…so pay attention to how you’re telling it.
Reality check: every visible bit and byte out in the digital world with your name on it, affects, and over time, shapes how people perceive you. So in your approach to your own outputs, are you your best friend, a frenemy or completely oblivious?
Lots of people have an automatic gag reflex, an aversion to the concept of personal branding. When done poorly, it smacks of ickiness, ego, of outright indulgent self-promotion — all the things you might think detract from the integrity of work being done, by focusing the narrative on the person and not the work.
But here’s the thing. People — particularly those who are interested in what you do — are hungry for stories. They want to know why, how and when. They want to know what’s behind the work. They are enchanted by the mystique of the creative process and how nothing can turn to something incredible in your hands. They want to know about what makes you tick, what inspires you, what’s behind the creation. They are curious about the person that makes the things that move them.
There’s always a story to tell about you and your work. And the thing about personal branding is that if you are the person telling the story, you control the narrative. Personal branding is no more than you telling the story of you and your work, in the way you want to tell it, on purpose and consistently over time.
No one cares as much about your story and the story of your work than you.
Not a broker, not a dealer, not an agent or producer or commissioner. Not a buyer. Not a gallery owner. Only you care the most about you and your success. Only you will not forget about it after the meeting, the recording session, the book signing.
So invest in it. Invest in you. Make your narrative part of your practice. Then share it with others. Even one hour per week can make a huge difference in the overall visibility of your story as a creative person. This deliberate storytelling of you can help you and others to see how you have evolved over time, in your thinking, process and technique.
So, how to begin?
Is a new discovery inspiring you this week? Are you moved by someone else’s work? Reacting to current events? Excited about a new breakthrough? Decide what the story is.
Step two: who is the audience? Are they on social media? Do they follow your blog? Do they use a certain hashtag? How do they receive their info? Determine which platforms work to reach them, then use the tools. From blogs, simple cellphone videos, photos, tweets, posts and even digital ad buys, there is a platform that can help you capture your work and your story.
Sharing is step three. Consider starting a periodic or monthly email newsletter. Ditch Gmail and invest in a simple CRM platform that allows you to track opens, clicks, to manage and segment lists of followers, and allows people to unsubscribe, etc. Social media is another obvious platform. Determine frequency of posts and how many you need to be on, to connect with your tribe. Experiment. Repeat. DIscover what works for you.
Here are some general tips for effective personal branding. Let me know what you do, and what works for you!
1. Be deliberate. You can only control the messages you put out about yourself and what you do. Take the time to make it count. Make sure all of your posts also point back to your long-term goals.
2. Know yourself. Although it’s important to know your audience, don’t try to calibrate your messaging to what you think will please someone else. If they are the right client for you, your vibe will resonate with them. It may even make the difference between loyalty and noise.
3. Be yourself. Your stories and the look and feel of the content should express who you are authentically. Don’t phone it in and don’t fake it. Avoid trying to be perfect. Doing otherwise isn’t sustainable or realistic.
4. Be positive. Even when life is tough and feels out of control, tend toward sharing more good news, and less bad news, online. Although people don’t tend to remember happy things, they usually do remember negative ones. They are also more likely to see you as a trustworthy authority when your digital footprint reflects back on you in a positive light.
5. Be bold. Don’t be afraid to have a point of view and show what you stand for, keeping in mind #4 and #2. Your digital footprint is a way of establishing your thought leadership.
6. Be trustworthy. Notice if your brand presence includes a number of half-finished projects or projects that don’t align with what you are aiming to achieve now. If this is the case, be proactive in telling a story about how those projects helped you to clarify and redefine your current moment and future goals. Also, establishing consistency of your brand’s look and feel across platforms helps audiences recognize you and your work.
7. Be generous. You never lose when you celebrate you, your clients and most of all, others. We are all figuring this out, learning every day, and an unexpected shout-out or gesture of goodwill from another person can sometimes be just the thing that helps us keep going at that moment.
8. Have fun. Because if it’s not, you won’t do it. Capture moments of joy, create excuses to play, bask in the deliciousness of inspiration. Discover, enjoy, repeat.