On January 7th, 2009 I became unemployed for the first time in my life. Not only that, it is the first time I have not had a job since I was 13 years old. It wasn’t the prospect of being unemployed that was daunting. It was the prospect of self promotion. For the last nine years I have been using my channel communications to promote the companies that I was employed by, not myself. So the questions begged to be asked? How do you promote yourself? What voice do you utilize on a personal blog? What best practices and subjects should I blog about? These questions dominated my mind only briefly- then the answer clobbered me in an epiphany like fashion.
Jim Storer, my long time colleague and friend at Mzinga, talks incessantly about how Twitter offers up serendipitous moments on a silver platter. My moment didn’t come from Twitter- it came as byproduct of a recent act of kindness having to do with my youth.
To me Ned Perrin was my crazy neighbor growing up. He was the guy driving an electric car in 1987. He worked like a man possessed on the 85 acres of land he owned and was a bit of a recluse. But he was always kind to me. I used to help him with Maple Sugaring and in return he gave me free reign to go sledding on the hills in his cow pasture. It wasn’t until recently I found out that Noel Perrin (the locals called him Ned) was a famous author and Dartmouth Professor. So when Hadley’s (my girlfriend) family friend (Tobey) mentioned seeing Noel Perrin’s house- I was more than happy to take her. We made our way up to Thetford Center, took some pictures, got a house tour and completed a thrill of a
lifetime for Tobey. Thinking nothing of it, Hadley and I completed our holiday obligations and came home. After which my quandary was launched into full bloom.
I received a package in the mail from Tobey thanking me for the experience. Adjoining the note was Noel Perrin’s “Amateur Sugar Maker- 20th Anniversary Edition ”. In the book Ned passionately wrote about working his land, the farm trade, fence building, brutal winters and sugaring as an old man. After he passed away he left the 85 acres of rolling Vermont hills to the state in conservation. He once said “There will be cows against the skyline, and there will be four new stone walls visible,” he noted. “It will be no bad legacy.” It was at that moment the dimmer switch gave way to a blinding spotlight.
Noel Perrin was an accomplished college professor, but it was his writings about the passions in his life that stapled his legacy. In life he was true to himself which ultimately led to the success of his writings- not to mention a fruitful existence. With that realization established, I made the decision that the voice of my blog will be nothing less than my true professional self. After all, what is social networking without transparency, valuable information, individuality, professionalism and a dash of heart?
I have been telling my clients to be the Mayor of their communities for years. In general, I have found that community leaders will figure out the subjects to blog about organically. The community itself will dictate the direction of the SME blog topics. But it is up to the SME to figure out how those topics are delivered. With that knowledge, I should have listened to myself. Instead it took my past to remind me that not all that much has changed here in the present. The job is different but the voice is still the same. Thanks Ned!