The more people hear what I have to say, the stronger this lesson is impressed on me. And when I first came into the profession of basketball with a website and blogging and YouTube and the like, a part of me wondered if I should tail it back a bit — simply because people didn’t understand the blogging thing at first.
A guy who has his own voice to say whatever he likes on… his website? YouTube? Are you more serious about basketball or the internet?
I’ve had run-ins with the management of European basketball teams over things I’ve written. There are professional basketball team owners who dislike me to this day because of things I’ve written and refused to delete (and will never delete). This was all because it was a new thing for an individual to have his own voice and say what he liked and express it publicly and have the people respond to it positively. People could create their own empires from a computer without permission from anyone. And some folks were scared of that.
Things started to turn beginning about 5-6 years ago, when everyone started blogging, then everyone started recording videos and everyone started creating personal
brands websites. Then it was fine, more than fine, to be doing the stuff: I got calls from Nike and Finish Line and Gatorade and Buick and reality TV networks and others because of that voice and subsequent following that came from expressing it.
But I’m still me, take it or leave it. Most of the time that works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
I’ve developed enough of a brand and voice to say whatever the hell I feel — which means I don’t re-read my stuff to take out the possibly-offensive phrases before clicking “publish” (insert proofreading joke here, if you wish). My content still gets questioned or censored from time to time. My alma mater published, then deleted, a positive he-made-it-from-here success story about me after the school chancellor read some four-letter words on my website — I won’t go into full detail on this just yet as the proverbial book, as they say, is still open on the possibility of me (instead of some generic daytime TV personality from some even more generic speaker’s bureau) speaking there. But the story will be told one way or another.
My friend and colleague Dawnna told me two things about audiences that I always remember: One is; your audience is all the people who are where you were 5 years ago or 10 years ago or last week. They are the people who want to know how you got from where they currently are to where you currently are. And they will listen to what you have to tell them, no matter what form you share it in. The information is what brings them in.
The other thing Dawnna says is that you can never truly offend your true audience. Your true audience is the people who are fans for the exact reason that other people are not — because you are who you are and you express yourself how you do.
We all like to feel like we are, in some part of life, a part of something that not everyone is a part of. That we are doing something exclusive that only we know about. We all want to feel, in some way, like we are insiders, and outsiders can’t sit at the table with us. When I started creating what became my brand, I wasn’t aiming to create that group; I wasn’t even consciously aware of the philosophy. But it exists, and it’s very real.
Your audience doesn’t want you to censor yourself or smooth your edges or try to pull everyone in. They want you to be you — that’s what we all buy into when we attach ourselves to a brand name, whether it’s an automobile, a laptop computer, or a human being. When you’re fully being your true self, there will always be people who don’t agree, and they will never be your fans. I stopped trying to convert them a long time ago.