It's a small word that means so much. You've seen it volleyed around a lot lately: in Facebook groups, webinars, blog posts, e-courses. But do you really know what it means?
For most of us, branding seems like just another thing we need to check off a list: write blog post, feed cat, figure out brand. It's so much more than that, though. Branding isn't just the colors you use, the graphics you create, or the topics you write about. Branding is everything: it's the basis of your business, the way to present yourself to the world.
Your brand isn't about the way something looks, it's about your message to the world.
You've seen great brands. The ones that you remember even if you don't use their products or follow their values. Starbucks, Apple, Oprah. All you have to do is Google strong branding and you'll see so many examples. And why are these so recognizable? Why do people all over the world know the Coca-Cola logo or recognize the McDonald's Golden Arches? Because those companies (and people) are creating a strong brand that people know.
A strong brand isn't just about the logo or the color scheme. Sure, that's a part of it and it can be the most recognizable aspect because we're attracted to visuals before anything else, but without something stronger behind the scenes, a great logo won't make you successful.
Case Study: Taylor Swift
I know, I know, you may hate Taylor. But if you've been paying attention, you can't deny that she's mastered her personal brand.
When Taylor Swift first started out, she was a country music singer with a talent for engaging with real people, teens and tweens (why is that even a word?) in particular. She wrote her on lyrics, wore clothes that we had in our own closest, and sang about stuff we were experiencing.
Over the years, as she's gotten older and more famous, her style has changed and she's writing about more adult issues, but she's never forgotten that the reason she's so successful is because of her fans.
She hangs out where they are: on Instagram, Tumblr. She shares her life (and so many pictures of her cats). She sends personalized Christmas gifts to fans. And it's all perfectly curated to reach her audience.
Now, I'm not saying that Taylor does these things to trick people or that she's faking her interest in her fans, but she is very careful about what she puts online and how she presents herself. And she's a marketing genius because of it. Really, she completely changed music genres (and tried her hand at acting), and successful not because of her talent, but because of her loyal fans. She's always thinking of them: who they are, what they want to see, how to reach them. Her concerts are designed to make her relatable. You may joke about the number of famous boyfriends she's had, but she's really never been involved in a scandal. She puts out what she knows people want to see.
How does this apply to you?
So you're not a rock star with millions of fans and a record contract. But, you are one person trying to run a business. That's basically what Taylor is doing: running her life as a business.
You need to know who you want to reach (even if it is tweens) and figure out where they're hanging out. You need to make sure those photos someone posts of you still communicate who you are striving to be.
Don't be fake: people can see that from a mile away, but remember that you don't need to put everything out there either. Have you ever seen Taylor leaving the gym in sweats? No, because that's not how she wants to be portrayed.
Your brand is everything you do: from the content you create to the colors you choose, from the images you post on Instagram to the way you interact with clients. Once someone finds you online, they should recognize you everywhere. They should know which Pinterest pins are yours, which brands you've designed, which copy you've written. (Now, of course, if you're working for someone else, then the work needs to reflect who THEY are, but when you're creating for your own business, you should be instantly recognizable).
The one thing that influences your brand most? Your message.
In order to know who you're trying to reach and how you want to present yourself to them you need to know what you want to say.
This is where you need to know your WHY. That's another one of those terms that's being tossed around a lot right now, but that's because it's so important.
In the past, bloggers were able to grow online (and maybe even earn some money) by posting about their lives and anything that came to them. Now, that's not going to fly. (Believe me, I tried that for a while and it totally bombed.) You have to have a message you want to share with the world, or at least with the group of people you're trying to reach.
First, you need to get to know yourself. Find out what you believe and value (you can get some help with that here). Those are going to affect not only what you do, but how you do it. I value friendship, faith, family, and helping those who don't quite know what's coming next.
Second, you need to know what you need to say to the world. I believe that each of us has something valuable to say and we just need to figure out what that is. Usually, it's based on the life you're living already. Maybe something in your past is driving you to change things, or the dreams you have for the future don't fit with the norm. I have a passion for helping people see that they need to find the things that make them unique and use them, instead of trying to be just like everyone else. (I've created a worksheet to help you figure out what these things might be.)
Third, you need to get comfortable with your story. You don't have to tell people every gritty detail (in fact, that won't get you what you want anyway ), but you do need to figure out how your experiences can relate to and help others. I came into the online business world through a series of unexpected events, but I know now that I'm right where I'm meant to be.
If you need help figuring out your message, or want to focus more on sharing it with the world, you can use the worksheet I've created to help you dig into what you really need to say to the world.