Like what Suzan St Maur writes? Find out how to write it yourself

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Like what she writes? Let her show you how to write it yourself

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Writing about yourself? You are the BRAND, baby

Probably the most important thing the internet and particularly social media have done is to turn marketers’ perception of us from that of basic, dim-witted consumers … to that of intelligent, questioning buyers who just aren’t going to be fooled by hard-sell bullsh*t any more.

Writing about yourself? You are the BRAND, baby

When you write about yourself for business you have got to look upon yourself not as the person, but as the brand your work represents.

In fact what we have seen is a massive paradigm shift from the days when writing about yourself was about selling yourself and your stuff to people in one-way communication…

…to a time now when you get involved with your marketplace, get to know the people, and then help them to buy.

And that’s whether you want them to buy your product, your services, or even you – yourself.

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Creating your personal brand: everything you need to know

“Brand” is a popular word at the moment. And because many of us understandably view “brands” as belonging to such outfits as the Kelloggs, CocaColas, Microsofts, Googles, General Motors and other organizations of this world whose employees if laid out head to foot would stretch from here into the next galaxy, we don’t understand how brands and branding can work for us personally.

If you are keen to learn more about the deep science of branding, help yourself to gobs of information about that on Google. If, on the other hand, you would like to know how the rudiments of personal branding can help you get on in your career in what many gurus would consider somewhat simplified terms, stay tuned right here.

Who am I?

This is the first basic question that really matters with personal branding, whether you are someone setting out into business as a sole trader (working under your own name) or as a jobseeker looking for permanent employment.

It may seem stupid to ask yourself this question, especially if you have been on the planet for more than 20 or 30 years. But rather in the same way as people in sales will say to you “if you don’t think you’re good, why the hell should I?” … here we can ask the same question at a more basic level…

If you don’t know who you are, how the hell can anyone else?

Yet if you are to move on in your career or other interests – especially now that our online personas have become so important to both social and work issues – the people who matter have to know who you are and what you stand for. For me, that’s all the justification you need to develop your “personal brand;” all else stems from that thought.

Who am I and what do I do for you?

With all this “who am I” stuff it would be very easy to become too introspective and, frankly, spend too much time searching for your persona up your own orifices. Although old-fashioned selling techniques may be passé in direct ways, the concept is still buried deep in people’s brains.

So who you are is all fine and dandy provided that you can swiftly say or at least hint at why who you are is going to benefit whoever your message is aimed at.

So how does my brand work out for my business?

If you’re running a business, you’ve got to create an image that sets you up as the best possible choice within your industry area. You have to look at a number of issues here:

  • Have you already got a reputation as a good carpenter / plumber / electrician / consultant / therapist / coach / whatever?
  • What benefits does your experience and great successes for earlier customers offer new customers?
  • Are you one of several people / companies offering a similar service in your area?
  • If you’re someone offering a service similar to that of hundreds of others, why should someone choose you?
  • Etc.

Creating a good personal brand can be very simple

Here I’m taking an example of local advertising from one of my books, but I have adapted it to show how this local carpenter creates his own personal brand within a small marketplace, and on fairly simple terms…

Meet John The Carpenter

John is running a business within a fairly contained locality. His business consists of just him, perhaps with an assistant now and again plus an apprentice if he can arrange the necessary red tape, and also his wife who does the accounts and the admin. He needs to create his “personal brand” in order to stand out from his competitors in the locality, if he is to build on his existing customer base and grow his business. First of all, let’s look at how John can build up his local business without recourse to social media, blogging, etc…

So what have we got, with no frills?

John the carpenter is really good at making things out of wood

We’ll get a lot more done a lot faster if we forget that and instead focus on what we want to achieve.

John wants to increase and consolidate his business as a carpenter specializing in woodwork for people’s homes in this area.

Now we need to figure out the best way for him to do this. In the advertising world this would be handled by the planners/account team etc. But we’re talking DIY branding here. So first step is, take a closer look at John’s target audience. Who are they, and what do they want from carpentry?

John the carpenter’s potential customers are well-heeled local home owners who are prepared to pay well, but only for high quality work and service they can depend on 

What do we deduce from this? Obviously, a low-price story won’t impress them. In fact if anything it will put them off John. What is likely to work is a quality story. Also, we notice an element of insecurity here too, which we can use to help establish John’s reliability.

Because the nature of John’s work is essential pretty personal – he specializes in carpentry for people’s homes, don’t forget – he needs to reflect that in his personal brand not only to attract customers, but also to inspire their confidence in him and his abilities.

Now, what has John got to offer that other carpenters haven’t? Why should people pick up the phone to call him? Why should they trust him with something as important as the contents of their homes?

John’s personal brand values

John the carpenter is highly skilled

He has 20 years’ experience

He’s a local man, born and bred

He’s worked for some of the city’s most respected residents, including the Mayor – some for many years

He has glowing testimonials from many of his customers who are prepared to say so if a new customer wants to ask them

That’s all excellent stuff, but there’s a problem here. Those are similar to features – not benefits. Features are what something or someone is (so what?) and benefits are what it/he/she does (for me? That’s more interesting.) It’s easy to turn a feature into a benefit. Just add a “so” at the end of the feature and fill in the blank. This is how John’s personal brand values benefit his customers:

John the carpenter is highly skilled – so he knows what he is doing and you can rely on that

He has 20 years’ experience – so he won’t waste your time or money because he knows what works and what doesn’t

He’s a local man, born and bred – so he’s not likely to do a moonlight flit having half-completed your work, because people know where to find him

He’s worked for some of the city’s most respected residents, including the Mayor – some for many years – so the guy must be doing something right

He has glowing testimonials from many of his customers who are prepared to say so if a new customer wants to ask them – so we have proof that he’s doing something right; these days testimonials legally have to be true

Now, we need one key benefit to focus the personal branding on. You get that by asking what does all this really boil down to? First the feature…

John the carpenter is acknowledged as XXXtown’s leading quality carpenter for people’s homes

And the resulting benefit – what does this do for you?

John the carpenter gives you high-quality carpentry you can really rely on

How do we get the personal brand to portray that benefit?

We portray it by implanting a sentiment – one that instantly captures the benefit.

Sentiments don’t have to be touchy-feely. They can be based on anything from sex and rock’n’roll to hard-nosed financial or management issues. Whatever the choice, the secret of a message that works is to choose the right sentiment and then use it so the audience immediately grasps the benefits of buying your product or service.

In this case, by adding a sentiment into our brand’s message we see a powerful benefit coming through:

Because you really care about the quality of everything in your home, only John is good enough to do your carpentry.

That’s lumpy, so let’s develop a concept that says it in a shorter but sharper way:

Only you value the quality of new woodwork in your home as much as John the carpenter does.

I like that as a concept, but it might be seen as not hard enough, even for this end of the market. What about a concept that touches on the insecurity issue (mentioned above) as well….

The dependable handcrafted carpentry service your home deserves … now available from XXXtown’s leading expert John the carpenter

Or this, making even more of that insecurity…

Chances are, most carpenters could do a good job on the woodwork in your home.

If you don’t want to leave it to chance, call John the carpenter.

All this is the approach I use when developing brand or promotional copy. Other pro writers will use a slightly different approach. But there will be many common denominators, because the basic method works.

If I had to pick one single element from this as the most important of all, I’d say remember my cute little phrase: features smell, benefits sell. If everything you write for this purpose is benefits led, you won’t ever go far wrong.

So what is JohnTheCarpenter’s brand after all that?

Here’s a surprise: it’s NOT “TheBestCarpenter” … “CarpenterExpertise” …  “YourBestCarpenter”  … or even “YourBestCarpenterIn XXshire” and other equally, ostensibly plausible brands.

Why? Purely because of this: why should John advertise every one of his competitors along with his own business? A generic name is all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t pull you out as the one to contact. This is something that many sole traders fail to understand.

So now, his actual brand: JohnTheCarpenter.

Substantiated by the most important of his core brand values, which are:

    1. Highly skilled in quality work
    2. Experienced
    3. Local
    4. Reliable
    5. Track record

So his brand (with accompanying tagline which he could probably drop once he is better known) might go something like…


Creating fine quality woodwork

in XXXXtown since 199X


Your personal brand should be visually appealing, AND relevant

The major corporate organizations regularly spend millions on having a new corporate identity designed and implemented, sometimes with disastrous and horribly expensive mistakes. (E.G. British Telecom … their previously bright yellow repair vehicles which everyone could see and recognize when they were parked on the side of the road, were repainted in a gentle, touchy-feely pale grey with a shadowy logo on the side. Consequence was that they disappeared visually into their surroundings and dozens were hit and often written off. But we digress.)

Particularly as media you use to promote your personal brand is likely to be quite diverse, often with less than high-resolution reproduction, you can waste your time and money on fancy logos and typography that come across as pretty disappointing when viewed.

You’ll have noticed that even the likes of Kelloggs, BMW, Mercedes, etc. will make sure their logos are promptly supported by their names, despite the fact that their logos have become icons in modern history. By all means use a visual interpretation of your name or business, but make it easy – and quick – for people to recognize and appreciate you and what you stand for. And always remember not to let the tail wag the dog – a logo is there to support your personal brand, not demand an explanation. For a small business, when in doubt, leave the logo out and just go for strong branding based on your name alone.

You can always add a logo to that later when your business grows.

Your personal brand must show you as the person people need

JohnTheCarpenter may only operate within a relatively small urban or semi-urban area, but that’s OK. In fact, that’s good, because he will find it relatively easier to identify his potential market than were he to be available to work nationally.

You might snigger at the thought that a carpenter should sell his wares to local customers on the internet which is international and all that. But whatever you do, don’t lose sight of the fact that that internet is very powerful on a local basis … in fact sometimes, even more powerful than other media when you consider the influence of its social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Your personal brand must be consistent

Unless you use your personal brand consistently, it won’t work no matter how powerful and appropriate it is. Consistently means across every item of paperwork, business cards, press advertisements, emails and email signature files, newsletters, online ads, offline and online service directories, articles, press releases, social media posts, blogging, etc., and of course your own website and/or blog.

Your promotional copy should pick up on your core brand values, and any non-advertising output you do (like blogs, articles, newsletters, email marketing, social media posts etc.) should pick up on those too. For example:

  • High quality wood working focusing on quality elements
  • Antique wooden furniture, its care etc
  • Famous cabinet makers through history
  • Types of antique or unusual furniture
  • Repairs to wooden structures and furniture
  • Resurfacing/French polishing/etc
  • Stripping to bare wood
  • Wooden flooring, installation, care, repairs
  • Wood sculpture
  • Luxury kitchens
  • Extensions
  • Loft conversions etc
  • Wood sustainability issues
  • Exotic woods like ebony and mahogany, etc
  • How to spot “cowboys” in the woodworking trade
  • How to commission fine quality carpentry, get quotes, judge estimates etc
  • And so-on – everything that’s relevant and/or connected to the upper end of the carpentry/joinery/cabinet making marketplace.

Happy branding!

Now, make your brand truly grand!

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

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