Choosing A Position: Navigating The Tightrope Of The Personal Brand
Editor’s Note: Gaining some level of notoriety or influence has always been a double edged sword, and if anything since the advent of social media it has just gotten stranger while simultaneously becoming easier for more and more people to achieve it. This new channel of influence comes with certain potential pitfalls and implicit responsibilities as well, both of which can be challenging to navigate. In today’s post Ray Poynter, who certainly knows a thing or two about managing a personal brand, tackles this tension head on with his usual candor and erudition by discussing the process he uses to determine when, where, and how he engages in various social media activities.
This is a topic that is pertinent for all of use learning to leverage these new tools, not just the more visible folks like Ray and I. I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules here, but there are a few principles that I have found help me to (hopefully) “keep it between the lines” when leveraging my role and influence. They are:
- Do No Harm
- Be Authentic
- Be Transparent
- Treat Others As You Would Like To be Treated
- Help Others Whenever Possible
- Operate In Context
- You Can’t Please Everyone
These principles help inform my broader take on social media (you can find that here) and generally help guide my own decision making when it comes to choosing a position or taking action within the various brand activities I am engaged with. Even then, it’s easy to get off track and I am routinely called to account for my various positions, and that is a good thing: the court of social networks can be harsh but just, and the very nature of the beast ensures that you get needed feedback quickly.
Well, enough about me and on to the good stuff of Ray’s post. I hope you’ll get as much out of Ray’s thoughts and experience as I have. At heart Ray is an educator in the Socratic tradition, and while I don’t always agree with him, he continues to be a trailblazer in our industry and I always learn an awful lot from him.
By Ray Poynter
What position to take?
As somebody who is often lucky enough to speak at an event, interview somebody, or write a blog piece I am often asked about how I decide what position to take. Do I think I should be polemical, or constructive, or argumentative? I think the key thing is context, what is my role in the particular situation and what are my views about the topic. However, here are some general thoughts on what I tend to do instinctively.
I very rarely post an article to criticism something, I think that this usually looks like sour grapes and reflects badly on the person writing the article or making the speech. I tend to post about something if I think it is either newsworthy or useful, and ideally both.
If I am chairing an event, interviewing somebody, or moderating a conversation then I will tend to be neutral, even if I have relatively strong views.
Where I take my strongest positions tends to be when I comment on other people’s posts and articles. In recent weeks, for example, I have posted comments attacking: sexism in market research, the idea that all researchers can be consultants, that automated sentiment analysis works, and that any panel research can be described as random probability sampling of a meaningful target population.
On most topics, I take the view that whilst some things are clearly wrong or untrue, it is rare for something to be right in an absolute sense. This is because of issues of context and reflexivity (it is worth noting that Einstein and Jung both expressed the view that no problem can be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it). I am a big believer in the concept of dialectics, i.e. that we can gain greater insight through engaging in reasoned and passionate debate – i.e. where two or more people argue positions that they believe in but which are in contrast to each other.
Another related topic is promotional posting. I will sometimes write a post to advance a position or topic or cause if I believe the post to be true. I have been given software and books in the past and asked to blog about them. If I like the book or service, and I have the time, I am happy to write a positive and accurate blog, and try to remember to include a line such as ‘X gave me a free copy of their book and here are my thoughts’. If I do not like the package or book then I simply do not write an article. I have written for money in the past, and apply two rules in those cases, 1) say I am being paid (but usually I don’t say how much) and 2) only write things that I believe. So the only difference in paying me to write versus not paying me is that I am more likely to get round to writing the article if I am paid, but I try not to change what I would write.
What are your thoughts? When do you tend to post or comment? Do you prefer balanced views or passionate cries from the heart? What do you think about promotional posting?