Personal branding: persona and positioning

And why you need both

In my book on the subject, Chapter 2 introduces you to England’s Henry VIII, the king from 1509 to 1547. He was the granddaddy of personal branding if ever there was one, and the perfect model for generating and expressing a memorable persona.

Henry-VIII-kingofengland_1491-1547Most people are familiar with the famous Holbein portrait of him standing tall, broad-shouldered, filling up the canvas in his regal robes and codpiece. An icon of strength and robust health, this king gave the people what they wanted: physical power, great wealth, cultural sophistication, grand architecture, athletic supremacy, and a direct link to God.

What you see was not always what you got with King Henry, but he lived in an age without mass communication or the immediacy of social media, so he could get away with projecting an inflated persona that suited everyone’s needs. In today’s world, authenticity rules, and you must build a brand persona you can live by.

So what is a brand persona?

It is a compilation of values, activities and interests that define a person. If you are an author, artist or business person, your work defines you to a great extent, but also the realm in which you work or the subject matter on which you focus. Add to that your activities. For instance, are you a runner? An equestrian? A motocross enthusiast? Do you love to cook, read, dance? And then there are societal interests like improving literacy, reducing poverty, protecting the environment, and so on.  What do you stay up late thinking about? Where would you invest your money to make a difference in the world? Where/how would you donate your time? What are you doing when you are at your best?

Your brand persona might not include all facets of your life and interests. Consider the top 10 that might come up in a conversation with a new acquaintance. You might only have 30 seconds with this person before you shake hands and say goodbye. If he or she is a potential customer, what would you hope might be remembered about you?

That’s how a defined persona can help, by clarifying the kernel of you and making it easier to communicate and, therefore, easier to remember. And now we come to the logical next step.

Brand positioning

Suppose this person is a fine business prospect, but knows 10 other people who do what you do? How can you not only rise to the top in this person’s memory, but also rise with distinction?

Remember that a personal brand is all about building trust with your audience. Your persona embodies all of your values, interests and drives that make you someone worth trusting and doing business with. 

Your positioning statement zeroes in on the places your persona intersects with audience  values and needs, and then shoots it to the next level by defining that which connects with and makes you irresistible to them -– capturing the essence of you that is different from (re: better than) anyone else.

Positioning statements are used broadly in brand differentiation. The secret is, you’ve got to get emotional. People make decisions on an emotional level. If you know your own core brand driver, it’s the best place to start.

A personal brand positioning statement goes like this:

For [insert target audience], [Your Name] is the [insert point of differentiation] among all [insert frame of reference] because [reason to believe].

Here’s a silly example: “For people who need dog walkers, Jane Dogmire is the most lovable and trusted of all dog walkers in the region because she is board-certified by Dogs United and comes with homemade peanut butter treats.”

Jane meets the needs of her audience because she can be trusted to do the job right, and will keep her dogs happy, too.

Now, using myself as an example: I like history and historical fiction, researching and learning about my Irish heritage, and I work hard to share what I’ve learned in an entertaining way so that others will be interested, too. I know historical fiction readers are educated, like to learn as they read, expect to be entertained, and want high-quality writing. So I wrote my positioning statement like this:

For readers of historical fiction, Nancy Blanton is the award-winning author of Irish history adventure novels, combining research skills with a passion for Irish heritage to both inform and entertain.

Note how my values and audience values converge. Words like adventure and passion help tap into the reader’s emotions. Normally, this statement would never be public, but would be used to guide me in creating advertising, marketing collateral, and online communications, and I could use the same words, or different words that do the same work.

Once you’ve invested the time to build your persona and create your positioning statement, most of the heavy lifting for your personal brand is done. These are the guiding forces for the decisions you’ll make going forward with taglines, marks, colors, and so forth.

The big thing to remember is consistency. I know that every time I go to a Starbucks and order a mocha, with few exceptions I will get exactly what I expect and, therefore, I trust Starbucks. Stay true to the elements of your persona and positioning statement. Use the same words over and over. If your persona identifies your interests as horseback riding and cooking, don’t confuse your audience by blogging or tweeting about golf and scuba diving. Be authentic, be consistent, and you will, over time, build trust. Trust brings customers.

BrandYourselfRoyallyIn8SimpleSteps_Blanton_cropMy book will guide you through all eight steps toward your own personal brand. For additional help, I can offer professional services.

Please sign up for my newsletter for events and new publication notices.

My latest novel, The Prince of Glencurragh, is set to publish in July 2016.

Oh, and…I really like dogs.

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Could Groundhog’s Day be Irish?

What, me worry?

What, me worry?

So many things in life actually do trace back to Irish, or rather Celtic heritage, but what about Groundhog’s Day? I took it upon myself to discover the truth, because I knew you wouldn’t have time.

I found a few articles that very loosely related Groundhog’s Day to early Celtic feast days in Ireland. First of all, there was Imbolc, signaling the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It was also known as lambing season, when sheep began to lactate for birthing lambs. A lamb is a far cry from a groundhog, you might say, and you’d be right, but stay with me.

After Imbolc there was St. Brigid’s Day, honoring the Catholic saint named for a Celtic fertility goddess. This event was celebrated on February 1. By at least one account, ashes in the fireplace were raked smooth at night and then checked in the morning to see if the saint had visited. Still no groundhog, but there’s something about making an appearance that may have informed the modern event.

Then we have Candlemas, which was February 2. Now this involved fire and purification, with candle processions and special foods celebrating the birth of spring. I’m sure it was quite a good time, but with all that purification going on, to my mind more likely inspired the annual spring cleaning.

But then I came across a short paragraph by one writer, saying Groundhog Day traces straight back to the Romans. They used a European hedgehog, though. I’m not sure whether the hedgehog was more astute in weather prediction than, say, Punxsutawney Phil.

Personally, I like the legend of Cailleach, a mythical old woman who gathered firewood for the rest of winter. If she wanted winter to last longer she’d make a sunny day so she could collect more wood. If she was tired she’d sleep in, and let the day be dark. I think she deserved a far better public image to follow her, though. Couldn’t she have been a sleek horse? Or maybe a black cat? But no, a groundhog. Really?

I’d like to tell you groundhogs are cute and cuddly, and therefore deserving of the attention they receive, even if they aren’t Irish and they aren’t much help with the weather. But I found more evidence online that in fact most groundhogs are aggressive and mean, and it takes a lot of hard work to tame them.

But I think maybe such a demeanor is appropriate, so that Groundhog Day can remain grumpy and mysterious. It’s how we all feel, waiting for the winter to end.

 

BrandYourselfRoyallyIn8SimpleSteps_Blanton_cropPlease follow this blog if you are interested in updates.

Last year my new book on personal branding — Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps — was published in paperback and ebook. My new historical novel, The Prince of Glencurragh, is due out in summer 2016.

And please check out my award-winning Sharavogue, a novel of 17th century Ireland and the West Indies, for a fast-paced adventure you won’t soon forget.

SharavogueCoverMy website at nancyblanton.com provides more detail on books and upcoming events. Please visit!

Author branding: Put a tag on it

Give yourself a royal branding:
The author branding worksheet, part 3

In this week’s post we will focus on the three the remaining elements of my author/personal branding worksheet, including:

TAGLINE
MARKS
COLOR PALETTE

(If you’ve missed the earlier posts, click on part 1 & part 2.)

These three elements are much easier to develop once you have completed the earlier sections that give a full understanding of your audience, your brand, its basis and driver, your vision and mission. Your positioning statement helps clarify exactly what your audience needs to know.

Chocolate HeartThese elements also call into play one of the basic rules of communication, and particularly electronic communication – the three second rule. You’ve heard of this rule in regard to candy dropped on the floor (is it still safe to eat?) and most likely in basketball (a lane violation), but it also applies to websites, advertising and any visual communication – like book covers. The rule is, you have three seconds to capture a person’s attention. Either it is visually compelling enough to get readers to stay, or they bounce off to something else: Click to another site, pick up another book, turn the page, goodbye.

Many things are constantly competing for a person’s attention these days. If you can’t grab them fast you’ve lost them. That’s why good headlines and strong graphic design are critical to your brand.

TAGLINE

Everyone does not need a tagline. Primarily they are intended for advertising, but businesses do use them as a hook on websites and signage and in numerous other ways. The main thing with a tagline is to use it consistently and do not waver. Wherever you used it make sure the words, capitalization and punctuation are exactly the same. Make sure it is clearly readable. And make sure it is unique and appropriate (which means you’ll need to do some searches to make sure your brilliant idea has not already been used and trademarked by someone else.)

Many people think writing a tagline is easy, and there certainly have been some classic tags that resulted from a sudden bolt of brilliance. But most of the time a good tagline requires creative thought about all the brand elements, focused brainstorming, and trial and error.

A great tag line is memorable, enlightens people about your business, and differentiates your company and product from competitors. Generally, a good tag line is a short, catchy phrase with an interesting and positive message delivered in 3-6 words.

simplewebsiteservice.com

Taglines are used in three ways: To highlight your brand driver or unique selling proposition, to introduce and showcase your brand, or to capture your positioning against your competitors.

There are five styles of taglines:

  • Strong claim
  • Showcase benefits
  • Showcase company
  • Question audience
  • Reveal customer emotions

For an author or personal brand, you are showcasing yourself and your values, so the third option may be the best choice, but I would not rule any of them out. Brainstorming should not be constrained.

Start by looking at the websites of other authors or professionals you admire. What is your first impression? Do they use a tagline? How is it used? What words do they use to describe themselves? Think about those words, borrow the ones you like, and list others you can think of that describe what you do.

Next, think about your audience and try to answer this question: Why should they be interested in you and what you do? Answer in as many ways as you can. Consider your particular strengths, your style or approach. And think about what makes you different from others who do what you do.

For me, I thought about my work in historical fiction, my focus on Irish history because of my own passion for it, and my decision to write it in terms of an adventure, with less detail than most historical fiction authors use, and with a faster pace. And, I decided to write my tagline as a call to action. The result?

Embark on an adventure in Irish history

It may not be the world’s best tagline, but it is appropriate for me and it does tend to snag people in when they read it at my book festival booths. Especially if they are Irish or traveling to Ireland.

Do some brainstorming by yourself or with someone else who knows you well. When you have a few options you like, test them on some friends or readers via email, Facebook or in person. See which option resonates the most, and then make it work for you everywhere: Your website, business cards, postcards, posters, one-sheet and wherever else it makes sense for you.

MARKS

A mark is that single graphic that stands for you, and would represent you when you cannot actually be present. For an author, in most cases your mark would be your name, and you might choose a particular type face to use consistently. You might be tempted to choose some of the more graphic typefaces that suggest your genre, like Edwardian Script for historical fiction, or Thriller for thrillers or mysteries. Resist temptation! You will be far better served choosing something that is clean and professional looking. If you decide to write in different genres you will have something that is effective across the board.

If you work with a graphic designer for your book covers (highly recommended), your designer can help you find a typeface that could work well on your covers and be repeated in all of your promotional materials. Once you’ve selected a typeface, stick with it even if you are bored and tempted to try something new. Your signature typeface becomes a core part of your visual brand.

If you will be self publishing, you may need an identity – a logo – that can be used for your book imprint. Again, the designer who does your covers can help ensure everything for your brand works together and can be used consistently. If you design your own there are a few things to remember.

  • Always keep your audience in mind. It is easy to get caught up in something you think looks cool, but you may be too close to the process. The graphic you like may not resonate or even make sense to your audience. As with the tagline, be open to feedback.
  • A logo should be simple, clean and strong enough to hold up equally as well whether you use it on the side of a city bus or the back of a ladybug. Don’t get too detailed with fine lines and shades that might not hold up. It’s a good idea to design first in black on white. Once that works you can think about colors. Print it in various sizes to see how well it reproduces. You may be sending it out to print media, and they are typically in a deadline rush in which your mark is not their priority. They can make a mess of even the best logos. A strong and simple mark will help you ensure consistency and protect your brand.
  • You will need multiple file types (such as jpg, eps, tiff) and multiple sizes to send to the various places you’ll use this logo, so understand what they are and how each is used.

COLORS

Queen_Eliz_The_Ditchley_portraitSignature colors are a great way to express your brand. Brand colors should be chosen for specific reasons. Queen Elizabeth, for example, chose colors of white and gold to represent her purity, and red and black to express her wealth (red and black dyes were very expensive in her time). Courtiers who wanted to identify with her went to great expense to wear the same colors.

In my last job, my organization operated an airport, a seaport, public marinas and public parks. So, the brand colors selected were light blue (air), green (land) and dark blue (sea) and were displayed in three wave-shaped bars indicating forward movement.

For myself I chose two shades of green, to reflect both the color most often associated with Irish, and the prominent color on the cover of my first novel. I added a third color of ocean blue for variety and balance. I wear the greens at every book festival, signing or speaking event, not as a uniform but via a scarf or a nice silk blouse so the message is not shouted but still effective. And, I use the colors prominently in my book displays.

colorselectionWhat colors should you choose? Here again I strongly advise working with a graphic designer who has experience with various media and how colors behave in each. Print colors do not look the same as screen colors, but designers can find the best options to give you greatest consistency across all media.

Think about the values you want to represent, and then take a look at a color chart to get some ideas.

http://www.pantone-colours.com

Color alone cannot be counted on to influence your readers’ behavior, because people tend to react to colors based on their own experiences, but it can play a role when it reflects the core values of your brand.

It’s the feeling, mood, and image that your brand creates that play a role in persuasion. Be sure to recognize that colors only come into play when they can be used to match a brand’s desired personality (i.e., the use of white to communicate Apple’s love of
clean, 
simple design).

http://www.helpscout.net/blog/psychology-of-color/

I hope this series has helped you fill out your branding worksheet, or at least get a good start on it. I know it takes a bit of soul searching, but knowing your own brand sets you on a solid path for marketing yourself in a consistent and professional way.

Let me know how it works for you. I’m happy to answer questions and respond to your comments. Happy branding!

SharavogueCoverSharavogue is an award-winning novel of 17th century Ireland and the West Indies. It is both historical fiction and fast-paced adventure. You can purchase Sharavogue at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and most online booksellers. Visit my website at www.sharavogue.com for more information.

Follow this blog for research updates and announcements. I’ll be posting a new series soon about my on-the-ground research in Ireland for my upcoming book, a prequel to Sharavogue.

 

Author branding: What really drives you?

Give yourself a royal branding: The worksheet, part 2

Romanian_crown_7-11Picking up where we left off with last week’s post, I was walking you through the essential steps of my author/personal branding worksheet. (See the Royal Branding series here.) We started out by defining your primary audience and selecting the core values that define you and your brand. Now we take on the next four elements of the worksheet, including:

CORE BRAND DRIVER
VISION
MISSION
POSITIONING

BRAND DRIVER

What is that, exactly? Basically, it is what gets you out of bed in the morning and what gets you through the day. It’s that kernel of passion about what you do, stated in a concise and easy-to-remember way so that you and your associates or employees (if you have them) can buy into it and live it. I found the following quote from the book Brand Simple that explains it well:

You need a “brand driver” for external and internal use; the short phrase that captures the essence of your idea. For example, take GE: “imagination at work.” This is important so employees know how to make decisions that align with the brand. FedEx is great example…what’s their promise to customers and to themselves? On-time delivery by 10:30 am. If you ever watched Castaway, remember the way that brand promise unified everything for everyone in the early scenes? And that last scene where he delivered the package: that’s delivering on the brand promise.

So you can see, it is not a tagline, although it may sound like one and look like one, and your tagline may be derived from it. And you may think, “Hey, what I do is difficult and complex, and can’t all be captured in a simple phrase.” That’s probably true, and reducing all that complexity to its essence is no easy task. But think of it as a rallying point, a war cry. It may also be your unique selling proposition. What is the one thing about your work that, if you didn’t do it, the world could not become a better place?

To come up with my own brand driver, I worked down to my basic personal belief that we are all part of a continuum of the spirit, that what is accomplished or not accomplished in one generation affects other generations both before and after. Maybe my telling of a specific story satisfies an unfulfilled need from long ago, and has the power to change a perspective even just a little bit. What we do, what we accomplish, and how we use our gifts is of great importance. I am an author of historical fiction. Therefore my brand driver is: Illuminate the past to inspire the present.

You can state your brand driver any number of ways, but I like it stated as a challenge, kind of like Nike’s “Just Do It.”

VISION

Now, doesn’t it make you happy to have your brand driver in place? It is like discovering your purpose in life. The next step is thinking through your brand driver to the best possible conclusion. What would the world look like if you are wildly successful? For me, maybe the world would be a literate place where we would learn from and not repeat the mistakes of the past, so that things like greed-driven wars and preventable famines would not take place, etc.

Let your imagination go on this one. Try to capture your perfect world in a sentence or two. But it is your vision, so if it takes a paragraph or a page, let the words flow. This is really about why your new-found purpose in life matters, and it does.

MISSION

You have defined your universe. Now let’s bring it down to boots on the ground. Your mission statement is about what you do every day in service of your brand driver towards achieving your new world vision. You are an author? Well then you write, of course. But think in terms of a business statement. A business exists to make money, and to make money you must have a product or service to deliver. Do you have long-term goals and projected outcomes? Your mission statement is partly definitive, partly aspirational. And don’t worry about getting it perfect. Just write something you are comfortable with based on what you have worked on so far. Your mission statement can change. Many businesses tweak their mission statement regularly to reflect current business conditions.

In the 2014 annual report, the CEO of General Electric stated the company mission this way:

GE’S MISSION IS TO INVENT THE NEXT INDUSTRIAL ERA,
TO BUILD, 
MOVE, POWER AND CURE THE WORLD.

GE imagines things others don’t, builds things others can’t and delivers outcomes that make the world work better. GE brings together the physical and digital worlds in ways no other company can. In its labs and factories and on the ground with customers, GE is inventing the next industrial era to move, power, build and cure the world.

See how that might inspire customers? Easy, right? Now write yours exactly like that only different. (JUST KIDDING!) Your aspirations may not be quite that lofty, but your mission statement should include a reference to your vision and how what you do will help achieve it. Note GE’s reference to labs, factories and customer contact.

Still need inspiration? Here’s a blog post that lists 50 mission statements for non-profits, and a few more from another site that show longer statements and a variety of business types.

Keep in mind your mission statement is something you might post on your website to tell your customers in a general way who you are and what you do, so think about it from the reader perspective and go for clarity over cleverness.

POSITIONING

Elizabeth_I_(Armada_Portrait)To develop your positioning statement, I refer you back to my Royal Branding series, part 4 on Queen Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s life was at stake so it is understandable that she would need strong positioning in the minds of her subjects, but why do you need a positioning statement? If you are an author, just go to a bookstore like Barnes and Noble and look around. If you are like me you will quickly be overwhelmed with the vast number of books out there and wonder why you even bother writing at all. Then get out of there fast and remember your brand driver and your mission. You are one of a kind. No one else has the same story and no one else can tell it the way you do. But where do you fit in the marketplace, and how will you explain it quickly to the literary agent or the customer standing next to you in the elevator?

To create a good positioning statement you should (1) define your target audience, (2) include the category or genre in which you operate, (3) articulate the benefit or unique qualities being offered and (4) give customers a reason to believe you will deliver on your promise.

You’ve already done most of the footwork on this one. What we are doing now is packaging it in a way that brings in your marketing strategy and how you want your audience/customers to perceive your brand in relation to all the others.

There is no sense in me reinventing the wheel here: This blog post from Cornell University gives you all you need to write a good positioning statement, including guidelines, a simplified template, examples, and even a free “statement generator.”

As you work through these steps I encourage you to

  • Take your time
  • Be creative
  • Allow for flexibility so you can live comfortably within your own brand constraints
  • HAVE SOME FUN

Whew! That is a lot to think about already. Since this post is now getting a bit long, I will come back next week to finish this series with Taglines, Marks and Colors.

And after all that brain work, maybe it’s time for some escape reading? Sharavogue is an award-SharavogueCoverwinning novel of 17th century Ireland and the West Indies. It is both historical fiction and fast-paced adventure. You can purchase Sharavogue at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and most online booksellers. Visit my website at www.sharavogue.com for more information.

And please follow this blog for research updates and announcements. I’ll be posting a new series soon about my on-the-ground research in Ireland for my upcoming book, a prequel to Sharavogue.

Author branding: The work sheet

Steps on the path to your royal brand

In last week’s post I summarized lessons learned from royalty—the first personal branders—covered in my 7-part series analyzing their techniques. This post gives you the steps I’ve laid out in my “personal branding worksheet.” I will cover how to complete the worksheet in two posts because it will get too long otherwise.

Irish runners, Woodcut by Albert Durer

Irish runners, Woodcut by Albert Durer

As noted previously, there are many ways to go about personal branding, and you could spend years and thousands of dollars perfecting it if you choose. But I believe for an individual, and specifically for authors, this method is a simplified and effective way to create a workable brand that will represent you and guide you for years to come. Which reminds me to remind you: Branding, like book marketing, is a marathon, not a sprint. Be sure you can love and live with what you create because it should last for many years.

BEFORE WE BEGIN

In any kind of communications activity, the first thing you need to know is who you are talking to, and what they need. Who is your audience? Depending on your work and the types of writing you do, you may have one audience, or you may have several.

  • Are they distinct or do they overlap?
  • What do they need from you?
  • How do they get their information?
  • What do they expect, both from you as an author, and from you as communicator?

Think of one or two, or maybe a handful of individuals from your primary audience. What are they like? As an example, I write historical fiction, and my stories tend toward the hero’s journey and social milieu, and not so much toward battles and blood (although those are not completely absent). My readers are both male and female but a slightly higher percentage female. They love to read, like history and strong female characters. They want to be immersed in time and place, but also learn while they read. They are busy, smart and social.

I must always have this target audience in mind when thinking about my brand, and it helps me decide how best to express it, where and when. You can go into much greater detail than this, and define subgroups as needed if you write in more than one and very different genres.

How can you learn about your audience?

  • Watch comments in social media
  • Read reviews of other authors in your genre
  • Talk to them in bookstores or at book festivals
  • Ask friends who read your genre

And relax. It is not a perfect science no matter what the professional marketers say. In my case, I learned that some historical fiction readers were tired of the Tudor period and the proliferation of books on that era when so many other periods in history are not well covered. Also, I knew some readers are hesitant to invest an 800+ page novel. Who has time? I had heard complaints abut authors who overplay their research and include every detail instead of just what is important to move the story forward.

So, I targeted those readers by setting my story in a different time period, making sure it was fast paced, under 300 pages, and selective in detail. The result was successful and effective, but now some of my readers tell me they love the story, but maybe it moves too fast and they don’t want it to end. They want it longer. They love learning about a period in time they have not read about before, but normally would not have looked for it when shopping for a book.

Perhaps I created a higher barrier to overcome in that readers aren’t familiar with the period I’ve chosen or why they might want to read about it. But that’s okay, I know it is an exciting era, and highlighting this has become my challenge and my mission.

GETTING STARTED

With your audience in mind, let’s go. First, open a word document and copy and paste the list below. You may want to leave space between as we will be filling in under each one:

VALUES
CORE BRAND DRIVER
VISION
MISSION
POSITIONING
TAGLINE
MARKS
COLOR PALETTE

VALUES

Your brand is not really about what you do. It’s about why you do it. Steve Jobs said Apple’s brand was not about a company that makes computers. It’s about a company that values innovation, passion, aspiration and simplicity. Apple’s products support people who have those same values. You write books? Great – a lot of people write books. Your readers are interested in WHY you write them, what you believe in that makes you tell the stories you tell. The values that are most important to you are the building blocks of your brand.

There are so many values, a good way to start narrowing down is to pick from a list. Some companies ask their customers to pick values from a list that they believe describes the company, then they use those words in their brand materials. Sometimes they’ll choose different words to help highlight different values they want their audiences to recognize. I found a link listing more than 400 values, but you’ll find many similar lists if you type “values list” into your search engine.

Look through and pick out the things that are most important to you, then narrow that list down to 10 or 20 words that you think define you as a person and as an author. Be honest. As we learned from Napoleon, it doesn’t pay to pretend to be something you are not, and it will be difficult to maintain a false façade.

With your short list, narrow it down again to those five or six values that define you but are also important to your audience. These are areas where you may be able to connect with them on a personal level. Values like Leadership and Generosity might be areas where your audience can relate to you. Hygiene and Poise are good values, but these may not be things you want to define your brand and, unless they are the topics of your books they may not rise to the top level of your brand values.

Once you have your values defined, you may want to sit with them a day or two to make sure you are happy with your choices, and feel confident they capture those parts of you that you want to project to your target audience. Then put them on your worksheet.

Next week we’ll pick up where we left off, using values to define your Core Brand Driver.

SharavogueCoverAnd in the meantime, embark on an adventure in Irish history! Sharavogue is the award-winning story of a peasant girl who vows to destroy Oliver Cromwell during his march of destruction across Ireland in the 17th century, and her struggle for survival on a West Indies sugar plantation. Winner of the Royal Palm Literary Award for historical fiction, it is available from online booksellers including amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Author branding: Lessons learned from royalty

As a follow-up to my series on author branding (A Royal Undertaking), this post focuses on applying the lessons learned from the first personal branders – kings and queens throughout history.

Henry_face_youngThese were the people who first learned and demonstrated the power of a strong and consistent personal brand. Kings and queens needed their people to obey them, to respect them, and of course to pay taxes without storming the castle. Their personal brands could be communicated to all the places they could not go physically, to generate the acceptance they required to lead.

So what can authors, and truly anyone who needs a personal brand, really use from the royalty discussed in my series? First and foremost, remember that we are all the kings and queens of our own brand. BE A TYRANT. I remember hearing a story about Paul McCartney’s road crew complaining that he was difficult to work for because of his controlling and demanding management style. McCartney’s response? Hey, it’s my name on the marquee at every show, not yours.

From the Egyptian queen Hatshepsut we learned the basics to establish your personal brand:

  • Definition. Values are the basis of your brand and guide what you will and won’t do in your business and in your life. Values are what you want people to know about you, and get to the core of who you are. Hatshepsut’s primary values were leadership and legacy. Remember, in personal branding, you are promoting yourself, not your book. Readers want to engage with authors who are real people.
  • Opportunity. You can’t be all things to all people. Find a niche that will allow you to shine, and has subject areas that speak to you and can keep you interested. Branding is a long-term relationship. As pharaoh, Hatshepsut had the opportunity to build things, so she focused on art and architecture to create her legacy.
  • Focus. Hatshepsut focused specifically on a few main things that addressed her values. Don’t participate in every book event or every charity, choose one or two that fit your brand values and dig in. Many authors support literacy, for example, because what would we be without readers? And don’t run yourself ragged trying to be on every social media platform. Choose the ones that really serve you and fit who you are.
  • Endurance. A strong consistent brand can endure. Note that Hatshepsut’s has been around for nearly 3,500 years. Make sure your brand is authentic and something you can always support and protect.

Henry VIII: The key to King Henry’s personal brand is his persona. The powerful, charming, larger-than-life, man’s man image he created was something the citizens of his time already wanted, expected and respected in their king. He didn’t create something he wasn’t, but he did project and highlight those features that would please his audience. The virile king in shining armor beating his opponents in a jousting tournament, for example.

Authors, like royalty, can create a persona in the minds of their audiences and the general public, to thereby be remembered. What aspects of your personality define you? What interesting facts about your personal or professional background make you stand out, and are those aspects important to readers of your genre?

Elizabeth_I_Rainbow_PortraitQueen Elizabeth I took the next step by positioning herself in the minds of her audience. This was important because of the turmoil of her times, to distinguish herself from her sister – Bloody Mary – who ruled before her, and from her mother Anne Boleyn who had been executed for treason. Elizabeth distanced herself from these negative images by claiming her descendancy from the Trojans, King Arthur and Henry VIII, her divine right to rule, emphasizing her values of peace, religious unity, international trade and naval dominance, and her purpose to maintain the well-being, security and prosperity of her people.

  • Your positioning statement should establish you firmly in the minds of your audience.
  • Once developed, positioning can guide your marketing strategy and tactics to serve you for the long-term.
  • The colors, imagery and messaging you use should support your positioning and persona, be thoughtful and consistent, and repeated again and again.
  • Your persona must support your positioning statement and vice versa.

Louis XIV was the first royal I know of who, having defined values over fashion to drive his brand, insisted on written guidelines to maintain the brand’s consistency and therefore its power. A good written strategy helps ensure the brand is made visible and relevant to its target audiences.

DelarocheNapoleonLessons learned from Napoleon are more cautionary. To support a personal brand you must align your actions with your persona, and lean toward transparency rather than duplicity. When what you exhibit or say differs from what you actually do, you break down the trust that is essential to any brand. In today’s world of social media, we are all just an Instagram away from a trashed brand if we do not live our values. Napoleon also teaches us to listen to trusted advisors. Just as every writer needs an editor, every person needs to be open to other perspectives.

And from our American presidents Lincoln and Kennedy, we learn the value of harnessing the technology of the day to communicate most effectively with our audiences. Most definitely, today that is social media, but there are so many channels of communication available, so what is the most direct route from you to your audience, and how can you use it best? (Remember, content is king!)

Next week my post will walk you through the steps in a personal branding worksheet I first presented at the Amelia Island Book Festival in February. Sure, you could spend a year or two creating a personal brand. Or, with this worksheet and some soul searching, have your basic brand framed out in a matter of days.

SharavogueCoverEmbark on an adventure in Irish history with the novel Sharavogue, winner of the 2014 Royal Palm Literary Award. Now available from online booksellers. Author Nancy Blanton will be exhibiting at the South Carolina Book Festival in Columbia, SC, May 16-17, 2015. You may also connect with her on Facebook.

Author branding: Honest Abe to Camelot

Part 7 in a series on personal branding

American presidents are not royalty, coming to power via election rather than bloodline, but they still enjoy many of the protocols of European royalty covered so far in this series, and have used personal branding as a primary weapon in their get-elected arsenal. Several of our 43 presidents have had outstanding personas, but two are particularly remarkable to me: Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. Their brands are so strong that you almost automatically think “Honest Abe” and “Camelot.”

Lincoln1861

Looking up: Lincoln promised a unified future. Public domain.

Every school kid knows the story of the impoverished Abraham Lincoln, growing up in a log cabin and reading books by candlelight. As Alan Brew writes,

“Lincoln’s life exemplifies what has been variously labeled ‘the American dream,’ or ‘the right to rise’ from rags to riches. In Lincoln’s case it is quite literally a rise from a log cabin to the White House. His story is the embodiment of Lincoln brand: gritty determination, honesty, family values, unswerving belief in America and the basic rights of his fellow men. His life offers a powerful testimony to dream. It is what ordinary Americans want to believe about social mobility and the
opportunity to get ahead.”

In fact, he was a highly intelligent lawyer and was one of the first presidents who was actively branded and marketed to the voting public by his political campaign. Sociology professor and author Jackie Hogan said in an interview, “There were all kinds of theatrics: pulling up a fence rail and parading around saying this fence rail was split by Abraham Lincoln. They created an image of him as an average Joe, and in many ways, he was not an average Joe. But he was very happy to ride that reputation into the White House.”

What Lincoln had that other presidents, and royals, lacked, was access to new technology, and he used it to advantage to receive and distribute information. This new technology was the telegraph. It had been used primarily by the banking and financial industry, but Lincoln was the first president to use it for wartime communication.

“Like social media the telegraph is an electronic form of communication. The telegraph increased the speed at which information and communication could be received it changed the world, it changed war, and it changed daily life.”

Scott Scanlon

Lincoln certainly had his detractors. It would be impossible not to, leading a nation in the time of a civil war, but he rose to power through his intellectual leadership, and in many cases was able to diffuse contentious situations through his powerful oratory. He was able to define, in elegant and often poetic layman’s terms, the sides and meanings of an issue. Today we might call that “content marketing.”

And though some thought his physical appearance awkward, he did try to look the part. “At his second inauguration, Abraham Lincoln wore a coat specially crafted for him by Brooks Brothers. Hand-stitched into the coat’s lining was a design featuring an eagle and the inscription, ‘One Country, One Destiny.’ He was wearing the coat and a Brooks Brothers suit when he was assassinated.”

Kennedy

Looking up: Embodying American ideals. White House, public domain.

While Lincoln came to power when the nation was divided, John F. Kennedy came into office on a wave of prosperity, the post-war boom. And where Lincoln had use of the telegraph, Kennedy had television:

“Once a commodity that few Americans with money possessed in the late 1940’s, it was now in the homes of all Americans by the era of the 1960’s. It was this medium that would blast across the screen the youthful, handsome, rich, John F. Kennedy with his young beautiful wife Jackie and their two vivacious children.”
xroads.virginia.edu

In the 1950s and 60s, when families were watching Ozzie and Harriet, and Father Knows Best on TV, the Kennedy family exemplified that perfect, happy image, and Kennedy played into it, allowing his family and particularly his children to be photographed “under his desk, in their playrooms, in the Rose Garden, in their schoolhouses, throwing parties, Caroline riding her pony, or John-John running toward the helicopters and planes which so often captivated him.”

Kennedy also used his charisma and knack for rallying people around an aspirational cause that they already wanted, such as being first on the moon, or creating the Peace Corps. There was an unwritten rule that his dark side (the extramarital affairs, connections to organized crime, plot to assassinate Fidel Castro) were not to be revealed, and they were not until investigative reporters of the 1970s got into it the files. Kennedy was the last president to enjoy that kind of relationship with the press.

Lessons learned

So what are the takeaways from these two presidents that can be applied to author branding?

First, it pays to know your audience and what they want. Both Lincoln and Kennedy understood their times and identified their personas with the ideals of the time. Even though they were faced with very difficult issues and circumstances, their personas helped them maintain public support through crises, and have survived the decades. One might argue that the assassinations propelled them into indelible memory, but polls still rank them among the most beloved presidents, and their personas live on. For authors of historical fiction, readers want to understand the relevance of what you write for today’s world.

Second, it pays to use technology to advantage. Today’s social media and a fairly unforgiving consumer audience make the kind of duality these presidents experienced difficult if not impossible. But consistent messaging and a strong brand story, strategically distributed to target audiences, can create a memorable personal brand that will stand for you when you need it most.

Third, just as you create your own persona, think about the personas of your target audience: who they are, what they want, and what they need from you — not to create a false image to project to them, but to clarify how to reach them best, and how to create and distribute content that is meaningful to them while still aligning with your own values and brand.

Previous posts in the series:

Part 1, Intro          Part 2, Hatshepsut          Part 3, Henry VIII

Part 4, Elizabeth I          Part 5, Louis XIV       Part 6, Napoleon

SharavogueCoverEmbark on an adventure in Irish history with the novel Sharavogue, winner of the 2014 Royal Palm Literary Award. Now available from online booksellers. Author Nancy Blanton will be presenting at the Amelia Island Book Festival, February 20-21, 2015. You may also connect with her on Facebook.