My Name Is My Name: Everything I Know About Marketing Comes From ‘The Wire’

2013 March 16

Whenever someone asks me about my personal brand, I’m tempted to give them a link to the scene below from The Wire. In it, Marlo Stanfield declares that he’s ready to take on all comers in order to defend his place on the street. “My name is my name,” he growls.

And my name is my name. Since launching Secret Agent Research, I’ve gotten a fair bit of advice – both online and in person – on how to market it and how to use my existing profile and platforms to demonstrate my credibility and my expertise and how to be on my very best behavior in order to get the nice men and women in the audience to open their wallets to me. Apparently, becoming an entrepreneur means that your life is now one never-ending first date during which you must constantly be on guard to make the best impression possible, while clenching your hands into fists under the table and praying to the late Helen Gurley Brown that you’ve done enough ‘right’ to qualify for a second date.

Well, I suck at dating. I’m too enthusiastic, too aloof, don’t ask enough questions, ask too many, inevitably drop food into my cleavage, etc. Instead of meeting for coffee, I once drove across the country with a stranger. When it comes to behaving in a strictly prescribed way in order to bring about a narrowly-defined outcome, I balk. This would also explain why I don’t diet and can’t knit.

What I can do pretty damn well is act like myself. I can show up, speak knowledgeably and enthusiastically about what it is that I do and my credentials, ask people questions about what it is that they do, brainstorm ideas, tell anecdotes, offer opinions, gesticulate wildly. And I can WRITE. I can tell stories, deliver analysis, draw lines in the sand, dole out witticisms and thoughtful perspective. If you don’t like the me that comes across in person or on the page, there is not a whole lot I can do about that. I can strive not to interrupt you when you talk or to avoid penning all of my articles in text speak, but there is no amount of judicious brand management or personal marketing that can make you like the person behind and under it if you just don’t agree with how I see the world and my place in it.

And ultimately, I don’t need to get better at marketing; I need to get better at prospecting. We all do. You can’t, as an entrepreneur, a writer, a job hunter or just a human being, sell a feeling of ease or trust. You can only sell yourself as you are and work to get increasingly more astute at identifying prospective buyers, readers, employers, friends and lovers from those who aren’t a fit with what you’re offering. It’s not about crafting the perfect message, it’s about talking (in your own imperfect way) to the right audience. And it’s about never ever forgetting your name and making sure you’re always willing to stand behind it.

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