Before attending WordCamp Milwaukee earlier today I read “Sometimes we all need a reminder,” an excellent post by my friend John Hawkins about the WordPress/WordCamp community. It was through the filter of John’s post that I took in an amazing day that has helped me clarify some recent struggles I’ve been having with the community and branding concepts.
Today, I had the honor and pleasure of being part of a community in which I felt I belonged. Some of the people I had never met, most I have known for no more than a few years.
The “old” friends
The day began grabbing coffee with my friends Phil Gerbyshak and Brandie McCallum before the event. While still at the coffee shop our friend Cindi Thomas walked in with her two littlemen and grabbed some breakfast as well. In an hour Phil and Cindi would be on stage leading off two of the WordCamp tracks. Herein began my dilemma for the day, which of these two friends, both talking about important topics, would I go support and learn from? (I chose Cindy, sorry Phil.) Cindi and Phil are two of my “oldest” friends met through the miracle that is social media.
The “first timers”
I was surprised to learn that both Phil and Brandi would be attending their first WordCamp. It’s one of those moments when you realize that while six or seven WordCamps doesn’t make me an old timer, it certainly makes me part of the community. It was even more gratifying to be able to share my friend and business partner Shelby’s unused ticket with Brandi. It’s rewarding to be the enabler that helps expand a community like WordPress/WordCamp. There were plenty of first timers at the event today and it’s important as a old timer to welcome and help them feel comfortable in the community they have joined.
The “newer” friends”
A year ago Shelby and I spoke at the first WordCamp Milwaukee. It remains one of our favorite speaking gigs as it was in front of our hometown audience. It took a year and attending the second WordCamp Milwaukee to realize the impact we had on others. About 20 times today I was asked “Where’s Shelby?” Shelby was unable to attend this year and people were wondering why we were not speaking again. More importantly those folks remembered us and talked about what they had taken away from the presentation. That was both humbling and gratifying at the same time.
It was all those queries about “Where’s Shelby?” that got me thinking about the brand that we’ve created through our She / He Media company and #SheHeChat Twitter chat. When I wrote “How to build a unique content marketing platform” I theorized that our unique back and forth style of writing and speaking resonates with the community we are growing. When you participate in a community it’s important to see how that community sees and thinks about you. Another way to say that “your brand.”
While my personal brand within the WordPress/WordCamp community is clear to those in the community I was having trouble seeing the forest through the trees. It’s important to understand how the communities you participate in view or brand you. Armed with that knowledge you can do fun things. For example, I could have had a t-shirt printed for WordCamp Milwaukee that said “I’ve got no idea where Shelby is today.” Sure it’s kind of snarky but it also would have been fun and spoken to the brand.
Sticking with that same theme, next time Shelby and I attend a WordCamp or any conference together we could have equally funny t-shirts printed to support and enforce our brand. Maybe Shelby’s could say “The “She” in SheHe comes first for a reason.” And mine might say “The “She” in SheHe comes first because it sounds better.”
Putting community and brand together
Your community has a brand and so do you. Figure out what both those brands are and how they compliment each other. The goal with community should always be to bring more to the table than you take away. At least that’s my take, what’s yours?