What do you want to be known for when people see your name? Whatever that thing is will end up being your author brand, and there’s a way to direct your media messages accordingly. For example, what’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of Coca-Cola? Wal-mart? McDonalds? That “first thing” for you is their brand, and what you perceive and experience may be different than the message they’re trying to send.
So how do you, as an author, effectively brand yourself in a way that’s meaningful to your audience? You’ve got to juggle what you think you’re branding and how it’s perceived by the public. Your balance is somewhere in the middle, and you’re always adapting. I promise it is not as daunting as you think. With this blog post, I’m going to break down the basics of branding so that you can get your marketing goals aligned with a singular message (aka, brand). After, you will feel less scattered, your audience will figure out what you’re about, and you’ll know where to best direct your future marketing goals.
Who you are as an author (a small business person, because, whether you see it this way or not, you’re selling books, and that’s a business!) is going to define your brand. How do you figure out what you’re about?
Coming up with a vision statement…
Ask yourself these questions: What am I passionate about? and What do I have to offer?
Think beyond the basics of “I’m a writer and I have great stories to offer people.”
Why did you write the book in the first place? Because you enjoyed writing? Why?
Did you write because you had a message for the world, and you wanted to change reader’s lives?
After digging deeper, your passion and your offer should have a tone change. Example: “I used writing to heal my heart and by reading these stories, your heart will heal, too.”
Steep offer, yes? But PERFECT for a vision statement. Which one moved you more? “I’m a writer and I have great stories to offer people.” Or, “I used writing to heal my heart and by reading these stories, your heart will heal, too.”
The second statement is much stronger and memorable. It narrows focus to a specific people group (no matter how great your book is, it’s not for the whole world—you have to define your peeps to find them). The second statement also stirs emotion. Brand isn’t limited to your marketing images, blog posts, or social media.
Brand is also about the emotion you create in your audience. Pinpoint the emotion you think best describes your offer. Is it encouraging? Sarcastic? Teaching? Write down what you come up with and marry it with your vision statement.
With your vision statement and emotional tone defined, it’s time to structure how you’re going to deliver what you promised.
Developing a mission statement…
Throughout the entire branding process, but especially now, you should be thinking about your ideal reader/customer. What are their needs? How can you help based on the kind of person you’ve discovered you are using the exercise above? This doesn’t just have to encompass your books. Envision what you want to deliver to people and how you’ll do it.
For example: “I’m committed to honesty, integrity, and justice. These themes stand out in my work and you’ll never go through the crushing heartbreak of a sad ending. Every story deserves a happy ending, even yours, and I’m here to share the journey with you. Reach out, and I’ll reach back.”
Vivid language and specific things written down will help you hone your message and share it with a narrow, defined audience.
Who are your people?
Once you get to know your passions and what you can offer people, it’s time to research your people. What’s your ideal reader like? Get specific and write it down. What TV shows do they watch? What books do they enjoy? What’s their favorite candy? What’s something they’re likely to say? How old are they? And most importantly…
What is their greatest struggle?
You may have to be brave and ask people. (I’ve found Twitter to be a great way to connect with people.) Don’t be afraid to send surveys (keep them SHORT, 2-3 questions), truly listen, and adapt yourself to meet their needs.
That’s the beauty of branding. It’s fluid, constantly able to adapt, and you may end up changing your entire vision and mission and emotional tone.
Branding isn’t a place of perfection. There’s no such thing as a perfect brand, just like there isn’t a perfect person.
Instead, think of branding to marketing like the Bible to life. By clearly defining your brand, you know where to focus your marketing messages. You know what kind of things you should write about. You know what you have to offer people.
At the end of the day, remember it’s all about your people and what they need. Are you sending messages that serve their needs and resolve their pain? If you are, you’ll know because they’ll engage with you. If you think you’re speaking into a black hole, then you’re either 1) not in the same place as your people or 2) your messages aren’t resonating with your people.
If 1), get to know your people better and go to where they are.
If 2), reevaluate yourself and what you have to offer. Listen to your people and get creative about helping them.
What mark do you want to leave on this world?