This guest post is by Lisa Haggis
If you’re quite content living an average life, you’re probably not going to enjoy the company of this month’s thought leader, Srini Rao. But if you’re harboring a burning desire to leave the world (at least) a little better than you left it, while tapping into your own rare talents, you’ll adore Srini and the wisdom he curates and shares through his business, Unmistakable Media.
His flagship product, The Unmistakable Creative Podcast has been a favorite of mine for a few years now and lives up to its name – truly standing out amongst the hum of predictable business advice online. I’m thrilled to feature Srini’s work this month on Purpose Profile, getting right down to the essence of his noteworthy brand.
BUILT ON PURPOSE
Very little detective work is needed to see that Unmistakable Media is all about driving people to reach their full potential. “I’d say that our unofficial mission or purpose is to help people uncover what makes them unmistakable, and figure out what unique contribution they can make to the world,” Srini explains. “Our business is about telling stories, ones that provide models of possibility for people’s lives.”
And with every story told, every piece of content shared, he and his team push eager audience members out of the traps of mediocrity and beyond what they think is possible.
MAKING IT A LIVING
Srini began sharing personal musings online in 2009 with a blog titled The Skool of Life. “I believe there are things you should have learned in school but never did,” he declared on its about page. Readers got to witness an honest and introspective journey as he documented lessons on extraordinary living. When he began a series interviewing up and coming bloggers, he recognized and captured the opportunity to pivot the interview series into a podcast of its own, Blogcast FM, what is now The Unmistakable Creative Podcast.
This inception story is a needed reminder that big enterprises like Unmistakable Media aren’t cooked up on the drawing board; they happen through action -- by meandering and pivoting along the until bigger opportunities are identified and seized.
The journey presented some personal challenges for Srini that many will relate to. “The need for validation and constant comparison to other people was one of our struggles. When I let go of that, the momentum really shifted,” he imparts. “I don’t know that you completely lose that altogether, but the less it matters, the better of you seem to be. The paradox if is that the less you need it, the more of it you get, you have to remind yourself that it doesn’t matter.”
Today, Srini heads up a number of brands under the Unmistakable Media umbrella. On top of the podcast, he and his team have also rolled out event offerings, including The Instigator Experience and The Unmistakable Salon. He has published a bestselling book and is working on another. No matter what the product, Srini's fans know that everything he churns out will deliver on a bigger promise of value, one cleverly articulated on the podcast homepage: Provoking them to “do the best work of their life.”
POINTS OF DISTINCTION
There’s plenty of comparable brands and media companies out there vying for the attention of the Unmistakable Media tribe as they scramble to make a name for themselves, but Srini stands out in his distinctive approach – the collection of themes he holds true to and takes to an extreme across all facets of the business.
1) Diverse Storytelling
“Extracting unmistakable stories out of people is my superpower,” Srini boldly states in his personal bio. Capitalizing on this talent, he has built a significant following and a library of over 500 wisdom-packed interviews. While the trend in podcasting seems to lean toward shorter formula-based formats focusing on punchy how-to tips, there’s a level of depth and intimacy to Srini’s style that I find uniquely his. He sets a casual and contemplative rhythm in his conversations that leaves room to really honor his guests and their stories.
Visit the podcast’s About page and you’re met, not with Srini’s face or his story, but with a proud cross-section of the kinds of guests he features on the show – and they are diverse! From happiness researchers, to peak performance psychologists, to ex-cons, Srini seeks out stories and insights that reach far beyond the usual voices in the online space. An obvious people person, he combines an eclectic network of connections with a passion for creating all sorts of media to keep things interesting and unexpected.
2) Solving “Extraordinary”
There is one burning question that Srini seems infinitely curious about, and it is at the root of every piece of content and conversation he shares: “What makes people extraordinary?”
“I don’t believe that we were meant to be ordinary. If we were, we would not have been born with so many extraordinary abilities.” This is how Srini introduces one of his early products, The Extraordinary Achiever’s Manifesto. He is constantly seeking out and curating the golden rules that can propel everyday people into the unmistakable beings he believes they can be.
He stands solidly behind this faith in people and their unique abilities. He writes along this theme in his bestselling book “The Art of Being Unmistakable,” as well as a multitude of personal online musings.
This genuine curiosity makes his interviewing all the more engaging; conversation delves deep into the origins and catalysts behind a success story instead of just skimming the surface. He covers topics with guests ranging from psychology to habits to relationships, all in the service of the bigger question. He finishes every interview by seeking his guests’ perspective, asking, “What do you think it is that makes somebody or something unmistakable?”
3) Instigators Only
Upon landing on the Unmistakable Media homepage, you’re met with an action button front and center. It says “Instigate.”
The company unapologetically creates for a very specific kind of tribe. “This is a place for instigators, rebels, and people with a pathological inability to accept the status quo,” the about page warns. “This is a place where there are no roads, but one where you can pave your own… where we embrace the fact that you were born to create.”
To Srini, being unmistakable and an instigator seem to go hand in hand. Throughout his work (often with the help of a good surfing metaphor), he has consistently promoted rule-breaking, going against the grain, and disregarding your comfort zone. He has given himself the title “Chief Creative Instigator” at Unmistakable Media to accentuate the importance of this ideology.
It’s also echoed in the naming of the company’s signature live event, The Instigator Experience – an exclusive gathering of only 60 people and 9 hand-picked speakers. The event trailer (which is likely to cause goose bumps if you’re a softy like me) is a powerful call-to-arms for those that “refuse to leave the world how it is.” If you’re part of his tribe – if you’re ready to stand up and actually do something about your passion, your talent, your art – this is your role call. You'll know that you have found your people.
The character identity of Unmistakable Media strongly amplifies the rebellious “instigator” side of the brand, displaying an attitude and perspective that definitely stands out.
Again, experimentation played an important role in setting the brand direction. “Sometime in 2013 I decided to teach myself how to draw. Keep in mind I can’t draw at all, and still can’t. But I did a 30 day project where I document my progress. It gave me a whole new level of appreciation for visual art.” He attributes much of the highly visual nature of the brand to doing that 30 day project. “As far as how I’d describe it,” he continues, regarding the identity itself, “Unmistakable.”
The characteristics of the brand combine to project an air of boldness, creativity, play, restlessness, and perhaps a dose of mischief (in a good way).
Visually, this personality is achieved through the use of a bold, high-contrast palette of red, white, and black. The art style and hand-written fonts suggest an interesting mash-up of comic book and street art influences – pulling up associations of action, playfulness, and rulebreaking. Body fonts are simple, big, and spacious, polishing things off with a no-nonsense vibe.
The use of bold and vibrant language rounds out this very dynamic brand personality. Statements like “insanely interesting” and “extremely additive” have a punch to them that captures attention and conveys attitude, along with the tendency to creatively capitalize words for impact (no permission necessary).
Yup, if this brand were a person, I can see how it would very likely be an instigator.
Srini’s path to claiming his own Unmistakable identity seems to boil down to two key realizations along his journey: his message and his super power. Discovering (and leveraging) his talent for conversation-based storytelling added a whole new level to his work as an instigator and influencer. It has enabled him to do this work in a way that nobody else can.
So often we focus on what we do, when our true distinction lies in how we do it. We get clear on our individual message, but then follow the crowd in terms of how we get it out there. Have you identified and amplified use of your own super power in business and in life?