Don’t Forget to Humanize Your Brand

As we become more sophisticated digital marketers, it is easy to get enamored with all the cool things we can do to push our content to new eyeballs. Even saying it that way sounds crass. Here are some examples of cool things we can do, none of which are wrong to do per se:

  • Put insights and research content in front of readers of top publishing sites like cnn.com and health.com, based on complex algorithms to target the right content and the right people (via content marketing tools like Outbrain)
  • Profile people who visit our websites—with both demographic and psychographic data—and target ads to similar groups of users who may not have heard of us yet
  • Send emails or show ads to people who were shopping our ecommerce sites, reminding them of the products they were looking at and didn’t purchase (retargeting)
  • Automate the timing of our social media posts based on when the largest number of our followers are online and likely to see our posts (via tools like SocialFlow)

I am concerned that we may focus so much energy on these really cool tactics that we might begin to sound robotic, forget to respond to (all) customer inquiries/brand mentions, and lose our human-centered approach when it comes to digital marketing, especially social media.

This article from Moz, 4 Ways to Build Trust and Humanize Your Brand, offers 4 ways to humanize our brand, and some great reminders of why we need to.

 

Photo credit: File:Nao robot, Jaume University.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Now, more than ever…

The kindness of strangers
Now – in the age of global, mobile, social, 24/7 – more than ever…

  • …it’s about who you know – especially for your career.
  • …it’s about building relationships and making emotional connections.
  • …it’s about meaningful conversation.
  • …it’s about working together toward a common goal.
  • …it’s about doing what’s right.
  • …it’s about leading.
  • …it’s about making a difference.

Photo by Ed Yourdon

Prioritizing

Recently, I thought through how I truly prioritize work. Beyond the mental “is this hot?” exercise, what really makes something rise to the top of the list and get done? Admittedly, I thought about it more than I would on a day-to-day basis, and that is partly why the GTD framework recommends a weekly review – you get a chance to step back from the work and plan/prioritize.
Here is what my framework looks like for prioritization of the limitless requests for my time and energy:
  1. The first criteria is always doing the right thing, remember?
    Ask yourself, “is this the right thing to do?” If not, the priority is pretty clear.
  2. Urgent/Important grid
    I love this one. This concept is from Steven Covey’s excellent book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People*. As a former IT guy, I find myself comfortable in the top-right corner of the grid, fighting fires. This is stressful though, and doesn’t allow you time to get to your high value-add projects and goals. Try to work on important things before they become urgent. Oh, and stop working on things that aren’t important. Yes, stop it!
    Urgent/Important Grid
  3. Value to the customer or stakeholder
    This is clear some of the time, and other times, you may want to do a fuller stakeholder map to understand who will be impacted/affected by your work.
  4. Manager’s expectations – what does your manager expect of you…yes, this can override some of the others.
  5. Deadlines – they work, even when self-imposed. Put it on your calendar.
  6. Time and energy required for next action vs. current personal state – this is a GTD principle, and you need to know yourself. If I do my best creative work at 9pm, I shouldn’t save the mindless report I need to pull together until then. I know a lot of peak creative hours are spent processing email, and it takes discipline to schedule your work around your work methodologies and preferences.

Obviously, you can’t just ignore deadlines and claim you were working on next year’s big project! Clearly communicate when deadlines will be missed, set expectations long before the deadlines hit if possible. Any factors I missed? Too many?

* Amazon affiliate link

Lean vs. growth

Run-about factory

The lean manufacturing model, when applied to knowledge work, is a race to the bottom where humans are reduced to robots and creative output to widgets. The work is process-mapped to death, and management demands “faster, better, cheaper.” The concern is not for the experience of the end customer or the growth of the company, but rather “what can the customer live without so that we can save more money?”

From lean.org, “…lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.” It comes from the Japanese manufacturing industry (championed by Toyota), and the basic tenet is to create more with less, and to reduce waste.

Linchpin by Seth GodinSounds great, right? It isn’t for knowledge workers. The employees in a factory-like organization avoid taking risks, are not allowed to be creative in their solutions to problems, and have low morale. Seth Godin refers to having a “factory mentality” vs. being indispensable in his book Linchpin* (a career-defining must-read in my opinion). Godin shares the following story in the book and it sums up the institutionalized, woe-is-me mentality of many “factory workers” who won’t allow anyone to get ahead if they cannot.

Business professors Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad wrote about an experiment conducted with a group of monkeys. Four monkeys were placed in a room that had a tall pole in the center. Suspended from the top of that pole was a bunch of bananas.

One of the hungry monkeys started climbing the pole to get something to eat, but just as he reached out to grab a banana, he was doused with a torrent of cold water. Squealing, he scampered down the pole and abandoned his attempt to feed himself. Each monkey made a similar attempt, and each one was drenched with cold water. After making several attempts, they finally gave up.

Then researchers removed one of the monkeys from the room and replaced him with a new monkey. As the newcomer began to climb the pole, the other three grabbed him and pulled him down to the ground. After trying to climb the pole several times and being dragged down by the others, he finally gave up and never attempted to climb the pole again.

The researchers replaced the original monkeys, one by one, with new ones, and each time a new monkey was brought in, he would be dragged down by the others before he could reach the bananas. In time, only monkeys who had never received a cold shower were in the room, but none of them would climb the pole. They prevented one another from climbing, but none of them knew why.

A linchpin applies unique skills, expertise, or knowledge to become indispensable to the organization. He or she is an artist, a master of his or her craft. That’s what I want to be. Not a cog in a machine.

Are you working in an office “factory job?” Are you ready for a change or am I all wrong? Let me know by commenting below.

 

Photo Creative Commons License John Lloyd
* Amazon affiliate link

Rest

Old style lawn mowerHumans are designed to work. Humans are designed to rest. There is an optimum cycle, and being constantly ‘on’ and working is not healthy. It is also not very productive. A recent article in Inc. Magazine called working more than 40 hours per week ‘useless.’ I know very few people who truly believe that. We (Americans at least) are a culture of workaholics and looking busy is a badge of honor. Aren’t you tired?

Rest does not look the same for everyone, though there are some minimums (like sleeping at night for example). For those who do physical work all day long, sitting on a deck, reading a book may be the best medicine.

I tell my kids that my job is to delete and reply to email, so rest for me looks more like:

  • Mowing the lawn – yes, making straight lines is a ‘thing’ for me 🙂
  • Wrestling with my kids
  • Bike rides
  • Playing guitar
  • Playing basketball
  • Watching a movie with my wife (*added post-publish)

I see a theme of play for me. Naps just make me stay up too late at night. What does rest look like for you? Can you really disconnect from work?

Photo by Dan Cederholm