggs as clear as day…

Stories. All of these marketing campaigns, in all of their channels and iterations, are based on stories. On human truths. On simple, succinct messages.

The moral of this blog’s story? Invest in your story. Invest the time, the emotion, & the cash.

Write it, live it, share it.

We can’t believe in things we don’t understand or know. Once you’ve invested in your story, your customers will invest in your story… and then tell it for you. Whether at the dinner table, whether by wearing your logo on their feet/shirt/jeans, whether through social media channels… advocates will share stories for you. This is how brands grow.

Fill that funnel, team! Tell stories. As for me, I’m a lucky one. Happily a dreamer, an author, & a believer in good when it comes to telling stories. In the world where I spend a lot of time, the world of brand marketing, I’ve been absolutely blessed to meet some amazing people. Yarn-spinners so prolific that they have me eating from their palms & yearning to be as magical as they are with words, pauses, imagery & beyond.

Crafting stories for brands is my favourite form of beautiful, creative geekery

Recently I had the opportunity to chat with such a wizard of woven narrative, the amazing Park Howell. Radiating kindness, creativity, purpose, & vision – Park & I hit it off from the word go. We talked about storytelling journeys, heroes that helped shape our own passions for becoming storytellers ourselves…and prolific lyrics from the Brown Dirt Cowboy himself, Bernie Taupin.

If you’re keen to learn more about how to find your own narrative, & if you’re up for a rollicking ride on the rollercoaster of passionate storytelling for brands to really super-charge growth & return, click here. I’m positive you’ll enjoy this podcast that Park & I did together.

The #KindnessRevolution starts here, with all of us.

 

VidCon Australia: Defining Influence & Working With Influencers

When I flew to Anaheim last June, I wasn’t simply escaping a cold, wet, dreary start to winter in Auckland. I was on the hunt for sun, surf, summertime…and, something else entirely. Exactly what that ‘something’ was, I hadn’t a clue – but I knew I’d know it when I saw it.

I knew a few things. I knew that the something I was searching for wasn’t as tangible as a cold cocktail in my hand whilst sitting on Santa Monica Beach. Though, when I look back now, there are definite transcendental qualities inherent in beachside cocktails. But I digress…

img_6857

When I got to California, I wanted something awe-inspiring. Something surprising. Something enlightening, even.

Is that too much to ask? You see, I’ve been living in New Zealand now for nigh on 15 years, and while I absolutely love my chosen homeland, I sure do miss the diversity & sheer size of home. California stands fairly sturdily on a foundation of desert-heartiness & beachside industriousness. It drips in cool-factor, geekiness, and social awareness. It’s a home to most, a religion to many, and a dreamy fantasy to a chosen few who go through life with rose coloured glasses always on. California, to me, is interwoven into the fabric of my soul. My body and aura react to my home state – a native child grown near the sea.

It was California’s all-encompassing bigness that taught me from early on that I could dream and do anything – as big or as small as I wanted to. But I would have to work hard for what I desired. I’d have to learn to take the hard-knocks with the soft, salty smooches.

Growing up in San Diego was an absolute trip, though. We played lots of sports, studied a lot & spent every stolen moment we could at the beach. But, beyond the sunshine, butterflies, beaches & tanned bodies of adolescence, there was always something in me that yearned for more. Never happy with the somethings in front of me. As to the above – I needed something. More.

Though, I should be clear here from the outset: I didn’t ever need more stuff.

Stuff has never appealed to me – and I don’t think it ever will. I didn’t need more money. I didn’t need more praise. What I needed was more of life. I needed more small moments of joy. I needed more opinions that didn’t quite jive with mine. I needed to discover more. See more. Learn more. Experience more. Be more. And so it was that through this quest for moreness, I developed a very strong sense of curiosity. And, because of this sense of exploration, I’ve been able to consistently see the world through different lenses & experiences.

In fact, it was the curiosity for discovering more that led me to New Zealand in the first place.

And now all these years later, that same curiosity is what keeps leading me back home.

img_5979-1Over the past decade, I’ve been very lucky to attend some amazing world conferences & gatherings that’ve changed who I am. Even in small increments, I’ve begun a huge pivot toward a more fulfilled life. A life of value derived from helping others and telling stories. I’ve also rubbed shoulders with some of the most amazing storytelling minds on the planet, & in doing so gleaned as much knowledge as I possibly could over the course of a workshop, an hour-long session, or a cocktail (the cocktail lessons tend to be the best for gleaning!).

So it was one of the greatest pleasures of my professional and personal life, to have been able to experience VidCon in Anaheim this year from an industry/professional standpoint. If you don’t know what VidCon is, simply put, it’s one of the biggest most inclusive events on the planet. It is a celebration of differences, technology & ideas. It’s also the place to be to watch a beautiful coming-together of different communities and fandoms. For a professional storytelling-social media-strategist-OG, VidCon brought together creative tips & tricks, channel executions, marketing strategies, trends, algorithms, and talk around the morality of modern media.

Geez Louise, I ran around like a nerdy kid in an awkward adult candy store for the entirety of the event! Three jam packed, fun filled, and awe inspiring days turned me into a major VidCon fangirl in California. I met so many amazing people, learned a lot about the media industry vertical that I work in, and found that thing I was looking for all along: my spark.

At a huge convention center filled with 36,000 people, I remembered exactly who I was and what made me tick.

Storytelling. People. Inclusion. And, passion for what we do professionally and personally. Talk about finding ‘something’ in exactly the place you weren’t looking! Magic!

I should also mention that, whilst at VidCon, I realised how much of an important part geography plays in the kind of content we consume. We really do tend towards common, comfortable stories that reflect our cultures, countries, and social groups. Many of the featured creators, while HUGE in the USA, were & still are fairly unheard of here in New Zealand. So, yay for VidCon, I found some new fave creators.

img_6038-1

Fast forward four months from VidCon in Anaheim, and here comes another opportunity to find something else.

VidCon Australia, the inaugural event, was happening…and there was no way I was going to miss it! In fact, after getting to know some of the people from for the industry track, I was beyond stoked not only attend the event in Australia, but to be asked to speak on adapting global storytelling trends to local markets. Talk about excitement!

Taking place in my favorite Australian city, my fiancé and I flew from Auckland to Melbourne on a Thursday night – and we stayed through Monday afternoon.

I was literally so excited that the mood of our trip was nothing short of celebratory.

We splashed out & stayed at a fairly swanky hotel (which always helps set the scene for a good time) and woke up early Friday morning to explore the city a bit.

We wandered down Degraves Lane for our ceremonial avocado on toast breakfast – washed down with the most amazing coffee on the planet. After breakfast we headed to AC/DC Lane and took in all of the beautiful colors and portraits on the graffiti-laden walls there. From there, we spent some time in the National Gallery of Victoria looking through amazing exhibits and getting all cultured – n stuff. All of this before lunch!

At about noon we headed to the Melbourne convention center to check in to VidCon. I was an absolute ball of excitement and nervous energy. Luckily my friend Jim (who I met in LA) was heading up the industry track in Australia, so I knew there would be at least one familiar face in Aus for this conference.

Check in was super easy, and the staff and volunteers were gorgeously friendly. Even before the actual convention started (it took place over the weekend) everybody seemed amped for fun times ahead. And, let me tell you, fun times were had!

Saturday was wickedly fabulous. Like LA, but smaller in scale, VidCon Australia packed a fun-factor punch.

I, of course, was early. If there’s anything I’ve ever been in my life – it’s early. For work, for school, for parties, for planes. Early is my bag, baby! The great thing about being the first person to places is that you see things magically come to life. Empty spaces are transformed into thriving events & memorable moments in time. And I love to watch magic unfold.

Most of the day Saturday, I spent up on the Industry Track floor learning all that I could from the speakers, and networking with friends both new and old from across the world.  Every now and again I’d hop down to the Creator Track or the Community Track events to take in some of the pure rocket-fuel energy of fandom that comes dripping from VidCon. The day flew by, literally. And we closed with drinks and networking with others from the Industry Track – all of us well excited and exhausted in equal, beautiful parts.

Sunday was a big day. Day Two always is!

I really enjoyed digging into all of the tracks on Sunday – running around the convention centre like an over-hyped dici-geek on a cotton candy and pure coca-cola drip. My talk was at the end of the day, and, to be honest – I wasn’t sure anyone (save for my fiancee & New Zealand crew) would turn up. Sunday evening is usually when I’m in my Smurfette Onesie watching Harry Potter with my family. Anyone who came to hear me waffle on would be a wee legend in my book.

Luckily, people showed up! And, kept showing up during my 45 minutes of fun & sharing. On a personal level, I was able to really enjoy the moment & take it in. I laughed with the crowd in the room (who knew Betty White dabbing could be such a crowd-pleaser?), answered some great questions & have been in touch with most of the folks who were present in one way or another since. That’s the beauty of attending things like Vidcon Australia, you meet all kinds of people who will be in your life in some way or another from that point on. Some you’ll throw ideas around with, some you’ll help out with a challenge (or they’ll help you), and some you simply meet for a coffee and to spin yarns with.

Talk about a gift, right? Memories, people, & stories to keep for a lifetime. Yep, sign me up for more.

img_0539After VidCon finished up (soon after my session on Sunday afternoon), we celebrated in style by hitting up an amazing restaurant in the central city, Cookie. My fiancee, my buddy Jim & I sat chatting, re-hashing the three days just gone by, and drinking amazing red wine & cocktails. We lol’d, we pontificated, and we ended the night at a rooftop bar nearby with yummy Australia red wine.

Beautiful times with beautiful souls – that’s what I’ll take away from VidCon Australia. After Cookie & our rooftop tipple, we bid adieu to Jim with warnings of Drop Bears nearer to the coast (he was headed off adventuring, while we Kiwis had to head back to NZ for work on Monday.)

All in all, the first VidCon Australia was an experience of a lifetime – not just for me, but for a lot of people.

I think it was quite a gift to see the conference in its first year, the heaving throngs of fans and creators that are in Anaheim will be on the horizon. But for 2017, I can honestly say that I loved it all. The people, the vibes, the fandoms, the city and learning. It all added up to an amazing event that I can’t wait to return to in 2018.

The best part? Just as I had found in Anaheim in June, I found so many somethings I never expected in Melbourne.

And, if you need more convincing, here are my TOP FIVE REASONS to head to VIDCON MELBOURNE in 2018:

  • Location, Location, Location

    Melbourne is an amazing city. For art, culture, food, wine, sports, music… you name it. I’ve been to Melbs so many times for both work and play, and still cannot wait to get back. The Convention Centre in Melbourne is perfectly placed for an event like VidCon – it’s in walking distance to the central city, scarily near to an amazing shopping complex, and literally steps from great restaurants that sit right on the water (perfect for sunset-gazing.)

  • Access

    The access you get to amazing global speakers and content that’s world-class is second to none from an Industry perspective especially. I didn’t spend a lot of time on the Creator & Community floors in Melbourne, but I’m sure those tracks were superb as well. The secret sauce to VidCon Melbourne is literally access. Whether it was the ABC, Instagram, or Influencer agency leads – access to information was off the charts. And, right now, the conference is in growth mode, which means that this is the time to get in and listen/talk/network/geek out with world thought leaders on a more personal level.

  • Networking

    The networking is strong with this one. No, really. It is. Some of the most magical moments of the conference for me were the quiet times in between sessions when speakers or attendees would simply sit together and pontificate on subjects in depth. Getting to know people from countries, backgrounds, and industries is very important when it comes to being able to compare notes and bounce ideas off of when you’re in smaller places like I am here in New Zealand. I also love just walking the exhibition hall floor, too, to see who else is down there curiously looking into the experiential aspect of VidCon.

  • Fandoms

    Fandoms are the backbone of VidCon. I’ve never seen so many diverse, engaged, and passionate people when it comes to influencers/creators/YouTubers and their communities. I find it absolutely fascinating to just sit and watch how the young people who attend VidCon act and interact with each other – and, on the other side of the coin, interact with their online heroes IRL. There’s literally no better place to get right to the heart of how Gen Z and younger generations are creating content – and consuming it. The fandoms are powerful. They’re fascinating. And, they give me so much insight and hope for the future of storytelling. The kids, team. The kids just want a great story.

  • Inspiration

    Inspiration. It’s something I know I’m always chasing. I’ll keep this point very short-and-sweet: just go. If you can, go. Grab an Industry pass. Go to sessions across each of the three tracks. Do the meet-and-greet hall and feel the buzz of meeting a creator (and being surrounded by their fans!) Magic is all around, as is inspiration.

For photos, vids & stories of my travels to VidCon & beyond, follow me here: www.instagram.com/cassieroma

Social Media Q & A: Influencers, Channels, & Trends

Ah, social media.

My BFF, my Bae, my profession. For the past 11 years, I’ve felt like a bit of a trailblazer. A pioneer of such. But, not one of those old-school pioneers making their way across the plains and the Rockies in covered wagons… more Jean-Luc Picard in a space ship traversing far off solar systems.

Looking back to the very first time social media became a part of ‘what I do’ I clearly remember thinking that, should I go down the route of learning to master the channels (spoiler: no one can master ALL THE CHANNELS), that a) I would be in a super minority in a world of traditional advertising and PR & b) each day would mean I’d have to be more & more clever with how I showed brands the long-term benefit of storytelling & connection in new channels.

Also of note, Cass: if you take on this job for the long-haul, you’ll always be a bringer of change (which makes people feel uncomfortable at best, threatened usually), & you won’t make any big bucks for a wee while. Okay? OKAY!

Fast forward to today, and the below is Q&A I took part in recently. In it, you’ll see straight off the bat that I am still so, so, so excited by, & passionate about, the power of social media. After years of diving into the guts of how digital platforms, websites, traditional media, and emerging trends fit in the great puzzle of marketing & storytelling – I still get out of bed read to learn, ready to share, & ready to see who will make an impact (& how).

Below I talk not simply channels, but more broadly around building your personal brand, emerging trends, and the importance of imbuing humanity into everything a a company does. I loved putting aside some time to think about the state of social media as it is in this moment, after having been a part of the ‘movement’ over the past decade.

Both professionally & personally, I love (YES! LOVE!) social & digital media. I love how the world has become so much more connected. And, how creativity, kindness, & empathy has come to bind us together most of the time. I could probably write a novel worth of answers for each question below (perhaps I will someday) – but for now I’ve tried to keep everything a bit more succinct.

Enjoy!

And, ask questions if you’ve got any. I love a curly question or three.

Thanks,
Cass


You’ve got a large reach and unique personal brand, for candidates looking to create their own personal brand – what would you say is the best way of going about this? And what benefit does this bring?

This is a big question to answer in a few lines. In short, creating your personal brand online & being unique is easy: there’s only one of you!

Depending on your personal & professional goals in a very saturated digital and social media ecosystem – you need to define fairly early how you’ll present yourself, who you’ll be talking to, and what you want an audience to take away/do when interacting with you online. B2B, B2C, and beyond are all inherently similar in that you’re a human talking to, and hoping to influence, other humans.

As a writer & photographer (by both trade & passion) – the hunger to learn & create is inbuilt in my DNA. I’m not afraid to be vulnerable when I need to be. Curiosity & passion drive me forward daily. The innate desire continually learn & adapt is the secret sauce of success in any field.

Also, my rule of thumb for the past decade of fumbling my way through social media (and then becoming an expert) is to be careful in what you post. Be yourself, by all means, have your own voice & brand – but act as if your parents or CEO will see every tweet, every post you send out. Being able to check yourself strategically will ensure that your personal brand goes from strong to stronger over time & grows alongside you.

I recently came across your blog and saw a running theme by the way you talk about social media – “ I kept talking passionately about community and the returns in the long run.” How does this mindset influence your content creation?

Every single post I’ve ever written, created, or curated on behalf of a brand has been with the end recipient in mind. We sell to people, not to clicks or lists of email addresses. To create great stories that engage & hold an audience is magic.

And, it’s not overly complex magic, either. Knowing your audience is easier than ever in our world of insights, but we sometimes overlook creativity and lean on machine learning.

I’m all for clever ads, creative social executions, and for actual heart at the center of community conversations. And, we have to remember that brand is all about the long run. It’s wooing customers & becoming a part of their lives – not the other way around.

I quite often say to my team at work “take off your marketing hat & put on your normal person hat” – ask yourself these questions:

  • Would this resonate with YOU if you were the target audience?
  • Does your content tell a story?
  • Is there an emotive or psychological trigger to get someone to act or react to your content?
  • And, most importantly, what benefit is this bringing to the person consuming your content?

What are your thoughts on the emerging trend of social media influencers?

This is another subject I could literally write a novel on. First and foremost, I don’t think influencers are emerging, or a trend. Think of Nike & Michael Jordan. In my mind’s eye I see Mike & his logo. I remember his college colours (white & baby blue), & I see his smiling face.

Everyone wanted to be like Mike when I was a kid – and we all wanted to wear his shoes just so a bit of the cool-factor from Michael could rub off on us through our feet. That’s the pull of influence.

It’s social currency, it’s tapping into emotions, & it’s corralling popularity in a way that isn’t selling out. In fact, brands have utilised the power of influencers since time immortal. All that has changed are the platforms. With social media now so saturated with UGC & content from anyone who has a smart phone, more and more people are calling themselves influencers – when they’re not.

The idea of macro influencers & using celebrities as a sweet-fix to drive quick engagement with brands isn’t an idea I buy into. I firmly believe in the power of longevity and a genuine relationship between influencer & brand over time to ensure a truly symbiotic relationship between brand and influencer – not to mention the consumer who needs to believe the message and the people telling stories on behalf of a brand.

When we talk about micro influencers, things start to get really exciting. I do not believe for one second that, just because you may be on the tele or radio or have a YouTube channel, that you’re a good influencer.

In fact, micro influencers are the people who really do the hard work when it comes to selling. They’re the WOM (word of mouth) power-horses of the digital age, and there’s huge opportunity for brands to work well with micro influencers globally & regionally to create magic.

With a wealth of social media experience under your belt, what has been the most pivotal lesson you have learnt?

Keep humans, human emotions, and authenticity at the forefront of everything you do. The beauty of social media is that brands not only get to hear from their customers, they also get to interact with them on a human level – tearing down boundaries of the past that existed in expensive, traditional media.

If you work empathy, fun, education, and information into your social media strategy you’ll be far, far ahead of the curve. Also, from a personal brand perspective, remember to interact in the way you want to be interacted with.

If someone sends you a message, asks a question, or wants to reach out – be there & make the time to replying. The art of social media is the art of socialising. The same rules apply for conversations IRL as conversations online.

What do you think are the key social media trends that will prevail or emerge in 2018?

Live video. It’ll be powerful, powerful, powerful… more so than it is now. Why? Because large platforms like Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter are already all on board & already evolving the tech to involve more people in more places more often.

We’re a bit behind in the NZ Market in utilising live video for brands (and that’s okay!) – but I have a very firm belief that we’ll catch up very soon. It’ll be the brands that start doing live well, now, that seize on this opportunity that grow connections more quickly than those who don’t try.

Getting the basics right & not being afraid to just jump in and get some learning under our belts will be the way forward. Some hints? Try out Instagram live. Watch how influencers & other world brands are utilising the platform. Hop onto Youtube and watch Hannah Hart livestream to her community. She’s a wizard, as are the members of her community.

You’ll learn something new each time. And learning + evolving = winning.
Promise. 🙂

 

For the original link to this story, check out the Razzbri site here.

Social Media Is Dead, Long Live Social Media

A few evenings ago, I had the immense pleasure of sharing a room with about 70 local digital and social media minds to talk about the ever fascinating topic of Social Media ROI. I’ll be honest and tell you this: I stopped going to most social media gatherings centered around this topic a long time ago because I feel like I’ve been there, done that.

We’ve hashed, re-hashed, and re-re-hashed the subject a million times as an industry to seemingly no avail. Trying to find a ‘golden measure’ of social media success is oftentimes akin to hitting your head against a brick wall. The brick wall doesn’t budge. But your head does. And, all you’re left with is an achy melon and the knowledge that bashing yourself against an inanimate object for over a decade isn’t good for anyone involved. Especially you.

That said, I went along the other night for a few reasons. Firstly, I knew the person putting on the talk. She’s a cool cat, and amazing at what she does – if anyone could draw interested, interesting, and engaged people to the venue to really get down to nuts and bolts and talk, she could. And, she did!

The night itself was great. The venue was funky, and open plan – mostly brick, too (yikes! protect your heads!) The speakers for the evening were engaging before, during, and after the proceedings. Dialogue fascinating. And the crowd asked important, evolved questions. Yee haw! Though we all took angles in talking through social media ROI, a common thread was woven across the tapestry of topics. And, when boiled down, the most important takeaway for me from everyone in the room was this: humans matter most.

In marketing.
In storytelling.
In channel planning.
In brand and social media ROI.
Yep, humans.
They’re the best.

Seems pretty commonsensical, right? That people matter more than platforms. More than analytical tools. More than data and insights. More than anything. But your brain would boggle and your head spin at the amount of times I’ve been called into a meeting and been told to “prove the worth” of Facebook as a line-item on a community or direct marketing campaign pitch. You’d fall out of your chair in shock (or maybe not) at how often I still get asked about whether audience should go before channel. Here’s something I can tell you without a single doubt in my mind: ROI is driven through the human condition. All of it.

AUDIENCE. FIRST. ALWAYS.

Let’s taking a quick walk down memory lane, shall we? I remember the first time I was hauled into a senior manager’s office to sit next to the CEO and CFO and talk social ROI. The exec knew that that new ” social communication channels” were lining up to be the new next-best-thing, but weren’t sure how these emerging channels would slot into the existing marketing mix. Fair enough to ask the hard questions as bean counters. But, at 25yrs old I wasn’t quite as well versed in the language of cash-flow and P&L ledgers as I am now to be able to have eloquently answered the questions put to me as I could now. In fact, my attempts at speaking ‘marketing talk’ to digital people, and vice versa, were fumbling at best. I failed a lot at convincing people of the value of social media, but also kept at it. I kept talking passionately about community and the returns in the long run. From that, I got more and more wins on the board. It was all simple psychology and basic marketing fundamentals – just on new platforms. Right? If only the IPA study about brand building in the long term had been out a decade ago!

The funny thing is this: social media has always just made sense to me. At all junctures. It’s never been strange, other-worldly, or foreign. Maybe because I’m inherently a creative and love learning new ways to share images, or stories, or video. Social has been another avenue (or, more recently, major freeway) on which businesses and individuals were able to tell powerful stories in a more relevant way than perhaps traditional advertising could. In my life, social media has become a passion, a profession, and almost an obsession. From the beginning, social media ROI has always been in relationships – it still is. Before the tracking tools. Before the analytical powerhouse back-ends. Before the ad platforms. Before custom and lookalike audiences. Before all of that, and to this day, I firmly believe that social media ROI is in all of us. It’s in emotion, familiarity, and trust.

So when I say social media is dead, we all know it’s not. It’ll never die. But, it will evolve and change quicker than Beiber’s hairstyle. Social is powerful. It unites us. It divides us. And it earns us the right to speak about things other than just our products. Social media allows brands banter, heart, and voice. Each touch-point, each piece of content, each story is a chance for you and your brand to differentiate and ingratiate yourself to consumers. Put people first, and your ROI will be ever-growing.

Long live social media.
Long live all media.