Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Go As Far As You Can Without Seeming Like A Complete Lunatic [Filed Under: #PersonalBranding, #Authenticity]

"I can't tell if you're crazy or just stupid," said the head of Public Affairs. "Why would you put a girl in a 3D printed bikini on Twitter? We're a government agency."

"I dunno."

"We had to pull that one back. It created all sorts of problems."

But it was great.

The other thing that got me in trouble was a Willy Wonka tweet, a meme about advanced manufacturing.

"Now the Wall Street Journal wants to talk to you! Don't you ever worry about what you will say?"


"Well what if they get into questions about another program, one that has nothing to do with your 'unique' communications strategy?"

"I dunno."

"You don't know."


"Are we done yet?"

There is a habit I have of getting on people's nerves sometimes.

It's like the other day when I went to the SPX conference in North Bethesda (this was sort of like a mini Comic-Con). 

I ended up triggering one of the presenters.

The person was standing with two other people, who were sitting, and they all looked to me like men.

Clearly, they were men. They had male facial hair. 


They were dressed in women's clothing.

You have to know that I do not really care about this. 

Even from a moral point of view, even as an Orthodox Jew, I truly do not care what other people choose to do with their private life, sex or sexuality as long as they aren't forcing someone and as long as they aren't perving after kids.

In a previous post I discussed my brief interaction with this person, who said to me that he fantasized about "punching a Nazi."

"I'm a Trump supporter, and I'm not a Nazi," I said. "Can I take your picture for my blog?"

This resulted in a blog pic showing a very upset looking person.

So I went back and said, "The picture was bad, are you uncomfortable?

" a transgender Jewish woman I don't want to talk about this right now." 

My facial expression must have registered my shock. 

This person does not know he is a man.

"I'm a Jewish woman too," I said.

And we just stood there for a minute, probably both thinking different things (other person: I want to punch her; me: well, this is awkward, but I wonder what's gonna happen next).

Truly, the desire to buy and sell things--by having your brand recognized, trusted, desired and preferred--can make even the most wildly divergent people get along.

One of the most important ingredients a brand can have is consistency.

When it comes to personal branding, the trick is to be your complete self, your whole self, all the time.

Along these lines I live by the advice of communications guru Shel Holtz, who said the following about social media in a seminar he taught fifteen years ago:

"Say as much as you can, and then say when you can't say any more."

The same is true for personal branding.

You want to go very far--right to the edge of the self, if you can--and take the audience there along with you.

The trick is knowing when you have gone too far.

It's a line everybody has to judge for themselves.


By Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This is a personal account unrelated to and not sponsored by the author's employer or any other entity. The author shares this content for reuse under the Creative Commons 3.0 License. For more information: Public domain photo by StockSnap via Pixabay.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Art Meets Politics at SPX

Here are some photos from today's Small Press Expo in North Bethesda, Maryland, "The Premiere Event for Indie Comics, Cartooning & Graphic Novels." It was a great opportunity to learn more about this industry and its artists and I was completely blown away by the level of talent at the show.

As a Trump supporter one thing that struck me pretty quickly was how much of a given it is that you will loathe our current President. Or at least make fun of him. Here is R. Sikoryak (@RSikoryak) with his book, The Unquotable Trump.

I like a good joke as much as anybody else and thought the book was awesome.

Here is Annamaria Ward (@annamariaward on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr), an illustrator and graphic designer who studies at George Mason University. I instantly loved her "I can't believe I still have to protest this crap" illustration, and we talked briefly about it. While Anna's presentation of self and art was somewhat muted, many artists used the event as a way to showcase political beliefs and support for gender diversity specifically.

Another artist who combined political commentary with humor was Rosscott (@Rosscott)--I loved the line "Comics Will Be Published Until Morale Improves." Not wanting to make any assumptions, I asked if this had anything to do with politics and got the nod. The energy of the exhibit, the humor, the simplicity and the modern edge of the messages on the T-shirts all caught my attention.

The overall vibe at this exhibit, along with others made me think a lot. It's great to get marketing insights out of an event, but even more valuable as a person to reflect once in a while on how important our artists actually are. They force us to get past the surface. They force us to understand the humanity in other people--how they perceive the world.

At the SuperButch exhibit, I got to talk to artist/cartoonist Becky Hawkins and writer Barry Deutsch about "36 Annoying Anti-Feminists I've Met On The Internet." Quickly realizing that I was a fish out of water here, but wanting to be upfront, I told them that I was both a feminist and a Trump supporter and watched them politely stifle a laugh.

What a different world we travel in, when we inhabit opposite sides of the political spectrum. I remember my days in New York as a college student. I would have considered myself one of them.

I had to add this photo of Faft (his website is supposedly, but it doesn't seem to work from my browser).  I asked him if he had always drawn monsters with people and he said "I didn't know you could distinguish monsters from people."

Great line!

At the other end of the spectrum in terms of being marketing-ready, Jeremy Nguyen (@jeremywins) had a carefully crafted business card ready and was genuinely appreciative of the opportunity to get the word out. He didn't even flinch when I asked the obvious: "Bushwick refers to Brooklyn, right?"

How am I judging all this art? Easy - by the cover.

Over at Cuddles and Rage, Liz Reed let me take this photo of her with a piece of art that resonated perfectly with me. Yes! That hard shell! Smiling on the outside while inside we cry. The concept of warm love and its opposite, anger. It moved me.

This is Abby Howard (@abbyhoward) who seemed so comfortable, so present marketing herself without even saying a word that I had to ask if she made a living at this. Yes, in fact, she told me that she does live full-time as an artist. I can't say that I captured every revenue stream, but was struck at the brand equity she seems to have built up in that people actually pay her to get sneak previews of her art--in such quantities that it seems her rent is taken care of.

That is impressive!

It was noteworthy, given the diversity of the crowd, that there seemed to be so few African-American artists represented. I don't know if this is a reflection on the larger art world or not, but my gut tells me that it is.

I can't tell you exactly what it means--unless it might be to take a guess that adult comics resonate with Caucasians somehow.

One artist who is not pictured here is Bitmap Prager (@BMPrager), who writes Ashen Princess. I asked what the comic was about, and the answer was a little hard to follow, but you can read more here. 

I did catch the part about "Punch a Nazi" though, at which point I mentioned that I am a Trump supporter. The immediate reaction was pretty bad, and for a minute I thought I was going to get my face punched in (seriously...just for a second there I was worried). I ended up taking a picture, but the photo was clearly not welcome, and clearly neither was I. So after a brief dialogue it was agreed that I would simply delete it.

That said, what I learned from this brief interchange was so incredibly important. There is a perception among Trump supporters that the extreme left wants to censor anyone who doesn't agree with their views. I am not sure that is the case. Rather, my impression was that the world now feels less safe for certain people (or perhaps certain groups of people) with President Trump in charge. Given this, it is probably as important to focus on these perceptions--thoughts and feelings--as it is to focus on the facts.

All in all, it was a great event and a great educational opportunity. The big message of the day is this, as written on the T-shirt:

"Art might upset you. Sometimes it's supposed to."

No matter what it is you feel strongly about, you have the right to feel it.

I hope you take the time to express it in some way for the rest of us.

Thanks to all the artists who let me take their photos for the blog today. An album is available here.


By Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This is a personal account unrelated to and not sponsored by the author's employer or any other entity. The author shares this content for reuse under the Creative Commons 3.0 License. For more information:

Friday, September 15, 2017

The #1 Reason Your Presentation Sucks

They say that public speaking is more terrifying than death for many people and this is the same reason why, more often than not, your presentations are terrible.

It’s not that you don’t know your subject matter. You probably know it better than the back of your hand.

It’s not that you aren’t prepared, either. Most likely you’re not only studied-up, but probably spent a little too much time hitting the books before your big Ted Talk or senior briefing.

The problem has nothing to do with you. The truth is that while some of us are clearly more theatrical than others, presentation skill is a skill that can be learned.

So why are you so bad at it? Why is your audience changing the channel, at least mentally, for 99% of your talk?

The issue is a basic flaw in your thinking. Please, rinse and repeat the following four words:




If you get up there thinking about yourself, I can tell you right now: your talk will have zero impact. Or worse.

The reason great speakers affect us so much is that they are totally swept up in the power of their message.

It is impossible to focus on yourself and also put the spotlight on a topic that matters.

Fear of public speaking is a sign that you’re definitely making this mistake. Your negative emotional investment is a gigantic red flag, signaling that your talk is wrapped around your ego.

The next time you have to give a talk, subtract yourself from the equation. You can prepare to do this in a very simple way — start doing videos.

No, you don’t have to publish them on YouTube or Periscope or wherever.

You should however practice the art of speaking into the camera, on a regular basis. And then play back the video, to see what you look like while talking.

The point is not to evaluate your performance as a speaker.

It’s also not to gauge whether you know what the hell you’re talking about.

Rather, it’s about getting used to the fact that you actually look pretty bad on video.

Once you accept and get over that fact, and also manage to swallow your many flaws as a speaker, you’ll get past your preoccupation with self altogether.

The truth is that the thing you fear the most is actually very real. You aren’t all that good, you have a million flaws, and when you stand up there people know it.

It’s ceasing to care that allows you to focus on the topic at hand.

I am Jewish, and I happen to have a big nose. It used to embarrass me and I seriously considered a nose job.

Now I like to laugh. That’s me, that’s my schnozz, that’s the sun dancing off my wrinkles.

It’s okay to go gray and to grow a potbelly, too.

What people really do care about is the beating heart inside you.

Good intentions, married with good thinking, is what carries society forward.

Our most pro-social instincts go to work when we see you on stage.

Be a part of the solution and not the problem.

Get over your ego and put your message out front.


Posted by Dannielle Blumenthal on September 15, 2017. All opinions are the author’s own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Graphic by geralt via Pixabay (Public Domain).

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

On Brandless Branding

The following is adapted from my comment on "The Future of Brands Is No Brands - Here's Why" by Laurence van Elegem (September 11, 2011 on LinkedIn):

1) If you are choosing between two intermediary brands, then branding still matters. 

2) I do think there is merit to the argument that technology intermediaries are guiding our brand choices, but what I see is that consumers question their uses of specific branded technologies (and alter their use behavior) based on brand perceptions. 

--For example, use of Google's search engine is currently a hot topic due to the perception that the company censors search results. As such there is a counter-movement towards DuckDuckGo. 

--Twitter vs. Gab, same thing. 

And we haven't even talked about the ways in which news intermediaries, brands in and of themselves, are chosen and abandoned.

3) As to companies like Brandless, I just don't see any evidence that people prefer them. 

Me, I like to go to the store and seek out brands that I know will deliver what I want or that look interesting. 

Ultimately, "No Branding" is Communist - it doesn't tell me anything at all. 

Brings to mind that old Wendy's commercial - "SWIMWEAR!"

Think it through before making proclamations.


Opinions my own. Posted September 12, 2017. Public domain. 

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