Last night, on the way home from a walk to the park, my sweet Pit Bull, Ivy, was waiting patiently for the “Walk” sign to illuminate so we could cross the street, when she noticed something in the darkness about five feet away.
Ivy looked a tad frightened, but mostly curious.
I turned to see what Ivy was looking at and saw that she was staring at a tall reflective office building with her Pittie image reflected in it from a distance.
Since the light had not yet turned for us to safely cross — and since Ivy was still a combination of scared and intrigued — I walked Ivy back toward the office building to show her that what she was seeing was her reflection and that there was nothing to be frightened of.
Smiling Pit Bull
The closer Ivy and I got to her reflection, the more and more she smiled.
She saw the cutest Pit Bull she had ever seen — and this Pittie was smiling back at her with the most friendly, happy Pittie smile!
Ivy made some sweet, soft whimpers of excitement as she chased this Pittie back and forth along the office building wall.
My heart broke as I realized that Ivy had never seen an outdoor mirror.
She has seen her beautiful reflection numerous times in mirrors at home but never expected there to be mirrors in the out of doors late at night and in the dark.
What You See is What You Reflect
Ivy eventually realized there wasn’t actually another real-life Pit Bull playing with her in the dark, but I think she purposely suspended her disbelief just long enough to enjoy her romp with this friendly creature in the office building reflection because it is not often that she gets to make a new friend.
And that is because Ivy has two strikes against her:
1. Ivy is a Pit Bull.
2. Ivy RAH-RAH-ROOs.
The Pit Bull strike is why I’m a personal branding coach on a personal mission to rebrand Pit Bulls as the sweet and lovable dogs they are — and why Ivy is KOTAW’s Brand Ambassador.
The RAH-RAH-ROO strike is equally as reprehensible as judging a dog by its breed because it is judging a dog by its bark.
Ivy is the most talkative dog I have ever had — or met!
I am convinced she picked up her “RAH RAH ROO” language from my daughters and me, as ever since she was a puppy, we would all do our own version of rah-rah-roo-ing whenever Ivy entered a room: Ivy! Ivy! Oh my God, it’s Ivy! Look how cute Ivy is! (In high-pitched girly tones this translates very closely to RAH-RAH-ROO!)
Ivy RAH-RAH-ROOs when she’s happy, excited, impatient and glad.
She vocalizes being annoyed, being hungry, being sleepy and wanting me to follow her to another room.
For people to equate her “barking” with being mean or aggressive is just as ridiculous as people seeing their own negative connotation of “Pit Bull” when they look at her. So many people look beyond Ivy’s smile, wagging tail and happy wiggle and see nothing but their own prejudice reflected back at them.
Don’t PEOPLE talk when they’re happy, sad, angry or elated?
The mere reality of “noise” — or lack of noise, for that matter — has nothing to do with the quality of someone’s heart.
So many people won’t let their dogs come near Ivy because she is a Pit Bull loudly RAH-RAH-ROO-ing with excitement and jubilee at the possibility of making a friend.
The small percentage of people who do let their dogs come near her will realize that Ivy will RAH-RAH-ROO so loudly that her bark can be heard for miles — just until the dog is actually right in front of her.
As soon as the dog has reached Ivy, she will become quiet and very shy, as most dogs don’t actually reach this point of closeness despite Ivy’s very loud and vocal pleas that they come visit her.
So when a dog is actually standing right in front of her, Ivy doesn’t quite know what to do.
She will make her body as small as she can make it and look nervous until the other dog wags its tail at her and lets her know it’s OK. And then Ivy becomes so monumentally grateful that it breaks my heart.
October is National Pit Bull Awareness Month.
Even if you aren’t a dog person, I would like you to use National Pit Bull Awareness Month to learn a lesson in branding from my magnanimous pittie, Ivy.
Just as Ivy looked at her reflection in the office building and saw a happy, friendly, smiley Pit Bull, I would like to encourage all fellow entrepreneurs and business owners to reflect into the world what you would like the world to reflect back to you.
You can’t put up a website, start a Google Plus page or tweet a link to your product and think the world is automatically going to reward you with a surge of website visitors, thousands of Google Plus fans and so many sales you can close up shop and retire off of your sudden (and miraculous) earnings.
Would YOU go to an unknown website from a Twitter link or add an unknown company to your Google Plus circles, someone who had done nothing but link to their site and product with a call to action of “BUY NOW” and “CLICK HERE” just because they said so?
I know I wouldn’t.
The proverbial “We buy from someone we trust” isn’t a marketing ploy.
If you reflect trustworthiness in your social media efforts, you have a much better shot of having trustworthy people reflect back to you than if all you do is post shady links.
If you are giving on social media — you read and comment on other people’s articles and share their material, you congratulate them on a job well done and engage them in meaningful conversations — you are much more likely to have giving people reflected back to you.
And yes, this means clicks to your website, sharing of your articles and possibly even sales of your product.
Platitudes and Personal Branding
There is nothing new about this personal branding advice — the give what you want to get platitude is not something I can take credit for.
But Ivy made me see it in another light when she reflected in the office building the kind of friend she wants to have.
And really, that’s all marketing is — that’s all storytelling is — seeing something old in a new way and putting your own special branding magic into it.
So please tell me — with your own unique spin — what YOU are doing in your social media (and real-life!) relationships to reflect into the world what you would like the world to reflect back to you.
And please do me a favor, in honor of Ivy and in honor of National Pit Bull Awareness Month: Next time you see a Pit Bull (or person) try to see them for who they are and not what your preconceived notions want you to see.
You may be surprised not to see something fearful, but instead a smiling, friendly creature who so desperately wants to be your friend.