This is the next in the developing a Killer Online Platform series. For those of you who have been following the series, you will know that it's taken me quite a while to actually write this post. The reason? Personal branding is hard!
There are a lot of websites out there that will give you helpful information like 'Think about what's most important about you', and 'Write down how other people see you and how you want them to see you.' And bam, there is your personal branding.
Well, take a few minutes and actually do this.
What do you come up with?
Me, I came up with useless trosh, basically. It wasn't anything I could actually use. They were terms that were meaningless in an online branding sort of way.
Yes, personal branding needs to be a combination of how you want to be seen with a good dose of realism in there about how people actually see you. However, it needs to be a LOT more than that to be effective.
So, instead of just trotting out those 'useful' little steps, I thought I would take you through one of the best bits of branding around, and reverse engineer how we can be as famous and emotive as Tiffany & Co.
The Pull of Tiffany & Co.
My mother asked me what I wanted for my birthday and after some thought I replied: A Tiffany & Co. ring.
I have to admit, I hadn't particularly thought of which one of their range I wanted, but I knew I wanted Tiffany. (When you get to 30 and are still single, it's time to realise you can't rely on a man to buy your Tiffany, you sometimes just have to do it for yourself... though I don't quite know what it means getting your parents to do it for you!)
I finally decided on the Tiffany 1837 collection, interlocking rings in silver. Gorgeous, classic, timeless.
I had the box just sitting on my chest of drawers, waiting all week until Sunday. The girls at work asked me to bring in the box, just so they could look at it.
You know the one. The classic blue box with white ribbon.
And that brings me to an important question. Why Tiffany?
Really, are the rings more beautiful than something I could have bought somewhere else? Well, no.
And I didn't even know which rings I wanted in the first place!
So why did I want it? Why do we pay so much for the blue box with white ribbon? Why did I feel I should dress up, have good nails, before walking in through the doors like Audrey Hepburn?
Sad as it is to say, it's all about how Tiffany & Co. has presented itself to me. They have made even the name desirable, so they could put it on anything and some of us would want it. The wrapping that the item comes in is a branding triumph, and even going into their shop is 'an experience' (maybe not so much anymore, I have to admit, as I found the service staff a bit snobbish until they realised I was actually going to buy something, and then tried to up sell to me, but you get my point.)
This is what you want your online platform to become. You want people to desire your writing, your books, before they even know what it is, just because you wrote it. You want people to be able to recognise your work anywhere, every time they see it, and associating it with something good.
So, how do you do that?
1. It's All About The Story.
A lot of the personal branding information out there will tell you to choose a central concept for your brand. This is reasonable advice because a lot of people try to cover way too much and their message becomes diluted.
However, it's much easier to start with a story. People love stories.
If you go to the Tiffany's website you will find a page specifically called 'The Tiffany Story'.
It states: Since 1837, the masterpieces of Tiffany & Co. have defined style and celebrated the world's great love stories.
Great love stories? And all the girls go 'Ahhhh...'
That is not just a central concept, it is in itself a whole masterpiece of emotion. Style, Audrey Hepburn, engagement rings, men down on one knee, diamonds glittering...
That is brilliant branding.
So, first step is to work out what your story is, and what emotions it might evoke in your readers so that they connect to you on a more personal level.
Have fun with this. Go through your past history, what has formed you into the writer you are now? What does your unique background offer that no one else can claim?
I want you to get pen and paper (or computer) and for a moment, choose 5 different parts of your background. take 5 minutes each, and scribble down a story about your writing based on that part of your history. Which one is the most emotive and in line with the style/purpose of your writing?
2. Create The 'Elevator Pitch' of your personal brand.
As writers, you should know the importance of having an elevator pitch for your book. It is a short 'hook' for your story, ready and waiting for that one time you happen to find yourself in the elevator with a publisher from HarperCollins.
Now you need to develop the same thing for your story.
You just need to do what Tiffany did, and compress your story down into one sentence.
For example: 'For the last decade, Miriam Blakewood has been at the centre of every scandalous revelation from Liechtenstein's high society.' (Yeah, I'm making it up as I go along, but if you were interested in stories about high society, wouldn't you be interested in buying her books?)
Or 'After her successful career as an Olympic athlete, Miriam Blakewood now brings you everything you need to know about personal fitness in her sporting blog.' (Ooo, Olympic athlete... I could be that fit too?)
Or even 'With three teenage daughters growing up in central London, Miriam Blakewood is an expert at espionage and creative thinking.'
3. How To Project This.
The point of a 'story' is that it evokes emotions and atmosphere in a few words. However, to make this as effective as possible, you want to back it up visually.
Look at the Tiffany white and blue. If you saw just the corner of the blue box poking out of your boyfriend's jacket, what might you think?
Image if someone could walk into a book store, and just see the corner of a book, and immediately know a) it was yours and b) they wanted it! (along with a hot bubble bath and a glass of wine to enjoy it).
To get to that effect, you need to have a uniform branding across absolutely everything you present to the public.
Look at every contact you make professionally: your blog, facebook page, linkedIn, website, book covers, resumes, business card, email address, etc.
You need to make all of these scream the essence of your story at every turn. This is why we are doing this now, before actually setting up your blog, because your blog needs to be the epitome of your story.
So, what do you need to consider?
- Fonts, do you have a distinct font you always use? Can you find one?
(I recommend trying http://www.urbanfonts.com/free-fonts.htm. While there are a lot of free fonts out there, the thing I like about this page the most is that it allows you to put your own text in (such as your name) and see all the fonts at once. Compare this to seeing the font, needing to click on it, then typing in your text only to find they have completely bizarre 'B's.)
- Logo? Can you express your story in a single image?
This might require the hire of a graphic designer, but you might be able to find a talented friend who will help you in exchange for some proof reading.
- Colour scheme?
A signature colour scheme for your website, which you can then use on your business card, and in your logo (or take it from your logo) is an excellent way to build more atmosphere into your brand.
Dark red and black will have a very different feel to bright yellow and pink.
- Can you link your books by a particular cover art theme?
Think of Terry Pratchett, who has basically only had 2 cover artists do all of his books. They are immediately identifiable on a bookshelf as his. (Of course, you won't have as much control over this if you are going with a traditional publisher and are pretty new, but keep it in mind all the same).
Now go ahead and spend some creative hours playing with who you are and what you want to be!
What other ways can you think of for building your brand?