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Never Stop Learning: 5 Ways to Build Your Brand as a Writer

  Posted by Jean Oram , 01 May 2012 · 100 views

Let’s get this out of the way: Writing is a business. Period.
If you plan to have more than your mother read your writing, it is a business.
“Well, wait,” you say. “I write because I enjoy it and yeah, sure, one day I’ll get published.”
I feel the same way.
For years I blogged because I wanted to. Not because I thought I should or was trying to build a brand. It was about me sharing ideas, opportunities, tips, and more because I felt the need to do so.
And I still blog for those same reasons. But now it is more. I also blog with a new additional purpose–the purpose of doing it well and building a brand. (It’s a big learning curve!)
When I first started writing a few years ago, I believed that writing a good story was enough. And sometimes it is. However, in today’s world I believe that writers need more. More to be truly successful. More to be noticed. We need to build a brand. We need to never stop learning and applying what we have learned. The world will not stop for us.
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What is a brand for writers?

It is you. It is what makes you stand out from the crowd in an unique “you” way. It is recognizable. It is something you can carry over across various online worlds. Hone in on what your brand is and what it isn’t. Think of the big writers. What makes them “them.”
The things on your “isn’t” list should not appear in your tweets or Facebook posts if you are going to be a ‘pure’ brand–unless of course you can find a way to swing that back to your brand in some way. (For example, the other week I shared a story about meeting Canada’s Greatest Know It All and turned what could have been an unrelated story (from a brand standpoint) into a post on writing.)
How do you build a brand?

1. Visual Identity
You need something that is distinctly you. Like a logo, avatar, or image that brands the blog or Twitter account as “you” and is instantly recognizable for your audience. Think Coca-Cola. What popped in your head? It was the red and white can and the writing, wasn’t it? That is visual branding. Now think about what you would expect to see on their Twitter and Facebook accounts. It’s the logo and writing, isn’t it? That is a strong visual identity and visual branding.
It is important to ensure your visual identity matches your brand’s persona. A flowery, feminine visual identity will not work if you are writing dark mysteries, but it would work well with some romances. Your identity should match what you are selling and your voice and tone–not what you think is purdy.
Keep your look current. What is visually up-to-date in terms of style and image on the net changes constantly. What was gorgeous five years ago may look painfully outdated now–and you could too by association.
2. Voice
Voice is huge for writers. It is the distinctive tone we put on the things we write. In theory, someone who read passages from a hundred different writers should be able to pull yours from of the pile. Think of your favourite author. You know the way they write, and their tone, and voice, and could pull them out in a blind taste test.
Our voice is part of our brand. Our voice should carry over all avenues of platform from tweets, to articles, to books, to Facebook posts. Your voice has to be genuine and you for that reason. Otherwise you run into consistency issues. And if you aren’t consistent it can make it difficult for your audience to trust your brand.
3. Consistency
If Coke started selling picnic tables the customer would probably go “wha?” When building a brand we need to hone in on one area and be consistent. Find your niche and hone it. For example, my It’s All Kid’s Play work is on it’s own website with it’s own URL, own logo, own look, own blog, own Twitter account, and own Facebook page. Why? Because if I suddenly started talking about “free play” and it’s values as well as activities to do with your children on this blog it would not go with the brand I am building here. This brand is about improving our fiction writing with the aim of publication. (But I now realize… my blog tagline does not reflect that.)
4. Credibility and Trust
Someone who is upfront, honest, and transparent builds trust. If your reader feels as though you are hiding something and not being authentic and putting it all out there, how will they trust you and your brand?
By being consistent and sharing what we know helps build credibility and trust. By the way, giving some (not all) tips and knowledge away for free is a great way to build trust because your consumer/customer gets to see what you are about, try what you are ‘selling,’ and see that it works. People like helpful people and remember them. And more often than not, they come back to that person when they need to buy. They also tend to recommend that person to others in need. These people are called brand ambassadors (pure gold!) and lend credibility and trust to you and your brand. (Because who are you going to believe when it comes to a product? The salesperson with an obvious vested interest or your buddy down the street?)
5. Marketing
Marketing can cover everything from paid advertisements to things like tweeting and even blogging. Don’t underestimate the power of these avenues in building (and destroying) your brand. Wherever you can, hone your brand and try not to dilute it. Create a niche and bring in your audience. They are yours.
Putting your brand out there can lend it a larger-than-life feel and can be involved or simple. Either way, a good rule of thumb should be that your marketing matches your brand and your brand’s voice.

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Once you have your brand, protect it. It takes way more work to create a brand than to destroy it. Train yourself to think of your brand first before you tweet or post. (And if you aren’t sure what your brand is at the moment, that’s okay! Sometimes it takes awhile to hone down to the nitty gritty.)
One last note: Editors and agents Google writers to see what they are doing online. And when they do, they like to see a brand that is professional, up-to-date, and in line with what the writer is trying to sell.
So how about you? What is your niche? What is your brand?

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