As many of you are no doubt aware, I’m a music junkie (and if you weren’t aware, may I introduce you to my music blog, Press P for Play?). To put a finer point on it, I’m a huge Foo Fighters fan. I’ve listened to every album, B-side, and live recording more times than one could imagine. I have t-shirts and posters, and every concert and documentary on Blu-Ray. I picked up Dave Grohl’s directorial debut, the documentary Sound City, this week. I even share a birthday with the guy.
So when it was announced that Dave would be this year’s SXSW keynote speaker, my attention was caught. After all, I sometimes feel that SXSW was an event that was created exclusively for me (social media tools and platforms + hip startup companies + the hottest indie music = my personal heaven), and could how I miss the chance to hear what the man with the nickname “The Nicest Guy in Rock” would have to say about the fractured state of the music industry?
Little did I know, his speech, much like SXSW, would blend my two passions.
Dave’s speech, while touching on many topics, focused on finding your voice. He recalled the story of as a young boy in 1974, how he discovered Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” and was inspired to start making music on his own. Sitting in his bedroom, Dave practiced and worked hard to find his “voice”. He told about how he gambled everything by auditioning for the chance of a lifetime, becoming the drummer for Nirvana. The three members of Nirvana worked hard to continue perfecting their craft, left alone to find their “voice” without anyone telling them what to do. And Dave recalled how, after Kurt Cobain’s unexpected death, he suffered to keep his voice.
When he felt that he wanted to make music again, Dave recorded an album’s worth of songs, all by himself (he played every instrument). Since no one knew he was making it, he was again unhindered by outside influence when it came to his voice. He released the album under the name “The Foo Fighters”, in an attempt to disguise who he was, and to create the impression that it was a band (and not, as he put it, a “one strung-out coffee junkie scrambling from one instrument to the next”).
In expressing the importance of finding a voice, Dave railed against the people who tear down other’s creativity, and maintained that your voice is the one thing that is uniquely you. “What matters most is that it’s your voice,”
“Who’s to say what is a good voice and what’s not a good voice? The Voice? Imagine Bob Dylan standing there singing ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in front of Christina Aguilera. ‘I think it’s a little nasally and sharp.’”, Dave joked.
The speech was simultaneously inspiring and entertaining, but I kept thinking about how it ties into reputation management. Just like musicians, there’s a sea of communications professionals striving to be heard. Unfortunately, not every PR professional, marketing manager, or social media expert has found their voice, and it’s what separates the people who are playing at a bowling alley from the ones who are selling out arenas. The rockstars of our industry have a “voice”.
You might be wondering how do you find your voice. If you were given an absolute answer, you wouldn’t be able to find it on your own like Dave did. And honestly, if I knew a perfect formula, I’d be richer than I could ever imagine. However, I do have a few suggestions that you could use as starting points.
1. Write Like You Talk.
…or at least, a little bit. My point being is that you want to have an authentic voice. While sprinkling curse words into your content (more on that later) might be a bad idea, so too is being robotic. Your social media posts should be spirited, but not offensive. Edgy enough to show a flare, but not so edgy that you wouldn’t want your grandma seeing it. Look at it like a never-ending first date; you want to be interesting, but you never want to be so interesting that you turn someone off. If all else fails, write while you’re listening to upbeat music, or even smiling. I really believe a positive attitude during writing can be detected by the reader.
2. Behave yourself.
As I touched on in #1, you need to tow a fine line in civility. I know someone who’s an aspiring public relations professional, who will frequently post inappropriate (and way too personal), of information on her Twitter account, and take offensive photos on Instagram. Then, she’ll complain that no one wants to hire her. The first rule of the Internet is that nothing is really private. You never know who’s watching, and it can easily ruin your voice before you find it.
3. Find Your Passion.
As anyone who’s written a ten page paper on a boring subject in school can tell you, it’s near impossible to write about a subject that you have no interest in. Many of us don’t get to choose which clients we write for during the day, so why would you do the same thing with your free time? Find the stuff that interests you and share or create content for it. For instance, my passions are music and public relations/social media marketing. These also happen to be the two topics I created blogs for.
While finding your own voice may take some personal reflection, concentration, and hard work, it’s worth it in the end.
“There is no right or wrong. There is only your voice… Every human being is blessed with at least that, and who knows how long it will last. It’s there if you want it,” Dave Grohl said. “Left to your own devices you can find your own voice. Cherish it. Respect it. Nurture it. Challenge it. Stretch it.”
He’s right. Once you find your voice, it’s uniquely yours. S0, what’s your voice?
(You can find Dave Grohl’s full keynote speech here. Beware, language is NSFW).