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Are you branded?

BY MARY J. NICKUM
What is branding? Branding is about communication: Effectively understanding your own purpose, the purpose of your audience, and ways to connect the two. Branding is just a word to describe a much deeper and more meaningful process of communication. But you must understand the basics. First, identify your goals, then define your purpose and finally, understand who you are trying to reach. And it’s in that second step of defining your purpose where branding is born.
If you can’t clearly communicate your purpose, then how can you engage a readership? Are you trying to merely entertain? Are you trying to teach a concept in a nonthreatening way? Are you trying to interest your readers in a new idea or convince your readers to try something new?
Companies often have what they call a “brand book” or “brand bible.” It is a document they go back to again and again, ensuring not just that they are consistent, but that every element of their company works to a common purpose. It is why companies known for their exceptional branding or customer service are so consistent in their high quality. Why nearly every experience at Disneyworld is surprising and pleasant, why the Apple Store seems more like a gathering place than an electronics store. These examples can apply to a writer, as well.
THE ELEMENTS OF BRANDING
These building blocks, when combined, will constitute your brand.
Embrace that you are a writer. This may sound basic, but many writers have a hard time embracing their identity as a writer. They see themselves as a writer only after the definitions of their day job, role in their family, church or social circle. When speaking about your work, own the identity of being a writer.
Define yourself clearly. Every word counts. Too many writers clutter up their purpose with divergent messages. They try to represent every aspect of who they are, or hope they will be. What happens is that the core message is lost. The more words you remove from the description of your purpose, the stronger the words become.
Be focused. Few people want to be pigeonholed, but when you are just starting out and still developing that core audience, err on the side of being specific. Focus the topics you discuss, the audiences you target, the way you describe your work. Too many writers feel their work should appeal to everyone. And, while this may happen someday, build your way up to that. FOCUS.
Create core messages you will go back to again and again. Determine the best ways to communicate your purpose and describe your writing. This helps you to determine what it is and what it isn’t, and ensures that your message will resonate with the audience you hope to capture and maintain.
The value of repetition. Repetition helps people remember what you are about. Many writers are a bit sheepish to even say once what their work is about, let alone repeat it over time. Never take for granted that folks are familiar with your work. You are always in the process of helping people learn about the power of your work, about your viewpoint as a writer. This, of course, doesn’t mean you say the same message, in the same words, over and over. If you do, people will tune you out. Use fresh words and methods of communicating to express your message.
Make sure your STORY engages people. Yes, your writing is the key here. But don’t forget that your story as a writer is part of what engages people. How your purpose extends to the work you create. Shape your story as it relates to your work, and share that when you meet people or on the About page of your website.
In summary, all of this is about bringing your purpose to the forefront as it relates to your writing, your goals and your audience. This goes beyond surface-level interests or demographics. Don’t make your brand so vague the statements about it could apply to thousands of writers. Strive toward fully personalizing your brand, considering how it connects with others in meaningful ways. In one form or another, this is about story. When you consider your identity as an author, frame your own story using elements of branding to help communicate this more effectively to potential readers. ◊
A member since 2000, Mary J. Nickum is a retired librarian who is now an editor and freelance writer. Her primary focus is on science for the public. Nickum is editor-in-chief of the Intermountain Journal of Science and currently edits World Aquaculture magazine. Contact her at mjnickum@hotmail.com.

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