Branding in Your Underwear
Photo credit: Jonathan Van Matre
Undies for a Good Cause
“Why is she always in her underwear?”
“Well, let me tell you …”
Yep, that was a conversation about me between my roommate and a mutual friend. I later laughed and joked that I’m only in my underwear in public one day a year, for a good cause, although the photos live on forever on Facebook and the rest of the Interwebs.
Shameless plug: I have participated for three consecutive years in Cupid's Undie Run, which raises money and awareness for the Children's Tumor Foundation and Neurofibromatosis (or NF). The event happens as close to Valentine’s Day as possible and, yes, hundreds of people come together to participate in a short run in their underwear, however they may choose to interpret that. (But nothing too distasteful; it’s for the children.) I am part of a larger team called Cure NF with Jack that has groups across the country. This year the CNFwJ had 337 people who ran in 10 cities and raised close to $200,000. Overall, Cupid’s Undie Run raised $3.25 million worldwide.
Your Personal Brand…Yes, You Have One!
As wonderful as those things are, finding a cure for NF or bragging about my half-naked-but-legal escapades aren’t the point.
“Why is she always in her underwear?”
“You do some crazy run every year, right?”
“Um, I saw some pictures of you on Facebook. You know you can change your settings, don’t you?”
“So I was reading the Austin American-Statesman online and I think this is a picture of you.”
“You know, you could have worn a sports bra.”
“Did anyone in the company give you a hard time about your run?”
These are all things that my friends and family have said. It turns out that running in my underwear has unintentionally become part of my personal brand. It’s part of who I am and what I do (or have done). People remember me for it. Now, for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, that’s FANTASTIC! But for me … it’s a good thing that it’s for a good cause and I work for a laid-back and open-minded company.
So what’s your unintentional brand? What do you post? Who are you tagged with? Where do you check in? Ever thought about it? It definitely matters.
I’ll tell ya, I have some friends who show up in my newsfeed and I feel sad for them because of what seem to be their attitudes. One friend’s posts are heavily weighted on the side of bad dating, what her ex is (or isn’t) doing, financial challenges, and how her friends IRL constantly let her down.
We’ve all seen the memes with motivational quotes. The one that I wish she would read every day of her life is about how the words you speak — or post, in this case — dictate your reality. It’s not the other way around. We all have struggles. We get to choose to focus on either the positives or the negatives. It’s one thing to ask for support. It’s another to wallow.
I digress. Who are you? Who are you ONLINE? They may be the same, they may be different. Your online self is a representation of who you are to your entire network. I have more than 1,000 friends on Facebook. I don’t interact with 1,000 friends face-to-face on even a monthly basis, but EVERY DAY 1,000 people can see how I feel, what I ate, where I’ve been, and who I was with. All of that creates an image for them of who I am. It’s important to remember that YOU have the ability to shape that view. I’m not saying not to be authentically you. It’s just a PSA for self-awareness with your online self. Not because Big Brother is watching. Because EVERYONE ELSE is watching.
Build Your Brand the Right Way
How can you build your online brand in a positive way for your network? I’m no expert. My first rule of thumb is that if I don’t want my mom to see it, I don’t post it. Rule number two is that if I’m actually struggling with something emotionally and I need support, or if I have a super strong rant, I need to reach out to my close network privately, not shout my grievances from the rooftops of Facebook. When I do choose to post an opinion, I’ve thought about it, about what people may say or think, and I’ve thought about how I’ll phrase my post. If it sounds high-maintenance, give it a try. After you think about your feelings for an hour (or 10 minutes, for that matter) you’ll have a chance to process how you really feel. Not just throw words out in the moment.
Oh, right. This is coming from the girl who runs around the city in her UNDERWEAR. We should ABSOLUTELY take her advice.
Yes, you should. Here’s why: Inadvertently, I built a brand. A positive, kinda kooky brand. That’s the name of the game...to get positive attention. I run in my underwear for kids with TUMORS. I get attention for KIDS WITH TUMORS. I choose to spend my time GETTING A LITTLE CRAZY FOR KIDS WITH TUMORS. I’m OK with being the girl who is “always in her underwear.” If it makes people remember me, ask, do some research, then I’m winning.
Are you a healthy eater and oft exerciser? Do you get excited to share your health and fitness goals and progress? Do you post pictures of your windowsill herb garden?
Do you love your dog? Do you take good care of him? Do you show how he’s healthy, happy, and every once in a while chews up something he shouldn’t because, well, he’s a dog?
Are you angry and bitter? Do you post about how you were wronged? How you were cheated? How no day ever goes right? How the rain cloud always follows you, even on a sunny day?
Who are you? Who do you want to be to your network? You decide.