This week I read a wonderful blog by Penelope Trunk called "How To Tell A Tidy Story Of An Untidy Life." (Google it please, as I am writing this on my mobile.)
She concludes her post, which as always mixes apples-and-oranges self-observations, with this:
"I am still that girl who wants a friend, and a job, and a place that feels safe. That’s my story."
Reading that line brought tears to my eyes. Deep down inside aren't we all the same. It is so simple but how quickly things get complicated, and then later we can't quite put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
This is of course the essential branding question too. Given that...
--we are judged by what people see of our behavior (the partial view, the half-truths)
--we are complex beings
--we play different roles in life
--we evolve over time
--circumstances sometimes force our hand
...how do we explain our personal or corporate brand (mission+values) simply, coherently and compellingly?
On a broader level, how do we give context to the corporate or agency narrative when the world is quick to make judgments? And those judgments can easily become part of reputation,whether true or not?
This is not a small question nor an irrelevant one. In many ways, your reputation is all that you have. Without it nobody will willingly interact with you in any significant way -- because all significant interactions involve trust.
The answer I think is to insist on telling your story a little bit at a time, over an extended period of time. A book will not do it. This is blog material, Tumblr time, YouTube. And even traditional media interviews.
And you talk when times are both good and bad. You never try to act mistake-free. You emphasize that the journey is to learn.
The point is to show your underlying consistency, even as you may do different things. People do not care whether you have a perfect story. In fact I think the opposite is true, that as the saying goes, "only a cracked vessel lets in the light."
Fine. But if you have no social persona, it can be hard to make clear how your zigs and zags are all part of a master plan.
If you take the time to build a coherent and consistent presence in advance, the result is a personal or corporate brand narrative that makes sense.
Your brand is an insurance policy. It is there for you when bad headlines strike, because your audience asks, "Is X person or organization really the type to do this?" (Hopefully those headlines are wrong - branding cannot keep the lipstick on a pig.)
No matter who you are, or what you have been through, you have a consistent story. You have journeyed from Point A to Point B. You should not shy away from telling it.
* As always, all opinions my own.