Branding 101

The writing conference I attended last month offered sessions that wandered through every area of writing: faith, publishing, iPhone photography, earning money with ads, WordPress setup, telling hard stories. The options basically broke down into to categories: the practical and the abstract. Naturally I migrated to the wild and dreamy… the digger deeper and tell better stories. I went to the sessions that offered information and heart I couldn’t look up on google.

BUT

I did attend one pragmatic session. I did. Pick yourself up off the floor. I even took notes for you.

I always placed “branding” in the realm of unnecessary unless you are selling something. So when I saw that Holley Gerth, a virtual mentor of mine and co-founder of (in)courage, I was intrigued. What could branding possibly have to do with me-a girl with no agent, no market savvy, and no dreams of earning a living through blogging?

Holley says branding is simply about being trustworthy. THIS? This is a concept I like. A brand is a promise that you will be the same wherever readers find you… be it your blog, a guest post, an etsy shop, or a facebook or instagram or twitter post. Being consistent builds trust.

Branding is sitting down sitting down and defining the basics of… you, in this case. As a writer who is not necessarily selling something tangible, branding is about creating a space that visually reflects your message, your heart.

The girl who loved the first day of school with the new backpacks and school supplies and possibility… that girl who geeks out on fresh notebook paper and felt pens and organizing? That girl was excited about this kind of thinking. It would help me… and anyone… be a little more focused on who I was and where I was going each time I sat down to write. Being a bit more intentional with defining my “brand” would help me weed out stories and threads that weren’t great fits and maybe open the gates to new areas I have been holding back on.

So here are my notes on how to carve out a space- a consistent, virtual space and brand– whether you are writing for your mom or your neighborhood or your world.

goodtimes

Ask yourself: what are your strengths in life? Are you brave? Smart? Funny? Capable? Consistent? Kind? A great cook? Encouraging? A decent photographer? Humble? Bold? Simple? Creative? Empathetic?

How do you love to express those strengths? Writing? Hospitality? Gift-giving? Music? Building things?

Who do your strengths most benefit? New moms? Women? Young families? Parents of teens? Working folks? Retired folks? People in mourning? Crafters?

What do others say about you? Ask people you love to give you three adjectives that describe you. Add these to your STRENGTHS list if they aren’t there already.

Now, as a writer… a blogger a journal-er a freelance wordsmith… who are your readers? Think about basics: gender, age, faith stage, heart characteristics. You have a hub- a network of people- that make up your readership. You’re the center of a wheel… what kind of people do you reach and overlap with? [resource to check out: GammaWomen.com]

Think about what those readers need. There is only one you. You fill a very specific void in this world, whether your voice is small, medium, or large. So think about those readers you defined up above and now consider what they are looking for: Encouragement? Teaching? Truth? Hope? Humor?

Why are you called to communicate right now? Holly says to write to the audience you have TODAY. You can only write about what you know.

Now that we’ve got a bit of a handle on your strengths and your general audience, let’s look at the brand part of things.

What promise are you making to your readers?

What 3 brands/authors/blogs do you love?  What key words come to mind when you think about them? What is it specifically that you like about them?

Who else is called, too? Who are the people driving the same wagon you are? How can you partner with them? Social networking is great for this: you love to cook and take pictures, you read/meet others who love to cook and take pictures, and suddenly you have a neighborhood of friends who can share ideas and information together.

What does your brand look like? Like, ACTUALLY look like? Think colors, patterns, photos. Think of your words and then how you would express those words visually. A new mom blog is probably not going to be decorated with construction clip art, you know? Not sure what your words look like? Make a private Pinterest board and starting saving photos of things you like: fonts, formatting, colors… anything. After a month, pull up that board and start looking for common threads. Those repeating themes you see are what you’re drawn to and are a great place to start.

What is your mission as a writer?

I [what] [who] through [how] so that they [why].

Holley fills in the blanks like this: I encourage women through words so they grow into all God created them to be.

She holds everything up to that mission to see if it fits. While there’s always room to stretch or even change it, having a mission statement gives you somewhere to start.

A brand is just a way to be consistent and focused. Don’t let fear or lies or comparison steer you away from the idea that a brand could be a very useful in creating trust and focus in your writing. 

And there you have it: Branding 101.

Next time we talk about branding, it will be from the farming perspective, which, funny enough, isn’t all that different from the writing perspective.

Now for a focus group study:

What comes to mind when you think of Apple Pie, Anyone? or TexasNorth?

An honest comment will enter you in a drawing for a giveaway of Gari Meacham’s new book, Watershed Moments.

[Comments are closed! A winner will be announced Monday, December 2nd.]

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About texasnorth

TexasNorth is a little farm in Western Michigan. It's home to 5 chickens, 25 longhorn cattle, a coonhound (Banjo), 1 barn cat, a husband, and 3 ridiculously funny children. The mom of this zoo has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt and roast marshmallows after dark. View all posts by texasnorth

14 responses to “Branding 101

  • maryjane

    When I think of Apple Pie, Anyone? and Texas North (they are one and the same in my mind), I think of my friend and mentor Katie, and her family (primarily) and farm (secondarily). I know that time spent reading her stuff is well-spent, because it will be uplifting, inspiring, transforming. My overall being is always transformed much for the better, by reading Katie’s words. Ms. Mulder’s stories challenge me to be a better mom, a better wife, and a better friend. The writing is so good (and seems to be that way so effortlessly) that frankly I am often left wondering why I bother messing with words at all, a task that seems so better left to the professionals… but at the same time I am inspired to become a better writer! The mix of challenge and inspiration in ALL areas—faith, family, and writing—is what keeps me coming back. That, and the aroma of just-from-the-oven-apple-pie, which is infused throughout every post. Mmmmmm…. smells like heaven. 🙂

  • Renae

    Comfort, fun, hard work.

  • Sharon Rawlette

    Thanks so much for going to this session and taking the time to make notes that you shared with us–this is a lot of food for thought. We writers need to realize that we can be creative not just on the page but on the web and in images, too. This has given me some intriguing ideas…

  • Lucy Higuera

    Golly, Katie, I thought you were talking branding, you know, the cow kind………….

  • Mandi Watts

    When I think of Apple Pie, Anyone and Texas North, I think of honesty, sincerity, and hilarity. I think of real people, living real life, to the best of their abilities, and encouraging others to do the same. I am always inspired and often challenged by what I read. It is a safe and happy place that I absolutely love to visit!

    Also, thanks for sharing your notes from the Allume conference for those of us who weren’t able to attend. Lots of richness there!

  • SRR

    When I think of Apple Pie, Anyone? I think of comfort. I know if I am having a bad day a little bit of Apple Pie will put things in perspective. I know what stories to go back and read when I need to laugh and which to seek out when I need a good cry. Plus, I secretly think we are long lost BFFs. I am a little jealous my BFF got to meet and hang out with you once. 🙂

  • Nanfran

    Katie, a few things I like about your blog: you are transparent, honest, sincere, expressive, witty, amusing, encouraging. I could go on, but need I say more? Keep writing . . . please! Thanks for two bright spots in my week.

  • Bonnie Mulder

    vulnerability, messes, beauty, God’s heart

  • steph

    Apple Pie is my slice of Katie. Real, transparent, funny, and true. It is a taste of my far away friend that I get to savor twice a week. Only problem is it makes me miss you more every time I read.

    Branding…it scares the pants off of me to even think about branding myself.

  • Molly

    When Apple Pie, Anyone? shows up in my inbox, I have to read it immediately. It is very unusual that I am doing something that can make it wait. The three words I think of are: meaningful, funny and loyal. Three of my favorite characteristics! Now, TexasNorth, I think of comfort, simplicity and fresh (and my favorite sweatshirt!).

  • Lara Krishnan

    real life; in a humorous, honest, and faith centered way

  • Lizzy

    What comes to mind/what do I love?? Honesty, being really real, encouragement all wrapped up in faith with a dash of humour. I’m drawn in because I see so much of myself here. And some really great folk I just want to be around 🙂

  • Margie

    I’ve been meaning to tell you I printed out a copy of this. Wonderful, great, and instructive. Thank you.

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