It has been quite the month since I last wrote here. I have been kept busy with a myriad of topics and stories ranging from MERS to polio to the pollen vortex and even the decline of bees. I am also incredibly grateful to the big players in the industry, CTV, CBC, The Globe and Mail as The Huffington Post who have asked me to be a regular contributor. I am eternally grateful.
I have also had the pleasure of travelling across Canada to share the germy word. The experiences have been incredible and I have gained so much from each and every person I have met. It has helped me keep sciPOP fresh and also bring new ideas to the table.
On that note, I was recently in Halifax where I teamed up with a colleague (and a friend) who just happens to be a PR maven, Kate Ottavio.
We were at a conference focused on keeping patients free from infection, and hoped to take a lighter spin on this very serious topic. This new concept in sciPOP was none other than a game show!
Yes, you heard me…a game show. It was called…
ARE YOU SMARTER THAN THE GERM GUY?
Okay, to be honest, it was all Kate’s idea – including the T-shirt, which she also emblazoned during the conference. She is a true genius and going places…I just hope she remembers me when she becomes the PR icon I know she will be. Please check out her website and follow her on Twitter at @KOttavio.
One of the most incredible traits Kate possesses is the ability to understand the brand not only of a company, but also of a person. It may appear odd to suggest a characteristic normally associated with business applies to the self but over the last few decades, there has been significant research and study devoted to the concept of the personal brand.
In the context of my recent experience, there is a link – although Kate didn’t know this at the time. One of the ‘brands’ I was assigned about ten years ago when I was still in the microbiological world full time, was of a game show host. I was dynamic, energetic, always loving the topic and most of all, challenging others based on their knowledge and experience.
What made it a game-show feel, though, was based in the nature of the discourse. It was never about competition; it was about making us all work better together. Of course, the rewards were never as luxurious as a brand new car, but there were always free coffees, lunches and the occasional offer to do some grunt work off hours. So naturally, the ‘game show host’ persona was in a word, perfect.
Finding Your Personal Brand
Having a personal brand, whether you believe it or not, is a necessity, particularly in sciPOP. The reason is quite simple: you are not the only expert in your field. Take for example microbiology. There are tens of thousands of microbiologists out there and many of them have taken to the public. There are experts all over the world who share their knowledge in varying ways. Some are all about increasing awareness. Some focus on fear. Others focus on the science in the hopes the public will become more literate.
Each of these angles are manifestations of personal brands. Unless these individuals are living a lie, their version of sciPOP is founded in their beliefs, their mannerisms, and of course, the specifics of their unique lives. They harness these traits and create knowing full well their biases, their likes, their dislikes and their loathes. Ironically, those who are the most balanced are the ones who know best their own personal extremes.
Although this analysis of the personal brand is accurate, there is little to actually help a person devise their own individual trademark. There is a reason for that: you have to find it yourself. Believe me, it’s not easy but with a few simple tricks, there is a way to make the process smoother. If you’re interested, I invite you to play along.
It’s time for…
(say it with me)
The rules of the game are simple. There are 10 questions below. On a separate sheet of paper – or if you wish in the comments section – write down your answer. When you are done, you will have a better idea as to the nature of your brand.
Question #1: Who/What are your favorite public figures or corporate entities?
Question #2: What traits would you like to emulate?
Question #3: What are your favorite non-work-related activities?
Question #4: What do you love about these activities and share with family and friends?
Question #5: What subject do you want to share (your sciPOP focus)?
Question #6: What aspects of the subject do you wish everyone knew?
Question #7: What aspects about the subject frustrate you?
Question #8: What do you believe needs to be known about the subject?
Question 9: How would the people/brands from Question 1 handle what you believe needs to be shared in Question 8?
Question 10: How would you do it differently, if at all?
Now, a little music to help along. Just press play:
Deduce Your Brand
The first two questions relate to your style. It’ll give you the voice, the tempo, the flair and of course the stencil upon which to make your sciPOP activity match you. You could enjoy the puppy dog enthusiasm of Jimmy Fallon; you might want to teach the world to sing like Coke; or you could merge the two as done perfectly by Sidney Crosby and Tim Hortons.
The next two questions relate to your voice. We sometimes get too close to our work or main subject of interest and may be blinded from seeing the true potential we bring. It’s a good exercise to look at other loves, such as sport, arts, literature, politics, economics, philosophy and sociopathology (you know who you are). It enables us to step away from the subject of our vocation and realize the way we act and share our diversions. These are closer to our true selves.
Questions 5-7 focus on what you feel makes you unique to the sciPOP subject. As I said before, there may be thousands or more people who work on the same topic but only you can make it unique. I mentioned several microbiology branches earlier. But for me, as many of you know, my brand focuses on something different…something unique: relationships. Unfortunately, I’ve seen how dysfunctional this relationship happens to be and where we have gone both right and wrong over the years. There is so much I want to share not only to inform, but also to set the record straight.
The 8th question deals with what you believe your brand needs to share. This is an important part of developing a brand. If you try to reach further than your boundaries, you may lessen the impact of your message. This is where the traditional dogma of ‘stick to what you know’ takes effect and I implore you to adhere to it. Also, if you believe something out of your scope needs to be brought to attention, ask someone who is in a better position to do so. It’s not easy at times to let go but it’s better for the message and your overall goal.
Question 9 is simple. If you had the ability to harness your favourite figure or brand to share your message, how would you expect them to do it?
That naturally leads into Question 10 which highlights the limitations of the inspirations and reveals the areas where you get to shine.
You’ve made it through the question rounds…now it’s time for…(say it with me)…
THE BONUS ROUND!
In the Bonus Round, you actually get to put a name to your brand. Unlike my experience, where The Germ Guy was given to me on live TV and stuck, you have the opportunity to find something that resonates with you. While it may take some time to make it perfect, this will definitely get your started.
The first thing is to take the sciPOP subject and put that somewhere within the brand name. It could be a derivation of the official term; I study microbiology but in the public use the word, germs. What word or phrase would best describe your sciPOP venture?
The next step is to take either the inspiration public figures or brands and find a way to integrate them with the sciPOP subject. A friend jokingly called me a rock star and back then, when I had longer hair, he called me Jason Bon Germy. Of course, with the shorter hair, I have to find something a little more relevant. One option: Jason Biebsteria. (yeah, I hate it too).
Finally, relish the brand name for a little while and see if it matches you as a person, as an expert in your field, as a sciPOP contributor and most importantly, as someone who will add to the overall discussion in the world. It takes time and may undergo changes but eventually, you will find something that fits.
If you’ve played along, you probably have a least one idea for your personal brand. If you are willing to take it to the next level, let me know in the comments. If you do, I’ll be happy to share it here and with all my #sciPOP colleagues. After all, we are all in this together and are growing as a community. Whether you write prose or music, create works of film, or create fantastic pieces of art, you are part of the community and we all welcome you. Perhaps at the end of the day, that is the real prize.
I’d love to know your thoughts…
(This is the 6th article in the sciPOP series which may one day end up being a book…ah to dream)