One of my favorite PR and social media expert resources has been, since I started in this business, Amber Naslund of Radian6. Not long ago Amber wrote a post which many people including me saw as quite gutsy, for a reason she herself pointed out in comments:
We always talk about how this social media thing is supposed to “humanize” us, but sometimes we only seem to mean that if the human stuff are things that make us comfortable. But the reality is that vulnerability is what draws people to one another….
I sometimes get the impression that clients along with prospective clients are trying to figure me out; I’m sure it doesn’t help that I blog rarely, don’t have e-mail newsletters, and have a curious phobia about picking up the phone.
So in the interests of transparency, here’s what I’d like you, clients, prospects, and the casually interested to know:
My top three strengths are also my top three weaknesses.
I analyze just about everything. I love puzzles, dissecting a problem and exploring it from different angles, I love working toward solutions. If you go along with the “boxes” in which the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator put us, I’m an INTJ — rare among the general population, even more so among women.
Yes, I do get stuck in “analysis paralysis.” Not often, but sometimes. When it does happen, kick my butt (but please don’t make it personal) and help me understand why you feel confident moving on, so that I can improve my consulting for the future. Also: it helps if you give me a new project or problem to solve!
What I just said about not making it personal? I’m hypersensitive. You would think being analytical would cancel out the sensitivity, but actually all that analysis is a way for me to process emotional input which could otherwise overwhelm me. I empathize deeply with other people, tending to internalize both joy and pain.
The weakness is probably obvious, but for a marketer/PR consultant, the strength is profound: combined with my analytical skills, I’m able to listen to customers’ feedback and then figure out how that might translate into better PR or marketing content.
I’m intuitive. Solutions to problems often come to me in exciting brainstorms, and so much the better when I have a great team to bounce ideas off and refine further. Where’s the weakness there?
I can’t always figure out how to articulate what I’m thinking. I’ve taken to sometimes explaining how my brain leaped from Point A all the way over to Point H (although judging by the expressions on people’s faces, sometimes that makes it worse). I think this problem with articulation is partly because it takes me time to process things, especially when I feel they are important. Writing them down can help. So can patience.
Bonus strength/weakness: Ideas fly me. There’s something about the raw energy of an idea not yet brought down to earth, processed and refined and then finally realized. Even better if I have someone to share it with, helping me do the processing and refining — I think it’s because having that additional perspective helps keep the idea in the air until it absolutely has to come down.
The weakness in this: I sometimes put ideas ahead of people. It can be very difficult to have one or more awesome ideas, then find out that the people I so wanted to work with are unavailable. I’ve damaged relationships with this kind of single-mindedness. I’m working on finding balance.
I’m always looking for a great collaboration.
My sons are huge Scooby-Doo fans, and once, while watching one of their DVDs, played a special feature that was Bill Hanna talking about his partnership with Joe Barbera. He said something to the effect of, “Either one of us alone would have produced something good, but we could only have achieved what we did together.”
I love finding and writing great stories — an exercise in problem-solving, at its core — but because I can get so caught up in ideas and how to put them across, having a partner to work with is actually my ideal. The right partner can ground me or inspire me to new heights, or both, and that kind of support is mutual.
Even so, over the course of my career, I’ve met few people I deeply connected with, the kind who always seemed to know exactly what information I needed for an project, whose words I always seemed to be able to set down in exactly the right way, and who continued to build strong relationships with me over time. I’ve experienced this just enough to know it’s possible, and I can’t wait to find the next one.
I write crime and horror fiction.
I have cop friends who don’t understand how I can gravitate towards evil, but the fact is, fiction is how I have always processed evil. Remember, because I’m so sensitive, I internalize emotions, and I need a way to get them out. Therapy never worked when I was a kid, and I found over time that writing helped me think, so I write: cops, crime and criminals; zombies, werewolves and ghosts. (But no vampires. I’ve never been able to pull off a vampire story.)
I am a jazz lover.
I love all kinds of music, but classic jazz speaks to me in a way that rock, soul, electronica, and even blues cannot. Something about it, even the energetic bop I’m listening to as I type this, relaxes me. I’d like to think it’s the improvisation helping my subconscious mind let go of all the structure, so I can be more fully creative, or at least more relaxed. I would be very happy (and would spend a lot more money) if my favorite coffee shops played jazz all the time.
I’m a city girl.
I grew up in city suburbs. Nothing was ever more than a train ride or a few blocks’ walk away, and there was never a lack of things to do… until my family moved to northern New England. Then we started having to drive everywhere, and for longer periods of time. This became a serious problem after my husband and I moved to a house in the country and had babies. In the dead of winter, we just… couldn’t… go anywhere.
Where I live now, Greenville, SC, is a perfectly sized city for raising children. My boys are getting the great city-living experiences I had growing up (museums and parks and so on) without the anxiety of living in a really big city. (Or the subway. I confess I do miss the subway.)
I’m deeply faithful, but not religious.
I’ve believed in God all my life. I believe prayer works. I’ve experienced things that were too profound to be coincidental.
But I don’t go to church, I don’t witness to people, I believe religion has caused as many problems as it has solved (if not caused more). I enjoy reading the work of other people who turn rules and assumptions on their heads. Philosophically I may even have more in common with atheists and agnostics than I do with other Christians.
I say this because my faith is a key part of where I am in life and in business. If that turns people off, so be it. But I hope it draws more in, and forges the deeper connections I’m always looking for.
And about that phone phobia…
I once made a complete idiot of myself when I was 11, calling up a neighborhood girl I barely knew to ask if she wanted to come over. “Maybe,” she said, her voice tremulous with I-have-no-idea-who-you-are-how-did-you-get-this-number, and we hung up and I’ve been terrified of picking up the phone ever since.
That isn’t to say I don’t pick up the phone. I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews over the past 10 years, nearly all on the phone. (My first, by the way, went terribly. I decided if that was the worst it could get, it could only get better.)
Although I’m still much more comfortable listening rather than talking — see above, that it takes me time to process and then articulate what I’m thinking — and I see phone calls as far more intrusive than emails, I’ve been making a conscious effort to pick up the phone (or at least Skype) more often.
That’s by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s a start. If you want to know something specific, please ask. And if there’s something you’d like me to know about you, please feel free to leave a comment (or email me in private). I’d love to get to know you, too.