The branding of cattle is still a requirement in Australia. One single logo seared into the rump of designated livestock to determine the owner. But despite what some may think, I do not identify with the bovine population, and if you know me, I am not one of the herd.

But this is about branding of a different sort, although it does involve logos and some scorching self reflection, which is why branding myself to become a product online has always presented a challenge.

Questions like…

What do I want to be known for?
What is my mission statement in three keywords?

How do I present myself online?

…all bring me to the edge of an existential crisis.

Source:  Lightstock
alphabet stamps saying 'who am I.'

But some recent research into the subject as part of my creative writing degree has helped me focus.

One source states personal branding is ‘the process of managing and optimising the way you are presented to others.’ (Lee, 2015)

And another: Branding is not marketing. Marketing is telling someone about your product. (I will do that once my book is published) But branding is about my reputation. It’s about what others say about me and which may or may not be related to any creative output.

Another aspect I discovered is that personal and professional brands are merging to the point they are indistinguishable. In the author space where I sit, readers are becoming more and more interested in the personal lives of the author.

Social media platforms provide the access to connect this way. But authors are also allowing their followers into their lives. For example, the authors I follow, such as Sarra Cannon, Helen Redfern, K.M. Weiland, Joanna Penn each have a following based on the things they do besides writing. Jeff Goins has termed this ‘the portfolio life.’

Even though the initial point of connection was their favourite author’s books, followers can now get a peek into authors’ workspaces complete with toddlers or cats, join them on their morning walks and observe their process of creating.

These authors draw their readers/followers into their life experiences, and this then adds value to their content. Their brand has become about intangible things. Things that cannot be quantified or measured despite what the website analytics might present. It has now become not what these authors create, but who they are that influences followers to purchase. The author’s whole presence is the both the advertisement and the product.

But, how much of my life do I want my followers to know, and do I have the personality to pull it off, that is to create influence?

While I may think I am all over the place with writing craft, journalling, networking with writers, multimedia art, cultural and political interests, church interests, disability advocating and caring or family commitments, perhaps I can draw it all together and call it all about writing as well as all about me.

So, how do I influence a potential follower’s ‘perception of a product’? This product?

Social media has made me, (and you) a product. I have to ‘sell’ myself as such. This is why independent authors are encouraged to promote their upcoming book before it is published. To create an audience for the product before it exists. This sounds like scammy, false advertising, but it has become accepted practice.

For example, Joanna Penn crowdfunded through Kickstarter for her latest book My copy arrived last week. I trust Joanna after following her for many years and fan girling at a workshop in Brisbane where she presented.

But there are many examples of people whose projects are not authentic.

Belle Gibson for example scammed her followers with claims of cancer and lived from the proceeds. I could not conceive of defrauding folk in such a way.

Which brings me to the personal values I would want to present within my brand: honesty and transparency being just two of them. A recent exercise in discovering them also revealed creativity, faith, family and humour. These are intangible values which cannot be measured with website analytics and yet somehow become part of ‘the brand’.

But my challenge remains: How do I bring all my eclectic interests together in a cohesive brand with a clear, consistent transparent and authentic voice? How do I represent all that I am in a colour palette and a single logo? It’s a work in progress.

Here are some more practical thoughts on the subject:

Join me as I continue to develop a long term, strategic creative approach to my storytelling, sharing knowledge and maintaining connections.

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