The Little Dog: Accepting & Accentuating Your Brand
About a year and a half ago, Susan adopted a Jack Russell-Chihuahua, Linus, who weighs in at an impressive nine pounds. Aside from eating, sleeping, shedding and modeling for Twitter pictures, Linus serves as Susan’s service dog. He is her constant companion; wherever Susan goes, Linus leads the way. Since rescuing Linus, Susan’s life has changed dramatically for the better.
Linus: Emergency Cute Edition
Personal vs. Professional Personas
As Susan incorporated Linus into her life, she acutely felt his absence at professional events—it became clear that Linus would need to join her. But how do you explain an animal at conferences or networking events? Aren’t professionals prying, nosy individuals looking to capitalize on—forgive me—the dog-eat-dog dynamic?
Susan initially was apprehensive about bringing Linus to certain work events and client meetings because she knew people would ask why he was there. Should she make an excuse? Make a joke? Be honest? Overshare?
Studies indicate that people want to work with those they like and trust. In fact, these character traits are preferred over objective knowledge and professionalism. Moreover, we are trained to pick up on nonverbal cues indicating dishonesty, whether or not we are accurate in our assessments. A twitch or an unconscious flicker of the eyes can make or break a business deal. There’s no good way around the truth. If Linus were to be a permanent and persistent staple of her professional life, Susan was going to make the most of him. Not only would he be her companion, but she set out to make him a part of the “Susan Kostal” brand: energy, creativity, communication, human connection.
Building the Brand
We built him a Twitter persona—connecting across all of our accounts for networking opportunities—took a plethora of darling photos, and brought him to events. Not only was he memorable as the only dog attendee, his presence drew attention to Susan. Event photographers snapped him from every angle. People wanted to take selfies with the dog. Attendees approached Susan to meet Linus or inquire as to why he was there. When she indicated he helped her with anxiety, she broke the ice. Who, in a room of complete strangers, doesn’t have at least a little social anxiety? In a sea of professional marketers spinning stories, Susan stood out as candid, open and honest.
Unsurprisingly, socialized and well-trained animals have a tremendous calming, positive effect on humans. People are instantly at ease when they notice a dog in their professional sphere. To date, Linus has brought up the energy and entertainment factor of three events: the Legal Marketing Association’s Annual Conference, AirBnB’s Startup Legal Weekend, and LinkedIn’s B2B Connect. We live-tweeted his presence during LMA so successfully that attendees granted him his own hashtag (#LMAPuppy). Most notably, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner called out Linus from the second row of LinkedIn’s B2B Connect conference, which led to another live-tweeting and social connecting round. The live streaming audience took to Twitter to ask to see more of him. When the LinkedIn call-to-action arrived a week later, Linus was featured prominently in the newsletter.
As marketing for the upcoming 2015 LMA Tech West, Linus is involved in a social media contest (#LMAPetPix) to encourage members to sign up and promote the conference in digital media. He may be the first ever legal PR pooch. Not only has Linus led to more successful professional connections, he has raised Susan’s profile and encouraged her business development efforts.
What’s My Little Dog?
When you’re building a professional brand, embrace all aspects of yourself and work within your means. You can’t bring services or personality you don’t have to a working relationship. Find a way to spin something that could draw questions into a memorable quirk: find and use your “little dog” strategically.
Jen Hand is a social media manager, small business consultant, project manager, and writer. Find more great content @jayhizzfoshizz.