Guest Blog by Kira Whitney, owner of Kira Whitney Photography.
Let’s dive in and talk all about your personal brand as a creative entrepreneur!
First, here are 4 myths about branding that I’ll demystify:
- A brand is just a logo + a color scheme
- There is only one “right” way to build a brand
- A brand is a one-time thing to set up; you just set it and forget it
- Your brand has nothing to do with you personally as a creative business owner
Now let’s start to define what a brand IS:
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” – Seth Godin
So your brand is your identify as a business. It’s your purpose/cause/values/beliefs, as well as how people FEEL when they interact with and work with you.
While a logo and color scheme should do a great job of being representational of your overall brand, there are 3 other crucial aspects to touch on. These are equally as important when it comes to staying consistent and connecting with your audience.
1) Color scheme, font pairings, and website
These go hand in hand with your logo in that they represent the mood of your brand and provide consistency. That sort of consistency across everything you do and share online shows professionalism. It also provides a big trust factor to potential clients, as well as subconsciously setting expectations for what it’s like to work with you. For me, my logo is a watercolor mountain scene with a pine tree + roots running through it. It represents my brand so perfectly because my tagline is Create, Connect, Captivate. The roots share about the indestructible connectedness to the world and people around us. And, the scene exhibits the words joyful, adventurous, and down to earth, which is how I describe my ideal client. The adventure of the mountains, the whimsical watercolor feel, and the rootedness for down-to-earth all aligns perfectly.
2) Images & video
The power of unique images and video are often underestimated. I adore how incredibly different each personal brand client is for me. I’ve gotten to work with a money coach, a pilates studio owner, graphic designers, other photographers, artists, etc. And, I adore helping guide them through locations, outfits, and poses that best embody the spirit of their brand to attract the right kinds of clients and help them connect with them in a meaningful way.
For example, the images I take of Chloe, a millennial money coach whose aim is to make learning about finances FUN and less scary, we created bright, colorful images with fun (and sometimes silly) props. She is an Enneagram 7 to the core (which is the the Enthusiast). And she’s possibly the most extroverted person I’ve ever met. People hire her because they want to be encouraged for once when learning about a topic that can often feel so discouraging if you aren’t in a good place with money.
And she shows up as a sunny, bright, colorful presence that says to her audience, “if this was possible for me, this is possible for you” with every image and video she shares. So, you can see how balloons, confetti, lots of laughter, and a pretend shopping spree might be fitting elements to incorporate. Actually, for one of her sessions last year we even had a “money gun”! It was literally a plastic gold gun that shot fake $100 bills out of it! But, it was hilarious, so fun, and ridiculously perfect for her brand.
Bring Your Story Out!
Another example with a totally different feel was a session for a Pilates Studio owner. She has experienced some traumas throughout her life and she wanted images that not only promoted her studio, but also that she could use to start blogging and sharing more on social media about her journey through those traumas. It’s important to her to sharehow the practices she put into place that led her to “whole living,”. Which, by the way, is now the name of her studio: Whole Living Pilates. We came up with the word Introspective as the feel for the images we wanted to get from her session. And, we used earthy, calm vibes and introspective poses to create some unique images that we knew her target audience could feel a connection with.
Behind the scenes images can be incredibly impactful too because people love to see behind the curtain sometimes! It makes them feel a part of the process and then seeing the final results of your products or services that much more meaningful.
Do I have to post videos?
While professional videos would certainly set you apart from the competition and stand out, it doesn’t have to be that expensive or take a lot of planning. I think it’s obvious that Instagram stories have far surpassed the Instagram feed. So, if you can show up in video form on there, people feel like they really get a glimpse into who you are and what it would be like to work with you. Believe me, I know firsthand that it’s out of most of our comfort zones. Even just posting images of ourselves can feel self-serving! And talking to a camera can feel super awkward, I get it!
But I believe we were created for connection! And people truly want to KNOW YOU, which can honestly be annoying sometimes… like why can’t my work just speak for itself? I’m an introvert so I’d rather they just see what I’m capable of creating or how awesome this thing is that I’m offering! Why do I have to show my face?? But the statistics are there to back up the fact that most of us get more interaction with images of ourselves and even more engagement with video! So, I’d definitely encourage you to continue stretching your comfort zone to show up consistently and visibly online.
Keep your brand in mind as you think about how you will show up and plan the types of things you share. I think using Content Buckets is super helpful for consistency here which is basically coming up with up to about 5 categories of things you will share & talk about so your audience has a pretty clear understanding of what to expect from following you.
3) The third brand aspect is the copy you use on a daily basis
If your voice and the words you use can connect with your ideal client, you can do amazing things! The way you share the stories of your brand (your why, the purpose behind what you do, your values) should be memorable. It will hopefully allow your audience to find themselves somewhere in the story and be inspired by it. In general, people love feeling like they’re being brought into parts of your story. Longer form copy tends to perform better than short copy.
4) The final and less obvious aspect of a personal brand is client experience…
There are so many things housed under this, but here is an overview of a few:
How you show up, what intentional touch points and value adds you have in your workflow, what the interaction with you is like, and of course the quality of the final product you provide. Basically this is the way you make your clients FEEL from start to finish. Remember that quote I shared at the beginning? This is the relationship & memories part of your brand that I think is sometimes even harder than the visual aspects because it’s often impossible to see tangible results of any kind.
With photography, I really think many of my clients’ level of satisfaction from working with me has AS MUCH to do with how they FELT during a session ,the communication before and afterwards than it does about the final images. But if they felt valued and taken care of and had a good time, they are much more likely to become brand ambassadors. Those are the first people to tell others about me when the need for a photographer arises. I’ve even had people write a review for me online before they even got their image gallery back! That is still so crazy to me.
Finding ways throughout their experience to Surprise & Delight them. One of those things in my workflow is that I like to send my wedding clients a gift in the mail when they book! They start to have warm fuzzy feelings about working with me before we ever meet in person for their engagement session. You heard me mention the words joyful, adventurous, and down-to-earth for my ideal client. So, I try keep the welcome gift on brand. By sending some candies called Champagne Bubbles and a little Aspen Trail scented Travel Candle with a note that says “To Celebrate Your New Adventure” with a ribbon in my brand color and a thank you card, I do just that!
Action item time!
1) Identify your ideal client. Your brand should attract the type of people you LOVE to work with. And it’s okay if it repels the kind of people that honestly just suck the life out of you to work with. So, a big part of defining your brand and the direction you want to go is learning who those people even are. Then you know how to speak to the ideal people and stay consistent with it.
2) Be able to verbalize quickly who you are, what you do, and why it matters. What is the purpose of your brand/why you exist/core values?
Every time someone interacts with you on a daily basis, client or not, you are representing your brand. Especially if you’re a solo entrepreneur! So, take the time to write this out so that you portray yourself well on the fly. Then you’ll connect with the right people.
3) Stay personal! And do a personal brand photo session of course to help you with this 😉
4) Create 3-5 content buckets with categories of things to share in order to stay consistent
5) Think about what points in your workflow you could add value – those Surprise & Delight moments with each thing you offer. Next, brainstorm some ideas and then narrow them down and implement them!
I believe that our brands are fluid. Since it’s not just the visual assets or copy on their own, it can evolve with you as you grow and learn and gain more experiences. Maybe you’ll even pivot a little! I truly believe that people will follow and stay connected and will enjoy being part of your story if you’re intentional about providing value wherever you can. Don’t forget to always keep your why at the forefront!
I’ll leave you with one last quote from Natalie Franke. She said:
“A brand is something much greater than the sum of its parts. It’s bigger than the typography, the buzz words, the color palette, textures and patterns. A brand is the way you make people feel about your business. It’s how you serve your clients-the reputation and legacy that you leave behind. Strong brands stand for something. They build communities and evoke loyalty. They strive to bring people together in the support of greater causes, shared interest, or philosophy.
Big thanks to Renee for letting me share and be sure to join her Facebook group to continue the conversation! Know that I’m cheering all of you on as we strive to embody personal and authentic personal brands. We are creating our dream careers!
Kira runs a wedding, family, and personal branding photography company called Kira Whitney Photography based out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. She loves working with joyful, adventurous people, and helping other entrepreneurs, bloggers, and influencers connect more personally and authentically with their audiences online through unique imagery. Having the opportunity to work with small businesses through brand photography sessions has given her the opportunity to really dive deeper into intentional branding! Especially for businesses whose personalities are integral to their brands and who often work with their clients on a very personal 1:1 basis.