Three Reasons Why Branding Shouldn’t Make You Lose Your Mind by Guest @CStreetlights

If you’re like me you were probably resistant to the ideas of “branding” or “building your brand.” A lot of writers are – no judgment here. In fact, tell me if any of this sounds familiar:

  • “I don’t want to become fake to my readers.”
  • “I don’t want to become just a logo who writes what she’s supposed to write about, not what she wants to write about.”
  • “I don’t want to become a product and lose my identity.”

If anything similar to these thoughts has ever crossed your mind about the concept of branding, my friends, then I totally get you because I felt the same exact way. In fact, I went through a massive existential crisis over it because I redesigned my website at the same time.

Three Reasons Why Branding Shouldn't Make You Lose Your Mind by Guest @CStreetlights via @BadRedheadMedia #nanopromo #branding

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Thou Shalt Own Thy Shit

Walk with me, my friends, through an imaginary scenario I have created to illustrate a point.

Imagine you have always had a dream to, I don’t know… let’s just say for argument’s sake you always wanted to become a writer. Unfortunately, Reality can be a real jerk and you couldn’t be a writer or a ballerina so you ended up being a bus driver. However, in our imaginary scenario, you are able to maintain a blog about your adventures and have a large following. When confronted about you do in your spare time, you somehow manage to stammer, “I’m sort of a writer.”

Damn it, Bus Driver, no! You are a writer! Own that shit. You are a writer the moment you hit publish, whether it is your own blog post or you’ve been engulfed by one of The Big 5.

Branding helps you own your shit. Repeat after me, “I want to own my shit.” Brothers and Sisters in field, once you have accepted your mantle as writers, you become more authentic to your readers. You no longer have to worry about coming off as fake or disingenuous.

Knowing who you are is absolutely vital in identifying what you want your brand to be.

When I had a crisis over determining my own brand, it never even occurred to me that I had already largely created my brand years ago when I opened my Twitter account and developed my Twitter bio. Ever since I hung out my shingle on Twitter in 2009, my bio has simply said: “I give a damn.” Those five words have connected me to people all over the world who knew that when they followed me, they were following a person who cared. I was different.

Thou Shalt Know Thy Shit

Let me tell you a story about my big sister. Now, I love my big sister. She has survived a lot in her life and because of that, she has some real quirky traits. One of those quirky traits is the need to special order things when we go out to eat. Basically, because she’s been in relationships where she had no control, she has the need to control really irrelevant things. It’s okay; I love her. Servers probably don’t, but I’m sure to leave big tips.

I didn’t know about this quirk about her when I first moved in with her though, so when we went out to eat one night and she ordered a chicken pot pie with extra broccoli in it I thought she was being irrational. I had never in my life heard of a pot pie with broccoli. The server was so confused; especially when my sister began to get very upset that her order was not understood.

In reality, my sister puts in broccoli when she makes her own chicken pot pie. She didn’t understand that this wasn’t a standard ingredient. And now I have the pleasure of making fun of her about this at most every family gathering.

No writer wants to be told he or she has no choice but to write about broccoli (especially since it’s broccoli and that’s disgusting). Writers become writers because we tend to be free spirits already. We gravitate toward what makes us passionate and then we want to share that with an audience. It is understandable to naturally shrink back from the idea of being “branded” when we see it as being locked down to specific keywords that are attached to our “brand.”

Why would we want to do that? Wouldn’t that just limit our creativity and inspiration?

Actually no, it doesn’t. And this is where it helps to really understand what really goes into that chicken pot pie, since it isn’t only about the broccoli. Because branding doesn’t chain us up in anything at all, and let me tell you why.

Our brand has nothing to do with our creativity or our passion or how we are inspired. All of that is still on us. We still have to do the work as writers, and the onus is still on us to know our shit. Our brand is what helps us to convey our message to our readers.

Branding makes it easier for us to communicate who we are to our audience. When my readers come to my Twitter, my Facebook page, my webpage, and all other social media platforms, they see the same message:

C. Streetlights

Mother. Poet. Badass.

I give a damn

author cstreetlights

Right away they know I am a mother, a poet, and a general badass. They also know I will always care because I give a damn.

Thou Art the Shit

The biggest struggle I had when I needed to determine my brand–my message–all while I was redesigning my website was this conflict between being a product and my identity. For some reason, I really took everything so personally that I had to step away for a few days and reconsider everything I was doing.

One thing I had always prided myself on was how well people could connect with me. If another mom needed to get another perspective, awesome – send me a direct message on Twitter. If people wanted my opinion on a child sex abuse case that had hit the media, boom! My Facebook messages were filling up. I loved how people felt like they could reach out to me and I didn’t want to lose that once my website had been redesigned and I had a new logo in place.

My streetlight had been on my website since I opened shop since 2009 and I wanted to keep it even if it wouldn’t be a focal point. It’s even a part of my name. I have always told my kids that as long as they could find a streetlight that they’d always be able to find home, meaning me.

And somehow, thinking of that made everything click. That was my message for my readers: As long as they could find the streetlight – my website – they’d find someone who gives a damn. Someone who was just like them, someone who was a mother, or a poet, or a badass. All of a sudden my brand was born.

It became less about pushing me as a product and more about introducing myself. I am a writer. I’m a mother who loves her kids more than she can breathe. I write memoir in poetry and prose. I engage in badassery often.

I am seriously the shit, you guys. And so are you, so get your shit together so readers and a wider audience can engage with you easier.

(updated: May 2019)rocket

THE GIVEAWAY

2x 45-minute manuscript coaching sessions via Skype free! Post-session extended discount on a 6-week coaching program (manuscript) via BeyondDEFLitThree Reasons Why Branding Shouldn't Make You Lose Your Mind by Guest @CStreetlights via @BadRedheadMedia and @NaNoProMo #branding

Want to win this giveaway? Simply leave a comment WHY below!

All comments must be left prior to midnight on Monday, May 6th, 2019 in order to be eligible to win. Winners for the week announced on Tuesday, May 7.

Good luck!

C. Streetlights

author cstreetlightsHer first memoir, Tea and Madness is available on Amazon. Her new memoir, Black Sheep, Rising (also available) was recently selected as a 2017 Kindle Book Award Semi-finalist.

C. Streetlights is represented by Lisa Hagan Books and published by Shadow Teams NYC. For all press interviews and other inquiries, please contact Ms. Hagan directly.

And read her columns on:

Feminine Collective   &   OTV Magazine

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Get On That, Would Ya?

19 Comments

  1. Linda Moran on May 6, 2019 at 6:47 am

    I am in a really weird place on branding. For over 20 years my husband and I (he currently is in hospice) have been known as Marble-T Design. We closed the business when we moved back to Vermont, but we have kept some of the essentials. I now find I have to rebrand myself as a solo marbling artist. Plus, I am very into writing nonfiction (on history education, art, mathematics) so I really am not sure how to combine the two – or just brand myself as Renaissance Woman – which is in my Medium bio. So it would be nice in the midst of grief and denial and death to have someone to bounce ideas with. Lots to think about in this article – Thanks!

    • C. Streetlights on May 6, 2019 at 11:27 am

      Hi Linda,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment today. First of all, I am so sorry for the position you are in with your husband. Of course you are grieving! I lost my mother this last summer and grief has been a constant companion of mine.

      I am sure branding has been both constantly on your mind and not at all a concern. The question I would ask you to begin brainstorming with is, What is your promise to your readers? Meaning, when your readers come to you, what do you promise to always give them, no matter what the topic might be?

      For example, if you want to be a modern day Renaissance Woman, what will be the recurring theme that runs through all your writing? Maybe it’s that modern day Renaissance Women can look to history to shape who they are, for example.

      • Linda Moran on May 8, 2019 at 9:59 am

        Thank you so much for your reply. “Look to history to shape who you are” is a great idea to mull on! What do I always promise to give them? It’s got to be honesty, so I’ll add that to the mix of thoughts.

  2. Sara Ohlin on May 6, 2019 at 6:48 am

    LOVED this soooo much! And I needed this positive kick in the butt this morning. Thank you!

    • C. Streetlights on May 6, 2019 at 11:27 am

      You’re so welcome, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Kay on May 6, 2019 at 8:14 am

    Fresh style of delivering an old message works!! Reading this is a delight–“never thought of it that way” kept popping up. The 3 basics are so cleverly laid out, at –with no filling, no “you should” (except in the title ;>))or “YOU need to” (just what CS needed to do, which resonates). Sooo helpful–and, by the way, did your sister get the pot pie with broccoli in it? Cliffhanger!

    • C. Streetlights on May 6, 2019 at 11:29 am

      Kay,

      So grateful it resonated and I’m glad I didn’t sound as if I were on a Branding Pulpit! I truly just wanted to share what I have learned.

      And after much confusion my sister did get her broccoli :p

      C~

  4. Raiscara Avalon on May 6, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Branding honestly still drives me nuts, even though I do own my shit. 🙂 Right now I’m more or less going with the flow, though I do think about branding in many areas. I’m just me, whatever that happens to be. Authenticity maybe? :p

    • C. Streetlights on May 6, 2019 at 11:35 am

      Many authors have a brand without even realizing it, and perhaps that is the case for you! Authentic voices are my favorite! Think of it this way, branding is an unspoken promise to your readers: When your readers come to you, what do they know they’re going to get from you? An authentic voice speaking about what?

      C~

  5. Maureen Joyce Connolly on May 6, 2019 at 9:08 am

    Love this because it is so very easy to get too wound up to make progress. Thx for posting!

    • C. Streetlights on May 6, 2019 at 11:36 am

      Maureen,

      So very true. I am guilty of this too often–making things far more difficult than they have to be!

      C~

  6. D.B. Moone on May 6, 2019 at 10:46 am

    Cee,

    “Thou art the shit,” and a badass too! You fit right in with Rachel, Lisa, and Beth. There’s something to be said about success and “badassery” as you put it.

    I understand your dilemma and hesitation over redesigning your website. I went through the same hesitation weeks ago, but I finally went with it knowing I wanted much more than I had. I have, from the time I could hold a pencil in my small hands thought of myself as a writer. You know what you know.

    After twenty-eight years of military service, I knew I would have to approach writing from a different place. I found it challenging to work on the manuscript I wanted to work on, and still do, based on two back-to-back deployments that changed my life, but not who I have always known myself to be. However, I knew I had to approach my writing from another place.

    I began writing book reviews, and I am still writing book reviews, and journaling to help me find my way back to the sanctity of my writing heart. I’ll get there, this I know because I am a badass. I have a ways to go before manuscript coaching, will benefit me. However, I wanted to thank you for your straight talk and participating in #NaNoProMo 2019.

    Sincerely,
    Donna

    • C. Streetlights on May 6, 2019 at 11:33 am

      This resonated with me profoundly: “to help me find my way back to the sanctity of my writing heart.” I imagine your writing heart has a voice that would be a much needed balm for many. Life-changing experiences have a way of changing our paths even if they don’t change who we are.

      You are, indeed, a badass. Welcome to the club!

      C~

  7. Monica-Marie Vincent on May 6, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    I will be bookmarking this article for later. I know my branding is a mess. I’m a YA author who seems to have focus on only coffee & cats. LOL Which I guess would be good, if most of my books weren’t YA Thrillers. I do need to have a more focused approach & I want to be able to focus my career in a sustainable direction. Thank you.

  8. Kristine on May 6, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    I’m currently connected with co-authors who have no desire to pursue solo careers or frankly write beyond our collaborative projects. I DO! I’ve known for a while now I need to distinguish my shit from theirs. Frankly trying to brand “us” is kind of a pile and there’s not even a white speck on top to brag brag about. The books are good, but the brand is…meh and attempting to create this mishmash brand has tested the sanity boundaries and ruined at least one friendship for me. My tolerance of one partner is solely contractual. While I’m surrounded by support for going solo, every push in that direction is a divine signal. Thanks!

  9. Alexandria Szeman on May 6, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    Oh, man, I am the shit, and even though I love broccoli, I seriously want to own my shit.
    A

  10. Dana Lemaster on May 6, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    This post couldn’t have appeared at a better time for me. I’m a screenwriter and huge film buff. A year ago, I was working to develop a couple of sitcoms. Hearing so many people share their stories of sexual assault dislodged a terrible memory-the rape and murder of a fifteen year old girl I knew. I began to think about doing a novel about the rape and murder of a teenage girl and donating from the proceeds to organizations that help rape survivors and their families.

    This project began to take precedence over my work on the sitcoms. I wrote a couple of drafts and began developing an author website, but the issue of branding eluded me. It still does.

    To a great extent, I write comedy because of my health issues. I have fibromyalgia and chronic neck/shoulder pain from a car accident fifteen years ago. Laughter may or may not be the best medicine, but it’s a great coping mechanism. To give you an idea, I was robbed once at a writing conference. It makes you feel so vulnerable. I started thinking about superheroes like Spider-Man and Captain America, both of whom started out as people who were beaten up. The result is one of my sitcoms, which deals with a menopausal tax attorney who goes on hormone replacement and becomes a superhero.

    I hope you can begin to see the issues before me in trying to establish a brand. It’s all me under there-the challenge is finding the common threads.

    Thanks so much for your article.

    Sincerely,
    Dana Lemaster

  11. McKenna on May 8, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    Branding is one of those things I still don’t have a handle on after all this time (8 years and counting) as a writer. In part because I made so many mistakes starting out, in part because having decided to focus on one genre and re-brand myself, I still feel like I’m missing the boat.

    I have a coordinated look across my social media platforms. I understand the basics of making yourself easy to find and follow. I post to my blog regularly (I like writing blog posts) and I’ve finally gotten around to sending out a newsletter semi-regularly.

    But as far as brand, I’d be hard-pressed to describe it.

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