We may have more ways to promote ourselves than in any other time in history, but it's harder than ever to get anybody's attention. Social media is partly at fault. We can click a button and shoot a message to hundreds, thousands, even millions of people. We crave comments, shares, love and respect. But too often, it's silence we hear. It's a lonely feeling.
Even face to face, mingling at a party or networking conference, we deal with attention deficit. Everybody's rushing to get the next word in, but who's listening? If you Google "how to get people to pay attention," you'll open up a bottomless box of books, blogs, seminars, online courses and personal coaches standing at the ready. I went down that rabbit hole myself while doing research on Amelia Earhart's iconic career.
You might assume, as I once did, Amelia achieved ultimate fame because she was 1) a great pilot, 2) the only female pilot of her day, and 3) comfortable in the limelight. The weird thing is, not one of these assumptions is true. Amelia may have been heroic, but she wasn't a great pilot. Many other female pilots, before and during her time, exhibited equal daring and greater skill. We don't remember Amelia's talented rivals (they called themselves the Devil Breed). We only remember Amelia. Why?
What did she have that no other female pilot did? My answer: an iconic personal brand that was way ahead of its time.
Amelia may have appeared shy and retiring, but she was one of the original and best marketers of all time. She and her husband, George Putnam, created the brand persona we still remember, decades after her mysterious disappearance. When Amelia vanished on her last round-the-world flight, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, she was a household name.
She had a phobia about strangers touching her, but she coped as best she could. When she talked, crowds of eager fans strained to hear her words. (She had a flat Midwestern delivery.) They soaked up her stories. And they devoured her books like candy. Basically, her fans felt less lonely because she was out there, flying around the globe, giving speeches and winning aviation awards. Oh, I can't forget this: It helped that she looked great in helmets, googles and breeks (trousers).
Rather than boasting about her prowess, though, she made flying an airplane seem as fun and effortless as driving a car. She didn't make it all about her: her daring, her aviation records, her beauty, her style. Instead, she made her fans feel hopeful, more brave and free. She showed them possibilities they'd never dreamed of, and she invited them to join her in her aviation adventures. This was her superpower (one of them, anyway): She made her personal story, everyone's story: You're a lot braver than you think. Love that!