No matter where you are on the writer/author journey, whether you’re writing your first book, or you’ve already published 15 books, it’s never too late to think about, consider, and review “your brand”. What are you communicating to others? What do other people think of when they think of you? How can you take control of that? This is what we’re going to discuss today.
What is a brand? What is YOUR Brand?
I’m not really wild about the terminology. After all, when I think of brands, I think of my mom choosing to use Tide detergent over some other brand — I don’t normally think of individuals as brands. It seems to reduce human beings into commodities. However, it is used so often in our culture now that sometimes it becomes easier to adopt certain language for ease in communication rather than try to fight it, so here we go.
Let’s talk about brands, and specifically, your brand. Even if you say, “I don’t have a brand,” the truth is, you do. We all do.
Our brand is the way in which others think of us and experience us. When people see you or hear your name, they have some kind of response to you. They have their own ideas of who you are based on your website, your social media posts, meeting you at networking events, volunteering together, and every other way we interact and communicate with others. Whatever it is, other people have an opinion and a response to you.
Dr. Milton Erickson who was a great therapist and hypnotherapist said, “The meaning of your communication is the response that it elicits.” Meaning, it isn’t what you intended to communicate that’s important; it’s how it is received that is the true meaning of your communication. That puts the responsibility right back on each of us. Now that we know this, what do we do? Find out how others react to our brand and make adjustments if necessary.
Your brand is also about recognition. We all know Starbucks, Nike, Apple, and Microsoft. How can readers recognize you?
Your brand is your promise to the reader. What can they consistently expect from you?
The challenging piece to an author brand is that it can be confusing simply because it is made up of so many different parts. There are the colors on your website, the fonts you choose to use, your logo, etc. There is the newsletter you write, your blog or podcast, social media posts and what you say during interviews. But your brand is made up of other things too, such as your personality, your values which come through in everything you write, your physical attributes, the way you carry yourself when you walk across the room or across the stage.
The point is some aspects of a brand are easy to define and other aspects are more intangible, yet you need to consider all of these elements. With that in mind, what do we do? We already have a brand, whether we consciously put it together or not, so first you want to review yours and make sure it matches up to who you are.
Here are some more ways to build your author brand:
1. Identify your market. Specifically who your reader is.
We frequently talk about the importance of identifying your market, but nowhere is this more important than when you are defining and creating your own author brand. When I was in radio broadcasting, one of the stations I worked for was a very popular easy-listening station. Our demographic was women 25-54 years old, but through market research we broke it down far more than that and discovered our ideal listener was a woman, 41 years old, with a college education, two kids, and a house with a garage. It actually went far deeper than that, but I’m just going by memory here. Now, every author’s market is broader than that, but when you speak to the one, you speak to the many. However, if you try to speak to the many, you speak to no one.
2. Influence how you want to be seen and heard by developing your own voice.
Just as you developed your own voice through your writing, now you are developing your own voice for publicity and marketing. By knowing exactly who you are going after, you can begin developing who you are and how you are going to reach them. How do you want others to see, hear, feel, and experience you?
I have a client, Steve Brown, who is a futurist. He worked with Intel for years. He is the voice for the future of technology. As you can imagine, his brand voice is very different from my client, Rabbi Daniel Cohen, who is emphasizing how we can open up in the world again with more love and compassion for others. Two very different voices — yet both are so important and needed in our world.
3. How are you unique? You must figure out your unique selling proposition, or USP.
Knowing how you are unique in this noisy, crazy, busy world is key to everything. If you can’t define yourself and figure out how to stand out, you will be lost in the crowd. As you may have heard me say before, and I’m saying it yet again, “Anyone can stand up these days. The trick is, how are you going to stand out?”
Try this: Go on a research expedition and discover what your niche mates are doing. (Niche mates are other authors/experts writing to a similar audience.) Make a list of their names, and then go have a look at their websites, social media profiles, listen, read, and watch the interviews they’ve done, etc. What do they emphasize? What is THEIR unique selling proposition? Once you do that for all of those on your list, consider and reflect on how you are different from them.
Something may jump out at you, but if not then try another tactic. Ask those who are close to you what they think is unique about you. If you have a responsive network, ask them. Questions such as, “Why do you read my books? What is it that you think I stand for? What are my unique strengths?” will give you mountains of helpful feedback. People love to share their opinions, so ask for them. They may say something utterly unique to you that you simply hadn’t seen as a strength before. This is the power of asking for input.
4. Fulfill expectations.
Your readers expect certain things from you. If you are generally an inspiring, uplifting person, they won’t understand it if you suddenly start ranting about something you find unfair or unjust. That’s not to say that you can’t express a wide variety of thoughts and feelings; we’re all human after all, and authenticity is expected these days. But you’ll need to find the balance between expanding the parameters of your brand occasionally and completely blowing up your brand. Two entirely different things.
5. Know what you’re branding.
Remember, you are the brand — not your book. You may go on to write many books or even expand into other products or services at some point in the future. I like to think of you, the author, as the umbrella brand. Everything else falls underneath that, kind of like an organizational chart. So who are you? Who are you trying to reach? And how can you communicate that in a way that people get easily.
6. Choose a look.
This is the fun part, and it’s what most people think of when they think about branding. Now that you know what you’re branding, who your market is, and how you are unique, what is the look you want to create? This is all about your website, the colors, the fonts, the logo, etc. What pictures, graphics and other elements will you use? A classic example is if you’re a gardener, posing in pictures wearing a suit is probably not the best choice. If you’re a guy, you’re probably not going to use a lot of pink swirly lines and hearts all over your pages. Now, if that’s what you want and your market understands that, then go for it. I’m not trying to limit anyone, you just want to have branding that makes sense for who you are.
7. Be consistent with your brand.
If your website is made up of certain colors and specific fonts, then use those colors for your social media profiles, letterhead, business cards, online event graphics, etc. You now have a look. Use it.
Bottom line: You are your own brand. What are you communicating to others? Is it consistent? Do you like it? It’s good to review this and update it accordingly because life is an evolution. We all change, so it’s good to keep up with yourself! And, if you need to do an overhaul, there is no time like the present. Go to it and develop that brand.
To your success!
P.S. I have the delightful pleasure of producing a podcast called Something You Should Know. If you or someone you know should be a guest, let me know about it. You can read more here. And, I just discovered this page needs to be updated again, but until that time, I will simply let you know we are at 1.4 million downloads every 30 days now, and growing strong.
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