In 2010 I watched a TEDxHouston talk by the researcher Brené Brown that revolutionized my life. I’m not alone. It is one of the most watched talks on the TED website—10 million views and counting—and it’s all about the power of vulnerability.
So what does this have to do with strategic marketing? Like marketing, Brown’s focus is on expanding perception; in just 20 minutes she expanded mine in ways I never expected.
Expanding perceptions can create connection
As a business owner, I was struck immediately by Brown’s assertion that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear, as well as our struggle for worthiness; but she also says it’s the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love. If you are a leader of an organization and you value those qualities, my guess is you value connection. But are you walking the walk?
Great leaders need to stop avoiding vulnerability and promote it in their workplace. Do we want to create an environment that supports joy, creativity, and belonging? If you are not finding new ways for everyone to be vulnerable, then that door is not open. Connection is why we are here; it’s why I’m committed to making marketing meaningful.
I found that a great place to start was with myself.
The business of vulnerability
I needed to do for myself what we do for clients: find and define what I call “the inside truth.” I began my evaluation by working with a life coach to understand where I feel a strong sense of worthiness and belonging and where I do not. If connection is the result of authenticity, I knew I had to be authentic in this process.
I’ve learned that to connect with others in business and in life you sometimes have to be willing to let go of who you think you are in order to be who you actually are. This can be hard when you are a leader but you must evolve as your business evolves.
Since Orange Square is an extension of me, I knew my business needed to be evaluated in the same way I did. I hired a management consultant for marketing services to do a total business review. The good news was my efficiency rate was well above average and the overall structure, from a business point of view, was very sound. The bad news was I needed to solve Orange Square’s positioning issue.
When you choose a position, you are saying “no” to many other options—sometimes even work you’re skilled at. I think in business that is where a lot of the “should be” comes into play. You have to say “no” in order to have a strong position. In this process, I have found connection in saying “no” to some projects in order to say “yes” to what we want to focus on, so we can go about the business of attracting the clients who have the challenges we solve. Without an honest evaluation of who we are—not who I think we should be—I’ve been able to use connection and authenticity to evolve our position into a more powerful and clear place.
“Fully embracing vulnerability”
In this process, I have learned “what makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful,” as Brené says. It does not make it any easier, that’s for sure. I find myself going back to what I learned from Brené’s research helps me to keep trying and finding new ways to embrace being vulnerable.
“The willingness to do something where there are no guarantees”
In the 11 years I’ve run Orange Square there have been no guarantees, and our process of refining and defining a position has been no different. As we do this work, I try hard to be present and to live in the here and now. It does not mean there are not days when I question if I’m doing the right thing or leading the right way. I focus on the journey and connecting to my higher purpose as a person and a businesswoman, and that leads my way.
“Let ourselves be seen; deeply seen, vulnerably seen”
This brings me to the main marketing tool for our business: our website. A website attracts, informs, and engages potential clients. Without a position, it is hard to engage and connect in meaningful ways. Once I did the hard work of defining who we are, what we do, how we do it, and where we want to go, I began to focus on attracting, informing, and engaging the right people. To do this, I partnered with Newfangled to build the new Orange Square website.
In this age of Search Engine Optimization, there is one rule that you need to follow to shake hands with Google: provide new and relevant expert content on a regular basis. No problem right? This has been the hardest part of the process.
I was diagnosed as dyslexic in third grade. I cannot spell to save my life. I suck at grammar rules and construction—the whole damn thing. It was made clear to me every year from third to twelfth grade that I could never escape “having a learning disability.”
Writing is THE THING I don’t do well, but writing is where my life has led me.
“Believing I am enough”
I’m learning to see myself as a writer. Writing for me has become a way to empty my brain so new and exciting concepts can enter. Because I know I am not a good writer, I haven’t expressed important ideas or shared my vision on a larger platform—until now.
I challenge you to ask yourself: in what ways do you think or know “I am not enough”? Do just that thing. Join me in the journey of true vulnerability and see where it takes you.
“Practice gratitude and joy”
I am so thankful to have found Brené Brown, her TED talk, her books, and her research. I am thankful to the consultants and coaches who’ve partnered with me on this journey. I am grateful for the trust of my employees who participate and help form this path each and everyday. It brings me joy to think of the opportunity to connect with new mission-driven clients and partner with them to achieve true change in the world.
As Brené would say, I am daring greatly!