There's a story behind everything - every accomplishment you've achieved, every mistake you've made, and every experience you've had. Every single one of these aspects of your story shapes and defines your brand in some way.
Without your story, your brand wouldn't exist.
Your brand story is where your brand originates. It's the root that everything grows from and the glue that holds it all together.
- How did I get started? What first caught my interest and made me want to get into this?
- What actions have I taken to get here?
- What struggles have I faced and overcome?
- What have I learned from my past mistakes?
- What do I wish I would've known before ____?
- How do all of these things affect my point of view or opinions on things?
Stories are how we connect and relate to others. Through the stories of others, we see our own.
Building Your Brand From the Ground Up
A lot of people want to rush straight into the design stage of creating their brand (I know I sure did when I was first starting out.) It's so tempting to jump into throwing together a full website so you can finally see it in the flesh...er...pixels.
Let's instead slow down for a moment and take some time to explore the deeper aspects of your brand.
Design is the solution that bridges the gap between your message and your audience. Designing with intention means that there's a deeper purpose behind your visuals.
And it all starts with your story.
Telling a Good Story
It's easy to look at your journey so far, let your inner critic take over, and convince yourself that you have nothing worthwhile to share. You end up thinking there's no "good story" in you, whatever a "good story" really is.
Let's start with that. What is a good story, anyway?
A good story...
- Is honest and authentic
- Has conflict and tension
- Is vulnerable and open
- Educates and inspires
I see those all those thoughts whirring around in your head right now.
"Does my story have enough pizzazz? I don't know how to teach! My story's so average, it's not going to inspire anyone. I'm too afraid of opening up. How do I make sure I'm being authentic enough?"
Relaaaaaaaax. You're overthinking this, I promise.
We're going to break down each of these elements one by one, find out why they're useful, and learn how you can blend them into your brand message:
Honesty + Authenticity
This should go without saying, but your brand story needs to be true.
If you're reading this, though, then I'm pretty positive you're not the kind of person who would lie about something like this. ;)
But maybe you're still worried about whether or not you're "authentic" enough. That's a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot, but what exactly does it mean? How do you create a brand that's "authentic?"
1. Allow others to follow along with you on your journey.
I used to be so paranoid that people would label me as a fraud. That because my website was new, people would think I had no idea what I was talking about. I thought my newness meant I wasn't authentic enough.
But then I realized that as long as I was sharing my own personal experiences, knowledge, and story, that's all that really mattered.
Share what you know and what you've experienced for yourself so far on your journey. If you haven't done something before or if you're just starting out, be honest about it. As I said in my last post on the power of consistency, there's NOTHING wrong with being new.
You don't have to have it all figured out, and no one expects you to.
- Share what you know and do best.
- Share the things you don't have to Google beforehand.
- Share how you got started.
- Share what inspires you.
- Share what you're learning and invite your community to learn along with you.
2. Don't let what others are doing alter the direction you want your brand to take.
Every day, we're surrounded by the success of others and how they achieved it. Links are pelted at us on social media. Success stories fill our feeds. We keep hearing about these 5-6 figure launches and all kinds of advice on how to recreate them. There's all this talk on how to best utilize this and that for maximum results. And don't forget the oodles of webinars and workshops going on every week.
Okay, um YIKES!? Talk about information overload.
Now to clarify, I'm in NO way dissing the content and resources that others are working their asses off to provide. What I AM saying is to be careful about what and how much you consume and how you let it affect your brand.
It's important to realize that their story is different from yours. The methods they've used or choices they've made aren't necessarily the same ones that are best for you and your brand.
Don't feel obligated to attend every workshop, watch every scope, or download every freebie. Trust me, I've made this mistake and wound up completely overwhelmed (and with a hefty downloads folder filled with a bajillion worksheets + ebooks I'll never actually use).
It's easy to get caught up in the hype, only to find out that's actually not the direction you wanted to go.
Take every piece advice that comes your way with a grain of salt. And YES, that absolutely includes mine too.
Always question why things are done a certain way. If it doesn't work for you and your brand, then give yourself permission to let it go and find out what does. Experiment and make discoveries on your own.
Create your own success.
Conflict + Tension
What would a story be without some conflict and tension thrown in there to spice things up? Let's face it, without conflict, stories are bone-dry and B-O-R-I-N-G.
For a while, I thought my story was about as interesting as a piece of toast.
Except for a few naysayers, my family was very supportive of my ambitions. I worked 2 jobs that I didn't hate. I still lived at home and didn't have many bills to pay so I could save up. I've never been to college a day in my life, so I had plenty of time to work on the things I really want to pursue.
But struggles come in all shapes and forms.
Because even though I had wild ambitions, my own fear held me back from pursuing them.
- I let myself become stuck in the research phase for years, trying to learn everything I possibly could until I was "ready" instead of actually getting started. *procrastination ensues*
- I wasn't passionate about my jobs, but thought they'd be what I'd have to do for the rest of my life because...well, what else would I do? Great reason to get into a career, right? </sarcasm>
- My perfectionism wouldn't allow me to stick with learning new things. If I wasn't good at something right away, I'd give up and think I'd never be any good. Heck, I even hated the idea of writing in a freaking $1 notebook because I thought I'd "ruin it" if the words I wrote weren't oozing precious gold.
- I had no confidence in myself. Despite the support and encouragement I received, my own voice in my head kept telling me I couldn't do this and that I didn't have what it takes. That my work sucked and wasn't worth anything. And I believed it.
- The thought of putting myself and my work out there made me wanna run for the hills screaming/flailing like a madwoman. 5 months ago, me + Twitter = $@%#&! NAW.
We've all struggled in some way, shape, or form to get to where we are. I'm sure there are plenty of things you're tackling right now too.
Our struggles are what make us human.
Vulnerability + Openness
1. Embrace your brand story and put it out there.
I LOVE this quote from Part 2 of Jen's Guide to Attracting (+ Booking) Dream Clients:
People want to work with someone who "gets" them. Someone who understands what they're going through or where they've been.
- Show your work and process.
- Show your personality and quirks.
- Share your thoughts and opinions.
- Share your struggles and experiences.
Step out from behind the curtain and show them that you're someone they can trust.
2. Accept that you can't please everyone, but be open to feedback.
I found this video by Marie Forleo a while ago, and it was a huge breath of fresh air. Since I was starting a design business that could potentially open me up to a lot of criticism, I thought that meant I somehow needed to develop a thicker skin.
But in the video, Marie says, "Your sensitivity is a gift," and "...it's not necessarily about toughening up, it's about smartening up."
Your story isn't going to connect with everyone. Not everyone is going to relate or even like what you share or create, and that's 100% okay. Criticism doesn't define who you are. It's only someone's opinion.
Consider the source of where the criticism is coming from and their point of view. Is this a learning opportunity for you and a way for you to grow and improve? If not, they're obviously not who you should be spending your time on. Focus your energy on those who resonate with your story and what you create. Those are YOUR people.
Educate + Inspire
1. Use your story to help others understand your brand.
Branding is about showing what you/your business/your blog is all about. Your brand isn't what you say it is, it's what others perceive it to be. It's up to you to make sure your brand is painting a clear picture for your audience and communicating the right message.
Why does your brand exist in the first place? What's the purpose behind it? Your story answers these questions. Let it show through the copy + photos on your About page, sales pages, newsletters, blog posts, social media updates, and everything else you can think of.
2. Share what you've learned from past struggles and mistakes.
Sharing your struggles in a way that educates and gives hope and encouragement to your community is what will make you stand out.
- How did you get over (or how are you dealing with) your struggles?
- What held you back from doing so?
- What actions or decisions would have made a difference?
- What do you wish you would've known or had back then?
- What lessons did you walk away with that you can now pass on to your community?
- What's obvious or easy for you that might not be for your clients, customers, or readers?
Not only will answering these questions help your readers and clients, but it'll also demonstrate your knowledge and experience.