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Your Brand Promise: Step 1

Part of a series of brief articles on the Power of Personal Branding.

With this article, we begin to explore the 'meat' of your personal brand and for that we have to look inward -- far inward. Because to achieve the greatest degree of success with your personal brand, it must reflect your innermost beliefs and values.

I know what some of you are thinking. That is 'Wait a minute. I'm not looking for a change-your-life script here. I just want to promote my writing with a fun and catchy slogan.' This is brings up two points:

Your Personal Brand is not a slogan. A slogan is simply a marketing tool to sell one or more aspects of your Personal Brand.

Your Personal Brand covers both your private and public personas. So, yes, changing or refining your brand may end up changing or refining your life.

Your public and private selves may appear to be distinct entities. For example, let's consider Patty the Writer. In Patty's personal life, she is a messy housekeeper and messy dresser, prone to showing up at Wal-Mart at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning in a sweatsuit and hair curlers. However, because she secretly wishes she was tidy and she thinks others will respect her for being neat, she describes herself to her readers as a consummate neat-freak. So for Patty, her 'messy' personal reality would seem to be distinct from her 'neat-as-a-pin' professional persona. Patty also, to continue the example, really does believe that writing romance is just a means to pay the bills -- but her professional biography on the inside flap of her books describes her as a hopeless romantic. Why? Because Patty thinks that no one wants to read a romance by someone who doesn't highly value romance.

The problem with these two people -- 'messy, unromantic Patty' and 'neat, romantic Patty' -- is that they live in the same body. And when the heat is turned on, that will become very tiring for poor Patty. Sure, when she's sitting at home writing she may not have a problem keeping her identities separate. But what happens when she hits the New York Times best seller list, is giving interviews and book signings, and can be identified on the street by fans? How will she remember to be 'romantic and tidy' when her true feelings don't support those tendencies?

It is extremely difficult to recover from a broken brand promise to your audience, so it is best to ensure that your personal brand makes the kind of promise you can sustain both personally and professionally over the long term. To accomplish this, start at the beginning - by identifying your personal beliefs and values.

Identifying Your Beliefs and Values

Take some time to reflect on who you are as a person, and what you want to express through your brand. At this point, we are going deeper than easy-to-perceive attributes like 'shy and quiet' and focusing more on the ideas and attitudes that guide your life. Your brand promise can include any emotional, spiritual and cultural values that you plan to address with your brand. Some examples include:

--likes to help others
--wants to make a difference
--driven to succeed
--seeks power and control (for good or ill!)
--wants everyone to get along
--thinks love can conquer all
--willing to forgive and forget
--judging, believes in absolute right and wrong
--a teacher in all areas of life
--both aspirational and inspirational

Include in this list any beliefs and values that significantly influences your day-to-day life. If you're a zealous political activist, for example, then your political affiliation should definitely be included. However, if you are not driven on a daily basis to express your political views, you may not wish to include such an affiliation. The idea here is to boil down your beliefs and values to a few phrases that really guide who and what you are.

Let's go back to our friend Patty and help create a brand promise that better reflects her personality. Patty may be messy?but that could easily be characterized as carefree, still a positive attribute and one that she can live with much more easily. Regarding her 'all business' approach to romance writing, her biography could be tweaked to take out the heavy play on her being a hopeless romantic, and instead play up some other positive element - for example, that she likes to write characters who bring her readers joy. This is an accurate statement for Patty, and doesn't force her to embody a brand with which she doesn't truly identify. So rather than 'tidy and a hopeless romantic', Patty is 'carefree and reader-focused.'

Once you have settled on your Beliefs and Values for yourself and your brand, we go to the next step of your Brand Promise, or your brand's Benefits. And of course, if you have any specific questions, please don't hesitate to email me.

About Jenn Stark

Jenn Stark

Jenn Stark brings a practical, accessible approach to Personal Branding to help authors at every level present themselves for maximum impact. A vice president of marketing and communications with fourteen years’ experience and a published freelance business writer, Jenn now serves as president of the Ohio Valley Romance Writers of America, and has also served as the chapter’s publicity director, promoting chapter and author events.

She is an invited speaker and instructor on Personal Branding and public relations topics, and has worked with several authors one-on-one to help develop their Personal Brands and publicity materials. Her articles on Personal Branding have been featured in the newsletters and online loops of 29 writing chapters in the U.S. and Canada.

She can be reached at jenn@knowyourbrand.com