Personal Branding & Why You Need It
How can you create a personal brand and use it to your advantage?
Just as corporations build brands to promote specific products, you can build a brand based on what do you love, why do you do what you do, and the values and aspects about you that connect to your audience.
The structure of personal branding is much the same as corporate branding. First, a strong identity is developed that represents the entity and suggests the value a customer would want. If the entity commits to that value and consistently delivers it, customers learn to recognize and trust the entity. Over time, the symbol of the entity can by itself trigger a feeling of trust. And trust, in turn, generates more business.
Corporations typically generate many products and may have whole families of brands that fall under one overarching brand, like Microsoft or Kraft. As an author, you also may be selling multiple products, but in truth, you are always selling yourself—who you are. You are the creator, the manager, and the face of your brand.
How can a personal brand help you?
Selling books is not easy for independents. You need to reach a lot of people. As much as you might want to or try to, you can’t physically meet thousands of customers and talk to them directly, right? Personal branding helps you communicate who you are more quickly, broadly and efficiently to the people you do meet, and also makes it possible for your brand to go places you cannot, such as a poster in a window, an ad in a magazine, your business card, your website and all across the various social media accounts.
When readers approach you at a book signing or book festival, they won’t ask about your book so much as they will ask about you. Maybe they’ll ask why you chose your genre or settings, what in your background led you to write, what is your work style, your inspiration or heritage, or try to find something quirky in your personality. This is your brand persona, and what readers are looking for to make a personal connection.
On the basis of your values and personality, and the qualities you bring to your work, readers might give one of your books a try. If they like it, they may buy anything published in your name to continue reading your voice, your style and your command of storytelling. The next thing you know, they’ll be asking you when the next one’s coming out. It’s the consistency of quality that will keep them coming back because they trust that you will deliver.
It’s not about a logo
Personal branding does not mean that you sit down and design a logo for yourself. I know, designing a logo seems like the fun, easy part of branding. But believe me, good logo design is not easy. What makes a logo effective is the meaning that is embedded in it, and the design comes only after the meanings are clearly defined, understood and supported.
The imagery of your brand should be your last consideration because it should be based on serious soul searching and groundwork. Once that is done, the rest of your brand elements fall into place more easily and naturally. You will have a basis on which to make solid decisions and follow them consistently.
And in truth, for an author, your name is your logo. You may choose a pen name, and you may choose a special typeface to consistently show your name in a recognizable way, but remember, it is always yourself you are selling.
What is your brand? Who are you?
Some people believe a brand is just a compelling statement about how your products are better than any others. And that is one way of branding. Buy any kid selling peanuts at a ballpark can do that. The world’s strongest and most enduring brands go much deeper. Their brands are based on values.
Instead of telling customers what you do (they already know that), tell them why you do it. What drives you? What is that belief deep in your core that stokes your passion and makes you work so hard? From these answers will flow your vision, mission, persona, and all the other elements that go into creating your personal brand platform.
The big things to remember are (1) to maintain the quality in your work—a brand promise your readers will expect; and (2) to maintain the consistency of your brand across all media so that in the blink of an eye they’ll recognize that it’s you.
Take the time to create a strong brand. Stay true to its elements, and use the same words over and over even if you are tired of them. Be authentic. Be memorable. And you will, over time, build trust.
Nancy Blanton’s award-winning handbook, Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps, will guide you through the process of creating your own personal brand. She also provides occasional author workshops and presentations.