“There is an alchemy of delivering the right message to the right person”, Maurice Levy (CEO of Publicis) suggested in his recent Bloomberg interview about Business Innovation.
Contrast Jackson Pollack’s Alchemy to anything you discover online. As the image above shows, Pollack’s aggressive style and posture shown above matches the work, and if like me, you had a visceral reaction to seeing it in person was that the message he had in mind? By contrast, the image shown online loses that quality, not because the photographic rendering was less than precise but because the online medium transformed our perceptions, placing it at a distance.
In person, our clothes reflect our personal style as often as the default expression on our face. Think attitude and what if anything you do that distinguishes you when people meet you. Is it a small gesture that you actively put forward, or the less overt passive way you carry yourself that make people forget and fail to remember your name?
When you want to impress others, how much do you know about the person you wish to impress and does it affect your preparations? Similarly, does the setting dictate and direct the choice of clothes, accessories, hygiene etc? The same questions, by the way, apply to your representation online.
Professionally, it’s difficult to not have some online presence. A client, and well schooled friend whose PhD in sociology remains unaffiliated with an organization. He created an informal editing business for himself. He charges small sums to people who seek him out by reputation and word of mouth. In other words, his only clients are referrals from people with whom he worked before. Nothing wrong with organic growth, but he asked for my help to figure out how to scale what he did. His low level visibility online left me dumbfounded.
That’s what prompted this post.
I realize my strategy for online presence has not been well thought out too. I always considered PR to be a specialty and not something I needed to do for my business. Like my friend, I thought being me, would be enough, which is pure silliness or ego.
My investigations turned up plenty of marketing strategies that made my head spin. AT the end of the day, I wanted to understand how reputation gets built and grows, which happens to be the purview of marketing but not theirs exclusively. m
Actions have always been the singular make or break of a reputation. If you don’t do as people expect, then that’s how you will be known–unpredictable, unreliable, or maybe unexpected. I enjoy being unexpected, that’s what my efforts in framestretching has always been about.
The challenge, comes back to what Maurice Levy says, not every person seeks the unexpected. When you are hungry, or thirsty a great idea or a leaky water bottle that unexpectedly strands you is far from welcome.
If there’s any trick to effectively communicating, it’s about understanding your audience, and establishing an even representation of yourself. Naturally, people learn to expect that things or people don’t change, what we see is what we believe is all there is, even if that representation appears unconventional. Professional demeanor proves recognizable when our profession dictates our actions consistently, even if the profession may be less conventional.
The trick isn’t in how to be consistent, it’s in choosing what defines you. Once defined, committing to its use over time will slowly affect how others perceive you. The actions you take are not embodied in words, or the design of your logo–though they definitely impress many of us on some level.
John Maeda, former Dean of Rhode Island School of Design, spends his time understanding differences between commerce, design and art, as well as the perceptions that make us differentiate so many things.
In his work, he has helped people recognize that regardless of the content, perceptions often cloud the meaning of what we see, dictate how we will feel and decide what we sense.
John Osborne, an artist did a take on Maeda by reshaping the written words in his book into a tree, and at the same time expressed making his own meaning and then reshaping it. Word of mouth is in fact the internal translation of what we know and then share with others about people. It’s how story became a conventional mode of transmission.
As a little girl told me over the holidays, she recalled the questions I had asked her about Goldilocks a year earlier. The questions had made her stretch her frame of reference and think about possibilities that really stuck, which was my point and purpose. Her Dad, just grinned, after all he knows my reputation as a framestretcher and it thrilled him to see his 8-year-old thinking critically, considering the parts .
So what representation do you want others to share, what stories can you help them tell better?