Celebrity is an age-old concept with new accessibility and purpose since the advent of social media for business people. Not only is the expectation for senior executives to show-up on the internet as ‘industry spokespeople’ and ‘thought-leaders’, now every high-flyer and corporate foot-soldier carries the tacit or stated obligation to become a front-line media advocate for their company and its brand/s.
Once upon a time, celebrity was more of a ‘push’ strategy. Some initiator (agency, record company, movie studio) would determine who was to be paraded before the public, and how they would be ‘packaged’ for promotion to the media. As gatekeepers and conduits for all mass communications, the media became all-powerful. This changed with the internet, of course, when it evolved that anyone, anywhere in the world could entertain, teach, comment or pontificate to the rest of the world within a few clicks. The whole notion of celebrity became democratic. Justin Bieber launched from his bedroom. Musicians were always early tech-adopters and quick to capitalise on anything that could enhance their stature, reach, popularity, stickability and SALES. And with digital media technology rapidly gutting the hard-copy industry, even major artists needed to become direct-marketing experts.
So, from ROCK STARS we take inspiration for creating ‘celebrity’ executives and team members, upon whom the company relies for cohesive and effective social media activity, customer engagement, and brand advocacy on every platform, at every outlet, and through every interface with industry and the public.
Is being a ROCK STAR a hard act to follow? Let’s see…
#1. Make noise
From the biblical Genesis: “First there was a word…” Interpreted lyrically, this could be taken to say the whole universe started with sound – if not an actual utterance. It’s a powerful metaphor and one that resonates for me as a marketer in the word-based ecology of the internet. Start something. Make noise. Say what you have to say. Bang the drum. Get typing. Generate an announcement. Amplify into overdrive. Whisper in someone’s ear, or serenade them. Join a conversation. Need help with your noise-making or a bit of tuning-up? Hire a good PR writer with content marketing and social media skills.
#2. Hold your stance
Posturing is one of a rock star’s most carefully-developed assets. There are many forms of rockstar stance but it’s the artist’s commitment to inhabiting their stance that makes it a powerful, focus-holding one. What is your stance? Dynamic, thought-provoking leader? Intimate, consultative counsellor? Helpful, gregarious networker? Reserved, trusted advisor? Generous, knowledgeable disseminator? Flamboyant, free-thinking dilettante? Seriously-dry, unflappable expert? Bold, rebellious disrupter? You know who you are. Adopt a stance that communicates who you are, and maintain it with commitment – being comfortable in your own skin and headspace – as the basis for your ‘own-brand’ experience..
#3. Look sharp
“Image is Everything” for a rock star and it’s almost universally true. When rock stars get dressed for a day off, it’s just another take on the same basic image – a toussle here, toussle there – otherwise they wouldn’t be recognisable to fans or media when they’re pretending as if they don’t want to be noticed. Recognition requires integrity and consistency of visual communication. Appear as your audience expects you to appear. The range is wide open from the suit-thing down (if you’re an edgy innovator, the suit-thing might cost your street cred). For your profile pictures, one formal headshot is not enough. You’re a dynamic, dimensional being, not a cut-out. Your image shouldn’t be confined to a single postage stamp. Define your look (for one of our clients, a globe-trotting troubleshooter, it was summed-up as: “James Bond” – if only we could blow his cover by showing you the results!). Learn to work your eyes. Make the most of your jawline for the camera – anyone can do it. Enlist your friends/family and co-workers to snap you in action, papparazzi-style, at work, in discussion, at play. Build your portfolio of profile-pic shots. It’s a numbers game. The more pics you’ve got, the more likely some will look really fantastic.
#4. Hang with the elite
Rock stars have hordes of fans and hangers-on but need to choose the company they’re seen with, and the places they’re seen at, very carefully. Through social media, your connections, associations and groups are clearly visible. There are cool places for your kind to hang-out, but don’t over-saturate your presence. Rock stars don’t dance on the bar to get attention. They sweep through the room for impact – but not every night – glad-handing everyone but hanging with the elite. Then there are not-to-be-missed events in your industry. Get a front-row seat. Walk the red carpet. Best of all, become a presenter. The stage is always the coolest place to be in-the-house. Backstage is second-coolest (the ultimate networking opportunity).
#5 Guard your Mystique
Mystique seems to be an indefinable quality yet it’s as if the earliest rock stars found a way to bottle it for later generations. Mystique separates the true ROCK STAR from common garden-variety celebrities (like the Kardashians, and that publicity-addicted ex-TV personality with the yo-yo weight schtick and penchant for pole-dancing). Don’t show the world everything, or at least don’t show them everything at once. With executive social media, your social profiles can get linked together, connecting you with people your connections are linked to. One professional person we know, from serious legal circles, was snapped at a party with unlit cigarettes stuck up each nostril (fun-ny!), this pic being shared to innumerable others via a partner’s Facebook page. Life happens, but such mishaps can be minimised if you guard your mystique. You might want to have one Facebook page for posting images of you skiing during the conference in Gstaad, and a separate one for sharing those hilarious snaps taken after you fell face-down into your birthday cake. Same with Twitter. Keep one profile for tweeting about your latest company newsletter article, and another for taking-the-piss out of a cricket captain or some WAG’s dress.
#6. Own the stage
Have you ever wondered how one diminutive figure – a Freddy Mercury or Stevie Nicks – could fill a gigantic arena with their ‘presence’? Or how the likes of John Mayer can make each punter feel as if they’re the only person in the space with him? Rock stars know how to own the stage. Strutting their stuff, flouncing about, or just centred with such stillness and intensity that you can’t take your eyes off them – rock stars can teach executives how to work the room and hold audience attention.
#7. Be unique Of course, everyone is unique.
You-nique. But to become a unique, recognisable representation of ‘you’, it’s about defining and distinguishing those points of difference between you and every other “Sam Brown” in the world and your industry. The uniqueness of you is in the DNA of detailed information about you, where you belong in business, and what you do there. The brand “Sam Brown from Your-Company who does This-And-That” is something people can find, reach, and recommend without rummaging for a dog-eared business card. Try Googling yourself by name + company. What do people see?
#8. Live dangerously
Learn about the management of risk-taking from long-term rock stars. It’s important to live dangerously – be bold, take risks – but don’t end up at the bottom of the swimming pool along with the TV. Risk-taking is fundamental to growth, mystique-building, development, innovation and entrepreneurship. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. But if you don’t have the natural instinct for survival and industrial-strength constitution of a Keith Richards, always do your risk assessments with rigour.
#9. Remain relevant
It has often been said that a rock star is only as good as their last gig or hit. If the trajectory stalls, or output goes downhill, they lose rock-star currency and could become tributes to what they once were (at worst, a self-parody). Some artists, like Bowie and Madonna for instance, maintained relevance for decades by continually evolving, reinventing and repackaging themselves for ever-widening demographic appeal. Never rest on your gold records. If your output is not ‘broken’, you don’t want to ‘fix’ it unnecessarily. But every now and then you must enhance, improve, update, repackage and/or relaunch it.
#10. Stay on the road
Few rock stars ever qualified for the category without occasionally getting out on the road and taking their show to where their audiences live. Even ‘studio-only’ concept bands, like Steely Dan, bridged between static products (recordings) and customers (fans) with TV performances and global tours eventually. Like TV, webinars are all very well and should be on almost everyone’s list – especially those with a very broad or far-flung potential audience. But nothing beats the impact and immediacy of presenting your noise, stance, look, savviness, mystique, aura, uniqueness, edge, and relevance in the live format – by way of ‘in-stores’ (meetings) or ‘gigs’ (demonstrations/presentations). Go see your customers and prospects in person whenever you can. Travel. Make a big deal of travelling in press releases and social media (“Sam Brown will be in Auckland next 13-17, touring customer facilities and showcasing the next release of Product-Name…”). Position yourself to become a presenter at events where customers and prospects are likely to be in the audience. That’s when you can ‘work the stage’ and leverage the attendant credibility-gaining, profile-building and news-making opportunities for all they’re worth.
When it comes to the rock star concept, in developing it, I’ve walked the talk. Here I am on TV with the Bushwackers band, doing some early research on showmanship while disguised as Melanie Williamson, hard-rockin’ piano accordion player:
Here I am again, working the stage as a relative youngster with the Bushwackers at the Gympie Muster before a live crowd of about 50,000 people and a national TV audience for the ABC’s Landline show telecast:
Here is another of my early experiments in rock-star stance-holding (and handling public relations in busy George St, Sydney) whilst again masquerading as the accordion-player in the band of legendary Australian singer-songwriter, Graeme Connors, for one of his music videos: