By Cynthia Herron
As a writer, you’ve probably given some thought to your “brand.” (And if you haven’t, now’s the time!)
“Brand” to an author is what water is to wildflowers. It quenches, sustains, and breathes life into an otherwise drab existence.
For instance, in today’s world where we’re surrounded with a buffet of opportunity, I’m always intrigued by people’s choices.
“Branding” fascinates me.
Why do certain brands work? Why do others go south?
How successful is branding when confidence is compromised?
Because of the depth and breadth of social media (including the attractive bells and whistles associated with a brand), sometimes, brands are misleading.
There. I said it.
Let’s talk about brand in generalities.
What we’re fed may be appealing, but maybe, it’s not actually good for us. (In other words—the truth.)
As my mama always said: The proof is in the pudding.
A few examples come to mind.
- The massive recall of millions of vehicles. One I can personally attest to. I once received three recall notices on three separate issueswithin a two-month time frame on my car. All the issues were associated with traffic accidents, and in some cases, deaths. The notices informed me that while there were no parts immediately available—not to worry—the vehicle manufacturer would let me know when there were. Parts. Or something.
- Anyone remember the great Christmas debacle? The one that involved one of my favorite department store chains? For a week or so, information was intentionally kept from the public until crisis management could draw up a game plan. Problem was a lothappened during that little ol’ week… and the ensuing months that followed. Let’s just say—for a long time, millions of folks didn’t look at the company’s logo quite the same way again. Yikes. I know I didn’t—at least, for a while. There was the lingering issue of trust. And that made me really sad.
- Then there’s The world-changing social media giant that we now have a love/hate relationship with. They made us love ’em…and then, of course, once they reeled us in, they drastically altered course and spoon-fed our statuses and updates to a very small percentage of our followers. But alas. It is free. For now. And we get what we pay for. Or do we? I understand from friends (who’ve purchased the media giant’s ads to guarantee a larger viewership) that results are disappointing. We’ll see how this plays out. Currently, this adolescent is one of the biggest kids on the block. Five years from today—who knows? Dissatisfaction and mistrust drive invention of bigger and better—eventually.
Now, how does branding affect creatives?
Well, as writers, I think authenticity speaks volumes. Nothing makes us run faster from someone who comes across as fake.
Sometimes, the transparency is all too obvious. Other times, a well-honed facade takes a little longer to discern.
From a personal perspective, I knew from Day One as I stepped back into writing, a lot had changed. Specifically, how writers communicated their vision.
How did they connect with readers?
In what ways did they market themselves?
Did they form relationships or was it simply a numbers game?
Naturally, I want to be well-liked. I think, if we’re honest, most of us do. But what if we’re thrown off-kilter? What if we misstep or make a mistake?
I don’t know about you, but I develop more respect for those folks who are willing to say I’m sorry. I goofed. Please forgive me.
I suspect that carries more weight with most people.
Rebranding is a lot easier to accept when (genuine) humility is involved.
Of course, rebranding isn’t necessarily a bad or distasteful thing. It may be a matter of improving upon an already good thing. It might mean shifting gears to a new area of interest or expertise that will build upon previous skills.
Regardless, our brand is our calling card. If we soil it, it may take years to rebuild trust. Some smudges can even last a lifetime.
Consider the author who is sweetness and light in public, but behind closed doors she disses others and speaks ill of the industry.
Her behavior is unattractive, but it also reflects deeper issues. Ones that damage control may have a hard time repairing if an ill-timed comment goes viral. (Which, as we’ve seen through our vast-reaching social media, can happen.)
When brands go south, I’ve often wondered about the driving force behind the plummet.
Is it greed?
Lack of integrity?
All the above?
Considering today’s climate, I think it’s something worth thinking about.
Why work our socks off only to find the new pair has holes?
Like our taglines, our brands are uniquely us.
- They’re the picture that comes to mind when folks hear our name.
- They’reideas, thoughts, and feelings associated with who we are and what we write.
- They’reimpressions that are left long after the introduction.
And it’s those impressions that can make us think ewww…
In fact, most of the time, we can sum up within a few short words the appeal of an author’s brand.
Naturally, not everyone’s brand will be our cup of tea, but some brands are indeed more enticing than others. For example, the same things that grab our attention in food, clothing, and even furniture are good indicators of what we’ll notice about one another.
- Easily dismissed
Wow, however, is:
Bland leaves us scratching our heads. Wow makes our heads turn!
Bland communicates laziness. Wow goes full-throttle.
Bland is ordinary. Wow is anything but.
Seth Godin once summed it up this way:
“A brand that stands for what all brands stand for stands for nothing much.”
Since I write Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction, I strive to evoke “feel good” in my brand. I would hope words like faith and family jump to mind, along with authentic, fun, and encouraging.
When we’re new to writing, our footing may be a little unsure. It may take time to sync our brand with what we write. The overall picture of how we want to present ourselves to the world may need a little tweaking.
That’s not to say we should be someone we’re not. Faking it is not only tedious and stressful, it’s contrary to God’s will for our lives.
Each of us has special characteristics, abilities, and gifts we bring to the table. It’s just a matter of honing those and presenting our strengths in the best possible light.
What does YOUR “brand” say about you? Do you think branding plays a significant role in an author’s success?
“Cindy” is a 2017 ACFW Genesis Finalist, a 2016 ACFW Genesis (Double) Finalist, and a 2015 ACFW First Impressions Winner. Her work is represented by WordServe Literary.
Besides writing, Cindy enjoys spending time with family and friends. She has a fondness for gingerbread men, miniature teapots, and all things apple. She also adores a great cup of coffee and she never met a sticky note she didn’t like.