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oklahoma songwriter / jazz musician ryan welton

Music, songwriting and the digital experience from the perspective of an old-school dude

Building your personal brand an ongoing, never-ending lesson

In my professional life, I’m a member of PRSA’s Oklahoma City chapter. During our monthly meeting today, I had the pleasure of meeting a director of placement from the University of Oklahoma and the OU student president of PRSSA.

We discussed a possible opportunity for me to speak on campus in late February, something I’d be honored to do — and I mentioned a possible topic.

Helping public relations professionals build their personal brands.

I believe it’s the most underdeveloped skill in the marketplace, and I’ve been passionate about it since my days in TV news. Frankly, it’s something I’m still learning how to do properly. However, after 22 years in the workplace, post-college, I have a good sense of what my online audience would say about me from consuming my content.

Ryan plays the piano and writes songs. He likes music. Digs jazz, smooth jazz and 80s pop. Loves the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Rangers and occasionally comments about other teams and sports. Loves the Oklahoma City Thunder. Loves Oklahoma in general. Loves Texas, too.

Loves all-things weather. Storms. Snow. Haboobs! (Not really haboobs.)

Ryan also shows pictures of his food. Constantly. Oh, he runs a lot, too, and will post photos of the occasional beer, just to let you know he knows how to relax.

But the question I find myself asking is: Are those the things that define my brand online? That’s what I’m talking about when I say that professionals need to craft a personal brand and cultivate it.

For example, the running: That’s good. I do try to live a healthful lifestyle. I might be better served by morphing some of my food posts into content documenting how I eat more healthfully or drink lots of water. The point is that living a healthful lifestyle is a characteristic I strongly value.

Take the music part of it. That’s also good. I do write and play and do both at more than just a hobby level some of the time. I want to be taken seriously as a musician, but I also don’t take myself too seriously. I just love music, know music and want that to be part of my brand.

And sports will always be part of my world albeit not as much as it once was. I don’t watch it all the time like I did when I was in my 20s and 30s. However, from a personal brand perspective, I’m not sure that I care for it to be too much a part of me. Oh, sure: I’m not so serious about this process that I’d recommend stopping hot sports tweets to maintain focus on a personal brand, but thinking about these things is a vital part of the process.

Super long story short: The personal brand I’m trying to create can be summed up with a handful of words: Healthful, music, some sports, weather, positive. In reference to the last word there, for as long as I can remember, I’ve made it a point to avoid at all costs online confrontation. I haven’t always been successful, but I go out of my way to not be provocative, controversial or ever purposefully unkind.

Alongside a personal branding effort, I recommend that professionals build an online professional brand through various professional organizations and platforms such as LinkedIn. Connect with everybody (esp. on LinkedIn) and create content establishing yourself as expert in your field. I do great with the connection and am only starting to excel at the content, sharing if not creation.

So, why is any of this important? Can’t you just do your job, keep your head down and be content with that? Why the extra work? Well, a resume can only say so much about a person. We all have a public face, and we all have an opportunity to demonstrate expertise and focus. The content speaks to the expertise, and the branding speaks to the focus.

I struggle with audience development. I only have 1,157 Twitter followers because I neither tweet enough nor do I have enough interesting to say. My Instagram audience is struggling because my photos are mostly about me eating or running (ryanwelton2013), and my Snapchat audience (soonerryan2000) is almost nada because I don’t keep up with it.

I have the theory down. Mastered even. I could explain it and the how-to all day long and will delve deeper into it as my blogging adventures continue.

But relative to an opportunity to speak at OU (maybe, fingers crossed) I wouldn’t only be speaking to a group of young professionals about why it’s important, I would be instructing and re-instructing myself about the how-tos of a process that never, ever, ever ends.

 

 

A quick tutorial on playing George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”

One of the many tactics I have for driving traffic to my YouTube channel is creating useful content. In the case of a blog about music from a musician, I might as well create some easy, free how-to content.

I might not be able to teach the world to sing, but I could at least teach it how to play a little something.

In this case, I put together a video how-to for the piano basics of George Michael’s classic 1984 tune, “Careless Whisper,” with what is arguably the most famous sax lick ever to be written. I should note that any how-to from me is going to presume some basic piano knowledge and theory. Nothing too crazy.

The idea for this specific blog post came, of course, from Michael’s death on Christmas 2016. One of the most soulful voices ever heard is gone.

Michael’s most famous song is built upon these four chords: Dm9, Gm11, Am7 and a B-flat Major 7. Take a couple minutes and watch the rest of my quick tutorial on YouTube. Not selling anything. Promise.

It helps if you have a buddy who can play the saxophone to make it all sound awesome because the piano itself can’t quite carry it like a sax and Michael’s terrific voice could some 32 years ago. Of course, that didn’t keep me from giving it a try:

Thank you for stopping by my new blog. I appreciate any and all comments and would love it if you’d visit my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/soonerryan2000!

“Take Five,” a lesson in digital patience

It’s been a long, long time since I could call myself an aspiring blogger. Heck, in the early 2000s, I was on the tip of that movement, writing about reality television and pop culture, fancying myself to be some kind of flyover-state version of Perez Hilton without the snark, interest in fashion or bad taste in music.

Alas, I lost my interest in reality television and, for the most part, I lost most of my interest in all conventional television. I lost interest in my YouTube channel as well, which I had started back in 2006-07 as a way to promote my songwriting interests. I lost interest in that platform because I thought it was probably dead or dying with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about that.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about the demise of blogging.

But I couldn’t have been more right about the need to align those efforts with my interests, and that’s what brings us to today. Well, it takes us to 2013. I started up a little site called thenormanfiles and proceeded to post to it twice. Maybe three times. What was bubbling inside of me relative to interest and passion was met with a complete lack of hustle on the execution side of things.

Enter Gary Vaynerchuk. If you’re in digital, you know who this guy is, and he likely energizes you as he does me. I’d rather watch three hours of whatever he’s doing than I would anything on television these days, and (frankly) I don’t really want to spend three hours doing anything passive.

Gary brings out the hustle in people. Gets them energized.

Enter Dave Brubeck. If you know your music, especially your jazz, you know who he is, and you know who Paul Desmond is, and you know what “Take Five” is — the quintessential jazz song of the 20th Century. It’s also the best-selling jazz song of all time.

Learning to play this song, in all its 5/4 time signature glory, is a lesson in patience. You’ve got to practice it over and over and over and over until you get to where you can just play the notes without messing up. All the hustle in the world won’t help you master the precision required to master this tune.

And I certainly haven’t mastered it. I’ve got the basics down, however.

Ultimately, that’s why I’ve decided to return to the world of blogging. It’s a platform that supports both my need for hustle and my need for patience, a quest to bring together years of musical efforts and digital expertise into one existence propelling me into the next 10 years or so of my own.

Hope you’ll come along for the ride.

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