Tag Archives: image

Finding the organization’s voice

It was simpler back in the day.

If you were a kid growing up near New York City, your favorite music came with a voice. In the afternoon, after school got out, the voice belonged to the wisecracking Dan Ingram. After dinner, it was the voluble, high-energy Bruce Morrow.

(There were other voices, in the morning and on weekends. But for most of us, Big Dan and Cousin Brucie stood out.)

A simple, effective brand voice

daningram

Dan Ingram held down the 2-to-6 time slot.

Amplified by a microphone that lent a slight echo to every word, those two human voices combined to give WABC a distinctive and recognizable brand voice. The voice told us that WABC was fun, in the know,  up to date.

What was the hottest music? Every Tuesday night, we listened as Cousin Brucie counted down the new Top 20. Where to hang out? Palisades Amusement Park swings all day and after dark.

WABC’s distinctive, instantly recognizable voice, known to millions of people, came from a couple of voices. Simple.

Later: More content, still simple

When I started my technical writing career at IBM, things were still pretty simple. We didn’t produce voice content, but we did print shrink-wrapped technical manuals that all looked the same. Marketing created print ads, white papers, and spec sheets that shared a common design. IBM customers got lots of content, but only a few kinds of content. And with one glance, they could tell it came from IBM.

Today: Many sources, many outlets, jumbled voices

Today, your organization’s voice is delivered through advertisements and social media — and also through product screens, technical manuals, help systems, blogs, chat sessions, datasheets, videos, conference presentations, and probably dozens of other ways.

What do your customers, partners, and employees hear when they interact with all of this content? What messages do they receive? What’s the image of your organization that forms in their minds?

Chances are the image is blurry. Continue reading

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I could’ve observed a lot by watching him

He’s smart and gifted. Yet he’s best known for his oddball aphorisms.

He was one of the best baseball players in history. Yet people who know nothing about baseball, think they know all about him.

His is one of the most remarkable personal brands I know of.

Photo of Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra from a 1956 Baseball Digest cover

Today is Yogi Berra’s 90th birthday. I’m using a photo of him from about age 30 because, as he once said: “I looked like this when I was young, and I still do.”

I like Yogi for a lot of reasons.

First, we share a given name. Lawrence Berra got the “Yogi” nickname early in life when a baseball teammate, watching him sit cross-legged waiting for his turn to play, thought he resembled a Hindu yogi. I bet you thought he was named after the Yogi Bear cartoon character. It’s actually the other way around — a testament to how popular Yogi was during his playing career.

Second, I see something of myself in him. In school I was known as a brainy kid. To fit in with the more popular kids I “dumbed it down,” intentionally using poor diction or choosing the wrong word. After awhile I discovered that not only wasn’t I popular, I was proving myself untrustworthy by trying to be something I wasn’t.

To quote one of his aphorisms, I could’ve observed a lot by watching Yogi Berra. Continue reading

Happy birthday, Garden State

In 1664, English colonists wrested from the Dutch a tract of land that later would become New Jersey. Throughout 2014, the state is observing its 350th anniversary. Here’s a hearty Happy Birthday to the place where I was born and raised.

New Jersey, on the cover of the New Yorker

There we are, in Saul Steinberg’s classic New Yorker cover. Things have changed since then.

When I was growing up, New Jersey’s image was that of a featureless nowhere stuck between the busy metropolises of New York and Philadelphia. (Well, almost featureless. There were smokestacks. Lots of them.)

In Saul Steinberg’s classic New Yorker cover, Jersey appears as a brown smudge across the river from midtown Manhattan.

But over the last few decades — the part of New Jersey’s history that I can remember — the state has built up its brand in a pretty impressive way. Continue reading

When your personal brand takes a blind-side hit

Jonathan Martin noticed a sudden influx of personal messages directed to his Twitter account. New York Times reporter that he is, he figured out pretty quickly what was happening. The message senders had him confused with another Jonathan Martin, offensive tackle for the Miami Dolphins, who was the subject of an exploding story about hazing in football locker rooms.

Jonathan Martin, football player

Jonathan Martin (not the journalist): NY Times photo

Martin (the journalist) reported that the messages ran the gamut from encouraging to insulting to profane. As a sports fan, he found the whole experience amusing. But it also provided a window into the free-wheeling nature of social media, especially into what one of his correspondents called keyboard courage: the tendency for people to say online what they’d never dream of saying to someone’s face. Especially to a 6-foot-5, 312-pound pro football player.

I’ve written and presented about personal branding: the importance of creating and cultivating a professional image or personality. So what happens when you carefully build a personal brand, only to have something come along that casts your name in a completely unexpected light? Continue reading