Sincerity & The Personal Brand

AKA Why We Are Changing Our Content Strategy in 2017

Long, long ago in late 2015, my team and I set about to craft a content strategy for the coming year. We had meetings and brainstorming pow wows and we drew all over the whiteboard. Collectively, we felt the need to keep up a posting strategy and frequency that many agencies five times our size don't (or can't) maintain. There were articles swirling around Twitter that reinforced what I call the "Push Push Push" content philosophy; that is, that you must continuously be creating or sharing or re-sharing content in order to stay relevant. You must be pushing multiple times per day to multiple channels. If you don't have any of your own content, push around someone else's. You must push content the way those guys in Soho push fake Chanel sunglasses: relentlessly. The thing about it is that when you buy a $25 knockoff of a $600 pair of sunnies, at least you walk away with a pair of sunnies. But when your feed is clogged with content that someone whipped up simply because they felt compelled to say something, anything, desperately and in haste, you're left feeling like you kinda got snowed.

You might be wondering what this has to do with personal branding. Well, the theme of the month (as dictated by my robust content calendar) is sincerity. Yes, last year about this time I committed to a content schedule and strategy that mandated I write one blog post per month, to a theme, on the same topic. Trust me, it seemed like a really good idea at the time. Personal branding is a topic I feel passionate about and it's only slightly tangential to the work I do everyday branding businesses and organizations. Because of this, I have found it quite enjoyable to explore how I could help business leaders think about personal branding as an important extension of their business identity. To me, one is simply a foundation of the other.

But if we're being sincere, I'm going to level with you: the content treadmill is exhausting. And that's the thing about sincerity: it only works if it's honest. I could write this post about how being sincere is the capstone piece to your personal branding strategy, how your readers and clients will feel your lack of sincerity and revolt en masse. But in sincerity, I feel compelled to tell you that it's okay to sometimes say nothing at all. It's a modern twist on the old adage: if you have nothing meaningful to say, say nothing at all. Sometimes it's also okay to make a change if something's not working for you, even if you set off with the best of intentions.

Next month, I fully intend on finishing our yearlong series as promised. After all, part of my personal branding ethic is that I always see projects through to completion. But after that, the team and I are making a shift in our content strategy.

In a crowded market, we no longer feel the need to Push Push Push in order to be heard. We believe that it's much more important to be authentic and to share authentically. We believe that a content strategy based on sharing only when we have something sincere to say is different enough that we're not going to be bullied or guilted into sharing or creating just to meet a benchmark or metric that means absolutely nothing to us. The metric that matters to us is simply too hard to put on a graph: the happiness of our clients. We'll be focusing more on sharing extemporaneously, through photos and stories we feel are right to share at the time, not because we were told to do so. You'll see us less on Twitter and fewer posts on our blog, not because we don't love those mediums but because we feel that those aren't places where we're engaging authentically. You'll see us more on Instagram, where our craft truly shines and where we can connect in a genuine way with our clients and community.

The personal branding lesson here is simply that you're fooling no one in your designer imposter glasses. Sure, they may get you a glance or two but you'll be left feeling as fake as the emblem on the case. You'll know it and, more importantly, your clients and followers will know it. You (and they) deserve nothing less than the real thing.

Next month, we'll be wrapping up 2016 and the lessons we learned along with it. We're also launching the second iteration of our annual Brand and Design Trends Report, where we pull out our crystal ball and talk about the themes and ideas we expect to take over in 2017. It's full of plenty of new ideas, but the overarching theme is one you've been reading about for a while now: that clients are craving more authentic experiences with brands. I sincerely hope you follow along.

This post is the eleventh in my year-long series on personal branding. Click here if you’d like to catch up on the other posts in this series. As always, feel free to send me your thoughts on Twitter.

BrandingKristine Neil