Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Outdoorsy." Definitely "outdoorsy."

Today, I read an article by Neal Taflinger. It's about building and maintaining your "personal brand," which is a concept I've been hearing a lot about online but have never really thought about in terms of applying to myself.

Neal (or "Taffy," as he and his team of marketing professionals have dubbed his personal brand) writes about his process for identifying his core message -- his identity, if you will. Ultimately, they came up with "Taffy is the relevant voice of Indy’s young professionals," which is both a descriptor for people who are unfamiliar with Taflinger's work and a guide for him as he decides what to do and what not to do in developing and spreading his message about himself and Indy's young professionals.

It's given me a lot to think about, this business of developing the core message / identity / whatever. In this time of transition, I've been doing a lot of thinking about who I am and what I do, and, of course, I've always been interested in how others perceive me. I was on a staff at IU one year where we did an affirmation exercise that involved the whole group closing their eyes and three or four group members being selected to open their eyes and stand up. The facilitator would read off traits or characteristics and the people who were standing would touch on the shoulder the group members who fit those characteristics.

"Touch three people who are trustworthy."
"Touch two people who are kind."
"Touch four people who are wise."

After a few traits were read off, those people would sit down and close their eyes and three or four more people would be invited to stand up and affirm the others in the group. It was a great exercise, and I've used it with other staffs that I've been in charge of.

But the thing that blew my mind -- which, 15 years later, I still remember -- was that someone touched me for "Touch someone who is outdoorsy."

Friends, I am many things, but outdoorsy I am not.

It is possible that my mid-90s penchant for flannel shirts wanged around my waist sent out a message of outdoorsiness, a certain rugged*, Ranger-Rick appeal ... but anyone who knows anything about me at all knows that I am not outdoorsy. I made it to Eagle Scout in spite of the camping activities, not because of them. And I still think twice before going to Symphony on the Prairie.


What this illustrates for me is that some of our personal branding is out of our control. With my flannel shirt tied around my waist, I intended to convey the message, "I am down with the grunge aesthetic of my Generation X brethren," but what I was conveying to at least one person was "I am outdoorsy." I guess the advice would be to control what you can control and be intentional about it, carefully observing feedback from others as you go.

Now, my online presence (my blog, Facebook profile, Twitter account, etc.) is all over the place with funny videos, poetry and music, comedy, photography, theology, tales of heroic derring-do and so forth. And my life in general has been like that -- lots of people know different sides of me from lots of different experiences, with very little overlap. I'm not really sure how it all fits into my personal brand. It's definitely something for me to think about. That article has helped me to understand why some people's online identities are the way they are, and it has helped me confront my own image of myself and my nearly-neurotic refusal to specialize.

Perhaps 2009 will be the year that Scott Semester™ emerges as a solidified concept...
* Nope, I'm not rugged, either. I am fragile, and I am indoorsy.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Have a very merry Christmas Scott! Lets hope next year is better for all of us.

And for your gaming pleasure: