Tag Archives: brand

Aaron Brazell

Owning Bad Publicity

I remember a few years ago back at Gnomedex in 2007 when Vanessa Fox spoke about owning bad publicity. It wasn’t called that. I can’t remember what I had to eat yesterday, much less what the title of a session at a conference four years ago was. But. I do remember the gist of her talk.

The idea was that some things in life, especially on the web, you can control. Companies hire marketing firms to try to spin a positive message for them in the social media outlets as well as hiring search engine marketers, brand consultants, etc to curate their brands.

Sometimes that works. Other times, the reputation and image on the web is controlled by other people. You can’t control the fact that you suck at times. You also can’t help what people might think, even inaccurately about you.

As the story went, Vanessa ran into an uncontrollable problem where people were googling for “vanessa fox nude” – damn perverts. Instead of getting upset and worrying about how people were valuating her, she went out and bought the domain vanessafoxnude.com and redirected it to her site.

To this day, that story resonates with me. I’ve personally had people disparage me. To this day, if you google my name, you will find one such article on the front page of Google. Hint: It has to do with a weasel. As a result, I’ve considered buying branded stuffed weasels to give away at events.

A long time ago, I acquired a reputation for being extremely honest to the point of sometimes offending people or putting them off. Is this really how I want to be seen? Probably not. Since embracing that, has it been successful for me personally and professionally? So far, I think so.

Don’t let negative press get you down. Own that shit and move on. Make it a part of your brand. If you’re wrong, own up and be transparent. If you’re not, just incorporate it into your offering.

Photo Credit: mushon.

Aaron Brazell

The Rule of Brand, SEO, Trust and Marketing

Almost five years ago, I started this blog without much idea what was going on. In fact, in many ways, it was an opportunity to pass time at work, in a job that I cared little about and that I was doing little more than doing time with. I setup a WordPress blog, went to town writing about whatever the heck I felt like writing about. It’s a common path followed by a great many bloggers.

At some point, however, I came to find my voice on this blog. I wrote in an authoritative way on topics that I was knowledgeable about. I challenged assumptions made in industry, and brought a common sense, no bullshit approach to conversation. I’ve been rewarded with many fans, followers and friends. Literally, my brand, personal or otherwise, is golden. As it should be.

This blog is not a make money quick kind of venture. In fact, I think I made $35 last time I got a check. Not much more than beer money, but that’s fine – I make my money because of my blog, not via my blog. I don’t play the game of SEO, link building and trying to get the most page views. That is a game played by a few power players who have worked the system and built up alliances. I have built my authority and stature, not on making money with my blog or by selling someone elses product in return for a kickback. I have not worried about how many pageviews and selling CPM advertising. I am worried about the quality of the content, the truth in my writing, the community that pays attention and, basically, changing the world one word at a time.

This is my value. This is why when I talk about Government and the web, even though I’m not one of the Goverati, people pay attention. This is why when I write about marketing, I get listed as a top marketer despite not being one. This is why when I examine technology policy, executives from technology companies email me.

This is the real shit. This is not fraud. This is not get rich quick scams.

I’ve said it many times, the most recently being at the excellent Bootstrap Maryland event… You do not control your brand. Your customers do.

I do not control my brand. My readers do. My community does.

My brand is not destroyed by Google bombing my name or brand into search engine rankings. When I get negative press, I let my community protect my brand. It makes no sense for me to engage in a protectionist way since I can’t protect my brand anyway.

This morning, I woke up to this story, where Jeremy Schoemaker attacks my brand and my name. Besides the fact that the post is completely schizophrenic and not very well thought out, much less executed, let’s look at the marketing techniques and think about brand. The title of the post is loaded up with my name and brand. He makes sure to this because that will weigh higher in the Google index. Indeed, his post is the 7th SERP in Google when you search for my name after only a few hours. Whatever.

It doesn’t change my business. It doesn’t change my brand. In fact, it doesn’t change my authority because my trust is with you, my community. On Twitter, I am being defended. Fine, whatever. I appreciate it.

In today’s online world, I am constantly hearing about companies who are afraid to converse because they don’t want disagreement. They lose the conversation. In some cases, they try to erase bad publicity.

Conversation is going to happen. Negative conversation is going to happen. The reality is that bad PR doesn’t kill a company. How the customers or community respond make the brand.

Class is adjourned.

Aaron Brazell

How Much Are People Talking About You? Part Deux

Last year I wrote a post titled, “How Much do People Talk About You?“. I could very well simply republish that post and be done with it, but I wanted to come back to the topic a year later and discuss it more because it’s important.

It’s important from a marketing perspective, and of course it’s important from a branding perspective. More importantly, though, it’s important because the answer to the question will either make or break you in a down economy.

If people know who you are, and you have a good reputation as a subject matter expert, as a brand leader or otherwise, you will never lack for work!

This is not a money grab. This is not a formula. You can’t simply do x, y and z and be talked about in closed circles. It takes time, perseverance and consistency. It takes presence marketing.

At two separate conferences, recently, my name was dropped by a panel member for different reasons. Twice, in fact, at Blog World Expo – and I was not even there to hear it happen! I heard from someone else.

The key here is that the consistent message I have put forward here has infiltrated the minds of other influencers. Without me writing yet another post, or speaking on yet another panel or directly influencing anyone face to face, my message reached to whole new audiences.

How much are people talking about you?

When you are cited, quoted or your name is passed to someone as a referral, you will never lack for work. People will come knocking on your door looking for your help and expertise.

If you don’t make a difference, however, you’re expendable. When management looks at the roster, your name will likely be checked off as someone who is eligible for a pink slip.

By being a known and significant entity in your organization or sphere of influence, and letting other people market you, you will never lack for work.

Aaron Brazell

Promises Made, Promises Delivered

Your customer base expects you to do things. They wouldn’t be your customers if not. They expect you to deliver on what you say you can deliver, and they expect you to do it right now. Think about it. You too are a customer and you expect the same thing.

What happens when a company, a campaign, a spouse makes a promise and doesn’t deliver? What happens to the trust? What happens to that relationship?

If Barack Obama promises to ensure that 10% of the nations energy comes from renewable resources by 2012 (he is promising that) and doesn’t deliver, what will voters think of his energy record in 2012 when he is up for re-election?

If Geico promises to save you 15% on car insurance and they end up being more expensive, what happens to their credibility?

If a wife cheats on her husband and he finds out, where will his trust level go?

If an employee is promised a pay increase after 6 months but doesn’t see one until two years, what happens to the credibility of the employer?

Promises delivered create trust which drives sales and delivers brand loyalty. Without that trust, the brand is worthless and the loyalty goes to a competitor. That is never good for business.

Aaron Brazell

Jeremy Zawodny Leaves Yahoo


Photo Credit Josh Bancroft
Yahoo’s brain drain continues and, TechCrunch provides a great analysis into the latest desperate deal Yahoo is engaged in. This time with Google.

Yahoo is in a very bad position and everyone knows it. Now, possibly the best known Yahoo, Jeremy Zawodny is leaving the company for greener pastures. Jeremy made his announcement the other day amidst denials.

I won’t at all be surprised if some people think this is related to Microsoft or Carl Ichan and the uncertainty surrounding Yahoo’s future. The reality is that there’s nothing pushing me out the door at Yahoo. The reason I’m leaving is that something very compelling has come along to lure me away. Despite what the current press sentiment might be, Jerry and David have built a remarkable company.

While I don’t believe this for even a second, I also know what it’s like to leave a company you feel tremendous kinship to. Especially one you’ve been at for a very long time.

Jeremy was one of those guys I read avidly in my early years of blogging. James from Outside the Beltway was my political blogger of choice. He reads my blog today as I do his. Seth Godin was my business blogger of choice. I’m quite sure Seth does not read my blog. Jeremy was my technology blogger of choice and I have no idea if he reads my blog. :-)

I’m really excited for Jeremy. I’ve felt he should move on from Yahoo for awhile now, and I’m sure he has felt the pressure to do so himself. Finding people in technology – particularly at web companies – that stay with a single company, loyally, for 8.5 years is somewhat akin to Cal Ripken being a Baltimore Oriole for all of his 20+ year career.

Whoever he lands with gets a tremendous depth of knowledge, ingenuity and public respect. He could be an evangelist, a product marketer, a product manager, a systems administrator, a DBA, a business development guy or even Public Relations. Whoever gets him doesn’t just get a brain, but gets a whole lot of influence and political capital in the web world.

Congratulations, Jeremy, to you and your new wife. Don’t worry about the economy. I’m pretty sure you can pick your job. And it sounds like you have.

Update: Jeremy is going to Craigslist.

Aaron Brazell

The Mind of Dave Winer

Dave Winer has a bad reputation. He’s got a reputation for challenging anyone who disagrees with him. He’s got a reputation for blocking people by default on Twitter.

Yeah. It’s the rule, not the exception.

See, blocking on Twitter is an acceptable action. I’ve blocked people that are so troll-like, I can’t deal with them. These are people who have indicated in the context of their tweets that Christianity is responsible for pedophilia, nearly all murder and bloodshed in the world, etc. While I won’t argue that Christianity has historically included bloodshed and murder in the name of Jesus and that there are sad cases of unacceptable sexual actions in the name of Jesus, that does not qualify for an ongoing, destructive attack on a religion that has done much good, has a significant number of followers, etc. Blocked.

I also have blocked people who belligerently disparage people unprovoked. But very few, and only after a long period of time where my tolerance level have been diminished.

Blocking is an acceptable action in some cases. Most people looking to filter noise simply don’t follow people in return and if it turns out that a person is creating too much noise, unfollowing is the socially acceptable thing to do. Blocking is an ultimate action that is usually only taken when there are no other options. See, Twitter is all about opt-in. I opt to see your updates and vica versa. It’s a “pull” technology, not a “push” technology. I cannot control who hears my messages, but with a block I can control who doesn’t.

Dave has opted to take the ultimate action on gads of people, and while that is within his right to do (the action is not necessarily in question), the perception is a different story. The perception is that he is silencing those who disagree with him. Like Stalin did. Like Mao Zedong did. Like Fidel Castro did. Like the government of Myanamar is currently doing.

Dave’s inability to tolerate those in opposition to him flies in the face of his political fantasies of inclusion for everyone. Here’s a tweet where, in broad strokes, he paints the Republican party as racists. Another one where he quantifies the use of “average white person” as meaning “racist” – more broad strokes from a guy who demonstrates his own inability to get along with people.

Here’s what Dave needs to understand. While he is, without prejudice, responsible for many of the technologies we use today – RSS and blogs – he is past his time, out of touch with reality, and quite possibly a lunatic. His inability to behave in socially acceptable ways pushes him to the fringe of, not only the social and new media space, but civilized society as a whole. His knack for building technologies that someone else has created and calling them his own innovations – whether explicitly or implicitly) his getting tiresome. See Dave’s Twitter uptime monitor of May 23, 2008 vs. Pingdom’s report from Dec 19, 2007. Also see Dave’s decentralizing Twitter “idea” from May 4, 2008 is something I talked about on Twitter quite a bit months before he came up with his groundbreaking idea.

So Dave, instead of building silly apps that do nothing particularly fancy and using Comcast bandwidth, why don’t you go re-inherit your seat at the table and write a whitepaper/spec for decentralized Twitter. Think of it as a protocol, much like email, and go from there. It should include SMS gateways, APIs for handing messages around. And for a business plan, make the open APIs accessible via a pay model. You might be on to something then and it will allow you to be productive as opposed to squashing dissent and blocking people for no apparent reason.

Aaron Brazell

Lessons in Brand Management from Barack Obama

Note: This is not a political post, nor is it a political endorsement.

Wednesday morning. Just about twenty-four hours have passed since Barack Obama addressed the nation on the issue of race and his relationship to firebrand pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. If you’re American, you’ve probably heard the speech by now, or at least heard excerpts. Even if you’re not American, given the high profile nature of this political campaign, you’re probably more than aware of the circumstances surrounding the Wright-Obama relationship.

In summary, Wright is the spiritual mentor and long time pastor for Obama, and has been the catalyst for tremendous questions surrounding Obama’s ability to be a uniter, and the life principles that drive his decisions. As the spiritual advisor to Obama, multitudes of sermons denouncing the United States and white people has created significant controversy and question about Obama’s ability to be qualified for Presidential office.

Watching the reactions of pundits, bloggers and listening to radio call ins, it’s apparent that the field is split as to whether Obama knocked the speech out of the park and put aside the concerns of critics, or if he didn’t do enough and that “true bigoted colors” shown through.

Regardless about how you feel about his success, I personally feel like he painted a beautiful picture of how to manage brand. Listening to critics, it’s apparent to me that those who didn’t think he did enough feel that way because they want politicians to play a political game. Obama has to say just the right thing. He has to do just the right thing. And if he doesn’t, he’s not fit to be President.

I’m of the mindset that politics is not what we need in politics. As I’ve said many times before, brand is about authenticity and trust. Relationship is built on authenticity and trust. I’d have more distrust of Obama if he came out and threw his spiritual advisor under the bus, because his spiritual advisor is part of who he is! Whether he threw Wright under the bus in public or not, Wright would still be a significant part of who Obama is! And that cannot be denied or covered by politics. Faking it will always cause distrust.

A difficult part of blogging, particularly professional and corporate blogging, is the balance between what makes sense in terms of transparency and what could ultimately be detrimental to your company or personal brand. The beautiful thing about Twitter is that the flow of real time conversation allows people to put themselves on display. We see folks for who they are, if you’re like me (and I’m guessing most of you are), we like people and trust them more for it. That’s brand. It’s trust. It’s relationship.

At the end of the day, I don’t know how much the Obama speech helped or hurt him in the polls. We’ll have to wait and see. I don’t know if that makes him electable or not. Time will tell. The transparency of a man who is under fire regarding a very sensitive socio-relational issue in America, makes him more electable, in my opinion, than any politically charged and correct speech he might have otherwise made yesterday.

Again, this is not a political endorsement, but it plays well to the things we deal with daily.

Aaron Brazell

The Value of Personal Brand to a Business

So you just graduated from communications school. You have your business degree in public relations, or you might be a marketing major, etc. You hit the ground running with an offer from several companies looking for “young, eager professionals with a communications degree” to “engage customers with social media tools”.

Let’s cut to the chase. They want to hire a social media evangelist or a social media PR goon.

You start your job and begin to hit all the usual spots. You setup Facebook groups and fan clubs. You get a Twitter account going. You start adding bunches of people to your LinkedIn network. You make sure the company has a blog. You do all the standard things to get going.

Then something surprising happens. Nothing. Yeah, that’s right. Nothing. You end up following 1500 Twitter people and 30 of them follow you in return. This causes other people to look at friend/follower ratios and determine that you’re not “worth it” to follow.

Been there?

Your Facebook groups never get traction and the invitation to join them are ignored by people who get 30 or more invitations to something or other on Facebook and only have enough time to click “Ignore” on all of them.

Starting to sound familiar?

Your LinkedIn profile gets 300 connections – friends of friends, generally. When it comes down to hiring that marketing analyst, no one responds to your questions soliciting leads.

I know I’m talking to someone.

So what am I getting at? Networking and Personal Brand are the most important thing you can bring to a company. It’s more important than that communications degree. It’s more important than your years of experience, if that is the case. It’s more important than the company you work for.

Picture this. You’re at SXSW and you have not taken the time to cultivate your personal brand, it doesn’t matter if you are a CTO, CEO or a marketing intern – no one is coming up to you and talking to you. However, if you’ve taken the time to be a “known entity” – you blog and get a critical mass of readers, you are present and visible in the social media community or otherwise – your position, title, rank, and degree becomes irrelevant. You have a magnetism that attracts people to you. Magically.

Now, you are an asset to your company. You have people wanting to know about what your company is about? What do you do? Why do you do it? Can I get some advice?

On the flip side, companies have to understand this and not feel threatened. I’ve talked about my friend Shashi before and he is a great example of someone who has a tremendous personal brand that benefits his employer, Network Solutions. They had to give him the space to have a brand outside of his company, but the moment he became their Social Media Swami, they began seeing benefits – some more tangible than others.

Aaron Brazell

Video Questions for Social Media Club DC

Thursday night, I’m going to be speaking at Social Media Club DC. If you’re in the area, I’d love to have you come by. It’s at Viget Labs in Falls Church, Virginia and you should RSVP to Larissa Faire by Tuesday if you plan on attending. It is BYOB – Bring Your Own Beverage (non alcoholic, if I recall). More details here.

The name of the talk is Blog Draft Day: Making it into the Bigs, and I’ll be talking about some of the things bloggers encounter when trying to break out of the “long tail”. Specifically, my talk will be around marketing, message and brand and I’ll be sharing some of my own thoughts as a blogger who has enjoyed reasonable success. I’ll also be sharing some of the things I’ve learned at b5media working with bloggers who have encountered their own success.

One of the things I really want to engage is questions from both the audience as well as those of you who can’t make it to the event in person. Because of the good folks at Viddler, you can send your videos which I will try to share at SMC, via comments right here on this blog. Click on the “Record or choose a video?” link in the comments section and you can record your video right there and it will post as a comment. Simple as that. No special knowledge, or gear. As long as your computer has a webcam, then the hard part is taken care of for you.

Give it a try. It can’t hurt.

(Now to test out the ustream embed for Technosailor TV)