Ralph Waldo Emerson Was NOT Talking About Your Brand

Getting information from the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant

Photo by Will Lion, via Flickr

When Ralph Waldo Emerson said “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” he wasn’t talking about your personal brand. Your personal brand image is potentially the most valuable thing you own, and it’s important to treat it as such.

One of the things that seems to most frequently trip people up is consistency. Being consistent is extremely important. Here’s why:

“Getting information from the Internet is like drinking from a fire hydrant.” ~ Mitchell Kapor
There’s just so much out there in the impersonal ether, and the people you’re trying to connect with are looking for indicators that they should trust what you have to say. Whether that’s about your great products or the information you’re sharing on your blog, it’s important that you make the connection and, then, keep it alive by being consistent.

If you’re a widget salesperson and constantly writing about metal detectors and German Shepherds, your audience is going to be a little confused. The nature of the Internet means that you have to be a little linear. You can’t jump from thing to unrelated thing to unrelated thing (even if that’s how your mind works) and expect that your audience wants to go all those places with you. They don’t.

That’s not to say you can’t change things up every now and then, and in fact, throwing in some off-topic stuff can be another good way of building a strong relationship with your audience. But, don’t make it feel like they’re following someone whose train of thought doesn’t even have a track.

Visual signals help us know where we are and who we’re talking to.
Imagine if the Coke label was the standard red in some stores, but blue or green or purple in others. Visual shortcuts help us move through life without having to really think about every step. Coke doesn’t want to put up any impediments to our finding – and buying – their products, and neither should you.

If the visual representation of your brand isn’t consistent, people who find you in one place may not ‘recognize’ you in another. Using the same (or at least a similar) photo in different places will make it much easier for people to instantly know that you’re the person they know from ‘over there.’

While you’re thinking about this, though, be careful not to do some of these social media photo DON’Ts.

A consistent voice lets people know that you’re real and allows them to engage with you or your brand in a more meaningful way.
If you walked into the office tomorrow, and your Brooklyn-born coworker was suddenly talking like he was from Nashville, it’d be a little disconcerting. (Kind of like, say, if Madonna suddenly developed a British accent.)

Likewise, if you’re sweet and charming in one place, but snarky and sarcastic in another, your audience will be confused about who you really are.

Decide – now – what your brand is, and take action to ensure that what people think of you is what you want them to think. Really. It’s important

Here’s a quote from an article called Define Your Personal Brand With Simple Questions by Ron Ashkenas, writing for the Harvard Business Review:

“We are all the chief branding officers of our own personal brands. We have the power to determine and control our own reputation, whether through our actions at the workplace or through what we decide to Tweet. We are able to create our own sense of distinctiveness, trust and confidence. In every environment, from the workplace to the Web, people make choices that affect their personal brand — whether it is who to work with (and who to avoid), who to follow, who to “friend”, or what special message to share in 140 characters.”


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