Keeping it Real: Remaking Your Narrative in the Pandemic Age

IMG_3311“We are supposed to change, aren’t we? I’m not the same person I was 10 years ago or even 10 months ago. I’m sure you’re not the same person you were as a kid, and you won’t be the same when you retire.

“We are supposed to change. Otherwise what’s the point of living?”

The above passage is a quote from me, or to be more specific, from a character in my upcoming fiction novel (#humblebrag.) But it’s also a message within the context of our lives in 2020, aka, The Year When It Happened.

I talk with clients almost every day about how to plan for the weeks ahead, and how (and when) they should get back to normal, whatever that means. We talk about brand narratives, and purpose, and whether what a brand said it was in the Old World will make any sense in the new one — and whether it should.

Because we are supposed to change. Because one day you’re making cars and the next you’re making ventilators. Because in moments of crisis and desperation, we discover who we truly are.

And if we are more ourselves and more real when times are tough, then why revert when things improve?

If we’ve learned anything from COVID-19 and mandatory quarantines, from Zoom meetings and awkward happy hours, it’s that real is better — in life, and especially in marketing.

Sorry, I digress (happens a lot around this time on whatever day this is.) My point is that your narrative — how you see yourself and how others see you — is likely going to change. I expect it already has, it’s just that you’re so busy trying to cope you haven’t noticed yet. Or maybe you don’t want to admit it, chalking up your new thoughts and feelings to an annoying yet temporary defense mechanism.

But here’s the thing about time: it doesn’t give a shit about your feelings. It moves forward, with or without you. You can try to swim against a current all you want, but eventually it will drag you down.

So don’t let it. Change your narrative and align your story with who you are now. And no matter what, don’t be afraid to be real.

Your LinkedIn profile is a good place to start. For example, the short description under my name used to work for me, but now I’m not so sure.

“Brand Marketer, Digital Strategist, Author.”

Okay, let’s unpack this:

“Brand Marketer” — I think I know what that means, and I expect those in my business think they know what that means, but let’s be honest: it’s so vague and broad that it means absolutely nothing. It’s a buzzword I put in years ago because I thought recruiters would look favorably upon the term. It was an image of myself that I didn’t even see, and still don’t. I’d totally make fun of that guy, and I AM that guy

“Digital Strategist” — Okay, we’re getting closer, but dude (yes I’m talking to myself), why are you describing yourself with a word from the 1970s? True, adding “strategist” to anything automatically makes it super important, but there’s got to be more to who I am and why I do what I do — or maybe not, which is even more depressing

“Author” — This one still works. I can back it up with facts, namely that I’ve written and published books. No bestsellers mind you, and I still need to keep the day job for like, I don’t know, however long forever is, but at least “author” is accurate and a hell of lot better than “storyteller.”

Oh wait, I call myself that as well. But as I say in my bio copy:

I am a storyteller. Yeah, I know — that description falls between super lame and intolerable douchebag. But I can assure you that 1) it’s true, and 2) I am definitely somewhere right in the middle.

See that? I use a tired cliche to define my life’s calling, but I’m self-deprecating about it which, for me, is as real as it gets.

Now to be fair, you may not need to change much of anything. Your narrative might be just fine and that’s okay. Nevertheless, It certainly doesn’t hurt to do a “self-audit” and take a look at yourself through post-pandemic glasses.

Besides, you owe it to yourself to look. And you need not be scared of who looks back.

Because we are supposed to change. Otherwise, what’s the point of living?


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