In 2006, I set out to brand myself. I had an idea that I shared with the owner of the small company at which I was employed. I called it “Publish or Perish,” and despite the lack of originality, the idea was simple, but purposeful: We needed to elevate the name recognition of our company — quickly.
The company had made a fortune working with a niche client, but unwisely, it chose to fly under the competition’s radar. In other words, it did the opposite of marketing for fear that if competitors knew how much money it was making from this niche client, it would face stiffer competition. So naturally, after years of this “guerilla obfuscation,” the niche client business dried up and now left the little-firm-that-couldn’t struggling to sell its wares to prospects who knew nothing of our work, history and values, or even if we could deliver on our promises. Rapid marketing needed to be done.
Publish, perish and politics.
With publish or perish, I argued, our team of very talented organizational designers, trainers and safety professionals would publish articles and thus get our name out there to get it associated with expertise in our industry. Well, my idea fell flat. A mousey woman with no actual marketing experience, education or aptitude had the top dog’s ear and whispered sweet gibberish into it. Print publication was dead, she said, so were trade shows. The answer was social media. We needed a Facebook page, but most importantly we needed to blog.
I resisted, of course. I had no interest in blogging, which I still hold is, in the majority of cases, self-important dreck and a platform for those whose writing just isn’t good enough for publication. (I feel even less beneficent toward self-published books; if it isn’t eligible for academic and literary citation, I don’t see any value to it, but hey that’s just me.) At this point I might throw out a conciliatory “there are some top-shelf blogs out there…blah blah blah,” but that’s not my style. Good bloggers know when their work is good and don’t need my validation. As for the rest of you, well if you read my statement about most blogs being dreck and thought I was talking about you, I probably was. Deal with it.
Despite my protestations I was ordered to blog. I fought and threw a tantrum to no avail, so I finally acquiesced, on one condition: I would write what I wanted without anyone else having a say-so. I also managed to convince my leaders to allow me to submit abstracts and begin a public speaking campaign. I soon learned how to become famous for nothing by using social media, key words, the Google Search algorithm and press releases. Quickly I became the Brook Shields of Safety — she’s always been famous and has big bushy eyebrows, and no one can account for either — I was famous for no apparent reason.
Press and public speaking.
I quickly learned that the true power of public speaking is the press before the event, promotion during the event and press after the event. At the time most of the major print magazines were scrambling for online content and had robots or interns using key word searches to get it. The Google algorithm leaned heavily on how many links a given post had (reasoning that the wider the distribution the more reliable and important the content).
By using a free press release site and a handful of key words carefully and artfully woven in — words like “aerospace” “automotive industry” and…well, false modesty prevents me from giving away all my secrets. Anyway, this site would blast my press release to publications looking for those key words and soon my press releases were on scores of pages, unread and unvetted. I was able to get my press releases, which had usually been run as articles, into minor and major business publications which I won’t name because they are competitors of Entrepreneur (which by the way, never fell for this Machiavellian scheme of mine).
Even today there are news outlets that aren’t as judicious as they had ought to be. Fox News routinely posted my Entrepreneur articles, assuming that I was a conservative business writer, until someone eventually got around to actually reading my work, and it was unceremoniously removed from the site.
The PR service allowed me to Tweet the press release, share it on Facebook and post it to LinkedIn. I used to post the links separately to LinkedIn because that way I could post it as a discussion topic in all 50 groups to which I belonged. For some reason, I keep getting thrown out of the groups on LinkedIn because many are run by the adult equivalent of the uptight high school girl who reached the pinnacle of her life and career by being voted third-runner-up for homecoming queen and alternate on student council. Such people ain’t buying what I’m selling.
It wasn’t long before I was an annual speaker at the National Safety Council, until I pointed out that in my obnoxious estimation several of their perennial speakers were nothing but snake oil salesmen, an embarrassment to the profession. I don’t burn my bridges, I dynamite them and pelt the repair crew with hot stones as they try to rebuild.
Posting and Peru.
It wasn’t long before my blog following grew: I’ve always said I’m a bit like watching an abandoned warehouse fire. You’re not glad that it’s burning, but it’s fun to watch the spectacle and nobody really gets hurt — or, if they do get hurt they should have known better than to have been inside it to begin with. I got a notice from www.wordpress.com that today is the seventh anniversary of my blog. It’s actually older than that, but I put it on ice for a while when the owner of my company finally got around to reading it and insisted that I get it approved before publishing. As is my wont, I recommended he engage in congress with himself and offered interesting and inventive suggestions of where he might consider sticking his approval. This did not look good on my review.
On WordPress, I have posted in the neighborhood of 364,000 words, plus I have spoken at over a 100 international and local venues, including an address to an International Safety Conference on Mining in the Andes, in Lima, Peru. This despite my only knowledge of mining safety at the time was to stay the hell out of one. I have 167 works in print, and I was named by the largest safety magazine to both its list of “The Most Influential People Working in Safety” and “The Young (or Relatively Young) Up and Comers in Safety.” This despite the fact I’m not young. (I am often mistaken for being younger than I actually am because of my full head of hair, youthful skin and gross immaturity.)
The point I am yet again meandering around is that people try desperately and pathetically to use just one social network to build their personal brands when the true secret is to use all social media outlets as tools to get their brand out there, by using them holistically. Oh, and it helps if you can write, if your message and style are distinctive, and if your brand is of interest. Remember, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him think.