Why Are You Scared To Be Outspoken?

July 30, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Branding

[This post gets a little personal in my attempt to make a larger point. If that offends you, we humbly direct you to Search Engine Land, Twitter or Daily Puppy.  Pick your own poison. We’ll see you tomorrow for Weekend Coffee Links.]

My job is to help brands find their voice online. Interestingly, the first step of that isn’t to help them define a voice or create a strategy for using it. The first step is convincing them that it’s okay to have one. Because most brands grew up in a society that told them it wasn’t okay. They were told that having a voice was a liability, that it scared people and that speaking up could only do more harm than good.

The reason I am good at my job is because I understand that fact. I understand it because I grew up being discouraged from using my voice the very same way that most brands are.

As has been alluded to in few previous posts, I stutter. That simple fact means that I understand the power of voice better than most people could. I know what you lose when you’re scared to use it and how pretending you don’t have a voice takes away who you are. In essence, I grew up like most brands on the Web – mute, scared and without an identity. That element makes me uniquely skilled at my job and it’s a strong reason why I think Outspoken Media can help you create your brand better than any other online marketing agency. I helped build this company; I don’t pretend not to be biased.

I got my voice back the same time that many brands began claiming theirs – when the social media wave hit. Suddenly we had blogs and Facebook and OMG, TWITTER! There were all these tools that encouraged brands to speak up, to communicate and to connect with people in ways they hadn’t before. They were given everything they needed to take back their identities. And they were applauded when they were brave enough to enter the fray.

So was I.

I’m asked a lot why I’m so outspoken on the Web and how it is I could be comfortable revealing so much of myself. I imagine Rae gets the same question. I don’t know Rae’s answer, but I know that for myself, while most people are scared to expose themselves, I’m scared not to. I’m scared of the moment that occurs when you decide NOT to use your voice because you’re afraid of the reaction. I’m not afraid of the fallout of speaking, I’m afraid of losing myself when I don’t speak. I’m afraid of what happens when instead of showing people what I’m about, I choose to nod quietly and let them get the wrong idea.

As a business, that should terrify you, as well.

I wouldn’t be afraid of using social media to claim your voice, I’d be afraid to continue to go without one. It’s much scarier to let people assume what you believe and make opinions off of that, then to just tell them. It’s scarier to me to lose a reader by not letting them see me and Outspoken, then to lose a reader who saw and just didn’t like it. Because at least that way, I gain followers/readers/clients that are with me because they like what I do and what I produce. Then you create real relationships that will last and don’t spend your day trying to remember what lie you told to what customer so that you can re-tell it to them tomorrow.

The greatest thing social media has done is give businesses back their voice. It’s made it okay to attract customers based off what they believe in and how they do business. It’s made us all small business owners by providing new tools to express our core values and ideology through blogs and social conversations. It’s allowed us to create brand capital that we can cash in on. There’s power in that. There’s power in engaging with people by letting them see what you and your business are about.

And I know plenty of readers think that people buy from companies with the best product, that it doesn’t matter if they feel a ‘connection’ to them [I love Heather Rast‘s reply]. If you believe that, then you need to get out of marketing. Because what do you think you’re doing? If that was the case, there would be no commercials, no ads, and no need for any of us.

Of course it matters. It so completely matters.

People buy based on brand and brand is created through user interaction. Social media is about creating genuine interaction and pulling back the curtain so that people can see who you are and you can give the right people another reason to do business with you.

If you’re a business that’s backing away from social media and playing the “pray and wait” game, then I really only have one question for you.

What are you trying to hide?

The reason Rae and Rhea and Dawn and myself can be so outspoken and transparent is because we’re not hiding anything. We are who we are and we believe in the services we provide and our ability to get clients results they can’t get anywhere else. If you’re not outspoken, and are instead building a brand based on politically correct phrases, fake handshakes and regurgitating – what are you scared to put out there? What don’t you want people to see?

Exposing your brand via social media is only scary when you’re trying to hide your flaws. Fix them and then tell the world about it. Tell them what you fixed, why you fixed it, and how it’s all leading up to you becoming a better company. Because that’s what social media challenges you to do – to be better. Because it’s only when you’re proud of your company that you feel comfortable talking about it.

After the years of people asking me why it is I’m so outspoken on the Web, I’ve come to believe they’re asking the wrong question. The question isn’t why we’re so outspoken and willing to expose ourselves, it’s why aren’t you? When you have a chance to tell customers your story and shape their experiences, why would you ever run from that?

Why are you afraid to be outspoken?

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