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Workplace Sexual Harassment is All Too Common #metoo

Some time in my 20s, I had a nice job in a city without too many jobs, let alone marketing jobs. For that reason, I was happy to snag a marketing job. I shared an office in a secluded area with an older guy, he was probably in his 50s. I asked him once why he bothered working at a  position that seemed below his pay grade. He had a good insight: “You’re just broke at a higher level” when you work for more money. It seemed to ring true, I had some respect for the guy.

After many months working there, he hit on me. I don’t remember how he said it, I just remember he turned on some romantic tune and asked me if I was interested. That would be quite awkward in and of itself. But the fact of the matter is, he was married. Not sure what he thought a clearly religious person’s response would be, but it certainly wasn’t “hurrah!” In fact, I remember feeling immediately unsafe. Here I was with this guy asking me something immoral far far away from everyone else.

I will say this situation is not harassment, it’s just totally messed up. My solution was to jump out of this office location as soon as possible. So I moved into an office right next to my boss, giving little reason other than I wanted a change of scene. Little did I know that was like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

Let me point out here that I was quite naive. I locked my car doors and stayed away from

Pic of me
A pic of myself from that time.

strange looking people on the street, but it never crossed my mind that people in the workplace might not be what they seemed. Duplicity is not my style, and I had a hard time spotting it. That being said, I can let you know that last guy, he couldn’t get a job elsewhere because of the sort of double talking, backstabbing, and drama he’d created elsewhere. Small towns are like that, word gets around.

Now you’d think I might start to doubt others’ intentions at this point. But I have to tell you, my faith in humanity is strong! My jump to an office adjoined to my boss’ office seemed like a good idea. I realized that usually would encourage a boss to micro manage. But that wasn’t his style. He worked long hours and gave motivational speeches at weekly marketing meetings like he was raising funds for leukemia. I mean he was on a mission and he inspired those around him, at least, that’s what I thought. Looking back, I might have been too much like the fawning student, but I wasn’t aware of it at the time.

One day when we were in a one-to-one meeting, he seemed to be staring at me. When I looked up at him, he licked his lips. That was weird. I think I could have let that go, except that, it kept happening whenever we were alone. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how to respond. How was I supposed to get him to stop? He was my boss and despite being a total extrovert, I had no words for this situation. I asked a female mentor and her response was to just ignore him, she even went so far as to say that I should see what I could do to rattle him back.

At the end of my rope, I decided to report his behavior to Human Resources.  I didn’t have the courage to address him alone, but I have to say my Human Resources person sure did. She was very sympathetic when I first discussed the situation with her. She addressed my concerns with him as I sat across from him in a private meeting. She had a no B.S. attitude when she held the meeting with this executive many years her senior. If she didn’t say it outright, her whole demeanor seemed to say this behavior will stop.

My observation of his behavior might be considered a misinterpretation, or easily written off. You have to understand that is why he chose this behavior.  It could easily be written off as a misinterpretation. I know it wasn’t though. For one thing, he said offhand in a snack area later “It never would have worked out anyway, I want to stay with my wife…” I guess he thought I might be interested. He also clearly felt above the law that he could just say his thoughts offhand like that, and it proves he was consciously hitting on me and harassing me.

It turned out my boss’ reputation for double-talking and back-stabbing was accurate. The other directors at the organization were shouting this from the rooftops. But I had a hard time telling if this was dramatics or truth. I guess I had to see it myself to believe it. And of course, he was a good friend of my last officemate.

He didn’t stop licking his lips either. It moved from being a sexual advance to a way to aggravate me. It sure worked. I went in to work every day, but I was stressed out. I had a hard time focusing. I wasn’t sure how long it would be till he retaliated, but I felt that was inevitable. I was VERY uncomfortable, and I didn’t feel like I could or should talk about it to anyone else in my department. I talked to a friend in another department about it. A lot. She assured me there was something off in our organization as we had way too many unfaithful individuals for our small numbers. One of her officemates had confessed being unfaithful to her husband, and she wasn’t sorry about it either. She seemed to stop in on my boss a lot also. I didn’t want to stick around to see how that would play out.

Of course, it took a couple months to find another position. I was so happy to leave!  It was like being set free from a prison. I was stronger as a result of going through this, but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone! It’s a story I want to tell my daughters. And sign them up for karate, I don’t want them to feel unsafe or small.

I also recommend reporting these behaviors. I can see how my mentor’s idea for this specific situation might have been ok – the part about ignoring him. 😉 But then, that wouldn’t help the next girl and it wouldn’t force him to change. If a lot of women report the behavior, he might actually choose to change for the sake of keeping his job. I have to admit that I chose not to report ongoing harassment at a later position, to avoid being seen as a troublemaker. The reality is, that didn’t make the situation any easier or less tortuous. Harassment is painful and difficult to deal with, there’s just no way around that. By reporting the issue you may not find support or resolution, but you will definitely be helping the next person. You may even see justice and feel victory in seeing that person finally let go. (I did see that in the latter situation after I left and that certainly affirmed my faith in humanity)!

Back to my story, I do feel fortunate that my sexual harrasment concerns weren’t met with skepticism. I had the impression  this wasn’t my boss’ first run-in with a female employee. The president of the organization seemed to have a lot of sympathy for me whenever I saw him. I don’t remember our exact conversation, but I remember him assuring me they would take care of it. This organization was great and I wish them well. There may have been an unhealthy subcultural going on there, but they wanted to fix it.

I’m sure some people out there will look at this as my grab at attention. Or maybe that I’m just a snowflake that couldn’t handle the sexual advances of my superior. Maybe there some truth in that, I’m not as saintly as I’d like to be. You have to understand though that the problem is not over reporting, it’s under reporting, and that needs to change. We all should be speaking out about these incidents. Rather than speculating at women’s motivations, we need to stop and look at how common this problem is and realize how important our response is. On a personal level, we should be supporting these women. On a larger level, we should stop judging and start supporting a movement that helps reverse the tide. Rather than being ashamed and intimidated, women are sharing their stories and feeling empowered. That’s the way it should be! It will intimidate perverts and predators from acting. It might also make good men more careful and reserved in their actions around women. Is that such a bad thing? We should be looking out for eachother, even if it isn’t easy.

If you’ve experienced sexual harassment, assault, or rape, my prayers are with you. You can add to this movement by putting #metoo in the comments. I won’t pass judgement and I won’t let anyone else either. I’ve been told it’s hard to know how to respond to a blog post like this. If you haven’t experienced these things, but you want to show support for the #metoo movement you can like or share this blog post. Thank you for listening.

The Importance of Being Likable on Social Media

Dwayne Johnson AKA The Rock has gone far with his friendly tough guy image.

As humans, we are built to be social. This instinct may run deeper than we realize. I had a funny experience that sheds light on this.

I took my baby in for her 1 year old doctor visit. The male nurse that often helps us greeted us, sans smile. For some reason, this nurse never smiles. At least, I’ve never seen him smile.

Once in the examining room, he approached my easy going 1 yr old. She became wary, watching him carefully. She didn’t smile and she pushed away his stethoscope. Next there was the normal amount of fussing that comes with not wanting to be examined.

After he took her weight and her height, we waited for the doctor. A mellow and pleasant caregiver, he came into the room smiling and asked how we were. My daughter smiled at him broadly. He observed that she was “social smiling” and asked if she was going through strange danger feelings yet? I almost laughed when I said yes.

In this scenario, would you rather be the first guy or the second guy? I think there’s a lesson in there about being friendly. It just might be basic instinct to distrust and even avoid unfriendly people. The bottom line is that we do others (and ourselves) a service when we approach others in a positive and a friendly way. This is especially important on social media, where we are literally trying to make friends for our businesses.

Many have cited social media’s business purpose as taking customers on a journey through know-like-trust. At trust, people buy. Here are some tactics for making your business more friendly and likable on social media:

-Instagram video guru Ariana Alexander has mentioned that it’s important to smile in your videos, from start to finish. It will feel awkward at first, but once you form the habit, it will come naturally. Don’t forget to smile in your photos too!

-Instead of typing up blog posts, dictate them into your phone or computer for that device to type them up. You generally want a more conversational and friendly tone on your blog and on social media.

-Top blogger and marketing strategist Mark Schaefer has said that the magic started happening for his blog when he stopped being so serious. When he felt funny, he was funny. When he was angry, he wrote something angry. Relaxing and being your true self in your writing and in relation to your audience can go a long way to building an online bond.

-Probably the hardest thing for businesses is creating a friendly voice for social media. People want to appear professional and when that becomes the focus, social media posts become boring. Speak as though your favorite customer is sitting right in front of you. That can help you keep it professional yet appropriately expressive.

-You might also want to avoid politics in your posts. Unless this is your business reason for being, it’s not in your best interest to get political. A recent Sprout Social survey found that 71% of consumers dislike when business express political opinions.

Now, there’s still a lot of other things that need to happen to make posts successful. Captivating pictures and well thought out copy are going to make your posts more popular. But being more friendly and likable on social media is important. It’s helps you make page visitors into friends  (technically fans of your page) and eventually, repeat customers.

Are Personal Images Hurting Your Social Media Game?

This became an existential question for me one night. I couldn’t sleep because I was concerned about what this meant for me. If I can’t post personal images to business pages, that means 1/3 of my Instagram photos need to become something else! Since when is social media supposed to be business only?

The question arose because a prominent thought leader suggested that small businesses avoid social media and personal images. What the what? Social media is supposed to level the playing field. It’s supposed to bring big brands to their knees and respond to us little customers with the threat of one negative tweet. It’s supposed to humanize big brands, and do the same for small ones.

With all that in mind, I was left with a big question mark over my head and it bothered me. A lot. Here is my response to the unusual suggestion that small businesses avoid social media and sharing personal images.

YES, IT CAN HURT YOU

We have to be honest, there is a nugget of truth in there. If your business feed becomes an exact reflection of your own personal Facebook feed, you’re failing. Your Instagram feed and your Facebook feed should have a professional look and feel to them. Particularly on Instagram, your photos should be high quality, have a nice layout, a consistent filter, and reiterate whatever copy (words) you are relating. If you have too many photos of your kids or your dog in your business Instagram profile, no-one is going to take you seriously. It’s that simple.

Don’t get me wrong! I love your babies, dogs, kids, and many other strange personal fetishes. I myself had a hard time coming to grips with the fact that my baby’s photos don’t get nearly the likes they do on my personal feed. Most of the time, that’s the way it is. Your photos need to reflect your audience’s interests and unless you’re a mommy blogger, keep the baby spam down. (Your friends still love it though, so go post it on your personal Facebook page, no kidding).

YOU’LL BE OK IF YOU’RE CAREFUL

Now listen very carefully, I didn’t say not to post any baby, dog, or family photos at all. Still throw those in there. They help people get to know you as a person. They are REALLY important. Especially if you have a brand logo filling up your profile pic like I do. Then people really don’t see the person behind the brand name at all unless you show them yourself and your family, furry members included.

Why post personal photos? Because it helps take customers down the road to liking you. And on the interwebs, it’s important to be liked. (Not necessarily by everybody, but somebody – your target market). You want to take your potential customers down the path from know, like, to trust. Once they are at trust, they will be more likely to buy from you. Usually they get to know you from photos and posts, and that’s where they will grow to like you as well.

There’s an important point Instagram Strategist Jenna Kutcher made on this topic as well. It’s this: once they buy your product, what reason do they have to come back for more? Whether we like it or not, we are social creatures. If you are following someone for info, it’s highly likely you are going to grow to like them and keep following them. Don’t even ask me why I follow some social media colleagues that I have nothing to gain from. Their posts make me happy and I like them. For me, that’s enough reason to keep coming back for more. You definitely want that kind of dynamic with your customers. Keep them coming back till you have another product or service they might like to buy.

In conclusion, please do post personal photos to your business feed. Make it 1/3 or 1/4 or whatever amount you feel comfortable with. Just don’t leave them out totally. The bajillion beautiful baby and kid photos you took should not be off limits when good photos can be hard to come by. Try sharing a business point with your personal photo, if you want to make it more business focused. But don’t forget to just share on a personal level sometimes too. That’s what social media is all about: sharing and building relationships, personal images included.  

 

Father Schaefer and the Bad*ss Brand: When a Bold Brand Doesn’t Work

“Bad*ss Your Brand” by Pia Silva has a ton of great strategy for small businesses. Silva does point out though that it’s hard to pull off a bold, edgy brand. There’s more than one way a bold brand can fail.

The prime example that comes to mind is the personal brand of Father Schaefer*. Coming from a military background and just off of a military tour, Father Schaefer gave sermons that were direct and discipline oriented. Our parish wasn’t used to this new tone. A theme that seemed to show up in almost every sermon was the need to come on time to church. You can imagine how well this went over with the congregation. Each week people would stream in late, and wait to get a browbeating at the start of every sermon. It wasn’t that we (ok my family was in this group) didn’t want to come on time, it is just easier said than done!

I felt so bad about it, I apologized to Father Schaefer on the way out of church one Sunday. I was surprised by the meek and kind response I received. I was later impressed by Father Schaefer’s service when he  regularly visited our home. He didn’t question my decision to stay home from church to keep my newborn away from germs. He just continued to visit for a couple months until politely saying I might like to start back to church.

During this time, the rest of the church was getting more on edge by sermons they couldn’t live up to. One teenager burst into tears because her family came late and she perceived Father to be staring at her. Sooner than later Father was transferred to another position.

This is example of where a big bold personality didn’t fit in a small parish. But you can also look at it as the misapplication of bold personal brand.

The funny twist to the story is that Father Schaefer achieved some degree of fame shortly later. His stance on guns won him some praise on a local radio show. Though a priest, he had warded off a burglar from his rectory by pulling out a gun, which he shot!

You can imagine how much his personality appealed to fellow Marines. His big bold personal brand didn’t fit our little parish but it was just perfect for Marines overseas.

A couple of takeaway lessons from this story are that a big bold brand DOESN’T work if: 1) your larger organization doesn’t understand and won’t support it, 2) people only see your hardcore brand and not the (caring/honest/attentive)  person behind it, or 3) you are appealing to the wrong audience with your brand.

I’m sure Father Schaefer is happy serving in his new hospital position, and I’d guess the Marines he previously served miss him. I know I do.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent

 

What Taylor Swift Could Teach Us About Branding

by Maile Ann Schunk

You’ve probably heard the new single “Look What You Made Me Do” released by Taylor Swift. Did it strike a nerve? I had to navigate to Apple Music to check it out. When I first heard it though, I shrugged and told my husband, “It’s not that good..” I didn’t foresee the drama that would unfold as the news media covered their interpretation of the song. “It’s a dis song,” one teenager plainly stated in a video interview.

I agree with that statement, but I feel the song is much more than that. If we look beyond some of Taylor Swift’s personal motivations for writing the song, we can see this as an attempt to regain control of her brand.

{Definition of Brand: A brand can narrowly be defined as your promise to your customer. It more widely encompasses every touchpoint and impression you make that does or doesn’t help relate that promise.} 

Could this song be less about vengeance and more of a counterpunch to the accusations made about this songwriter? The song is her attempt to enter the conversation about how she’s viewed.

If you’ve followed Taylor Swift at all, you know she wrote a thoughtful op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. In it, she philosophized and strategized about the future of music artists and their audiences. She is definitely keen on the business side of her artistry. Here are some of the ways she schools us on branding.

  • Be authentic.  One reason Taylor Swift has been able to stay at the top of the charts has been her ability to connect with her audience, regardless of what persona she puts out there. This record is charted to perform just as well, despite an arguably significant shift in persona. How is she able to do this?

    It’s because she presents an authentic part of her personality. This contributes to making her records personable, likable, and in the end, buyable. At the same time, it also makes her brand sustainable – something she can continue to deliver. This is the lesson: You want your brand to be rooted in who you are or who the company is. This makes the brand more likable AND sustainable.
  • It’s ok to be hated. Now that we’re clear on the fact that you want people to like you, let’s clarify further. Not everyone has to like you. In fact, by focusing down on the main group of people that you want to sell to, you can express more of your company culture and core values in a way that they understand. This may earn you some haters. In the end, that’s ok. The point is, it’s better to embrace your brand and have haters, because on the other end you will also be creating superfans who share your values and opinions. There’s more to this dynamic in the book Bad*ss Your Brand by Pia Silva.

    Taylor Swift has always pushed the envelope with artistic self-expression. She’s become bolder and bolder in her confessional songwriting, which has earned her some enemies. I don’t agree with getting into feuds with other celebrities, I think she’d be much happier if she kept those identities a secret. However, my point is – she has been pretty fearless in her self-expression and this has translated into a large number of fans and superfans.
  • Value your brand. Take some time to think about how you’re different and what core values and sustainable advantages set you apart. Instead of looking at what everyone else is doing and copying it, think about a message or an offering you can provide that is different. Crafting your brand is worth it!

    Taylor Swift was a confessional songwriter from the start. Not only her artistry and songwriting have improved over the years, this brand has become clearer and more vibrant as well.
  • Don’t let someone else define your brand for you. When Kanye West released video footage of Taylor Swift agreeing to his song, he tried to make her look like a disingenuous schemer. Instead of ignoring this or allowing her manager to handle it, she publicly spoke to it and now this song addresses it as well. There’s something to the phrase – be so brilliant, they can’t ignore you. She may have lost the immediate publicity battle, but she’s winning the war. If she didn’t address the issue, she could literally lose thousands or millions of dollars if fans became disenchanted with her and her brand.

I hear “Look What You Made Me Do” on the radio now. I can’t help but relate to the jilted dreamer, and appreciate the branding work she’s done. Yeah, I have to admit, I think it’s brilliant.