[Ed.: “I Have An Idea…” is a series written for College AD by the author of Brands Win Championships, Jeremy Darlow.]
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” – Margaret Wolfe Hungerford
We love to judge a book by its cover. And by book, I mean people. And by cover, I mean anything superficial. Including whether or not you’re verified on Twitter. Yes, I’m serious. That little blue check mark has become one of the most sought after pieces of digital currency in today’s social media driven world. Perception is reality. And the reality is if you don’t have that check mark, people take you less seriously. Right or wrong.
In 2007, one of my favorite stunts and one that epitomizes the power of perception took place in a Washington D.C. metro. Joshua Bell, aged 39 and one of the most celebrated violinists in the world at the time, dressed as a “commoner” in street clothes, while playing music from the likes of Johann Sebastian Bach. Under normal performance circumstances, Bell would be playing in front of a packed symphony hall, thanks to his stellar talent. However, on this day, over one thousand people would pass by, and not once was there a crowd to bear witness to his greatness. A free show from one of the world’s best, yet very few would even stop to listen. Why? In simple terms, because he didn’t look the part. We tend to fall victim to assumption, often letting it cloud our judgment. In this case why would anyone expect the music coming from the same metro they pass through every day on their way to work, to be that of a world-renowned artist? Especially one dressed in jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt and a baseball cap. Very few of us would have stopped. Very few actually did. In Bell’s words: “It was a strange feeling, that people were actually, ah…ignoring me.” According to Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, who reported on this event back in 2007, Bell’s talent could command up to $1,000 a minute. On this day, he would make less than $60 for just short of an hour’s work. Not a bad wage for many of us, but nothing compared to his usual haul.
We judge. Hard. We assume. Hard. We critique. Hard. But that’s never going to change. We can read a story like this and scoff. But the reality is, we wouldn’t have stopped either. We would have looked at Bell and subconsciously denigrated his art based on the where he was playing and how he looked, without ever pausing to listen to and appreciate his music and talent.
Your coaching staff is no different. If your head coach is active on Twitter, but isn’t verified, instantly he or she is depreciated in my mind. No matter how effective they are as a coach, I’m turned off. You might not care that I’m prone to assumption. But, you know who else is? Recruits and parents of those recruits. They’re judging you too. They’re deciding which coach is best equipped to take their son or daughter to the next level. If your coach isn’t even respected enough to earn verification on Twitter, what does that say about their ability to watch over a loved-one?
Probably nothing and probably everything at the same time.
Jeremy Darlow is a brand marketing professional who, during his time at adidas, has worked with schools like Notre Dame, Michigan, and UCLA, and athletes like Jimmy Graham, Dwight Howard, and Lionel Messi. He works to help NCAA athletic programs and athletes build and elevate their brands to elite levels.