This continues my series of conversations with professionals who are blazing a trail online - and in the world. Who doesn't feel they know Chris Brogan?
Like all the people I admire, he walks the talk and keeps it real.
Prolific, fair, honest, curious all apply to Chris. He does so much that sometimes we lose all sense of proportion, especially when we demand more. The man is not perfect - who is? He's working hard at sharing what he knows and does it with as many as possible.
I can see people like him, Chris Guillebeau, and many more who I will feature here as helping make a true difference in the way we think about work - and in showing us a way to carve our own path.
I asked Chris for a few minutes of his time in between his activities and as he's readying to roll out his new book - Trust Agents - so we could have a brief conversation with you.
A while back we talked about thought leadership at Conversation Agent. The main question was are blogs the new thought leadership? What do you think?
Chris B: I don't think blogs are the thought leadership. I think blogs are a great tool to let people express their thoughts in a visible, portable way, and that this makes them powerful. I don't need the Wall Street Journal to say whether my idea deserves air. I just post it.
Thus, blogs aren't the thought leadership; they're the tool that best permits us access to people's minds.
Many have been talking about time and attention. You are focusing on the very delicate topic of trust. It seems to me that you need trust not just to survive the turbulent times of incredible change we're undergoing.
If I were writing a book on trust agents, I would center it on how they allow you to thrive on the opportunities that this disruption to the status quo has brought. Am I close enough?
Chris B: Yes. Julien Smith and I noticed a while back that certain people were making their own game. Perez Hilton, for instance, really took on People magazine and several other pop culture publications.
I think that these opportunities to become trusted start with finding a way to make one's own game, to build relationships through more human-centric networking, and to find a way to build up loyal communities around you.
Tell us a little bit of how you got here. What are the ideas and people that influenced you? Why?
Chris B: It's a long route. I started with computers in 1984, when the first Mac came out. I'd seen Guy Kawasaki (when he worked for Apple) present at the Boston Computer Society, and I thought, "Wow! I want to be just like him!"
Computers were never about programs and geek stuff for me. They were tools to connect to humans. I used bulletin board services (BBSs) and AOL and CompuServ and Prodigy back in the day, and when the Internet came around, I was pretty quick to jump on and start finding ways to connect to people and build relationships.
Professionally, I'm a product of many great books mixed with making several trial and error experiences translate into wisdom. I guess of all the books, Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a big one for me. But I've read thousands of books, seeking ways to up the ante on my own performance.
I started blogging in 1998 when I was called journaling, and I started podcasting in 2006. In neither case was I way out there ahead of the pack. I was a second-wave adopter compared to many. And yet, Because I've been at this stuff for well over a decade, I have a bunch of experiences that have shaped me professionally.
I know that many who are making a difference today are there because they want to change the world. In a way, the tools have made it easier to spread the word, but it is really about intent.
When did you first realize you were going to step forward to help transform marketing? Was there a specific event or conversation that inspired you?
Chris B: One day, after attending a PodCamp event (I'm co-founder, along with Christopher S. Penn), I realized that simply making media and trying to be heard wasn't MY goal. It was what most of the people at this particular room were interested in, but I realized that I wanted to take what I knew and use it to do what I'd been doing in different forms my entire professional life: I wanted to help people understand each other in a business setting.
As a technologist at my wireless company, I was often the guy brought in to tell the senior team what the techies were saying and to tell the techies what the business people were interested in from their point of view.
But I could back up a bit before that PodCamp, to the BarCamp I attended in the summer of 2006. I went into my CTO's office and told him frantically that we had to go to these kinds of events, that the energy level was powerful, that it would transform our developers into passionate communities of code-sharers. He couldn't have cared less.
I realized then and there that my role would be to help the passionate ones within companies align better with their business objectives, at least from the business communications and relationships perspective.
If you were to share one word of advice with your team, what would it be?
Chris B: Be helpful. I say this all the time. It's just simply the easiest thing to do repeatedly that delivers value, earns appreciation, and translates into more meaningful relationships.
What about you? What's your philosophy? How do you feel you contribute? Feel free to ask any questions of Chris as well.