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. 🎂

The #MeToo Movement Matters, So Does Your Reaction To It

I hope you feel uncomfortable, uneasy, and understandably upset while reading this.

Super uncomfortable, even. Uncomfortable enough to want to click away to something more jaunty, more on-the-surface. Less laden with hurt, and less truth-filled. But, fight the discomfort. Keep reading.

Why? Because I want you to change, even in the smallest way. I want you to quiet that voice in your head that automatically puts this blog into ‘another story of men treating women badly’ bucket. And, I want you to care enough by the time you reach the last word to actually do something about sexual predatory behavior against women.

I want you to feel uncomfortable as you read this for a litany reasons. So many reasons. And, if one thing comes of you reading or sharing a story like this, I hope that  you’re able to empathize with, or start to understand how I (and many women) feel in public when we leave the fortress of our own safe spaces – that is, if we’re among those who have safe spaces at all.

Put simply, when we’re out in the world full of rushing, commuting, hustling, working, moving people – we’re at risk. Constantly.

This is our world today.

A world where men still belittle, sexualise, harass, stifle, and expect women ‘just take it.’ Openly. Randomly. Continually. At work and at home – and beyond. And, before we start off with the ‘not all men’ argument, I’ll put this right up front: I know not all men objectify and harass women. Good men are all around, but most good men don’t speak out. Don’t act out. Don’t stand up against daily micromoments of sexual harassment. I, for one, have been lucky to have grown up with – and in adulthood been surrounded by – good, strong, kind men. I’m under no illusion that some men truly do work hard to ensure women are safe. Because of this, I love men as I love women. As equals. As friends. As colleagues. But, I’m also a realist. We’re not equals. Not by a country mile. Not yet.

Let’s get real.

Men objectify women constantly – even when they don’t know they’re doing it. It happens in small moments, in big moments, and in the moments in between where a long glance, a throw-away statement, or a slight unwarranted touch still go unmentioned or unnoticed. It’s in-built into even the most liberal of societies that masculinity, at its core, is synonymous with being somehow bigger, brawnier, and entitled than women. And these traits transcend physical size (Believe me, I know. I’m a big woman.)

As you read this, and as you read article after article about Trump, Weinstein, and other depraved men, I want you to feel lots of things, but mostly gross. Gross because my story is average. In the great bell-curve of humanity, my experience and existence is akin to that of most other women. Right in the middle – but to both ends of the extreme curve, too – we have similar stories to tell. That in itself is gross. I also want you to feel as gross as I did when an old man on public transport in Rome thought that dry-humping me in public was okay. As gross as I do every time a man puts his body in my personal space and touches me without consent. As gross as I do every time I speak, type, post, or otherwise communicate while having to wonder ‘will this be read as flirting?’

I want you to feel the fear of walking alone after dark. And the intense anger I have to internalize when I walk to work in the morning while men in trucks lean out of their windows shouting degrading, disgusting words in my direction. You want to see my tits? That’s too bad. It ain’t happening, asshole. There’s a reason I’m wearing three layers on a hot day. You like my legs? Well I’d like it if you kept that to yourself. I’d rather you, Mr Catcaller (and all of your friends who laugh & think that public harassment is okay), knew just how intrusive your jeering looks, non-consensual touching, and degrading words make me feel.

I also want the other guys in said trucks to shut their friends up. To make everyday sexual harassment taboo. If you don’t speak up, out, or against – you’re part of the problem.

If you’re still here, keep reading.

If you’re online at all, I’m sure you’ve noticed the #MeToo posts across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter this week. Hundreds of thousands (perhaps, by now, millions) of women are using this succinct, powerful hashtag to show just how prevalent sexual harassment and abuse is against women. It’s disheartening. It’s scary. It’s banal in that we need to keep coming up with impactful ways to show just how widespread the mistreatment of women and girls in EVERY DAY LIFE is. Last night I thought about the #MeToo hashtag. I thought about my mother, my daughter, my fiancee, my friends, my colleagues, my heroes… and I realized that I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t have a story about male predatory behavior.

Not. A. Single. Woman.

In thinking long and hard on the subject, and in trying to find ways to make meaningful discourse commonplace across the world – I retreated to the place I always retreat when I’m feeling ponderous. My own head. I started writing this blog before every putting pen to paper, and hands to keyboard. I thought about the innumerable times I’ve been harassed, felt unsafe, and been talked down to because of my gender. The unwanted gropes in rugby clubs. The unwarranted catcalls and professional moments of being called Sweetie while being talked over by men. I hoped beyond hope that my own daughter would suffer less vile behavior over the course of her lifetime. I hope.

It’s fair to say that I don’t know how to force a change in male behavior or shift the narrative around poison views of masculinity that drive such behavior. But, I have some ideas on where to start.

What follows are a few things we can all do to stop the normalization of sexual harassment. Hopefully, together, we’ll not see another generation of #MeToo posts. But, the cynic in me, sadly, thinks we will.

1. (Dudes) Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

In the world we’re living in today, masculinity is judged in thousands of different ways – and most of them all lead back to sexual conquest. In fact, potentially all of them do. That means that even the idea of standing up for equality for women, and in treating them as equals goes against everything society says makes a man. My take is simple. Get uncomfortable in your own skin. Actively challenge how you measure your own worth as a man – and as a human. Dig into learning about what bothers/scares/worries/belittles women in interactions at work, in public, at home. Read blogs by women who have been raped, assaulted, or harassed. Don’t click away. Feel anger on the behalf of those who’ve been hurt, yet see their words as harrowing. Also, know that painful memories are shared with in hopes of stopping similar behavior in others. The truth of the matter is this: women feel uncomfortable almost all of the time. Those who say they don’t are either magical unicorns who never leave the house, or are absolutely drinking the proverbial Kool Aid of patriarchy. Here’s a quick win, don’t get all up in my grill. Don’t think it’s okay to put your body in my space without express consent. Don’t exacerbate the problem at work and come up to my desk, or any woman’s desk, and put your foot up on my chair so that your crotch is in my face. Don’t. Do. This. I’ll call you out on it. Loudly. It’s gross. It’s in appropriate.

2. Be hyper-aware.

Be aware of your body. Your voice. Your aura. Your manspread. As women, we’re aware of all of this all of the time. We know how much space we’re allowed to take up. We know how much we’re supposed to say in meetings before being spoken over or not spoken to at all. Be hyper-aware of the fact that all women have, in one way or another, been objectified (if not worse) by a man.  And every time it happens, it hurts. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Treat all women like you’d treat The Rock. I mean, you wouldn’t inappropriately touch, fondle, catcall or speak down to (or over) Dwayne Johnson would you? Not if you valued your life and physical well-being you wouldn’t! Not only would The Rock immediately let you know of his displeasure, he’d probably go to great ends to make sure you never displeased him so again. Also, an important fact to be aware of is that most women really like most men. We do. But just because we laugh at a funny joke or smile at you, doesn’t mean we want to go to bed with you. Most often, we only want to interact as equals. Be aware.

3. Stand up, Act Up, Speak Up

If your friends are the idiots leaning out of car windows wolf-whistling and shouting obscene sexual profanities at women while they walk or jog in public, and you don’t shut them down or speak out – then you’re an active part of the problem. If you’re in meetings at work where women are spoken over, call others out on this and make space for female voices to be heard and acted upon. And, if you see someone who is uncomfortably close to a woman and feel her discomfort, help. Do something. Don’t just shrug and move on. To be better, you need to do better. Act better. Speak out more. Standing up for women is a great first step in bucking a centuries-long tradition of belittling them. We all have the ability to do this in moments both big and small, day in and day out. We’re all in charge of our actions and reactions. Take ownership. Even the smallest actions you take powerful ones.

While the above is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to changing how society views sexual harassment and equality, I think there are some good nuggets to chew through when it comes to making sure women are respected in daily life – not harassed.

Women, we need to speak up, too.

Loudly. I know it’s scary, and it’s hard being that b*tch who calls people out on their bullshit. But we need to do it. The onus falls on us to act in solidarity. This doesn’t mean we all need to go out and burn our bras (but oh, a life without bras!), it simply means we need to be vigilant. We need to actively speak about our consent or non-consent. We need to yell right back at the catcallers if that’s what it takes. If all we do is giggle at jokes that men in power tell (jokes that are meant to put us in a subservient, cliche, weak position),then we’re propagating the problems as much as our male counterparts are. We all need to work together on this one, Team. We need to read more, learn more, act more, speak more, do more. Be more.

I hope this made you feel uncomfortable, uneasy, and understandably upset.

I felt that way writing it. I feel that way living it.

#MeToo

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.

Suited, booted, and muted? Why how you look at work really matters.

I love, love, love this article is on Blue Notes. I find delving into the depths of human nature (and our inherent judge-a-book-by-its-cover reaction) an interesting way to think about our everyday professional and personal lives. And how the way we present ourselves to the world then charts our paths forward. Oh Casual Friday, I love and loathe you!

Why? Well, firstly I work for ANZ (a big bank) which means that (if I’m honest), some of my initial fears and stresses about moving from my last job (which was a bit more laid back) to my current one weren’t about skill level or the ability to climb the corporate ladder, but about what was lacking in my wardrobe. Yep, at a time when I should’ve been contemplating career growth, ways to enhance the business with my contribution, and other (more important factors), all I could think about was how much time and effort I’d have to put into my appearance to be taken seriously in such a corporate world.

For years, I’ve worked in an area that is seen more on the fringes of “creative” which means I don’t need to don hose, heels, or wear screeds of make-up daily to be taken seriously or to do my job well.  But, was that about to change? Would I need to buy shoulder-padded power suits and topple from high-heels each day just to be able to prove my worth?

So far, the answer has been “nope!”

That said, there are still times when I feel like I need to play the game and “suit up” – times when I’m definitely seen before I’m heard. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need to look the part. I really do. Looking good enhances confidence levels and makes us feel good and more comfortable in our own skin. Especially when it comes to brokering big deals and living up to the expectations of managers, clients, and customers. We’re all human, and we all judge others based on their appearances at first glance. But it’s the good stuff boiling just beyond the surface that really matters most.

As a woman, though, I feel the lens under which we’re seen is still uber focused on how we look. Can you imagine a woman getting away with wearing the same thing everyday for a year??? Yeah, me neither.  That said, I think all people should be presentable, clean, etc.

We all have the freedom these days to create our own “personal brands” at work and away from the office. But it’s the changing of long-held beliefs that women need to fit a certain corporate brand and stifle their own ‘zhuzh’ that is still a while off yet.

Just having this discussion on a big corporate website means we’re all heading in the right direction though. Now…what to wear to the office tomorrow.

:o)