Lately I have read several articles by some very competent people when it comes to Personal Branding and what you talk about and share online. And I agree with these people myself, up to a point. However, it occurred to me the other day that something is missing in these articles and I can't quite put my finger on it.
Sex, Politics and Religion Oh My!
I have been honored with the opportunity to have worked with a couple great ladies who helped me point my career in the right direction. Before meeting them I was in the car business 11 years, and been salesman of the month maybe twice (In 11 YEARS - that's not good!). Now I have ALWAYS been in the top 2 or 3 salespeople, so I have always been a bit above average...just not a superstar!
Since working with these two ladies, I became salesman of the month 5 months in a row only to be promoted to Finance due to my surprising "jump" in performance. Read the whole success story here.
So now that you have a brief intro, let me tell you what I have been thinking in the area of Personal Branding and the three "untouchable" topics.
My First Reaction
I worked with these ladies in a case study where a few salespeople went through a Personal Branding "Bootcamp" so to speak.. The first of it's kind (way to go Renee)! One of the first things I remember that she coached me on was what making sure I stay away from the topics of Sex, Politics and Religion.
My first reaction was to agree. But even with my agreement I had a gut feeling that something wasn't completely right with this concept (for me at least). I mean, I agree on the one hand that talking about Sex or Politics or even worse in most cases, Religion, is a complete turn off to potential customers.
But then I'm thinking these 3 topics just happen to be some of the pillars of our very existence! And not talking about them for me is like...bad. It's bad because these topics happen to be of utmost importance in my own personal Faith.
Okay, so I am not supposed to talk about sex online, or I may offend a potential customer, which may stop them from working with me on their next car purchase. So I know instinctively that I shouldn't be out talking about sex...or should I? You see when it comes to sex, as a category of topic, there are multiple subcategories involved that could just as well fall under the general term of sex.
You will not find me talking about sex, in the pornographic sense. But what about within the sanctity of marriage? Or what about abortion? Both being subcategories that fall under the general term...sex.
Let me give you a "for instance"
It just so happens that the subject of abortion can fall under any of the big 3 topics, depending on your viewpoint. Now my opinion about abortion is that you should not do it or at the very least needs to be handled on a case by case basis (since we don't know an individuals circumstances). But at the same time, if in the political category, I stand by a candidate based on what that candidate does with the legality of abortion, I am making it possible for that candidate to control other aspects of my political beliefs. Put another way...if a candidate thinks he/she has the authority to keep someone from an abortion, what's to say that the same person wouldn't think he/she should have the authority to take another type of choice from me? (Guns, Free Speech, voting rights etc).
For example, when I go to the federal government and tell them that I want them to make abortion illegal because I believe that it is killing a person, and murder is against the law, then I am at the same time enabling that same government to take some other right that I have away based on someones elses beliefs. If I give the government authority to tell others what to do with essentially unalienable rights given to them by God, then that government now knows that they can control other aspects of my own unalienable rights.
If I give them the authority to take "choice" away from a person who wants an abortion, what if someone out there wants the government to take away my right to take my Bible to work (or pray at a highschool graduation), then I am less likely to be able to prevent it, because I basically did the same thing to someone else who happens to have a different viewpoint about abortion.
So yes, as you can already see, topics like this can get very tense. But do I as a Christian, shy away from this topic because it may cause a potential customer to go elsewhere and buy there next car? I'm sure there's tons of opinions out there on this, but for me, I will have to state my convictions on the matter regardless of the consequences.
Furthermore, I am to avoid topics of Religion like the plague, right? Um, sorry I can't do that one either. In my beliefs, I hold the Bible to be the ultimate source of communication between God and I. In this Bible, Jesus plainly says to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel..." So if I take this advice not to talk about religion, then I am going against my own convictions and I think it's a bit extreme to tell me to be quiet about this topic.
Oh My! Listen, if you look around you'll see that our great nation is in a mess, people are falling down the socioeconomic ladder at breakneck speed, and the family unit is being attacked from all directions. We have enemies out there calling America "the great Satan" while burning our flags. American soldiers are being asked to go to other countries in order to "restore or create Democracy", and we are given lip service and it's engrained in our heads that they are fighting for our freedoms.
If you think I am going to sit by without talking about this one....shame on you.
There has to be a better way
So in my opinion, YES! People cringe with these topics. And I am no idiot. I can plainly see the response I get on Facebook when I put out a political "opinion" status update versus, say, a sports update. I see tons of responses when it comes to something like sports and virtually zero response on the important topics.
So how do I honor my own convictions, stand for what I believe in and not go against the principles of good advice (the advice to stay away from the big 3 topics online) at the same time?
Telling me to keep quiet about such issues, to me, is the same thing as some of gun laws. The gun law only works for the non-criminal (who wouldn't murder anyone except in self defense), because the killer could care less about that law, and will kill you anyway. The same is true with peer pressure censorship (that's what I call it), only people with some common sense are even talking about the topic of personal branding and what hurts a persons brand. People who lack moderation and common sense regarding these topics will not be taking this advice anyway.
Maybe I need more advice
So someone please help me out here. How do I "do good personal branding", honor my convictions AND keep my potential customers engaged online? There has to be a way without censorship towards my convictions.