When we talked about the other “R” in reputation, we surmised that strong brands connect also on the basis of respect. Today, let’s take a look at five things you can do right away to begin building a reservoir for your connections.
1. Make innovation part of your creative habit; put aside some time every day for “what if” thinking.
At work I keep a couple of poster-size pictures that show two angles of the main square or piazza grande (literally, big square) of my hometown in Italy, Modena. They provide a nice visual that transports me to a new, open space where I can think more freely about the matters at hand. When I look at things differently from that view point, the mind gets a welcome boost of energy and perspective. Ideas then start flooding in. Sometimes those images simply provide a brief pause in my day; the happy place I go to, if you will. Then, I am ready to rejoin the challenge at hand from a fresh start.
Think about what would make you step outside your usual ways and stretch. There are many other methods and sources of inspiration that work. Two of my favorites are the book The Creative Habit by choreographer and dancer Twyla Tharp and the full deck of products to stimulate creativity and innovation by my friend Roger von Oech. Roger blogs at Creative Think, check him out.
2. Reward the hard questions. When a reader challenges your thinking, take that as an opportunity to address their questions, make sure they know they’re heard. You get respect when you give it.
If you have been reading my blog, Conversation Agent, you probably noticed that the real action happens in the comments section. When people take the time to come in and visit, I make sure they feel welcome and they have a good experience. No matter what the conversation I started with the post, the idea is to be of service to the needs of my readers.
Often we launch on such great discussions that I elevate comments to posts to further our learning together and give others the chance to jump in on a hot topic.
When someone challenges my thinking I consider that a rare compliment and gift. If everyone thought the same, we would never stretch and grow. I’ve had a few instances of early critical approach that benefited me tremendously – and resulted in friendships as well.
3. Work on the quality of your writing constantly. Practice, practice, and then practice some more. It’s also a good idea to read a lot. Read the classics; read good writing.
I cannot stress this point enough. Whatever your style, a well written post is a post that leaves a good impression. Check your grammar, spelling, and logic. And find ways to hone your skill over time. Ideally, you are writing about a topic that you enjoy learning about so you read a lot of related material.
My technique, given that I write in a second language, is to keep notebooks everywhere and take copious notes. Whenever I read a book that contains an expression I love, I write it down. Do you find quotes that inspire you? Write them down. There is something to be said for the act of putting pen to paper – it involves much more than one of your senses and its impression will last longer.
As for the reading diet – the more diverse, the better; classics, fiction, poetry are all useful sources of good and solid lessons in language and imagination. Try it.
4. Think design as container of experience. How can you have a visual impact? How can you communicate your value through design?
This may not be literal. Consider the whole impression of your blog as design of experience. Is the information easy to find? Is the layout well organized and intuitive? Are you highlighting the content and sections that matter the most to you?
Take for example the redesign of The Blog Herald. Doesn’t it look like there is so much more to it now? It’s cleaner, with a good balance of white space and not too many colors. That’s what I’m talking about; it works for this stage in the publication’s brand. My compliments go to Brian Gardner for the work.
5. Be transparent and trustworthy. Conduct a personal audit regularly to keep yourself honest.
Your gut will be a good ally for this exercise. If you think about it, we know instinctively when we do something right… and conversely when something we do is not so good. It’s alright to ask for direct feedback from others. Just make sure you and they understand that you are ready to take it and they should feel free to give it, constructively.
The other piece is being able to match back to your focus and mission. Are you doing what you set out to do? Is your blog still in step with your intent as declared to your readers? Maybe you’ve changed direction as you found yourself gravitating towards a subset of your original topic. Or maybe you have broadened your scope. In either case, it’s good to recognize that and follow through with your new direction.
Now let’s bring it home:
Innovate to stay fresh
Learn actively from the interaction
Work on quality
Present a compelling space
Be transparent and trustworthy
In other words, execute, execute, execute.