Who Do You See?
When you look in the mirror, who do you see? Is it the past, present, or future you?
Some days I look in the mirror and I see the shy little girl who stuttered as a toddler. I see the under performer who was in remedial reading. I see the child who struggled just to get to school, let alone excel at academics.
And then I catch myself and I stop. It is unproductive and it very self-defeating.
What I should see is the person I became. The person I am today.
I should see the writer who has been recognized for her blogging efforts and whose words have been published in magazines. I should see the public speaker that has guest lectured at universities or spoken at WordPress events. I should see the developer has built websites for people, companies, and universities all over the world.
I should see the successful, happy adult that I am. And yet, many times I do not.
Speaking at WordCamp Miami
On Saturday morning I had the opportunity to speak at WordCamp Miami. I spoke to an audience of bloggers, marketers, and developers. While doing so, I celebrated my growth and accomplishments and I secretly reminded that little girl inside of me that she has done well.
I started the presentation with a picture of me as a toddler. I did so to illustrate the change, personal growth, and the importance of branding. I did so to set the stage and tell the story of my journey. I wanted to show others the importance of finding their inner peacock.
You may look at that picture and see horrendous décor, ugly curtains, and super scary wallpaper. When I look at that picture I am reminded of who I was and I see the distance at which I have traveled.
Today I am confident and happy. I have found my passion and I have purpose.
Deep within me there was a peacock that was quietly waiting for the right opportunity. I am thankful, because passion and purpose set my peacock free.
Be the Peacock
If you read my blog, you’ll remember that I wrote about the peacock a few months back. I did so, because I related the peacock to branding and marketing.
The peacock is memorable and he imprints on us, so that we can remember his beauty long after he is away from our view. Out of all of the animals I can think of, the peacock is the most unique and it is the easiest to identify and remember. There is no mistaking his presence, his ability to command an audience, or the fact that you will remember him once he departs.
The peacock’s extravagant colors and long beautiful tail features are nature’s version of branding and marketing. The peacock is the rock star of personal branding.
Everyone has a peacock hidden inside. And anyone can become an expert at personal branding.
For me the key was to find my passion and purpose. It was then that my inner peacock was set free. It was then that I could truly brand myself and our company.
Find Your Passion
I believe one of the first steps in becoming a peacock is to find your passion.
I stumbled through school and by all respects I was wandering. I lacked focus, but more importantly, I lacked passion. I had not found something to fuel me or inspire me.
When I left college in 1994 I was fortunate enough to land a temp job that was suppose to last two weeks. On my first day I was trained on an enterprise software package so I could do a few basic data entry tasks. Within three days I retrained my trainer because within that short timeframe I knew more of the software than he did. I found myself sneaking into screens and modules I wasn’t suppose to use. I just couldn’t help myself. I was completely captivated by the flow of data and how that data could be used to place orders, move goods, and generate revenue.
While everyone else in the company hated the software and avoided it, I embraced it and with each new program I found, I fell deeper in love. I had discovered technology and in that moment I found something I was passionate about.
For me software wasn’t just about binary code. For me software, and technology in general, were tools that could change the world.
That day they gave me a user name and password to the ERP software package was the day my peacock was born. I realized life was within my control and that technology would provide the path to my desired destination.
My two-week assignment turned into three years. When I left the company, I went to work for the developer who created the software I loved so much. I worked for this firm for nine years and stayed because I was happy. I had found passion in my work and it gave me some purpose.
Then one day in 2008 I met WordPress.
Passion Will Lead to Purpose
I met WordPress and Joomla at the same time. I viewed them as open source siblings that spoke to my inner technology-loving peacock.
At first, I wanted to adopt both. But while I liked Joomla, I fell head over heals in love with WordPress.
I loved everything about WordPress. I loved the simplistic nature of the admin panel, the ease of which I could add plugins, and even the fact that I could hack a theme’s PHP and CSS code.
I found WordPress and it became a lifeline to me, but not because it provided an avenue to launch a start-up company. WordPress gave me the ability to do good. Doing good and giving back is important to me.
I realized that I could use this open source software to do great things. I realized I could help small business with organic search by converting their websites to WordPress. I understood SEO and I was good at it. WordPress allowed me to be even better at it.
Then one day the magic grew bigger. I hired a graphic designer and I controlled the design process and watched my ideas morph into a layered PSD file which morphed into a Genesis child theme which morphed into a website. I cannot express the wonder that I felt in watching this all occur.
I wasn’t just helping clients with search engine optimization; I was actually creating something tangible. This process only fueled my love for software. It gave me purpose and I found my happy place.
My inner peacock was ecstatic, although it had not fully learned how to fluff his feathers and strut.
Find the Uniqueness Within You and Tell a Story
While my inner peacock had blossomed, it had not yet learned how to captivate an audience. I struggled with articulating who I was and what made me unique.
While I preached blogging and could blog about SEO and web design, I was failing to use words to articulate what makes me unique. I wasn’t telling my story. I wasn’t connecting with your readers as I should.
I needed to take a dose of my own medicine. I needed to answer the who, what, and why of me. In blogging you can communicate, inform, and educate people but to really connect with them, you need to open up and show off your feathers.
If you’re trying to build a personal brand, you need to answer some basic questions and then articulate this to the world. The best personal branding will answer the following questions:
- Who you are
- What is your background
- What you do
- Who you help
- How you help
- How you can help your website visitor
Create a Strong Brand
Once you can answer the questions about you, you need to create a strong brand. The key is to start simple and then maintain consistency across brand elements.
Branding doesn’t need to be elaborate. It just needs to be consistent and authentic. It needs to connect with an audience and tell a story. The brand needs to be recognizable, stand for something, and everything need to speak a common language.
I’ve built the Web Savvy Marketing brand up over the last five years. Part of this branding has been based on the company and part of it has been based on building the personal brand of Rebecca Gill.
I’ve worked hard at taking my passion and purpose and broadcast that into the elements that embody the brand:
- Business name
- Tone of voice
- Key messaging
- Your story
- Product names
- Blog posts
- Logos and marks
- Color palette
- Typography and fonts
- Graphic elements
- Email signatures
- Social media profiles
- Banner ads
- Business cards
The most important parts of our brand is our logo and website. I not only felt legitimate once we had a professional logo designed, this was instrumental in setting the stage of fonts and colors.
Once we had the logo, we use it to build a complementary website that serves as the hub of our marketing activity. It also serves as the basis for other branding elements such as our newsletter and social media presence.
I accomplished a lot in the first four years, but I was lacking one key component. I was a tad egocentric and I was failing to embrace community.
Being the Brand Requires You to Mingle, Strut, Teach
Last year I realized I was doing great in a lot of our branding efforts, but I was failing miserably at embracing those within my industry and local Detroit area. I was working hard, but I wasn’t allowing myself the time to get out and get involved.
The true peacock will show off his newfound colors by surrounding himself with other peacocks. He will embrace others and help build them up so they can discover their inner peacock. He will mingle, strut, and teach. Yet I was doing none of that.
I started my journey by attending industry events and I’ve broadened that by speaking at industry and local events. I’ve learned, shared, and I’ve given back.
I cannot express how much this has helped my personal growth and how much I have enjoyed helping others.
Over this last year, I’ve learn embracing community can be a progression. If you’re struggling to embrace community, you just need to take one step at a time. Start online and then move into in person community building:
- Be personable
- Read blogs and comment
- Make friends on Facebook
- Tweet it up
- Connect on LinkedIn
- Join an community on Google+
- Help or share in a Facebook group
- Answer forum questions
- Attend conferences
- Become an event organizer
- Speak at events
- Jump onto a Google hangout
- Become a podcast guest
- Give back
Be it my competitors or young girls from inner Detroit, I now know embracing the people with the community builds a stronger community and it helps everyone be better and do good.
My Inner Peacock Says Thank You
Today I am a strong peacock with brighter colors and my feathers are much more far reaching then they were even a year ago. I am stronger because of those within my community.
I took a moment to stop, participate, and to embrace those around me. In turn, they took the time to welcome me in, embrace me, and help me grow.
I know I am lucky, because in my community, competitors are friends and friends are peacocks.
As much as I’ve tried to give to others, they have given that much more back to me.
Carrie Dils invites me on her Genesis podcast, Jennifer Bourn shares my blog posts, and Syed Balki critics my affiliate marketing practices. All three are examples of peacocks with bright colors who have taken the time to help my inner peacock grow. While there are countless more experiences, these are three good examples of peacocks helping other peacocks.
As I gave my presentation at WordCamp Miami this weekend, I looked up and saw my friend Chris Lema sitting in the audience. He is a very well-known peacock who always has a flock of people following behind him. Over the last year he has helped showcase my bright colors and introduced me to other wonderful peacocks. He has not only encouraged me, but he also taken the time to stop me when I’ve doubted my self-worth. After Saturday’s presentation he hugged me and told me I had done well, thus giving more affirmation and encouragement to my inner peacock. This year I’ve realized I am fueled by these gestures and I grow exponentially because of them.
If you attended my presentation on Saturday, I thank you. If you took the time to seek me out at WordCamp Miami and speak with me, your actions were greatly appreciated.
While a few of you said you felt like stalkers or fan girls, I did not view these interactions as such. Instead I viewed you as friends and fellow peacocks.
I was thrilled to meet you in person and I truly hope our paths will cross again.
A Few Pictures from WordCamp Miami
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