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.
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.
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.]