Going maverick: self-branding to avoid being labelled

Earlier this year, I attended a conference on New Media, talking about how many YouTubers, bloggers, musicians, and other folks were growing because of the opportunities presented by these free platforms for expression and promotion. Hit the jump to read more and how it’s relevant to the project.

One of the lessons they hammered in was that it takes true creativity to transform adversity into an advantage, and in this case, it is how the Asian minority in western entertainment led to a lot of prominent artists finding their niche through posting their music, short films, and Vlogs on YouTube, releasing albums or singles on iTunes, blogging, and finding both an audience and market for the barely tapped frontier of New Media while everyone else was struggling for recognition in mainstream Hollywood or struggling to get signed on to a record label.

Due to the independent nature of using these platforms to share their work, it also allowed for freedom of expression to define themselves rather than trying to fit into a set of expectations or a label, much like trying to be the stereotypical Asian nerd in most movies and television shows, or altering your sound a bit so that it gets more listeners, and a whole lot more of examples of compromise.

In other words, you get lumped into a category so that you can fit into a label that they brand in order to promote you as they choose to define you. But in the new frontier of social media and New Media, you can define yourself however you like since the elitist filter has thinned down to a point that the main thing that stops people from seeing you or your work is whether they choose to ignore it or not. Additionally, you have the ability to interact with your fans and friends in real time, as the barrier that people unnecessarily create that separates them from others disappears since we are all an e-mail, tweet, Facebook message or YouTube and blog comment away.

For that reason, it’s basically everyone is going maverick and defining themselves by their own rules rather than following an established procedure from the traditional structure. You’re a filmmaker or musician even if your work is only on YouTube, you’re a writer even if the only place you publish is your blog, along with many more possibilities.

So how does this tie into this project? Well, with the way I plan to release my future media on YouTube and the fact I’m focused on making this as independent of an operation as possible, for those who are following this project blog, the self-branding involved here is the personality I’ve injected into it, with a mixture of a hero, a rock star, a rebel, and a fun-loving guy with the goal of saving the world, making a difference, and letting everyone know that we can all be heroes.

It also ties in with a recent workshop we did on writing resumes and CVs for prospective employers to see, to give ourselves a profile tag that allows them to see who we are in no more than three sentences, just like an advertisement. In my profile tag, you can see how I choose to brand myself here: “East and Southeast Asia specialist with strong interest in human rights and sustainable development. Skilled in working independently and in teams, writing, researching, social media, and producing creative content.”

By making this my profile and then following it up with relevant examples or careful word choice, it conveys the idea of how I choose to brand myself. Now, I’m not selling myself, because as my undergraduate professor once said “Never sell yourself, prostitutes sell themselves. Just be yourself and present yourself in the best way you can”, I’m letting people know what part of my personality and character I want to emphasize with them and the world.

The last point I want to make with going maverick is that it’s easier to be comfortable with who I am by defining myself, because for people who have yet to define themselves, I’ve found that often it is easy for them to allow others to define them, whether on a personal level or a brand level. Simple example: how you choose to introduce yourself to someone you approach rather than waiting for them to ask questions that allow them to piece together a snapshot of whom they think you as they attempt to get to know you.

So how would I brand myself so far? As someone who is willing to put aside his ego in favor of the mission to fight for a better world, where we all live under the same blue skies, with abundant oceans and lush forests; where children don’t have to fear stepping on landmines while playing football/soccer; where women don’t fear rape or violence, where wars, famine, and torture are a thing of the past, and where strangers are viewed as friends we haven’t met yet instead of “others” because we all live in one world and share one love.

Check in tomorrow when I post my quick interview with Lynn Chen from The Actor’s Diet blog and what I learned from it.

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