How to Stay Relevant In an Accelerated World

By: Guest | April 3, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Steve Kaplan.

As I motor around today’s social media and mobile outlets, I’m both encouraged and discouraged by what I see.

I’m encouraged by the number of people who have found a way to become, and remain, relevant while building a solid credential behind their personal brand.

I’m discouraged because, while more and more people are actively building their brands, the overall percentage is alarmingly low.

Keeping your brand (you) relevant is the same challenge faced by companies as they seek to keep their brands relevant in an ever changing and accelerated world.

I’ve spent a large part of my career working with new products for large companies such as Procter & Gamble and Hershey’s. Along the way, I’ve often wondered why very few people engage in new product development for their personal brands.

Why don’t people actively work to reinvent themselves for the (marketplace) world in which they live? Why do some brands have the ability to change with the times and remain relevant while others simply fade away?

The answer is pretty simple. Some brands make it an ongoing priority to redefine who they are and what they do, while others are too focused on the bottom line or other short-term priorities to care.

Those brands still here after decades are the ones who understand what their customers want, have a concept of the world around them, assess their products’ place in the world, and evolve or create new products to meet the assessment.

In other words, they stay relevant.

Remember Blockbuster and Netflix? Blockbuster lost sight of what the marketplace was doing, partially because they were tied up in real estate with their stores and couldn’t fathom people not showing up at their doors. By the time they embraced the online purchasing frenzy, Netflix was annihilating them, with others soon to follow.

The Blockbuster brand image was that of an old brand behind the times, tarnished almost beyond repair. While they have somewhat clawed back, it came at a heavy price, and in no way are they back to where they were before the switch to online rentals. Perhaps if they would have made staying relevant a priority, they might have seen things coming a little sooner and been able to salvage more of their brand image.

A ‘staying relevant’ rule of thumb here for everyone is this: If you are truly relevant five years from now you will not be doing the things you are doing today in the same way you are doing them today.

The lesson for us all is to remember to not rest on our laurels, to always remain focused on the world around us, and to remain relevant. As for those of you not building your brand, I offer one piece of advice:

Get in the game.

How are you working to stay relevant in an accelerated world?

Steve Kaplan helps businesses and individuals achieve success by writing about his experiences, speaking around the world, and consulting. He’s a two-time New York Times bestselling author and co-producer of the Broadway musical Leap of Faith, opening in April 2012. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and visit  his website.

  • stevekaplanlive

    @SpinSucks @ginidietrich Thanks again, Lisa and Gini. Glad you both enjoyed the post and look forward to the commentary!

  • I think the notion of a personal brand is a dangerous one. Shaping a personal brand identity implies that it’s artificial or otherwise a house of cards.  
    While I won’t rehash the ‘authenticity’ argument here, it’s interpreted externally (i.e what others perceive vs. what we *are*.  Reputation and integrity are two very different things. 😉 

    • stevekaplanlive

       @jasonkonopinski jasonkonopinski I certainly agree with your last point, Jason. But why does a personal brand have to imply that it’s artificial? What we say, how we say it, what we write, what we put on the internet — all of it reflects our “personal brand.” Certainly there is a risk of abuse from people who say/do/post things that are not true to who they are. But then again, there are also plenty of examples where this is not the case, where people have built solid foundations online that represent a lot of who they are offline.
      My point with all of this is that in today’s world the lines between who we are personally and who we are professionally are increasingly blurry (especially online), and it’s up to us whether we want to take control and use it to our advantage (i.e. to showcase who we are as individuals, engage with others, build new relationships, etc.) or just sit back and allow people to form opinions without us having a say in who we are.

      •  @stevekaplanlive That’s the rub, as I see it. Certainly, we can be pro-active about reputation management and relationship building has clear professional objectives, but when you make every piece of communication about strategy, personality gets pushed out and replaced with ‘brand messaging.’ That’s just not sustainable.
        There’s a Catch 22 with online communications – we want honest, unfettered discourse and conversation, but, because others are watching, there’s a subtext of performance. Tricky stuff. 

        •  @jasonkonopinski  @stevekaplanlive Ugh. That is tricky stuff. It’s making my head hurt.

        •  @Erin F.  @stevekaplanlive My job here is done. To the Bat Cave! <zoooooooooooooom>

        • stevekaplanlive

           @jasonkonopinski  @Erin F. You’ve definitely given us a lot to think about. I agree – it’s very tricky stuff. Thanks again, Jason…or should I say Bruce??

        •  @jasonkonopinski You’re a punk. 😉
          I think we should have a podcast about this topic. Podcasting is another one of my recent obsessions and, now, maybe this subject. @stevekaplanlive 

        •  @Erin F.  @stevekaplanlive Let’s do it!  TylerOrchard and I have kicked around the idea as well. 🙂 

        •  @jasonkonopinski  @stevekaplanlive  TylerOrchard I know I want to get into podcasting this year and possibly move away from the videos, so, yes, let’s talk about it and do it. We can have our own show! You have no idea how excited I already am. I’m such a nerd.

  • For me, the question of relevance comes down to two things (and I’ve been obsessing about them the past few weeks, so I keep talking about them): First, does what I’m doing bring and sustain joy? Not happiness, not wealth; joy, even if it’s a joy accompanied by the frustrations of building a new site or designing new business cards. Second, does what I’m doing add value to my audience? If what I do brings both joy to me and adds value to my audience, I should be relevant – if only with a select group of individuals.

    • …and that is not my latest conversation. Don’t click on the link. I need to ask Livefyre  about it.

      •  @Erin F.  Livefyre Hey Erin, that’s really strange. Would you mind dropping an e-mail to with any additional details/insight you may have? We’d be more than happy to help you figure that one out. Thanks!

        •  @JMattHicks  You all have the best customer service. I just sent an email, although I don’t think I have much insight into what the snafu might be.

        •  @Erin F. Thanks for those kind words, Erin 🙂 Our dev team will help us sort this one out, and when we do, we’ll be right back in touch with ya.
          We sure appreciate your kindness and patience as we do so!

    • stevekaplanlive

       @Erin F. Very well put, Erin. I agree that those are two key markers of relevance. I’d also argue that if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, then you’re automatically not going to add value to your audience. I can’t tell you how many blogs/sites I’ve seen where the content feels stale and forced, and to me that is likely because the people who are behind it don’t have a passion for what they are discussing. That passion (or lack thereof) always shines through for me. Thanks for sharing!

      •  @stevekaplanlive Exactly. The two seem to go hand-in-hand. I was trying to streamline my comment and neglected to mention the component you address.

  • stevekaplanlive

    @jasonkonopinski I really appreciated your comment. Thanks for sharing the post and fostering a discussion.

  • stevekaplanlive

    @rachaelseda Thanks for sharing my post, Rachael. Would love to hear your thoughts on it.

  • My personal observations of the Netflix/Blockbuster example came just this weekend when I saw that a Blockbuster store I used to frequent was replaced with a generic discount furniture store and my travels to the next (just to get The Muppets for my little girl) had me looking around to what was a shell of its former self. it used to be a full store and now it looks as if 20 percent of the floor is unused. It’s almost like they are on the verge of giving up the in-store model for renting movies.

    • stevekaplanlive

       @Anthony_Rodriguez That’s very interesting. I’ve passed by one or two “ghost town” Blockbusters in recent years. They are definitely moving more toward the online rental concept, albeit at a much slower pace than Netflix. It will be interesting to watch over the next few years. Thanks for your insight, Anthony.

  • stevekaplanlive

    @arodriguez3310 Thanks for sharing the post and commenting, Anthony. I appreciated your insight.

    • arodriguez3310

      @stevekaplanlive I’d like to share this with my mgmt so they would refocus but all I think it would do is just go over their heads 🙁

      • stevekaplanlive

        @arodriguez3310 Maybe it will – but it never hurts to try, right? Worth a shot!

  • jennwhinnem

    I’ve surrendered to the idea that I will never be 100% fully on top of everything. That said, when I do learn of new technologies/platforms/apps/networks etc, I check them out.
    As for “why do these brands not evolve?” I think you miss one thing – many people are still hoping that social media will go away. The annual report was a lot safer than, say, twitter.
    Those are my very scattered $.02. I enjoyed this, thanks Steve.

    • stevekaplanlive

       @jennwhinnem jennwhinnem Great points, Jenn. I am definitely the first to admit that I am not 100% on top of the newest technology or social media tool. I’d never get any sleep otherwise! And I think you’re very astute in pointing out that there are still plenty of people who feel that social media is just a trend. The platforms themselves may not last forever, but I do think the concept of a more “social” business marketplace is here to stay, whether brands like it or not! Thanks for sharing – I’m glad you enjoyed.

  • stevekaplanlive

    @rhondahurwitz Ha! Great dinosaur comparison, Rhonda. Glad you enjoyed the post. cc @ginidietrich

  • stevekaplanlive

    @nancycawleyjean Thanks for sharing my post, Nancy! What did you think?

  • stevekaplanlive

    @shiftcomm Thanks for sharing my post!

  • CyberlandGal

    How to Stay Relevant In an Accelerated World via @ginidietrich & @kmueller62 #pr #marketing

  • terrence_ngu

    Great stuff and thanks for sharing 🙂 Most people feel underutilized and don’t have the flexibility to do what they do best. We get boxed into positions and job descriptions that we can do adequately, but usually don’t tap into our core strengths. It’s time to stay relevant and focus on those that feel right – those that mesh well with our skills, interests, and greater purpose.

  • terrence_ngu

    Great stuff and thanks for sharing 🙂 Most people feel underutilized and don’t have the flexibility to do what they do best. We get boxed into positions and job descriptions that we can do adequately, but usually don’t tap into our core strengths. It’s time to stay relevant and focus on those that feel right – those that mesh well with our skills, interests, and greater purpose.

  • terrence_ngu

    Great stuff and thanks for sharing 🙂 Most people feel underutilized and don’t have the flexibility to do what they do best. We get boxed into positions and job descriptions that we can do adequately, but usually don’t tap into our core strengths. It’s time to stay relevant and focus on those that feel right – those that mesh well with our skills, interests, and greater purpose.

  • lizscherer

    @DonRosenthal Morning Don! Happy Wed!

    • DonRosenthal

      @lizscherer Good morning! Still pretty early here in CA…

      • lizscherer

        @DonRosenthal Yeah, I thought that when you popped up on the stream.

  • stevekaplanlive

    @debra_feldman Thanks for sharing the post, Debra! Would you agree with my assessment?

  • stevekaplanlive

    @ryanleecox Thanks for sharing the post, Ryan. Hope you found it useful.

    • ryanleecox

      @stevekaplanlive You’re quite welcome Steve! I did very much so!

      • stevekaplanlive

        @ryanleecox So glad to hear that – thanks!

  • stevekaplanlive

    @giselenmendez Thanks for sharing my post, Gisele. Would you agree with what I said?

    • GiseleNMendez

      @stevekaplanlive Of course I do, it’s hard to see big brands dying because they weren’t open-minded enough to embrace change

      • stevekaplanlive

        @giselenmendez I couldn’t agree more. Thanks.

  • dariasteigman

    @shonali Congrats on the new gig. Sounds exciting.

    • shonali

      @dariasteigman Thanks!

  • stevekaplanlive

    @iamadamgreen Thanks for sharing the post, Adam!

    • IAmAdamGreen

      @stevekaplanlive My pleasure. Thanks for contributing!

  • I think it also depends on what you’re selling. If you’re into a service then being or trying to be always on top is a must and you probably have to run, but if you’re into selling a product the matter is different. Coke doesn’t really care about an online presence, but it probably does from a customers relationship point of view. Not that this rule is always true as Kodak demonstrated but in a very general way if your business is a product once it’s good and correctly priced then there isn’t much to do in the online world. If you sell ideas or services then it’s another thing. Clearly both must do their business according to the latest technology and such but the product oriented business has no need to run, it just has to do it well.
    There are books which remains relevant after centuries and book which are for six months. It really depends the business you’re in. The same applies to posts and ebooks. Imho. 🙂
    Also the accelerated world burns everything at a higher pace and this is not always, or rarely, a good thing. Even a Ferrari can’t always be driven at full speed. 😉
    Does it makes sense?

  • Hadel

    RT @TishaOehmen RT @ShellyKramer: How to Stay Relevant In an Accelerated World via @ginidietrich

    • TishaOehmen

      @hadel thanks for the RT – how have you been?

      • Hadel

        @TishaOehmen You are always welcome. Am good and busy…How are you? Have a lovely weekend.

        • TishaOehmen

          @hadel Busy and good — sounds like me too! 🙂 have a wonderful weekend!