For over a decade, I have been blessed to work in church communications for a few large congregations. I’m responsible for brand management, marketing, content strategy, social media, and graphic design. I’m not a trained expert in these areas (my Master’s degree is in editing/publishing with a concentration in book design), but I’ve picked up some tricks of the trade that have given me a leg up on developing my own brand as an author.
Over the next three posts, I’ll be sharing steps for developing a do-it-yourself intentional brand strategy.
First Things First: What is BRAND?
A company, product, or person’s brand is essentially what sets them apart from all competition and makes them recognizable, ideally just at a glance. Think of those familiar golden arches. No matter where you are, if you catch sight of them you know what’s coming. You know the product, what the inside of the restaurant will look like, and even likely recognize their straws with one yellow and one red stripe. Without seeing the television, you recognize the current jingle “da-da-da-da-da, I’m lovin’ it.” Consistent for generations, those golden arches have been the cornerstone of one of America’s most iconic brands.
You don’t have to be a multi-billion dollar fast-food empire to pull off effective branding.
In his book Branding Faith, author Phil Cooke argues that “at its core, branding is simply the art of surrounding a product, organization or person with a powerful and compelling story.” Ah-ha! We are authors. We know story. So, let’s get to work. Throughout, I’ll use my own author brand as example. And for lack of a better term, we’ll use “customers” as the term for those interacting with our brand.
DEFINE Your Product, Story, and Audience
Let’s start at square one. If you don’t first answer some key defining questions, you’ll end up with a muddled, vague brand that no one will remember. Today, work with me through defining your product, story, and audience.
Define Your Product
As an author, YOU are the product. Your persona, experience, unique perspective. Before you sell one book, you want customers to connect to YOU. Should your me-product eventually be aimed at connecting to the types of books you write and will sell, sure. There should be come continuity, but defining who you are to your customers is first-step crucial. Jot down a bullet-point list of what you want to be known for. Here’s the short list I started with:
- Christian saved by grace
- Southern romance fiction: mountains, charm, small-town
- Real, open and honest
- Conversational and friendly
- Easy-to-relate to
Define Your Story
Once I had this list, I thought about my unique viewpoint, perspective — my story. Christian romance authors are plentiful. How will my unique perspective weave my stories together? For me, that was easy. Grace. I view my life and faith through a lens of experienced grace. Grace that pulls me out of the pit everyday. Grace not deserved, but freely given. This led to my author tag line “Charming southern romance, inspired by grace.” (More about tag lines in a future post; it’s more than just defining one, but using it properly to your branding advantage.)
On The Story of Telling, Bernadette Jiwa writes, “If you don’t have a story you are just another commodity. A replaceable cog in the consumption machine. You have no way to differentiate your brand or your business. Creating a brand story is not simply about standing out and getting noticed. It’s about building something that people care about and want to buy into. It’s about framing your scarcity and dictating your value. It’s about thinking beyond the utility and functionality of products and services and striving for the creation of loyalty and meaningful bonds with your customers.” (my bold)
In other words, your “story” gives context to your brand and becomes a point of relation between you and your customers. It frames the true marketing, conversations about you and your product that you won’t hear others discuss. As a yet-to-be published author, this is the current biggest focus for my branding.
Telling my story, when there’s not yet a product to sell, is aimed at building meaningful relationship with people before they are potential customers.
Define Your Audience
Lastly for this first step in developing brand, define your audience. Without a clear audience, you risk casting your net of too wide and you catch folks who will never be customers no matter how hard you try. Don’t waste your time marketing to the wrong people.
Moms and dads, have you ever noticed that television channels that broadcast cartoons show commercials for products aimed at parents (cleaning products, children’s vitamins, toys, etc.)? As an author of contemporary Christian romance, I know my readers are most likely women, a good deal are married with children, and several are writers themselves. Knowing your audience can help when deciding things like content of blog posts (I predominantly write about writing and daily faith), photos and imagery to use, even the colors chosen for my logo. Yes, you have to please yourself so your brand is a true representation of you, but don’t neglect considering what your audience would like to see and what draws them in.
NEXT STEPS IN THE DIY BRANDING STRATEGY
In the posts that follow, we will discuss what to do once you have defined your product, story, and audience. We will cover how to:
- Design a Logo and Style Guide
- Implement, Evaluate, and Adapt Brand
SHARE & DISCUSS
Many of you are already successful at developing a brand. What are some tips you’ve found along the way? What resources have you found most useful? Which do you find the most challenging, and why: defining your product, story, or audience? Do you have any questions or comments about this step of DIY branding strategy?
I’d love to hear your comments below, or join the conversation on Twitter using #DIYAuthorBrand.
DIY Author Branding Strategy (Part 1 of 3) Defining Product, Story, Audience — TWEET THIS!
You don’t have to be a multi-billion dollar fast-food empire to pull off effective branding. #DIYAuthorBrand — TWEET THIS!
Telling your story, when there’s no product, aims to build relationship with future potential customers. — TWEET THIS!
Don’t waste time marking to the wrong people, and other DIY Author Branding Strategy tips. — TWEET THIS!