Lessons From Founding Father of America for Social Media and Personal Branding

founding father

I started writing this blog about 5 years ago, but as much as a book, it is still relevant today. I have added some more new perspectives and have since updated a lot of new directions and ideas when it comes to branding, digital marketing, and more.

The world has changed since the first version of this blog.  Our economy is booming, we survived the most memorable presidential election of my lifetime and technology continues to advance at a rapid pace. 

Today in the world, people have more other alternatives to communicate than previously. With the advent of the Internet, everyone now has a personal computer such as smartphones everywhere they go.

Smartphones allow us to connect with each other, broadcast messages, and engage with one another. I call them PMD in short or personal marketing devices that can also be seen as your one and only personal broadcast center.

Live video broadcasting offers tremendous opportunities for business people to capture and share their content, their experiences, and their stories. 

This has also become very easy to do and the quality is getting better and better every month.   Imagine what it would have been like if we could have captured live and broadcasted the debates held in Philadelphia as the Founding Fathers discussed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

I continue to see the failure of individuals to leverage technology to grow their brands and businesses.  If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, instead of the printing press he would be using WordPress,  Facebook and YouTube to share his stories, political opinions and scientific knowledge.  He was a printer remember and he knew the power and importance of content.

Content today, be it video or the written word is still critical for branding, marketing, and attracting attention. 

While more are adopting social media and video to tell their stories and market themselves,  many are not seizing the opportunity.  If you are not creating content, getting your message out, you are falling far behind your competitors.  In some cases so far behind that, you will never catch up. cause they are overwhelmed with time pressures and lack of understanding of the power that they have.

When we discuss independence and Independence Day there is no better time to look optimistically to the future.   Our nation is experiencing unprecedented growth and we are seeing amazing innovation.

It’s time for business people with the American Entrepreneurial Spirit from across the nation to take charge of their destiny and bring their brands and messages to target audiences.   Use the marketing tools that are free and in the palm of your hand.   It has never been easier to create a business or develop a marketable idea.   Use the tools that are provided to you for little or no cost to create content, tell your story, inspire others and bring to the market your talents, products or services.   You have the freedom to do it, now is the time to take your shot.

As we look back at the lessons of our Founding Fathers below, consider what they would do today.  I believe that they would be regularly leveraging social media, blogs, and videos to get their message to the masses. They would engage in conversations and share their vision for the future.  They would be making connections, building relationships, and beating their competition.   They would create large numbers of followers and they would become influencers.  They would use this influence to inspire and lead.

The pursuit of happiness today lies in our hands both literally and figuratively.  Use marketing technology as a vehicle for achieving success and your American dream.

First Published 2015

Today we celebrate Independence Day, July 4.   Beyond the fireworks and BBQs, we all should think about the great nation that we have the pleasure to be part of, and the many people who gave up their lives to give us the freedoms we enjoy.

About 240 years ago, one group of brilliant, industrious individuals met in the steamy Philadelphia room, agreed to do something that no one has done before, and that is to start a revolution.

All the sacrifices, risks, and prices to pay were great. Many lives were lost, lives and money destroyed, but the rewards were unmatched in human history. This American revolution changed the world for good and gave us a great country like the USA, America, freedom is sacred.

In today’s world, despite the extremely challenging economy (as mentioned written in the year 2015), we now have the freedom to pursue our business, our dreams, and express ourselves freely.

For most of us, this dream is being an entrepreneur, business owner, or simply pursuing a chosen profession or industry we decided and would love to work in.

Having this choice is an integral part of our national character and a driver of the entrepreneurial spirit.  While entrepreneurs and small businesses are under attack from many directions, the American entrepreneurial spirit lives on. (2018 update – the economic climate and environment for businesses on a national level and in many states have changed.

Companies small and large are hiring at a robust rate and as a matter of fact there are more jobs available than qualified people to fill them.  Companies are giving bonuses and GDP has steadily grown each month for the past year and a half.   The attacks on businesses and harsh regulation are both on the decline.)

The information age has brought with it new media vehicles that are allowing individuals to voice their opinions, develop creative ideas and start new businesses.  Like the Minutemen of Lexington and Concord, individuals can stand up, and take control of their own destinies like never before.  Like the “shot heard around the world” that started the American Revolution a simple Facebook post or Tweet can literally be seen around the world just in seconds.

Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Adams, Hancock and the other Founding Fathers all understood the importance of individuality and expression.  They were passionate individuals with a mission, and the creativity and drive to achieve their goal – a free and independent nation.   They risked their lives and some paid with them to achieve this goal.

I am sure that the founding father of America would have used all the social norms today at our fingertips to communicate with their contacts, friends, the public, and anyone interested in the cause.

Some social media vehicles include platforms like Facebook, Linked In, Youtube, Flickr, Instagram, and Twitter. They would have taken advantage of all these platforms to reach massive audiences.

Social networking and marketing did not exist, but these individuals knew the importance of publicity, having a personal brand, word of mouth marketing, networking, effective writing, publishing and public speaking. Do these skills and approaches sound familiar?  These techniques and others are the same that individuals need to capitalize on today to build their own personal brands, the foundation for a success in life, in business and in any community.

Did Franklin and Madison have a Blog?  Not exactly, however, they did have a printing press.  They were able to create a buzz using well-written content, printed books, flyers and newspapers. Papers and printed materials were circulated in pubs and homes across the 13 colonies and beyond.  People held discussion sessions and analyzed the information they were provided.  They debated and came up with their own comments and then shared materials with others who they thought would be sympathetic to their dreams of an independent democratic nation.

Today’s social media and personal branding gurus like Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee),  Dan Dchawbel (@DanSchawbel),  Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki), Peter Shankman (@skydiver), Seth Godin and others are taking similar approaches as the Founding Fathers.  

The Founding Fathers published articles and spoke to small and large groups to educate, motivate, and inspire individuals to become part of a movement that included the individual but also was much larger than any single person.

Let’s look at some of our Founding Fathers and how they relate to personal branding and communications.  There is much we that can learn from them and ways we can apply these lessons to social media marketing and personal branding efforts today.

George Washington – Founding Father and First President of the United States of America.  Washington is also

known for his leadership abilities, speaking skills, political savvy, and ability to stand out from the crowd.  Although he did not sign the Declaration of Independence his leadership of the Continental Army made him a front-runner to lead the country after the war.

During the Revolutionary War era, it took weeks or months to get information or important messages out to thousands of people, or just one letter from one colony to another.  Handwritten copies of the Declaration of Independence were circulated by hand around the 13 Colonies and read in front of groups gathered in pubs and in front of churches and other community buildings.

Today we can disseminate messages and blog articles in seconds using social media sites and digital communications.  The speed of distribution may have changed but the goals of communicating ideas messages and attracting attention remain the same.

We can learn from George Washington an important lesson, humility.  When offered the opportunity to become king of the new nation, he turned it down.  He also turned down the opportunity to run for a third term as president; instead, he retired.  In today’s world full of online and offline self-promoters and overexposed celebrities seeking the limelight, humility is a trait that seems to be in short supply.  We could all benefit from more people following Washington’s example of humility and grace.

One of the greatest authors of all time whole authored the Declaration of Independence agonized for many weeks before coming out with the historic document. He consulted with many founding fathers at that time before able to craft out the historic document. We can learn from the example that writing passionately about a subject and choosing the right words is essential.

Today in many of the social media platforms, the writing quality has undoubtedly suffered. It remains true that quality writing and compelling content still attract followers, while the uninteresting and low content continues to disgust and drive people away.

We are always on the move in the current fast-paced technology connected society. There are an alarming more than 4000 posts on Instagram being placed every single second. Jefferson’s quote still rings true today, “No person will have occasion to complain of the want of the time for who loses any.”

You can see how much can be done more when working and doing something to get things done.

People are always communicating and doing things. However, do you know how much of that doing is wasting time? How much of those time is spent on social media without any measured results? You need to measure your social media marketing; it must be planned and should have goals. Without plans or objectives, a lot of the doing is nothing more than wasting time.

John Hancock – We know the name and we know the signature, he was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence and did so in large and bold script.   John Hancock knew the importance of standing out, making a statement and doing something different.  My favorite quote from Hancock is: “The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions.” This statement is especially true today. To be successful in business relationships and trust need to be built.  To influence people to act, purchase products or services, information and proof of abilities need to be conveyed to the target audience.  Be bold, but also have objectives and consider how relationships are being forged.

Benjamin Franklin – Frequently clients ask what should be said or what information should be put out on social media streams?  This quote from Benjamin Franklin answers the question perfectly: Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.”

Benjamin Franklin was truly an original and individual who understood celebrity and personal branding.  His exploits, scientific experiments and inventions as well as his larger than life personality made him a celebrity in France before he arrived to solicit their support for the “cause.”

We have much to learn from Franklin but for now, his grasp on being relevant and authentic can be our take away.  If something interesting or newsworthy is done write about it, don’t just write something for the sake of writing something.

John Quincy Adams – Are you a leader or do you aspire to be one in business, politics, or in another field? If your answer is yes then this quote from John Quincy Adams is most appropriate: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” To be a leader you need to be relevant and interesting.  Self-promotion and self-serving actions will not attract the right attention or inspire others.  Remember that being successful is not what inspires; what motivates and inspires others are the stories and examples of overcoming challenges and hardships to become successful.

There is much we can learn from studying our Founding Fathers.  From humility to creating relevant content, their lessons can be applied to many facets of business and life today.

Every day of the year we should celebrate the precious gift of freedom we have been given.  We continue to enjoy this freedom because of the sacrifices of those who came before us and those who fight for us today in foreign lands and on other fronts.  We can honor them by embracing the American entrepreneurial spirit and following the examples set by our Founding Fathers.

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