Personal branding is a topic that I’ve focused my entire creative career and expertise on. This probably started as a mission to be voted “most non-conformist” every year, from middle school to graduation day. Or perhaps it comes from my need to feel as if the work I’m doing has meaning and purpose that contributes to my personal identity. Or maybe it’s simply wanting to live a wholehearted, authentic, and creatively aligned life. Either way, I’m not backing down anytime soon.
Personal branding is recognizing that business is personal. People buy from people, therefore your personality is a business asset. And this is where personal branding gets tricky: who you are as a person is layered and complex and always evolving. So how do you know which aspects of your personality should show up in your business and where do you draw appropriate boundaries?
Think of your personal brand as a dinner party.Here at Braid Creative, in our one-on-one work and in our online branding program, we have an exercise called “dinner party” where you invite a handful of guests over for dinner—they can be celebrities, historical, fictional, or even an archetype—as a way to uncover aspects of your personal brand. If you were to invite 4-6 people over for dinner, who would it be? What are the qualities, characteristics, and values of these dinner guests? List out each of your guest’s expertise and what advice they would share. You can even describe what they wear.
Now here’s the kicker! Each of these guests actually represent an aspect of your own personality, expertise, or aspiration. Look for the themes and patterns across the “dinner table.” What do your guests have in common with each other? What do they have in common with you? Which guests really inspire and attract – what makes them so magnetic? If your guest could get ahold of your brand, what would they change or do first?
Earlier this week Tara posted the two things our clients always say when they hire us: 1) “I want a brand that feels like me!” and 2) “I want a brand that is clear.”
While the dinner party exercise may feel like you’re getting clarity around someone else’s personal brand, what you’re really doing is recognizing more specific aspects of yourself that you admire in them. You are narrowing in on that special thing that makes them memorable. You can more clearly see where the overlaps and disconnects are in how you’re making an impression on your own audience.
Once you know who you are and what you want to be known for, you can make more decisive decisions around the more surface-y stuff like the colors, logo design, and images you use on your website and in your social media. When you get stumped, you can ask, “What would my dinner guests say? How can I translate this bit of advice or inspiration into my own voice? Or how can I apply just a bit of the style that admire in them, to my own know-how?”
Remember! You’re never copy-catting your dinner guests, instead you are using that distilled aspect of them you love to remind yourself of your own voice and style. Try it the next time you write a blog post, email, or social media caption. Your dinner guests may just help you get across the message and tone you’ve been struggling to deliver!
Join the Free Webinar where I explain this more
On Friday, July 15th 2016 Tara and I held a webinar to talk about how to create a brand that feels authentic and attracts raving dream clients who not only love you but pay you what you’re worth as well as how to own your creative expertise and getting clear on what you sell.
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There are two big “wants” that motivate people to get their brand shaped up the way they really want it to be. You would think a strong branding desire would be to make more money, or gain more followers, or dream clients. Sure, those wants are in the mix, but the biggest pleas for branding help we hear time and time again:
1.) “I want to my brand to feel more like me! It just doesn’t look or sound like my personality or style!” and 2.) “I want my brand to be more clear! I want people to understand how to hire me, what I’m best at, and what they get from me!”
“I want a brand that feels like me.”
Stay tuned because Kathleen is going to be sharing about how to have a brand that feels more like you in the next couple of days: How to get your voice and style into your brand places, content, and conversations. This is how you attract and inspire clients, followers, even collaborators – by being yourself!
“I want a brand that is clear.”
Tara here, and I want to share more on the getting clear part, which is really about getting clear on what you sell. Once people are attracted or inspired by you, do they understand how to hire you? Do you?
Knowing what you sell, what your clients can expect along the way, and what they get at the end takes some work to hone in on. Most of it is really just self-editing. Can you cut out the services or products that you no longer want to be doing? What if you still offered these services – but just no longer devoted the space, the bullets, and the layers of explanation they require that are cluttering up your brand?
A clearer focus on what you sell doesn’t have to mean claiming a niche. It can simply mean keeping what you’re best at and what you want to be known for front and center in your brand messages — and cutting the rest.
Let’s say I only had thirty minutes to spend with you as a branding client or I could only share one exercise with you as a Braid ECourse student. If my goal was to help you get clear on what you sell, it would be the exercise “If You Wrote A Book.” I’ve shared it before but it’s just so darn distilling on so many levels. Here’s how to get the most out of this exercise:
1. Get out a piece of paper, and ask yourself: “if I wrote a book, what would it be?” Instead of thinking of all the ways you’re selling yourself on your website or trying to explain your process in your “closing the deal” brand conversations, let’s say you had to write a “how-to” book that revealed the work you create for your clients one-on-one. What if they had to do it themselves? What steps would you tell them to take? What would they learn in each of the chapters?
2. Start with the “chapters.” Don’t try to name your “book” first. Outline eight chapters to start. Avoid overly-clever or conceptual chapter names. Name your chapters in a straightforward way that describes what people actually get or learn as they read them. Then see if you can narrow or combine (edit!) down to just four chapters.
3. Next, add bullets to fill in the “at-a-glance” details. These are the tools, skills, practices, or insights you use. Three bullets for each chapter is a good rule to stick to. So four chapters with three bullets each means you’ve got twelve talking points right there – that simply and clearly explain what your clients can expect when they hire you.
Your “chapters” are the ingredients you deliver every time. This is the brand language you should be using to get clear about what people get from you. This is how you sell what you do!
4. Last, try to naming your “book.” The title can be a little more expressive, but the subhead should do the explaining. What I mean is, the title can be more infused with your personality or deeper purpose. But the subhead underneath should be as close as possible to the “thing” the “package” that people are buying from you. Our title could be “Your Secret Brand Blend,” but the subhead would be “how to brand you + what you do.” Your title could very well be the name of your offering, your package, or your product. It could be the name of your whole dang business if you’ve been struggling with that one, too.
5. Bonus, if you still want to get more of “you” into your brand, then write your introduction. It’s not the whole book, it’s not a memoir, and it’s definitely not “dear diary.” But your introduction touches on your own story or reason for doing the work you do. Guess what, you just rewrote your about me page for your website, and got some of that “I want it to feel like me” blended it with the “I want to be clear” messaging you’ve been wanting for your brand.
Give this exercise a try! It may be like opening a can of worms (because now you’ll really want to write that book), but I think it will be like opening a can of clarity! Get clear on what you sell, make it feel like you, get it blended into your brand – and get it out there.
We created a worksheet with more details on where this “book” content actually lives and shows up in your brand – both online and off.
[FREE WEBINAR]: On Friday, July 15th 2016 Kathleen and I hosted a free branding webinar where we shared more insights and answered on-topic questions attendees asked on getting clear about what you sell and how you inspire and attract paying clients to you in the first place. You can watch the replay here.
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Growing followers, a likeminded group of people who relate to your message, who value what you can share with them, and who want to engage in the conversation you’re putting out there – for so many of us this is how we dream of genuinely helping others, while positioning ourselves as inspiring creatives entrepreneurs that people want to subscribe to, buy from, trust and hire.
Tara here! And this sharing of ourselves and our content is what we’ve all been taught. I’m not here to disagree, it’s what I do too (literally, I’m doing it right now writing to you, “duh” as my eight year old says about every five seconds lately). But I do want to add onto the content sharing formula – what happens after you attract people to you? How does this translate into a business, an expertise, a person people trust?
What happens after you attract people to you? After you get noticed, how do you get hired?
Yeah, we want to put our personality and our point of view out there. Do it consistently and with passion, and over time the followers, subscribers, clients – will come. But part of the allure of “being the one who attracts” is more than just building a list. I think it may be socially wired into us (it probably started right around when we were eight years old, too) and has nothing to do with getting the clicks or closing the deal, but simply feeling like a big deal.
Whether through our newsletter, blog, Instagram posts, or in the face-to-face retreats or professional mixers we attend – don’t we all want to feel like the coolest most interesting gal at the party, with everyone wanting to shimmy on over and pick our brain?
This is getting noticed, and if we do it consistently, it’s becoming known for what it is we talk about, teach, or just make people feel good about. I know not all of us want to be that extroverted or sparkly when we’re doing it. That’s okay too. The nerdiest art director I ever had on my creative team—mad scientist hair, coke bottle glasses, goofy adorable grin, totally awkward in any social situation—uh, our clients freaking loved him. Get him started on a subject he loves and cares about (in the presentation to a boardroom I’m recalling, it was the idea of using interactive gameplay to engage your brand audience, whatever, I don’t even know what he said) and poof, people are entranced. He is being his most inspiring self in the moments when he’s sharing what he really knows, what he really cares about, in his own goofy style.
Okay, so inspiring people is great and all, but what about getting hired? Or getting people to click buy, sign up, and subscribe? Did those corporate suits sign off on what goofy guy was getting them all feeling good about? I don’t even remember! But that’s the point, because I do remember they asked for him to be their lead creative, and always wanted him in the meetings. Because even if his wild idea wasn’t their cup of tea, his passion was contagious, and his logical guiding approach—talking them through a subject they’d never even heard about—positioned himself ever-after in their minds as an eccentric but expert art director they wanted at their table.
The shift from inspiring to guiding happens in our content and in our conversations. When we get great at it, these two sides of our voice blend together like – well, like the personal brand we want to be known for and the expertise we want to get hired for.
I was recently hosting a round table with a group of creative entrepreneurs – a web designer, a brand consultant, a lawyer for creatives, and a leadership coach were some of the sparkly, inspiring, ladies at the table – but I knew they each had this expert “guide” within them, too.
Here’s a down and dirty exercise I shared with them to help frame up how we get noticed and how we get hired:
HOW I INSPIRE OTHERS (i.e. get noticed):
Complete these sentences. Clients (or followers, or even new acquaintances) are first attracted to, or inspired by, my personality + professional style, which is an Inspiring Mix of:
a. ________, b.________, c.________!
The personal motto that motivates and inspires me, and that I love sharing with others is:
HOW I GUIDE OTHERS (i.e. get hired):
Complete these sentences. Once my clients get to know me, or work with me, they trust my expertise which is a Guiding Mix of: a. ________, b.________, c.________.
The best piece of professional advice I practice myself and share with others is:
Now think about your Inspiring Mix showing up in places like your website headlines, brand messages, blog post introductions, and titles. Think about your Guiding Mix showing up in your sales pages, your newsletters, and your selling conversations with new clients. But really, it’s all about practicing the mix of inspiring and guiding. That’s when we get to create a business for ourselves that is a blend of who we are, and what we do.
If you want more how-to’s and insights into getting noticed and getting hired, be sure you're signed up for our weekly Letters for Creatives, and if you're ready to work with us one-on-one to develop your brand and really get you noticed, check out our work and give us a shout!
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