Branding Authentically: Learn from others without losing your voice
You would think authenticity in a marketing message would be one of the most natural skills for a business owner. Simply write like you talk. Convey a thought or idea the way you would standing in your kitchen or brainstorming with your team.
But how many of you girl (and guy) bosses are with me when I admit to serious struggle in this area? Especially in those first few months of my business' launch. All day long I'm watching and learning from those more successful than me; studying their Instagram feeds, reading their LinkedIn articles and listening to their podcasts, thinking, "oh, okay, that's how I should do it."
Sure, we need training to improve how we lead, manage and move our companies forward, but all this absorbing others' material can also cloud our communication. It can become very tempting to take on someone else's tone, style, word choices and methods, to our own detriment. Your audience doesn't want another so-and-so, they want you, and the special way you can serve them. Your business will never stand out if you don't decide what's going to set it apart.
I'm still learning this myself, and I'm sure I always will be, but I can tell you what has helped me in this area - and if you'll let me preach for a moment - stress to you that I really, truly want you to fight for authenticity with your business and brand messaging. The world needs your way of doing something that is a little - or a lot - different from the other companies in your field. Learn best practices, but don't be afraid to put your own spin on what that is for your small business. Here are a few ways you can make sure you're branding authentically.
Write your first draft from the heart
Sometimes, when I begin a blog or content piece, I can't get past the first couple sentences without second-guessing myself. Is this what I should say? Is this how I should say it? Oh shoot, is that even grammatically correct?
Brand owners, I give you full permission to toss all the rules out the window and let your heart guide your first draft. Just let those thoughts and fingers fly. Who cares about proper punctuation, how someone else may read it or if the sentence is perfectly formed? First drafts are the best time to put your spirit into your words. You can worry about all that fine-tuning after you feel that what you're saying and how you're saying it is truly a reflection of you.
Learn from your own successes
Hopefully, after you've been at it a while, you can shift your attention off other business owners and focus more on what's worked for you. Gradually decrease the amount of time you spend following your favorite branders and devote more time to what you love about your own branding. This will help you build off what's been working and stay in tune with how you should come across to your specific audience to create more successful leads.
Create your own stylebook
If there's any point here that I feel equipped to speak to, it's this one. I began in the magazine publishing world, worked at a newspaper, blogged for businesses when it wasn't cool yet and just crossed three years as a full-time copywriter for a mortgage company. Style, grammar and the English language have been my world for about 15 years.
When it comes to brand messaging, advertising and marketing content, style guides and grammar rules can be held loosely. It's a different type of communication, and you can absolutely feel free to create your own style guide.
What you don't want to do is be inconsistent. Choose how you're going to write a term ( pluralize business' or business's?) or punctuate (do you like more or fewer commas?) and stick with it. Sure, it may not pass a college essay, but college English wasn't about branding your business. In marketing world, your grade is about consistency.
Be firm with your business boundaries
If you hate blogging, don't blog. If you prefer to podcast over owning a Facebook business page, then put your time and creativity into a podcast. You don't have to do all the types of messaging you see others doing - especially in the early years. It's okay to choose the type of marketing you prefer, and what works best for your audience - it's your brand!
Keep putting yourself out there
When it comes to writing authentically, repetition is the best teacher. I felt super awkward those first couple months trying to "be me" with my own brand. Years of helping other business owners and companies find their voice didn't mean my own came instantaneously. You're entitled to a few awkward social posts, blogs, videos (have you visited my YouTube account lately? Me neither, lol) and emails.
Don't let those uncomfortable first few hold you back. Keep posting, recording, emailing and captioning. Your voice will come.
Maybe you've been in the biz a while and you've established your authentic brand conversation. Now, your problem is you simply don't have the time or desire to take your marketing to the next level with strategic, lead-creating website writing or email campaigns. That's what I can help with. And please, if you simply found this blog super helpful, leave me a comment because I'd love to know!
Until next time, bosses!