Last night, at my son's 3rd grade pot luck, while munching on spicy sesame noodles and sipping red wine, I got into an animated conversation with a mom I'd never talked to before about personal branding. She's in between jobs, had worked in 2 different sectors before, and was now figuring out the best way to position herself to find a new job doing what she really loves. She's branding herself.
I found that fascinating. And true. That's what I've been unwittingly doing the past few months. You can't just be yourself anymore. You have to be a new and improved you. A you that's got catch phrases and a snappy bio. A you that can be summed up in short sentences. A you that's bright and shiny. In fact, it's almost like you have to reduce you down to a caricature, a cartoon, a 2-dimensional presence, to sell yourself these days.
And isn't that what we're all doing? Social media is all about personal branding. How else would anyone choose between the millions of people to follow? Everyone needs a shtick, a story, an edge that sets them apart. I delved into this online world at the suggestion of a friend in PR, as I was initially exploring ways to let people know about FLOW (I'm assuming, if you're reading this, no further explanation is necessary -- you're probably overFLOWing at this point). Aside from sharing info about my upcoming book, I had no agenda. But, you have to have an agenda, no matter what anyone says. Otherwise what do you say? And why are you there? So, my agenda, my story, my persona evolved. Author. Vintage coat collector. Knitter. Mother. Yogi. NYC. Those are my facts. And while they trend more interesting than commonplace, that's not enough. I had to pump up the volume. Get sillier. More out there. I pour virtual FLOWtinis at night on twitter. My alter ego "Shameless Self Promoter" takes turns posting for me. I've tweeted statements as insane as "PAY ATTENTION TO ME!" And people did. I've found this group of amazing, smart, edgy, funny, quirky people who are right there with me.
Last night, at the party, I realized my online, sparkly, rhinestoned self is spilling over into the real world. Usually, at these sorts of gatherings, I talk to the few people I know, not comfortable branching out and engaging strangers. But there I was, introducing myself left and right, chatting comfortably away to people I'd never seen before. While the thought of that used to fill me with dread, I had a blast.
I got my first TV booking yesterday. Local cable talk show. I'm finding that enervating. Exciting. I truly can't wait to go and see what happens. And last night I got an email asking me to come talk at a college, that they'd put together a night for me to talk about FLOW and menstruation and education. WHAT A THRILL! I'm already pulling the outline together in my head, imagining how to create a super cool slide show of ads and visuals, thinking how I could put something together for other groups. I love being out there, talking, sharing, engaging. Looking in from the outside, I can see that my online personality is shaping my real-life life.
Follow Elissa Stein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/elissastein