Make a Lasting Impression, Part Three
Popularity is a tricky thing. Most of us want to be liked and the idea taking an unpopular opinion or contradicting the status quo can be terrifying. But on the flip-side, if we think and act like everyone else, how can we stand out?
This is part three in my four-part series about how to make a lasting impression, and today, I’m sharing the upside of being unpopular.
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In the first episode of this series, Why You Should Give a Damn About Your Bad Reputation, I shared that I had never been the popular kid in school. And for the most part, I didn’t care. As the sticker on my trapper keeper said, “I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I’m not.”
I do believe this part of me is wired, that it’s more important for me to be authentic than liked. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be liked, that I don’t want to be popular.
I think we all do.
Humans are social creatures, even my fellow introverts crave some sort of community. So we often take on the thoughts and opinions of those around us, or often, are attracted to those of us who share similar opinions. This results in group think, where everyone agrees with everyone and no one challenges anyone.
This is problematic.
My Un-Popular Story
I once spoke on a panel with three other book publicists about what it takes to successfully launch a book. We were chatting about the merits of publicity outreach, social media, and ad campaigns. Everyone in the audience was an author wanting to sell millions of copies and hit bestseller lists. We were there to show them how.
Publicists are like any other service providers; there are a few fundamental truths that we all adhere to, but after that, we all have our unique philosophies and styles. I will approach a particular book differently than others in my field, and it’s up to the author to decide which route feels best for them.
But on this particular panel, I was noticing that everyone was agreeing with each other. One publicist would make a comment and the others would chime in and reiterate everything the other person said. Now that’s totally fine if they do, in fact, totally agree, but I suspected the reason was that they were afraid of taking an unpopular opinion.
And that’s when I chimed in.
The moderator asked the panelists about the role of social media in a book publicity campaign, and one of the publicist addressed the audience that they “must, MUST be on social media,” that they NEED a Facebook page and a twitter account, and so on.
And that’s when I leaned forward and said, “I actually disagree.”
You could have heard a pin drop in that room.
I went on to explain that it’s all about cultivating an audience, and if that audience doesn’t exist on social media then there’s really no reason for it. If their audience is on Facebook and Facebook is a platform the author feels comfortable with, then sure, focus on Facebook. But to say every author MUST be on social media is simply not true.
Being out on a limb is a risky and lonely place to be, that’s why most of us avoid it. But there’s also less noise, less competition. Rather than blending in with everyone else, you’ve separated yourself from the herd.
However, you shouldn’t take an unpopular opinion just because. Don’t be argumentative for argumentative sake. But if people around you believe one thing, and you know in your gut that it simply isn’t true, then it is your duty to speak up. If everyone in your industry serves clients and customers in a certain way, but you’ve had success doing it differently, that’s something you should be proud of and advertise. Don’t change your methods or try to blend in with everyone else.
Before we dive into all the upsides of being unpopular, I want to reiterate one more time, that unpopularity is only okay if it comes from a place of authenticity. Because that’s what it’s all about right? It comes back to your personal brand and being known for the services and values you truly embody.
When people ask what do you do, do you struggle, stutter, and stumble through your answer? Is your blog content inconsistent? Social media posts all over the place?
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Let’s talk about the three major upsides of being unpopular:
You Attract Your Ideal Clients
When your brand values, services, and style are unique and different than others in your industry, you will attract your ideal clients and customers, not to mention repel the ones that aren’t.
Kaye Publicity clients are risk-takers; they know that we try new things and that some may work, others won’t. There are no guarantees. Others in my industry play it safe and guarantee a certain amount of reach, coverage, or other deliverables. If a client feels comforted by that guarantee, they shouldn’t be working with me. Do I lose out on some potential clients because I don’t provide guarantees? Absolutely. But my ideal client doesn’t need a guarantee, other than that we’re going to do the work and try new things.
I’m also an advocate for quality over quantity. I know that other PR firms say they pitch hundreds of bloggers, reviewers, or other media outlets. They hope to catch more by casting a wide net.
For us, we focus on individual relationships. I equate it to playing matchmaker between books and media contacts. Not every book is made for the New York Times, or Ellen, or O Magazine. We won’t pitch outlets we don’t feel are a good fit, and we write unique, tailored pitches to the ones that are. That means we’re contacting dozens of outlets, not hundreds. Instead of fishing with a net, we’re doing it with a pole.
I’ve had potential clients say, “Well, if I pay you more, will you pitch more?” or “Do you promise to pitch X or Y if I ask you to?” And for the most part, the answer is no. We focus on doing what it takes to make the book a success, and our philosophy is that more isn’t always more. We focus on bigger and better.
If the client doesn’t like that, then they shouldn’t be our client.
Staying true to your brand values means you’re going to turn some people off. You’re going to be unpopular. But that’s okay.
Don’t change the services you offer just because others in your industry provide them. Don’t change your products to look more like your competitors. Let them serve their clientele their way and you can serve yours differently.
Don’t feel pressure to lower your prices because others in the marketplace charge less. The result will be that you attract the customers with smaller budgets and will have less time for the clients with bigger ones. If your books, your products, your services are different than others in your industry, then that’s something you should flaunt, not diminish.
A few years ago, my friend Erika Napoletano gave an amazing TEDx talk about re-thinking unpopular and she says, I’m paraphrasing here, that we’re taught to turn down our knobs on honesty and turn up the knobs on being polite. This is a mistake. She says we must start with honesty, after all, no one has ever said, “I wish people would lie to me more.”
If you are honest and consistent with what you believe and how you present yourself, then it’s okay to be unpopular, because your ideal clients and customers will find you.
It’s easier to stand out.
Black sheep get noticed.
Throughout my entrepreneur journey, there were times where I made the misstep of mimicking others in my field. I compiled giant media list and sent mass emails to journalists. I created sales pages that looked like everyone else’s, using the same templates and email sequences as everyone else. I even took an online course about creating email marketing funnels, before I stopped to think, if all 200 people in this class are doing the same thing, then how will any of us stand out?
Don’t get me wrong, I think mimicking is an important step when you’re developing new skills. Back when I was a creative writing student, we wrote parodies of famous short stories to learn about structure and story arcs. But once you have the skills, once you have a handle on what you’re doing, then it’s crucial to break away from the herd and do things differently. That’s when people will step up and start to take notice.
Think back to the last marketing email you received, the last sales page you visited, even the last movie you saw or the last book you read. What, if anything, was memorable about the content? What stood out? What resonated with you? Or do you not remember the details because the content blended in with all the others.
It is far safer to create something that looks like everyone else’s creation. But it’s more important to be remembered, and that requires taking a risk, stepping outside the norms, and doing something, for lack of a better word, unpopular.
It feels good.
If you’re not comfortable taking an unpopular opinion, you’ve probably found yourself in meetings or at cocktail parties agreeing to things that don’t actually feel are true. You may say yes, when it feels like a no. You may say something is a good idea, when your gut is telling you it’s going to be disastrous.
None of this feels good.
When you’re confident in your opinions and not afraid to take an unpopular opinion, you feel better about how you’re showing up in the world. You believe what you’re saying. You’re honest. You’re authentic.
As risky and nerve-racking as it is to disagree with a room full of people, it’s even more uncomfortable to give opinions you don’t truly believe in. I challenge you, the next time you are in a meeting or at an event, and someone asks for your opinion or says something you completely disagree with, speak your truth. It may feel scary at first, but once you do it, I’m confident you’ll feel better.
The Upsides of Being Unpopular
- You attract your ideal customers and repel everyone else
- You are able to stand out from the crowd
- You feel better
Being unpopular isn’t just about making a lasting impression, it’s about making an honest and authentic one.
Be sure to tune in to next week’s episode where I explore how your word choice affects your personal brand. I’ll cover everything from brand messaging to elevator pitches to the emails you send. And if you missed the first two episodes in this series, I encourage you to go back and check them out.