Influencers and Entrepreneurs - It's an Important Time to Decide What Your Brand Values Are
By Nicole Howard
In a letter to the Blavity community, former co-founder, Jonathan Jackson wrote, “Today marks a new transition for me, as I end my tenure at Blavity as a member of the executive team, and leave the company to pursue some new adventures. I’ve decided to head out the same way I came in: with my voice.”
This article is NOT about why he left or what he’s doing now it’s about the last two words “my voice.”
Every brand has a voice. When you step out of your brand voice your audience notices. That risk can pay off or cause you to fall quickly.
For example, xoNecole is positive, uplifting and shares amazing stories that encourage us. She took the leap to completely change her voice from a previous “celebrity gossip” brand, Necole Bitchie. Her website states, “She hinted at wanting to follow her purpose signing off saying, “There is a constant internal struggle between being a character—Necole Bitchie—when I walk out in public and being the woman I know I was meant to be. She’s already seeing the success of that choice but it did not happen overnight. This year her lifestyle site was acquired by Will Packer Media.
This digital age moves fast, and sometimes the wrong step can cost you. I believe we are pushing to hold companies accountable for their actions, how they market themselves and where they decide to put their money.
When it was found out the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, was on Trump’s advisory council board people quickly took to social media to start a #DeleteUber campaign resulting in more than 200,000 customers deleting the app. Another example that being the face of your company your actions has consequences.
Now, American American Airlines, United Airlines, and Microsoft all released statements to say they want no involvement in the separation of families at the border and governors are refusing to supply National Guard resources as well.
At the Build Your Own Brand Retreat in Washington, DC the now former co-founder of Blavity spoke intimately about his entrepreneurship journey, anxiety, and taking time to truly ask himself the tough questions. During his keynote, he noted that event speakers had an average of around 35,000 - 40,000 followers each totaling about 2 million. He was making that point that there is power in those numbers. “We have the ability to change how a couple million people feel, think, work, do,” said Jackson. (Watch the keynote below)
He suggested for those of us inspiring for that type of growth to consider the decisions that will come with that journey. He said a theme throughout the event is using who you are to get you closer to what you want. He said the question to consider is, “Who do you become in pursuit of what you want.”
Jackson added, “You deserve to ask yourself the questions that keep you up at night during the day because if you only do it in the dark I promise you will find more reasons not to address them because you’re not going to become less busy unless you choose to. Your questions, start to impact your outcomes.”
He’s presenting an important challenge that in the day of quick twitter fingers could help you avoid a crisis communications situation. Your values will be questioned as you grow and you have to know at what point will you choose your value versus a check. In Awesomely Luvvie’s podcast, Rants and Randomness, Honor Honesty (with Jussie Smollett) - Episode 8 Jussie spoke about how his Mom would always say, Honor honesty in everything that you do.
“Have you ever been tempted to be a different version of you?” asked Luvvie
"In those times, when you have $17 in your account… in those moments, of course, it tempts you,” he responded. He gave an example of a movie he was acting in (before Empire). He felt the scene was portraying him as a predator in relation to the white woman love interest. It was being played out differently than what he read originally. He spoke up about being uncomfortable with those roles especially being a Black man working with a white woman. He was later cut from that movie. "Years from now, people would be able to go back and recall that, he stated as he expressed his appreciation for making that tough call. Noting that we live in times where people we bring up anything from your past.
In Jackson's keynote, he mentions this side of being an influencer. “The worst part is when we trade our influence for people that don’t even want us in the room and then beg them to like us. I’m not with that. You don’t have to know that much history to know how that ends. The only thing I want from you here is to inquire of yourself who you are and if that is in line with the value system you set up for yourself. If not, love yourself enough to talk through that with whoever your circle is… I don’t think we need more influencers … we need more people who know enough about themselves to say no…”
Now, fast forward to today as the country is again faced with a branding issue as many citizens are speaking against the separation of families at the border. We know from history about the separation of families in slavery and in our prison system. But, for some apparently, this is new to see in the light. Even those it has “ended” as of an executive order; those who already suffered through the zero-tolerance policy still need us to speak out. An example of someone knowing their values is a former employee of a Southwest Key Tucson detention center for unaccompanied minors. He was an employee and witnessed too many things that went against his moral character or just his humanity. In an interview on Democracy Now, he shares having to tell siblings that were going to be separated and was ordered to tell them to stop hugging. The youth had gone hours without being allowed to sleep.
Today Luvvie posted a reminder about it being “okay” to go off brand during these times. Such as pausing your scheduled content to post one thing to speak against what is happening. For Luvvie, she went back into the studio to record an extra segment even though the episode was completed in advance. On Instagram, she posted, “I love us, but one post that is not on brand does not kill your brand. I’m challenging us to expand our ideas of who we are. Expect more of ourselves."
She also posted, The brand you build should also prioritize being human and being a person who cares about the state of affairs...balance the serious with escapism. These platforms are more than the taglines we have created for ourselves. When the world is burning, it’s okay to post just one thing that shows you care about more than games, outfits, and makeup hauls."
As you are building your brand voice don't’ forget to take time to check-in and establish those brand values and your own personal system. As you face decisions make sure they align. Here are a few questions Jackson presented to the 1,000 attendees during his keynote that I leave you to think about.
Who do you want to become as you pursue your goals?
Who’s coming with you?
What are you willing to compromise?
When considering partners and brands; are they in line with your values?
While you ask yourself those questions, here are some organizations you can help spread the word about: