By Cari Lyle
William Shatner might seem like an unusual professional hero — unless you heard him speak as the final keynote presenter at Content Marketing World 2013. At 82, Shatner has built a career off quirky characters and marketing campaigns. But to him, it’s not about the resume or the “personal brand strategy,” a concept he claimed not to understand. It’s about deliberately choosing projects that fulfill him:
“I’m not self-promoting — I’m just doing things I’m fascinated by.”
His appeal to the 1,700 audience members makes perfect sense, even from a business perspective. How can you drive traffic and results for your clients if you’re not producing fascinating content? Perhaps it’s time to start thinking more like Capt. Kirk:
- Just say yes. Many successful professionals preach the improv rule “Always say ‘yes, and…,’” but Shatner took it a step further. He said he refuses to say no to any adventure. It may lead you off course for a while but ultimately you will learn more than if you’d continued doing the same routine day after day. Shake up your marketing tactics, go out to lunch with a new co-worker, and take on projects you typically don’t. Even holding your network responsible for this mantra may spark creativity — don’t settle for no from your clients, influencers or colleagues. Ask “why not?” instead, and rethink the tried-and-true ways you communicate with others.
- Take risks. Always saying yes leads quite nicely into the next rule. When you’re constantly accepting new proposals and opportunities, you’re going to find yourself in unknown territory. For Shatner, that meant moving beyond his acting to wine-tasting and motorcycle-riding. For your client, it might mean distributing a YouTube series instead of a press release. Again, the only way to move beyond traditional campaigns is to jump headfirst into new opportunities.
- Find your cult audience. When you break from the norm, you’re not going to please everybody. And that’s OK! It might seem counterintuitive, but you shouldn’t be aiming to make everyone happy. Your target audience should be your only concern, always. The smartest companies don’t let their competitors or their noncustomers drive their business decisions — they listen to what their actual customers are saying. You need to tailor your clients’ content to their most passionate followers, and you need to quite literally create a voice that speaks directly to the people who will share your message.
Whether he wants to admit it or not, Shatner is a brand through his decades of saying yes, taking crazy risks, and speaking to dedicated fans through movies, TV shows and even PSAs about deep-frying turkeys. These aren’t calculated branding rules, though — they’re just ways he’s living his life. Even so, how can other companies incorporate these personal mantras into branding opportunities of their own?
Image by Bob Bekian.