This week, I struggled again with what to write. What makes me interesting? How do I tell my story? Once upon a time, there was a girl with holes in her sneakers, coffee in her blood, and a dog the size of the average man. Nah, I can do better than that.
After spending the better half of my day in meetings, I realized something: I am a marketer and telling stories is what I do for a living. Sometimes it’s difficult to connect the dots between my job and my life outside the office, but there is undoubtedly a correlation. Given the difficult nature of last week’s post and all of the difficult stories in the headlines lately, we’re going to go out of this week on a positive note.
I took some time to reflect and open my mind to the ways my profession has influenced my life and what I have learned. Here are my findings so far:
1. Realize the relevance and add value. I am a storyteller: a collector of memories. I was the kid that got in trouble for talking in class (on a daily basis). Stories flow through me like electricity through a cord. They surround me each day and consider myself to be their curator. That’s all well and good but none of it matters if it isn’t relevant. Marketing, especially the digital kind is a “here and now” business. As I’ve said before, the thumb is king which means your first impression better have something special; a wow factor of extraordinary proportions. Perk up and pay attention, my friend. There is a time and place for your story and you will undoubtedly miss it if you aren’t paying attention.
In addition to being relevant, you need to have value behind what you say and in what you do. Will you buy a product that has poor ratings and is cheaper? Or will you spend the extra $2 on a similar product that has 94 reviews and a 4.7-star rating? Chances are (if you’re not a broke college student), you will spend the extra $2 to purchase a product that people stand behind. There is value in quality and consistency in people just as there is in products. As a brand, if you are not adding value, you are losing traction. No one wants to waste anyone’s time, so consider what you can do to add value to someone’s life. Be someone worth standing behind: stand behind your word and do something that matters.
2. Get real. As a digital marketer, I spend much of my time in meetings explaining the what, how, and why (of my tactics). In addition to how they translate to the general public (and whether or not they generate traffic/revenue or both). There are so many times that I want to throw up my hands and say, “Don’t you trust me? I swear I know what I’m doing.” But that’s just the point, this is another part of my job. As a marketer (and a fellow human), I strive to build meaningful, lasting relationships with real people. Like any relationship, it all begins with trust.
As much as I would like to attribute my success to my capacity for clever thinking, that’s not the big factor here. You simply cannot cultivate sustainable growth and lasting relationships with just a few clever campaigns or witty lines. Real people need stabiltiy and honesty, two additional componets to building trust. These are tangible, familiar characteristics that create a sense of safety. You can be clever and inviting all you want, but when push comes to shove, it’s about trust and effort. If your heart isn’t in it, then let it go.
3. Stand apart. At work, we talk a lot about being the “exception”. Most often, this term is used negatively, such as being the exception to a demographic or to a general marketing rule. As marketers, we strive to keep our conversations interesting as well as relevant to the audience we are targeting. While the term “exception” can carry a negative connotation, it’s not always such a bad thing. This begs the question: is being different always so bad? In short, the answer is no.
I’ve never found the boxed stereotypes to fit me very well. I simply don’t fit into one of society’s neat little boxes. Like other creatives in the industry, I actively seek exceptions to the rules and proceed to pursue them. I am a part of a generation of “special snowflakes”, and it is a tireless task to be different enough to stand out, but not so strange as to alienate myself. In this quest, I have found some solace in the fact that there will always be things that I excel at that others do not. Find the things that make you stand out and own them. Use these characteristics and skills as tools to excel, if you’re great at something don’t be afraid to let people know. As a rule of thumb, if you do good work, people will hear and seek you out. Give people something to swipe right about.
4. Play the sidekick sometimes. Everyone loves a good success story. Unfortunately, you cannot be the hero all the time. This is a common issue that we encounter a lot in the marketing world. We are always so keen to save the day, or to be the unexpected hero of a story (especially when it comes to branding). Did you forget to order your wife flowers for your anniversary and we rush delivered? Or was your flat tire keeping you from getting the kids to soccer practice until we replaced it? So many brands will tell you how they saved the day and fixed the problem, completely neglecting the protagonist.
Last week, an old friend and coworker reached out to me to let me know that she had been reading my blog. To be completely honest, I was shocked. I’m certainly not some kind of blogging prodigy. I’m just a girl with a giant dog that likes to write a lot. It’s not that I don’t believe that you guys are reading these, I can see the numbers. This case particularly shocking to me because as much as I adore her, we hadn’t talked in a while and I never imagined that my blog would impact her life in any way. Like I said, although I can see that people are reading, I don’t know who you are unless you pull back the curtain and reveal yourselves. I am completely honored that my little blog could make a real difference for a real person.
Despite making a difference, I am still not the hero of her story. I’m just the girl in goofy looking tights that will help you so you can be the hero of your own damn story. Every great story needs supporting characters, and don’t be afraid to play the sidekick sometimes (even Disney movies have them). In all seriousness, thank you to those of you who read my blog each week. Words cannot express my gratitude.
5. Disagree with Grace. As much as I would love to say we should all get along, that simply isn’t realistic. You will undoubtedly meet at least a handful of people in your life that you simply will not see eye-to-eye with. While you are absolutely entitled to your opinion in all cases, you are not entitled to cram it down my throat. Facebook seems to create arguments out of thin air, for the simple reason that we can see just about everything that people choose to put out there.
This week, my company announced that we were opening another store in Redmond, Oregon. While the research showed that we would be a great fit for that area and the surrounding community, we were greeted with frustration and foul comments. What so many tend to forget while they sit upon their keyboard throne, is that behind that Facebook page there is a real person. As a team, we were surprised at the amount of comments we encountered from members of the community regarding things that were beyond our control.
Respect is another core value that my company actively chooses to embody. Despite the frustrated comments of the community, the team here chose to respond to each of the negative comments with support and respect. When a disagreement is reached, there is no need to be belligerent. Screaming your opinion louder will never make you right. Take a step back, see where people are coming from, consider their point and then make a decision. If you can’t agree and have an enlightened conversation, step away respectfully.
6. Coins Aren’t the Change I’m Looking For. As a child, I always declared that I would change the world someday. Perhaps I watched too many cartoons as a child or read too many books but, I believe that “saving” the world begins with you. The everyday hero theme is prevalent in movies and ads this time of year. The flustered father runs to the store to grab a Turbo Man doll for his son. To his dismay, the store is out of the Turbo Man doll. The determined father then spends the duration of the movie searching for the coveted action figure, eventually embodying the action figure itself and becoming the hero of the story. This notion, although dramatized in movies and ads, is truly is not so far off target.
I’m a firm believer that change only occurs when it is necessary and wanted. While I’d like to play the hero and change everything I dislike about the world, I cannot do it on my own. It’s about changing the conversation and changing my own ways first. We’ve talked about creating a culture of connection and the unacceptable tragedies in this world. The most important thing that being in Marketing has taught me it is that ordinary people can create real change. It takes one second to change your habits and to begin building a better society. I’ve always been hell-bent on changing the world (just ask my mom), and we owe it to ourselves to leave the world better than we found it. So clean up your trash, clean up your act, clean up your words and help others stop being garbage humans. Change the things that you can control and work to change the things that are just beyond you reach. You’re gonna go far, kid.
Stay excellent, my friends.