Yesterday I attended a private author’s reception held at The Loft for Lorelei Shellist. Lorelei just self-published a soul-revealing book called Runway Runaway about her love affair with Steve Clark, who was the guitarist for Def Leppard. It’s about lots of other things too (drugs, sex, survival, modeling, growth, spirit…), but her romance with Steve Clark is the driving theme.

I’ve already read at least a third of the book – in stolen moments when I should have been working. The book has that captivating, mesmerizing, unreal quality that People magazine has on me in the aisles at the grocery store. I simply cannot get enough of the gritty detail of lives so wildly different from my own, yet with personal feelings and concerns that feel so familiar to me in my own human experience. I both identify with and cannot imagine living these lives described on the pages of her book.

But this post isn’t really about Lorelei Shellist’s new book. It’s about communication (of course), connection and a little bit about passion-driven marketing, too.

Danger: Passionate Communication at Play

There are two huge lessons I took from this author’s reception yesterday: 1. It is so right to sell your soul, and 2. Passionate communication can still be alienating.

I’m going to do a separate blog post about selling your soul because it is so big and it deserves lots of treatment. This round, I’m going to focus on Care-full communication of your passionate work.

I was reminded the hard way during this author’s reception.

Passion Play

So, you have the context for the topic – Lorelei is sharing with us parts of her book, interspersed with some dramatic commentary that even includes catwalk demos and scarf flings. It is an engaging performance, endearing even in its imperfection. She is real and playful and interested in us and our interaction. After the reading/performance, Lorelei pulls up a chair within our semi-circle. “Let’s go around the room and share our passions with one another, shall we?” she not-really-askingly asks. The twelve women and one man sitting in the room shift in their chairs a bit. (I, of course, get giddily excited.)

The passions playing in that room varied from dog-lovers to interior designers to the care of human souls in need. This was one hell of a passionate group! Then we got to me and I said, “My passion is self-expression… assisting others in expressing themselves more powerfully, ideally in a way that helps them pay their bills.” Lorelei’s eyes held question-marks. I continued,  “So, I help entrepreneurs get their message crystal clear, assist them in making sure it reflects their passion and soul as well as reaches their market, and draw more clients and customers to their business.” She nodded enthusiastically, as did others in the room.

Stereotypes Are a Bad Idea

Then a conversation began about how lovely it is when your work is a reflection of your soul – and how important it is to know who you are drawing to your soulful business and speak to them directly (target-marketing, right?!)  To clarify my own business positioning, I said something like, “If you are a CPA who has chosen that career simply because it fits your lifestyle goals and schedule, you probably won’t want to work with me.” Heads nodded in recognition and, after comments from a few others, the conversation moved on.

The very last person to share in the group was a friend of mine. She was extremely reluctant to share and had, in fact, tried to sneak out before sharing. Lorelei called her back to the group for her turn. My friend started out with, “Well, my work is something even Michelle can’t help me market, I guess… I’m in accounting”, she said laughing. But she wasn’t really laughing…

P-ass-ion

Ugh.

Had I said that? It turns out that the message I sent to my friend, whether intended or not, is that I don’t believe a person can be passionate about accounting – a passionate CPA. While I absolutely believe one can be a passionate accountant (I know at least two that I can think of off the top of my head right now!), I can see how this miscommunication transpired. I used a stereotypical example to explain my positioning – and it backfired.

Lorelei noticed my friend’s discomfort and had a whole self-esteem session right there with my friend, expressing her own regard for accounting work. My friend’s discomfort increased. I could tell she just wished she could remove herself from this spotlight situation (which she doesn’t love under any circumstances anyway) and move on from the topic. I interjected my clarification as soon as I could – “Oh, wait! That’s not what I meant at all! I absolutely believe you can be passionate about accounting!… ” but it was too late. I had reinforced what my friend knows is already a stereotype about accountants, and therefore placed that non-passionate label on her.

As soon as our semi-circle broke and we all ventured off to buy books and say our goodbye’s, I leaped up and tried again to explain my true beliefs to my friend. She laughed and nodded and agreed that I could have miscommunicated my position, but I could tell she mostly just wanted us to stop talking about it.

It’s such a bummer when I communicate something I genuinely don’t believe by not being careful enough.

As Lorelei and I were handling my book purchase transaction, the topic came up again. I said how terrible I felt for sending that message, how much I hate when I do that.

Lorelei replied with, “And this is what you help people with, isn’t it?”, she said with understanding and even a bit of warmness. But it stung a little. But it’s the truth – I’m supposed to know this stuff.

Dig Deeper for Fabulous Examples

My point is – be careful out there. It’s important to express what you do and to use very clear examples that resonate with your listeners to illustrate your positioning. But dig deeper than stereotypes. They aren’t very interesting, frankly, as we’ve all probably heard the overused example so many times – and they likely don’t reflect the richness of your work, whatever it is. Plus, using one could very well actually alienate a whole segment of your potential market (passionate CPA’s in my case), and possibly inadvertently bum-out a friend.

Thank you, oskay, for the High Voltage Danger image.