Authenticity And Projecting Your Ideal Brand Image: They Don’t Have To Be Conflicting Objectives
Controversial or unpopular opinions may turn off some of your readers. But they may also resonate with a hyper appreciative minority — and prove more effective than adding to a chorus
During the course of the past five years, I haven’t shied away from posting things that I doubt make hiring me — or perhaps knowing me — an appealing proposition.
I’ve previously ranted on LinkedIn about how I think that sharing photos of your corporate gift hampers to please the overlords in HR is stupid and vaguely obnoxious. Enjoy your peanuts and wine in the comfort of your own (offline) world, I have begged of my contacts. I don’t need the hamper porn.
Ditto those effusive “I’m so sad to be leaning my beloved job and boss” posts that are sprouting up like mushrooms over that network (of the toxic kind, that is).
I think they saturate the network with inane drivel that enriches the lives of none of their readers — and so I added that to my aggregated rant too. Why must these virtue-signalling political maneuvers be broadcast to us long-suffering LinkedIn feed readers, I have asked? Save it for Slack.
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I’ve told the world — including those who may be thinking about hiring me as a writer, surely a concentration-taxing endeavor — that I was recently diagnosed with ADHD.
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I’ve also shared among a network full of marketers (I work in marketing communications) that I think that using tracking pixels is vaguely unethical and that we, as marketers, shouldn’t wait for technology companies to take the lead in opening up an overdue conversation about whether they’re proper appendages to our automation strategies or not. Rather, I think it’s on us to open up that conversation.
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I write for fun. But perhaps at some point over the past few years somebody has wondered what my goal is here: to alienate all my potential leads? Sometime last year, when doubts about whether authenticity had a limit that I had already crossed, I gave my friend and branding consultant Guy Gordon a ring.
“There’s Nothing Wrong With Putting Out A Dog Whistle To A Minority”
Last year, Guy shared a great idea that has been guiding a lot of what I do ever since.
Guy is busy working a taxing position at AWS (as in his job is demanding; he’s a branding guy) and I’m fitting hemming this post out in between getting ready for a trip. And so Guy has not been enlisted to retrospectively include how I paraphrased this.
But it went something like this:
“If you share an unpopular opinion, it might turn off a lot of people. But sometimes that’s precisely the point. You want to speak to the minority of people that are on the same page as you about something.”
Guy’s point has stuck with me since because it simultaneously contains a few different and all highly important points:
- Audience quality can matter so much more than audience size. Sometimes, it’s just about finding the other grouches (note: that’s probably not the strategy you want to run with). Sometimes it’s about finding the other people who may have dissenting views about tracking pixels and who may connect with you about positive things regarding the intersection of marketing, technology, and ethics.
- It speaks to the value of authenticity. I’ve written before about how I see inbound marketing and authenticity as unlikely but highly complementary bedfellows. If you’re worried about how palatable your views might be to a majority — even if you dissent from it — then there’s no way you’re going to be able to leverage the power of authenticity to connect with those with whom your thinking might really resonate. Self-censorship of the kind that I’ve often thought about doing will directly impede such efforts.
The content landscape is an increasingly crowded place. But among the many voices articulating similar viewpoints are always some that are going to advocate for a contrarian stance.
If you find yourself among the bench minority on some issues — and have things to say — then these may actually be the golden communications opportunities to connect with the people you’ve always been trying to reach.
Being the odd one out in a debate that’s reached such a level of consensus that it’s turned into an echo chamber can actually be an advantage rather than an impediment.
Because when it comes to engagement, authenticity and intent can trump volume.