Trust


Buzzwords, Part2

 Noun – firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

dictionary.com

Last week I set the stage for a discussion of the buzzwords that I have chosen to guide my thinking and actions for this next season of life.  In case you missed it, check that post out here.

I am a word guy.  When speaking or writing, I choose my words carefully. I recognize that words carry powerful meaning and misunderstandings easily arise when words are used carelessly.  To that end I have chosen four words to help focus my thoughts and actions over the next while.  Today I want to focus on the first of these words.  Trust.

In the age of COVID, Social Media, and Donald Trump trust has been increasingly tested, manipulated, and weaponized by unscrupulous actors promoting an agenda.  Social Media in particular, is designed to keep our attention so advertisers can sell their wares.  The Social Media companies do that by continually monitoring our behavior, learning our preferences, and feeding us information that fits with and confirms our biases.  The longer we stay engaged, the more they can sell our data to the highest bidder.

In the film, The Social Dilemma, one of the whistle blowers drives the point home by saying that, if something is free yet boasts massive profits ask what the product is.  The answer, you, or more importantly, your attention is what is being sold.   

In my previous career as a music industry executive, I would regularly have a similar conversation with recording artists about radio airplay.  The music industry does not pay to have their artists played on the radio, it is the other way around.  Radio stations pay the artists a royalty for the right to play their music and hold the listener’s attention between advertisements.  Just like on social media, the real product of traditional broadcast media has always been your attention. 

This is where things get sinister. In the new world of social media, to hold our attention, truth, nuance and ultimately trust are sacrificed on the altar of conformity.  When a radio station focusses their airplay on a particular genre of music, that’s innocent demographic targeting.  If you change your mind, your preferences evolve, or you are just in the mood for something different you can easily find it somewhere else on the dial.  But when a social media platform targets news feeds to focus on a particular bias it becomes more and more difficult to find information that does not conform.  New information and varied perspectives are filtered out, growth is stunted, and opinions calcified.

When I say that I am focusing my attention on trust, what I am trying to do is twofold.  First, I must remain conscious of where I am placing my trust, so as not to become fixed in my thinking and unable to learn new things.  Second, I must be mindful of who has placed their trust in me and continually strive to remain worthy.

Trust is a precious commodity.  Regardless of where you place your trust it will have a profound impact on your quality of life.  When you place your trust in someone, or something, you are giving that person or product incredible power to shape your life. 

My advice, (if you trust me) is to trust experts because they know more than you.

Consider the court system.  In a court of law, when an expert is called, they spend considerable time explaining their credentials before giving any testimony.  They do that to establish trust so that what they say is taken seriously.  It is the opposing counsel’s job to cross examine the expert and cast doubt on their ability to provide trustworthy information.  The system works, (most of the time) because experts are, by definition, trustworthy.

But what if you disagree?  Unfortunately, it is not enough to simply disagree with a bonified expert.  You also need compelling evidence to the contrary, something to discredit them, or proof they have ulterior motives.  It is best if you can do more than one of these at the same time.  Unless you yourself are an expert, this can be exceedingly difficult. 

Trust as a buzzword for me means, do due diligence, test credentials, and cross reference sources.  And once that is done, trust the experts and continually strive to be a trustworthy expert in your own right. 

Who do you trust?  And why?

Branding 101


5 Steps to Cultivating and Promoting Your Personal Brand

“We are all CEOs of our own companies:  Me Inc.  To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” – Tom Peters

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about personal branding.  In today’s business world, with so much happening on-line, effective communication of our brand is the only thing we take with us into every meeting and send out into the world ahead of us through our advertising and on-line presence.

When I transitioned from the music business into the world of personal finance I started to hear a lot about personal branding.  Having cut my teeth in the early 90s and developed a brand and processes in the old world of rolodexes and face to face networking, I didn’t quite get it at first.  I thought branding was just another word for marketing, I thought it was all logo design and catchy slogans.  That is until I heard Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos give his definition of branding:

“Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

It’s the impression you leave on people.  The first thing they think about when they hear your name.  It’s the trail of bread crumbs you leave behind in every interaction that either resonates with people, or it doesn’t.  Most importantly, it’s the reputation that both follows and proceeds you everywhere you go.

In today’s business world, so profoundly driven by social media, your brand is your life.  Cultivate a good one and your success is all but assured before you even enter the room.  Neglect your brand or let it get tarnished and you’ll be fighting an up-hill battle against unseen forces and opinions that you can’t control.

So here are the five steps I’ve discovered to cultivating and promoting your personal brand.

Step One –  Pick a compelling word or short phrase that you want people to remember about you after you leave the room.

Like Jeff Bezos says, what people say about you when you aren’t there is your brand. While you can’t control what people think you can plant seeds through your words and actions that will help people come to the desired conclusions about you that will form your brand.

For me, that phrase is Next Level Customer Service.  Everything I do and say is carefully considered in terms of how it will reflect my commitment to serve my customers.  I know that there are people in my business who are smarter than me, have better pricing that I do and have better systems that are easier to use than mine.  My goal therefore, in every interaction is to convince you that no one will service your needs better than I will.

Step Two – Develop a brand statement.

When I first started in business everyone talked about the need to have a “30 second commercial” or “Elevator Pitch”.  This is a description of who you are and how you service customers that can be delivered in 30 seconds or less, or in the time it takes to ride up a couple of floors in an elevator.  In the old world of face to face networking that’s what worked.  But in today’s world, you don’t have 30 seconds.

Now-a-days your brand statement needs to be tweetable, even hashtagable.  Something that you can drop into a conversation, a text message or facebook comment in 140 characters or less.  And it needs to be fluid, so that you can adapt it to each unique situation.

My current brand statement goes something like this: I am committed to providing “Next Level” Customer Service to help my clients achieve their financial goals and dreams.  If I have room I might add a hashtag or two, #nextlevel, #customerservice, #levelup.

The brand statement needs to say three things; who you are, what you do, and who you serve.  Who am I?  I am committed, and a person who is defined by this commitment.  What do I do?  I provide extreme customer service beyond anything you’ve ever experienced from a financial advisor before.  Who do I serve?  I serve my clients who are probably just like you, trying to achieve some financial goal.

Step Three – Super charge your brand with a great story (or several).

Think of a few stories that tell who you are, where you came from and how you came to be this way.

Depending on the context I tell stories that describe how much I hate bad service, like the time I walked out of a jewellery store after being ignored by two clerks that seemed more interested in catching up on each other’s weekend plans than helping me buy a watch battery.  Or I’ll tell stories about how hard I work to serve my clients, like the time I drove clear across town, in rush hour, to meet an injured client who couldn’t make it to our meeting.

To really drive the point home though I will then ask people to tell me stories of their customer service frustrations and relate stories back to them of how I have handled similar situations differently.  By doing this I make it real and help them see what Next Level Customer Service could look like for them.

Step Four –  Distribute your brand.

Repeat your statement and tell your stories every chance you get.  Make it part of your LinkedIn headline, your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram bios.  Comment on other people’s social media feeds in the context of your brand.  Blog about it like I’m doing now.

Be constantly talking about the things that matter to your brand to the people who need hear it (your target audience).  As my friend Tim Day once said, you need to become a one note song.  If you aren’t talking about your brand people will talk about something else and that something else will become your brand.

Step Five – Reinforce your brand.

You’ve got to live it.  Imagine yourself as a walking billboard for your brand.  Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, you are your brand.  If you let people form a different opinion about you that will become your brand in their minds so even when you aren’t “working” you are still branding.

I think constantly about how Next Level Customer Service projects itself in every situation.  How I dress, how I walk into a room, how I speak to people, even how I walk through the grocery store on a Saturday morning.  Next Level Customer Service dresses neatly, but not flashy, holds the door open for others, speaks with respect and helps little old ladies get things off the top shelf, because that’s my brand – twenty-four hours a day.

 

So, there you have it, five steps to cultivating and promoting your personal brand.  Robert Kiyosaki, the author and founder of The Rich Dad Company, says it this way:

If you’re not a brand, you’re a commodity.

Nobody wants to be a commodity.  Commodities are bottom feeders that can only compete on price.  Being a commodity is a race to the bottom.  Next Level Customer Service is not the cheapest option, but if you care about customer service, it’s the only option.

Do you have a personal brand?  (Trick question, you already know that you do.)  The real question is, did you cultivate it, or did you just let it happen?  Tell me about it in the comments below and if you feel comfortable doing so, send me your personal branding statement, I’d love to read it.

Stop Sharing My Videos! – No really stop it…


My second video in the series running up to the release of the rebooted 6 Steps to Financial Freedom Coaching Program is out.

 

I’m following Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula whereby marketers are told to release a series of “teasers” ahead of the official launch of a new product. So far I’ve released two videos in as many weeks. Each time I’ve sent announcements to an email list of about 140 subscribers, posted on twitter to my 3000 plus followers, linked to them on facebook, linkedin and pinterest for about 500 more people and of course blogged about them here.

As a result, according to YouTube I have received a grand total of 0 – count them ZERO views!

(If you go now and look at them the count is actually about 20 views between the two of them but all of those are just me going there to grab the link so that I can tweet it, post it or embed it in emails.)

What gives?

I can understand if you don’t like my videos, or they don’t resonate with where you’re at right now but to have no views at all, after posting to almost 4000 followers across all of my social media accounts? That makes no sense to me.

I’m following all the rules about Social Media Marketing.

  • I’m posting regularly
  • I’m using hashtags
  • And I’m following up on all my retweets and favorites

Actually that last one is the most mind-boggling of all. So far I’ve received about 20 favorites and retweets from people who haven’t even watched the videos themselves! What’s up with that? I even had one guy forward it to a friend with a comment “you should watch this”, how could he know?

There is something very wrong with the way we engage with new products on-line.

Social Media is a relatively new phenomenon when it comes to product marketing. We’ve been taught that the key to a good marketing campaign is the social share, the more people share what you are posting the better. I’m getting shares but the sad fact is sharing is not engagement. In order to sell a product you need people to engage with it, not just say, “hey this looks cool, check it out.”

What’s worse in my case at least, people are saying “check this out” without having checked it out for themselves! How can you endorse something if you haven’t used it? Not only is it killing your credibility it’s damaging my brand in the process!

So, I never thought I’d have to say this but: please stop sharing my videos, unless you’ve actually watched them.

The third and final video in the series will be posted next week. You can watch both of the current ones here – https://youtu.be/olaDR2KhPOE and here – https://youtu.be/FJ8rWYxLTGw

Please watch, then comment, then share if you are so inclined.

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and our newly re-launched 6 Steps to Financial Freedom Coaching Program write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

The Anatomy of a Hoax


 It was about 10:00 pm Sunday night when my wife turned to me with a tear in her eye and told me that Morgan Freeman was dead. 

We’d been watching television and as she often does she had been scrolling through Facebook on her Blackberry.  We both agreed that it was a sad day for Hollywood, his death had been so sudden and unexpected, we wondered how his family and close friends were holding up and I said a silent prayer for them in their time of great loss.  Ten minutes later she turned to me with a hint of disgust and distain in her voice and told me it was all a hoax.

That got me thinking.

In the mid 90s, while my wife was studying political science at university one of her favorite things to do on a quite night in was to watch the news magazine shows that were so popular at the time.  News magazines like Dateline, 20/20 and 48 Hours were the 90’s version of reality TV.  Yes kids, instead of lame obstacle courses and trumped up conflict facilitated by tanned game show hosts, dressed in casual safari chic and filmed in some far off tropical destination, we learned about real life conflict, even murder and the motives behind it from these same tanned game show host types in Armani suits filmed in snazzy studios at Rockefeller Center and Times Square.

I still remember the station tag that ABC would run on Friday nights during their weekly broadcast of 20/20, “More Americans get their news from ABC News than from any other source.”   Whether or not 20/20 and the other news magazine shows could be considered real news is open for debate, the fact is that we now live in a world where more people get their news from Twitter and Facebook than any other source and the age of the hoax is in full bloom.

It’s been said that a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its boots on.  I don’t know who said that but in the world of the instant message, twitter and facebook it sure is accurate.    

Now I must confess that I get most of my news from Twitter these days as well.  I follow feeds from CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Globe and Mail to name just a few.  But these are real news sources, with journalists and editors and everything.  The real danger in all this comes when you get your information in short bursts direct from your peers.  Without a filter, like that provided by true journalists, it becomes extremely difficult to verify the accuracy of your information and sensational lies like the hoax my wife and I fell victim to can spread like wild-fire.  Last Sunday night while Mr. Freedman’s fans were expressing their condolences through social media and planning candle light vigils, the real journalists were busy calling the morgue.   By the time the hoax had been debunked, literally millions of people believed the lie.

The moral of the story is this; always check your source and only trust information from sources that’ve earn it.  Or as the 16th president of the United States once said;

The problem with quotes on the internet is that it’s extremely difficult to verify their authenticity.  – Abraham Lincoln