On Being Loud (and turn it up, please)

on being loud brandingYeah, I go to eleven. If perchance you’re missing that reference completely, please visit this website.

The single question I’m asked in interviews more than any other is: “Do you ever lose business on account of being such an outspoken brand?”

The answer is a resounding hells yeah. And it hit me again, square in the ass, yesterday afternoon.

It’s rare that Redhead Writing and Redheaded Fury post collide – one’s distinctly about biz and the other unabashedly ME. Today, they merge. They merged earlier this year when I realized something:

I am my brand.

I don’t mind missing out on opportunities because people or companies don’t find me a fit for what they embody. After all – that’s their brand. They’ve worked just as hard on building their presence as I have, so there’s an inherent respect every time I respond to one of these situations. But here’s what sucks: when you know that, given the opportunity, you could completely CRUSH IT. You’d bring in the dancing unicorns and ponies that never crap and sweat sunshine. You’d make the client look so damn good it’s sickening and they’d be looking for another way to work with you when it’s all said and done.

But, yeah – you’re pretty sure you’re not going to get the gig, crapless ponies that sweat sunshine aside.

When you build your brand, understand what it is that you’re building. As Redhead Writing’s evolved, I’ve realized that I’ve done something completely unintentional (yet kickass): I’ve found a way to be me. And me (just like you) isn’t going to jive with everyone. We’re holding out for the opportunities that allow us to be the best possible MEs we can be. And Redhead Writing…well, that’s me.

This kid – the one picked last for dodgeball and tagged out (usually in the head) first.

The kid who thought it was a great idea to get married at age 22 to a redneck from Tennessee.

The conniving teen who talked her sister into trading rooms so she could sneak out at night by climbing down the balcony.

The same kid who sat in Political Studies classes geeking out to hypothetical solutions to the world’s problems.

And the kid who’s still a kid inside (and outside half the time), but gets her jollies around the conference table, hashing out solutions for companies looking to build more meaningful brand presences.

Then there’s the added bonus of inviting you along on my lessons hard-learned path with the occasional smackity-smack. And you keep coming back for more.

The best part of yesterday’s “we love you/we have some hesitations” call? When you realize the person on the other end of phone isn’t bullshitting you. “I want to find a way to work together and I’m willing to develop that with you.”

So yeah – that’s when the brand I’ve built feels fan-fucking-tastic. You’re not going to be a fit for everything every time, but when you are a fit, it’s better than being Cinderella.

Are YOU building a brand you feel fan-fucking-tastic about?

If you find your blog posts aren’t getting comments – are you asking any questions? Are you doing your part to make people think beyond the page?

If you’re after more followers or fans, are you offering them a reason to join your herd (or do you simply expect it because you’re that cool)?

Are your query letters going unanswered or do you get form rejection letters? As yourself if what you’re submitting is crap. And along with that, it’s probably best if you ask someone who has no emotional attachment to giving you a bullshit-free perspective.

Go out and ask ten people to describe you. Send it out in an email with bcc’s (please, for all that’s holy – no open cc’s). Ask people to describe your brand. And if what you hear is so very different than what you think you’ve built, hey, hey Sally…time to get some new shoes.

Being who you are and building a career aren’t mutually exclusive. I’m loud. I’m going to keep being loud. If you don’t like the fact that I go to eleven, find someone who goes to ten. And when you’re ready to find out what eleven feels like, you know where to find me.

PS: Little Known Fact about The Redhead – I’m a complete audiophile. If you have not seen It Might Get Loud, it’s tops and a must have for your Netflix queue. You’re welcome. Three guys who take it to eleven.

33 comments
PJ Mullen
PJ Mullen

Anyone who doesn't get the Spinal Tap reference definitely doesn't belong here :)Depending on where your loyalties lie this remark may be blasphemous, but I question the word "icon" and "Jack White" in the same sentence. Jimmy Page - absofreakinglutely (even though I lost a little respect when he pimped out Kashmir to "P whatever the hell he calls himself now" for the Godzilla soundtrack). I love the Edge, but even iconic may be a bit of a stretch. Icons, to me anyway, are guys like Clapton, Beck and Page (what a breeding groud the Yardbirds were, eh?). Also, Santana has to be in the mix. If you want to toss a few more contemporary artists in there then Kirk Hammett and Derek Trucks have to be in this conversation. Sounds like a great movie though. I'll have to add it to my queue.Oh, and I totally agree with what you said about being you. :)

Michelle Delebet
Michelle Delebet

Thanks for the kick in the ass. Such a valuable reminder that we do our best when we are authentically us. And yet your discussion with Matt Riding below is a timely reminder that we are complex beings with many facets...it takes time (and patience) for diamonds to reveal their true value from their rawest state.

Vernacular Ninja
Vernacular Ninja

Being "you" is so much more fun at the end of the day ... bad enough we spend 1/3 of our lives or more working, why not have a kick ass time while at it?Just had a similar conversation with a gentleman yesterday. He was a bit concerned that his biz tagline just wasn't connecting with all of his people. Of course, those that did connect were customers not long after. Not everyone can be or will be a prospect for any brand, whether you're Nike or selling ortho socks out of your van.Thanks as always!

Big Girl Branding
Big Girl Branding

Hey Erika! Love this post, I'm attempting to build a brand I feel fan-fucking-tastic about myself. :) Being who you are and building a career aren’t mutually exclusive.-- Totally agree.. if what you're doing doesn't allow you to be yourself, what's the point in doing it exactly? It won't sit well or feel right, you won't be happy deep down inside where it counts, and it's more than likely any success you see will be mediocre at best, or feel completely hollow. Fuck that shite! I much prefer to be happy and love what I'm doing, and if that means I lose out on business, then so be it. They weren't meant for me in the first place. Love your blog, glad I found it! Warmest C

The Redhead
The Redhead

Why, thank you! Great to see you on my blog, Ms. Kandra. As someone who works with you and your team on a regular basis, I knew you'd feel the same way. When you build it right (once you're past "hungry"), you really can have a work day that embodies everything you love. Glad you're a part of mine each day!

Kandra
Kandra

Stuck in meetings for a few days and look what I miss! Erika, as the others have said, this is a wonderful post! You hit the nail on the head with the understanding the "people like you" factor. Regardless of why a client jives with any one of us, that relationship is what allows us to provide quality service, customer service, and have a great time doing it. And when you enjoy what you are doing, there is no way in hell that people will miss that vibe. Be good at what you do + understand who you are and what makes you different + stay true to you + let people know about you= happy clients and success!

The Redhead
The Redhead

Gimme a T for TIMING! Love that. Nothing better than being Cinderella :) Thanks for stoping by, Jo!

Jo Guerra
Jo Guerra

Erika, Thanks for this great post. It is so about what you want to build for a brand. And being authentic is great. Also knowing that not everyone is your customer. This post came at a great time as I am speaking about this very subject next week to one of my groups. It's better than being Cinderella when you are a fit - love that.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Well, thank you. I'm delighted to have ya!

danperez
danperez

Thanks for the reply - very interesting mix of clientele. Also interesting to see how you can still be flexible without compromising the reason a prospect would call you for in the first place, YOU. Those are the benefits of a strong reputation and proven results - things we earn over time...and you've def put in the work.As a filmmaker and independent video producer, I've realized that I'm allowed to have a bit of a chip on my shoulder; to be a tad eccentric. Heck, people actually expect it when they hire me. And coming from a successful 10-year suit & tie corporate sales background, I've come to enjoy the freedom I now have to be ME (and I work with some of the most respected companies & organizations in South Florida). But I can also tailor my style to that of my client(s) if need be. Ultimately, I have the rep and the results (as you do) and in the end, that's what people want, yes?Thanks, again, for the reply. I've really learned alot about you with this little chat. Keep doing what you do...hug.PS - a children's furnishing retailer? For real? ;)

MC
MC

Major points for referencing Nigel Tufnel! Newer to your site. Really love your style (both written and life).

The Redhead
The Redhead

Great question :) I work with brands you probably see in the aisles of your grocery store, those that make incredible outdoor gear and sell their wares at stores like REI, grass roots businesses with incredible stories (and seemingly ODD products) and business coaches looking for someone to write what they can't say. There are two nationally-recognized defense attorneys, a professional sports team, a few real estate companies and a children's furnishing retailer. National non-profit organizations, award-winning SEO firms, national extreme sports publications...and I'm fairly sure there's a legion of rabid marketing hamsters out there who access my skills as well.The brands vary. The clients share one thing in common: from the first phone call or meeting, we get along great. We like one another. And we like one another enough to say: yeah, I appreciate where you're coming from, but that won't work for our brand...but can we try something else?That's one of the things I appreciated most about yesterday's conversation referenced in the post: we dig it, we dig you. Let's find something we can dig together. When businesses embrace me for what/who I am, they can leverage ME to their advantage. When I'm censored or asked to leave a part of me behind, well...that's like telling Mini that you'll buy the Mini Cooper Clubman, but only if they renounce their affiliation with BMW.Hope that helps?

danperez
danperez

Erika, this is exactly what attracted me to you: your uncompromising style - it's a refreshing change of pace from all the safe, conservative (yawn.) fluff posts I usually find online. That said, I think we both realize that that same style makes you less appealing to the "play it safe" masses. If I may ask, what types of companies/clientele would be most interested in your brazen style? There's probably a young girl somewhere in the US right now getting bonked in the head with a dodgeball (or a sassy 12-year-old living in South Florida) who might be afraid of just being her snarky self because they feel there might not be a market for their unique personalities.Would you shed some light on this? Thanks...

The Redhead
The Redhead

Yep - I'm happy to bend, but breaking...that's just not me.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Well, I'm here to bring the pain (wow <<<that sounded infomercially LAME!). Glad I can be the source of the stitch in your side. :)

Liz S
Liz S

Interesting post Erika. I actually had a similar conversation this morning with someone I know and respect. And the BL was the fact that this is me, take it or leave it. Not right for everyone, I know. But it's who I am.

Colleen Clifford
Colleen Clifford

Thanks for a killer post to get me though an otherwise "meh" afternoon. Your authenticity is painfully refreshing. (Painful because I now have a stitch in my side from laughing, thank you very much.) Keep kicking ass. :-)

tdhurst
tdhurst

I lose clients all the time. Mostly racist or homophobic ones, which is kinda funny, considering I'm a straight white guy.

The Redhead
The Redhead

And YOU, lady - I stopped by your site. Way to grab your life by the horns and wrestle it into submission, shaping your future the way you want it to be, physical embodiment and all. It can be hard when YOU are your brand. After all, not everyone wants to hear or will appreciate your story. You're looking for that audience who will...and more importantly, that will share your story with THEIR audience :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

I replied to KC's inquiry the same: I'm figuring that anyone who doesn't get the Spinal Tap reference would rather read Oprah ;-)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Without a doubt. There was a time when I played it safe, no questions. That's why I say: *understand what it is you're building*. As you enjoy some incremental successes, you can take some time to think about the direction in which you want to grow. I'm also a huge fan of the ideology that you have to learn the rules FIRST so you can know how to best break them! But that doesn't mean you can't "go to eleven" in your own way along the way :)As always - it's a pleasure to see you stop by, Matt!

Matt Ridings - Techguerilla
Matt Ridings - Techguerilla

Yeah, I know a little sumthin sumthin about this topic. Hell, I am this topic (including being a redneck originally from TN). I'm outspoken. I don't like sitting in traffic so I take the road less traveled more often than not, and the seats on the bandwagon are way too comfortable for me. I don't know enough about your background, but I suspect you've seen your share of success, and funny thing about success is that people will overlook a lot so that they can partake in the success machine that is you. I mentor several startups out of a MBA program in town and I immediately have to tell them "don't do what I do" when it comes to public engagement. I'm extremely lucky to have the success that I have and it took a long time to achieve, but without prior success as an anchoring point the reality is that "being yourself" can be a death sentence. When you have enough demand for your services the ability to wait for 'the right fit' is a luxury not afforded to those who need to pay the electricity to keep the lights on. It's a long-winded way of saying you're a very lucky woman, and all the more awesome for it, but like me perhaps not the best example of how to *start* out in the business world :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Oh, that's easy: I'm assuming that if people don't get the Spinal Tap reference, they're probably part of the Oprah nation. ;-) I don't think it's possible to like both.There's only room for ONE big O in my life - and it ain't Oprah!

KC
KC

Hey Erika - I'm confused.Why does that first link point to Oprah? Shouldn't it take you to something like this - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbVKWCpNFhY ??I doubt you're comparing yourself to the big O - but I could be wrong. She is loud I guess.Like your style by the way! Oprah, not as much.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Thanks for stopping by, Sarah...and I sincerely doubt you're a 4 ;-)

Sarah
Sarah

Go girl! If you're not you, who will do the job? Not me with my 4, doggedly staying with it too!Keep slapping us, I love it!

Eatmovewrite
Eatmovewrite

I am working to build a brand, and this post comes at a perfect time. Because my "brand" and career is built on my weight loss, I am undoubtedly my brand. It gets tough. I almost wrote a post about this exact topic today. I adore your "brand," by the way. You're clever and different. Not everyone will get it. But, not everyone is cool, either. :p

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  1. […] isn’t about changing who you are. Certainly, you gotta be you (See: Writing, Redhead or Kramer, Shelly or Godin, Seth ). This is about putting your best foot forward, and thinking of […]

  2. […] But it does mean that when it comes to your brand and your reputation, if you feel passionately about something you should never be afraid to let the world know it. Never be afraid to take a stand if it matters to you.  And never be afraid to be loud if you want to. […]