Let's be honest: you don't really know me and I don't really know most of you. We've established online friendships through blogging, commenting, Tweeting, posting on writing forums, and generally supporting each other down the writerly yellow brick road.
While navigating these murky waters, I realize I'm solely responsible for managing my own "brand." And yes, even little ol' me with 104 followers and zero publications has a brand that requires attention.
Perhaps it's my background in PR, or maybe it's because I honestly do care about how I present myself to others, but in this time of internet anonymity, there is one thing I hold sacred:
My word is my personal sense of integrity.
My word is my moral compass.
My word is the only thing I can give my friends and readers.
Needless to say, I'm very cautious about giving it. I have to watch how many times I agree to read things or provide feedback on pages because I will easily put aside my own writing to help others. I've had to learn balance before my "good word" is suddenly no longer good.
Here's a perfect example: A few weeks ago, a blogging/tweeting/Bransforum friend asked me to read her full ms. I was honored that she wanted my input and I immediately agreed. About a week later, I was carrying around this incredible guilt--I couldn't get to her ms right away. I emailed her my apologies but I also offered a time frame in which I could get it to her. I waited nervously for her reply. What if she said, "Never mind"? Thankfully, she understood and the entire situation was a learning experience. I gave her my word and I intend to keep it.
I bring this up because something happened a few days ago that left a very bad taste in my mouth. A friend supported a cause out of the kindness of her heart and was promised a specific something in return. Timelines were discussed and agreements reached. But a few days ago, the person who benefitted from my friend's generosity turned around and said, "Sorry, no can do. Here's my sob story. You understand, right?"
My friend was furious and rightfully so. The provider gave their good word! Instead of offering an alternative, or an equally acceptable solution (or, um, offering the money back?), the person literally took the money and ran. And worse, by giving a laundry lists of personal reasons they couldn't meet their end of the deal, my friend is in a tough spot. What is she supposed to do, argue? Demand? Publicly ridicule?
I'm sure this person is lovely and wonderful and had to make a tough decision. I like to believe it wasn't easy for them to reach this decision, but the fact remains that they didn't offer any alternative. They didn't try to manage their brand.
Here's my bottom line: I assume everyone has a "good word" until they prove otherwise. In my eyes, everyone is dealt a deck of good intentions that is theirs to lose. This might be naive on my part and I might learn some very difficult life lessons as a result. But I will sleep sound at night knowing that I have successfully managed my brand, no matter how great or small it might be.