This Above All: To Thine Own Self Be True

by | Apr 12, 2010

Digital ninja, Faris Yakob–who I had the pleasure of meeting at a conference in Cambridge, MA a few years ago–made a guest post on Gaping Void that resonates.

Here’s the heart of Yakob’s argument:

Once you begin to extend yourself via media, you become aware that by broadcasting your life through media fragments, you are creating an idea of who you are that is distinct from, but inextricably linked to, who you are.

And that brand is a highly defensible asset.

Naturally, Yakob is referencing the ideas in “The Brand Called You,” a 1997 article by Tom Peters in Fast Company. I bought in to this line of thinking pretty much since it emerged and I’ve been actively “extending myself via media” since 1999, when I launched my first site.

Given the investments I’ve made in my brand, particularly at AdPulp, I ought to have a “highly defensible asset” that can be used to land clients, speaking engagements, job offers and the like. Yet, the reality on the ground isn’t nearly as grand as all that. I’ve spent many a long night tossing and turning on why that is.

One problem is I’ve established myself as an ad critic while continuing to work in the business, which may lead to some unintentional confusion. For instance, when you meet me, are you meeting David Burn the ad guy, or David Burn the guy who rips on and/or compliments other ad guys? Personally, I’ve never had a hard time unifying the two. To make quality communications, one needs to be acutely aware of the rest of the field in order to instinctively react to it, build upon it or utterly reject it. For that reason, AdPulp ought to be the ultimate portfolio piece. But unless the job in question calls for the creation of an online media property, it’s often perceived to be an apples-to-oranges situation.

Here’s the thing though, I’m not really concerned about the brand called me problem I just outlined. As Shakespeare said, “to thine own self be true.” I’m doing what I like to do, and what I’m good at. I don’t need a bunch of people to recognize how to best employ my talents for their own benefit, I just need a handful of people to do so. That’s why I started Bonehook and that’s why it’s a content development firm, versus an “ad agency.” I’m making it as obvious as I can that my success with AdPulp is directly transferable to any number of my client’s marketing problems.