Last night, through the connection of 3 pixels of separation, I attended a talk from Geno Church from Brains On Fire fame, hosted by New Jersey Communications, Advertising, and Marketing Association (NJCAMA). I think it may have changed my life. It sure as hell changed my outlook.
As my story goes, one of the very first friends I had in new media (when we still called it ‘new’ and not ‘social’) is Steve Lubetkin from Professional Podcasts / Lubetkin Communications (@PodcastSteve to all ‘in the know’). Steve and I met one evening for the very first time at a coffee shop in New Brunswick at the first meeting of New Jersey Podcasters Association in 2005. I feel that this history is needed here as it just goes to show the long tail of relationships, life, and business. I value his opinion and trust what he says.
Yesterday when I randomly saw a message from Steve on Twitter saying he was going to be at a coffee shop local to me, I looked to see why he was in town and discovered he was attending a talk titled “People are the Killer App: Lessons Learned in Building Word of Mouth Movements.” Interesting, right up my alley, but I have never heard of Geno or his blog / firm. No surprise there, I don’t quite move in the marketing and advertising circles, and had never heard of NJCAMA either. I am actively trying to become more connected with their community, especially since my company is doing a significant amount of business in the agency and public relations areas. Spur of the moment decision. If Steve was going, then it was interesting and worth my time. I went.
Geno talked about a *movement* that Brains on Fire helped orchistrate for a client, Fiskars. Anyone involved in crafting and scrapbooking knows the famous orange-handled scissors immediately, but those outside the crafty circle may not know them anything else but orange-handled scissors. He told us the story of how Fisk-A-Teers came to be and about the passion of the scrapbooking and crafting community. I had owned a “Mom & Pop” scrapbook store a few years back (I took some time off my technical profession to lose my mind and concentrate on the creative side of my brain) – I know the scrapbooking community and their passion – and the dark underbelly he mentioned as well. I thought for a minute there that the clouds would part above Geno and rays of sunshine would highlight his spiky hair. Fiskars had a lot of hurdles to overcome, with a good part of it being how catty and mean a very vocal portion of the online community could be. I can say from personal experience, Fiskars has risen above being just orange scissors and has *kicked ass and taken names* when it comes to helping foster a community to reinvent not only their products, but their reputation and brand into a PASSION. That is what I’m trying to do on a local level, help people, and companies, and brands reinvent themselves using social media. Not social media tools. You know me, it’s not the tools – it’s the talk. Geno made me realize that even a stronly traditional company like Fiskars can morph into an entity that honestly they no longer own, their Fisk-A-Teers have taken it, made it their own, and ran like hell with it. THAT’S the passion that I try to bring to my own clients – but I also realized that that same fire and passion may have been missing from *me.*
What the hell does this have to do with my rockstar mojo? A lot actually. My physical image is just part of it – the purple streak has been missing from my hair for a few years now. I think what went along with it was my passion to stand out, to dare to be different, to make my own path, and to lead the conga line through it with a drink in my hand. Somehow I’ve mellowed in the past few years, maybe subconciously thinking that I have to become safe, neutral, and “corporate” to attract customers and make them feel safe and have them trust me. I’m creeping up on 40 and also thought that a mom with two kids in my age bracket would come off as immature and unprofessional if I unleashed my inner rockstar. Now I’m not saying I want to run around in plaid skirts, chain belts, and pink tees with glitter skulls on them (I did that in my 20’s thank-you-very-much) but some sort of flip switched in my to say CONFORM and I’m now wearing drab green corduroy pants and conservative shoes. It’s not the clothes, I know that. But I think it’s a symtom of something deeper. Some idea that fitting in and blending in is safe, and at “my age” with two kids and a husband, safe is preferred.
I call bullshit. A good friend Whitney Hoffman recently wrote a post on Personal Branding that hit home, but maybe not in the way she intended. I look at the names of the rockstars she mentiones, knowing all of them for years myself, and wonder why not me? I have a lot of the same ideas, passions, and experience that they do, but yet they are A-List rockstars, they have thriving businesses, busy conference and speaking schedules, and have even written books. I consider myself a D-Lister, the most connected nobody around.
I call bullshit. Again. I’m the one that has to step up my game, my image, my “personal brand” and get back to what I know and what I feel – not what I think clients or other people expect of me. I have been in this industry professionally since 2004, a hell of a lot longer than most. What happened to ME? The purple stripe in my hair is coming back, I promise you this. My attitude and my outlook are coming back to ME with a vengence. I am not what I wear or how I look, but somehow I think I’ve been denying my authentic self for too long.
It’s time to get back to my roots, my “rock-n-roll”, my passion. Seeing Geno last night kicked my ass and made me realize I can be ME in this industry. GAME ON.