I have always been fascinated by Chris Crocker, possibly because we have a mutual friend and I spent much of my early twenties video chatting with him late at night. Or maybe it was because he created the most discussed YouTube video of all time (in all categories) by begging people to leave Britney Spears alone. OR because HBO just announced that they are making a documentary about him.
Regardless of how you feel about Chris Crocker, you cannot deny that he was a trailblazer in the world of YouTube celebrities and there is so much we can learn from his career.
What can Chris Crocker teach us about personal branding?
1. We need to start talking to our kids about personal branding.
Chris didn’t join YouTube in hopes of becoming an internet sensation. He joined YouTube because a lot of people his age were on YouTube and it looked fun. Chris Crocker started posting videos when he was sixteen years old and those videos changed the rest of his career. This generation is getting online at an even younger age and it will be even more important to talk to our children about personal branding and what you put online.
2. Don’t be afraid of non-traditional career paths.
Chris has been able to turn his viral YouTube video into a rather successful career. We tend to encourage young professionals not to take big risks and to be very cautious about what they are posting online. Because Chris was one of the first YouTube celebrities, he had no way of knowing how one video could change his life. However, it worked well for him because Chris has a very bold attitude and I cannot imagine him happily following a traditional career path. Don’t be afraid to take risks and follow a new path, just take a look at how others before you have made it work and learn from them.
3. Test out different revenue models.
Over the course of Chris’s career he has created e-zines, launched autobiographical comic strips, appeared in music videos, recorded and released hit songs and designed t-shirts for Hot Topic. When you take a non-traditional career path you have to test out different revenue models to see what works. It takes a lot of work to build a huge following but it takes even more work to figure out how to monetize that following.
4. Find a brand manager as soon as the word “contract” is muttered.
It is a tough concept to go from thinking of “you” as a sixteen-year-old boy playing on the internet to someone who needs a brand manager but it’s necessary. Chris dealt with a lot of bad press early in his career. A good business manager and publicist could have helped navigate those situations and flip them into opportunities. Once the word “contract” is muttered you need to start seeking out a brand manager.
5. Don’t be afraid to evolve.
Chris’s famous “Leave Britney Alone” video was released in 2007 and five years later Chris is (understandably) a completely different person. Chris has tested out different platforms, worked in different industries and last year Chris traded his blonde wig and false eyelashes for a short dark crew cut and a more traditionally masculine look. Chris is constantly evolving and without apology. His fans have never stopped being interested in what he is going to do next. In traditional television characters follow a pretty expected path but when you are documenting real life, things can change quickly and unexpectedly. Don’t be afraid to evolve.