What is an 'Author Brand'?
'Brand' is one of those words that can be hard to define. It's about a perception, an overall feeling, something more than a logo or a tagline.
And because it's emotional rather than physical, we imagine that it can be hard to create. If it's how we feel about a company, or a celebrity, then how do they influence that perception? Is it something that they acquire more by accident than by design? Or have we all got the potential to create our own 'brand'?
Certainly, most of the big 'brands' we are familiar with in our day-to-day lives are created. And we can do the same at the scale of an individual author or personal brand. Because authors, like any other professional enterprise, represent a brand.
Stephen King is a brand.
Donald Trump is a brand.
The BBC is a brand.
Apple is a brand.
The easy-to-read instructional “For Dummies” book series is a brand.
Whether you write books, ghostwrite for celebrities or business owners, teach others how to write or own a small business that relies upon clear communications to sell its product or service, you — the professional behind that enterprise — represent a brand.
If you neglect this aspect of your business, you’re losing out on a valuable opportunity to set yourself apart from other authors and business owners.
You’re losing readers. You’re losing sales.
How can you build a brand that’s different from the thousands of others competing for your audience’s attention?
Well, the 'author brand' is really no different to a small business, and what applies there has a direct application to your personal brand-building efforts.
There are only really five steps you need to build an author brand that can help you stand out, get noticed, get attention and, ultimately, get more readers. Here they are:
1. Have a distinctive and consistent brand 'voice'
People judge the appeal of your brand, at least in part, on how it 'sounds'.
Your brand voice can be highly formal or playful, academic or intimate, and so on. Regardless of the which it is, it must be your voice — a tone that becomes instantly recognizable to others as belonging to no one but you.
You'll know this from writing. A voice is yours and yours alone -- and when you find it, it feels like coming home.
And in a marketing context, consistency is key to enabling people to fully grasp your brand.
At the same time, understand that a strong, distinctive voice won’t win over everyone. Don’t be,
afraid of your voice alienating potential prospects,
Some will be able to relate to your personality, others won’t and that’s okay.
As we grow as an author, we learn that it's actually OK to alienate people. Being clear who you are not writing for, is as important as knowing who you are.
2. Know what your 'brand promise' stands for
Look at the world’s best-known brands — McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Apple, Nike. Pretty much anyone who comes across these brands knows instantly what they stand for; and what 'brand promise' they make.
As a consumer, you specific expectations for how these brands will perform, whether using their products will solve a problem, meet a need, etc. Think of one you resonate with and think about your expectations of them. Amazon for example, we expect a certain level of customer service. Apple, we expect their products will make us 'cool'.
And the reason these brands have gained global significance is because the businesses behind them meet those expectations every time. (or we lose faith in them)
Think about your brand promise in your business or as an author.
It’s not enough to claim your work is “fantastic” or “one of a kind”— hackneyed phrases that no longer have any emotional value to your target audience. You need to clearly articulate what differentiates you from the competition and why what you have to offer can’t be found anywhere else.
Answer the question: what makes you different?
3. Look at your book or business through the eyes of a reporter
What you choose to write about grows out of a very personal sense of importance — it’s the passion behind your work, and it's what drives you. How well you communicate that passion can determine the overall success of your marketing strategy and your business.
To really nail that marketing, a great exercise is to step outside yourself and look at what you offer through the eyes of an “objective” third party. Because your ability to pitch your book to a publisher, agent, or individual customer will ultimately determine its success or failure.
It's all very well for you to be passionate, but you need to share that passion with others to make a success of your business.
Marketing specialists Maryam Banikarim and Karl Heiselman urge entrepreneurs to imagine how a reporter writing about them would lead the article.
Put yourself in the shoes of the person you are pitching,
What three things would you want them to highlight? How does what you have to pitch fit into what they do?
By translating your very personal vision into concepts that appeal to local or national media, you can start to think about being a brand, rather than just a creator.
Try this one: how would you want a journalist, blogger, or podcaster to introduce you? Maybe try it out a few times with a friend or colleague.
4. Identify key influencers
Who are the individuals with the most influence on your target audience? They might be celebrities from film or TV, widely respected bloggers, industry experts, etc.
Whoever they are, your author brand can get a huge boost if it they notice you, link to some of your content or talk about you on their site or podcast.
Many businesses actively reach out to these key influencers to help foster that relationship -- and you can do the same. Your process needs to be deliberate, painstakingly researched and, of course, natural and authentic.
Following the influencer online (in blogs, chat rooms, not in a stalking way! just naturally like you would with any new connection.)
Commenting on their social media posts, blog posts, or sharing their events and products.
Providing helpful links to related content.
Referencing these influencers by name in your posts, blogs or other materials.
And authors, trainers or experts can follow exactly this process to build and promote their personal brand through 'connecting with influencers'.
Research and identify influencers in your field of expertise and then take action — specific action.
Don’t approach influencers using a “one-size-fits-all” strategy. You wouldn’t submit an identical cover letter to different prospective employers and expect a personal response -- and how would you feel if you received one? Instead, you'd customize each letter to the person receiving it to increase the odds of standing out from everyone else. Do the same when you connect with influencers.
Digital marketing expert Courtney Scott is quoted on this topic,
You shouldn’t start the same conversation or propose the same partnership with 30 different influencers.
A better approach, she says, is showing
that you’ve listened to who they are, what they like and what’s relevant to them.
5. Start a dialogue with your audience
As you begin marketing your completed book, workshop or other project, it’s time to reach out to your intended audience and beginning a conversation. And a conversation that both piques their interest and builds your brand.
Thanks to social media, there is no shortage of ways you can engage with potential readers, including:
Sponsor a poll on your Facebook page loosely related to the theme of your book.
Create a YouTube “how-to” video.
Seek guest blogging opportunities (from a key influencer, if possible!)
Explore a Goodreads giveaway.
Do a podcast or take part in an interview on a key influencer’s podcast.
The most successful brand builders are individuals who apply their full imaginative abilities to spreading the word about who they are and what they’ve done.
The key, when you're creating your author brand, is being able to do this in a way that doesn’t scream,
Look how great I am!
— but instead, communicates the value of your work to others, and delivers on that promise with each and every interaction you make happen.
What's your next step?
It's all very well to talk about building a brand, but doing it is what counts.
Which is the one step you can take, starting today? Maybe it's getting clear on your brand promise? Or maybe it's connecting with a few of those influencers?
Whatever you choose, you'll be one step closer to making it easier to get know and noticed for what you do.
Today's post was written by Claire Prendergast. Claire is the Director of Marketing Communications at agencyEA, a brand experience agency specializing in experiential, digital and traditional engagement in Chicago. She guides the strategic vision of the company’s brand, messaging and voice, while supporting and evolving brand strategies for clients. Claire also oversees all of agencyEA’s internal and external marketing communications, including digital marketing and public relations.
Which one of these steps resonates with you? And which brands do you admire most? Let us know on social media...