When you start your own thing, you usually start small. Over time you grow, you evolve, you change, and hopefully stay committed to your principles and beliefs. That’s what people start respecting you for. But often you keep growing and you end up with a brand identity growing on you, becoming a corporate identity, eventually turning into a brand.
People often see companies as, you know, companies — with secretaries and meetings and teams and corporate events and fancy birthday parties. Companies do have good or bad reputation, but in both cases they often feel quite distant, almost unreachable, and so much bigger and larger than us, or their products that we keep using. We hardly ever see people behind those organisations though — we might find them on the “About page”, but what we remember aren’t necessarily those people and their stories, but the company’s branding and their values. That’s good too, but I don’t think that’s good for everybody.
As a person behind a company, I’d love our readers seeing the people crafting our little magazine every single day rather than a company running it. When I post a rather personal tweet or message, encouraging conversations or just asking for an opinion or thoughts or advice, I keep seeing the same concerns raising up every single time. People are wondering why we would post things like that, and complain that they have nothing to do with what we do and the industry that we cater for. It makes me surprised every single time. It makes me sad, too.
Surely there isn’t a place for everything everywhere, but it’s important for me — and I believe for many other brands too — to not be seen as a big corporate entity — lifeless, speechless, thoughtless, and perhaps even careless. It has always been very important to me to ensure that whatever it is that we are doing, we stay personal all along the way. We show ourselves with pride of what we are building, with a strong sense of ownership and connection to our little books and conferences and workshops. We aren't a large corporate entity, we are a community-driven project, and we are very small, too. In fact, there is something almost magical and appreciative of a little, hard-working collective creating values and products that (hopefully) matter — to other people, but also to us.
With Smashing Magazine, it’s me, Vitaly, Iris, Markus, Cosima, Melanie, Marco, Kristina and Inge and Nadja and Cat, and Andrew and Owen and so many fantastic editors and authors and proofreaders who make it what it is every single day. Our Twitter account is mostly written, edited and sent out by yours truly, but sometimes you will see tweets written and sent out by Iris as well. We monitor what’s coming in and reply to the questions or suggestions as fast as we can. We don’t use any smart tools for tracking you, we just see what’s in there, and we act.
Our Facebook account is mostly managed by me as well, but sometimes Markus and Iris write posts there, too. When you see a message from us, it’s not just news sent out by machines scheduled at a given time — it’s us curating what we think is interesting or right for the reader, and it’s us providing our personal recommendations. And that’s where our personality does have a place.
So if you see a rather personal message from any brand, perhaps you could consider that there are also people on the other end of the line, and it’s probably so much better to communicate with an actual person, with a personal, humane tone and voice, rather than a machine spitting out news and links every other hour. Even if they sent out mishaps every now and again, or misspell a word, or send out a wrong link — all of it makes tweets and messages and emails genuine and honest; personal and relatable. And that’s, I believe, is so much more important than consistent, perfect and machinery communication.