"Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. ...Personal branding is essentially the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group, or organisation." Wikipedia
When we started Mac&Moore I quickly identified that to create an impact and get noticed we were going to have to think carefully about our personal brand. Our business is a reflection of us and an instant first impression on any potential customer. I like to think that when visiting our website there is no mistaking that we’re two independent young women with a strong point of view; covering topics from current advertising trends to our perpetual disdain for "mansplaining". We've found in an ever-changing digital world it’s important to show your personality, values and opinions. Why? Humans connect with stories and content that resonates with them and our aim is to produce work and writing that our clients and readers can really value.
Most of the entrepreneurs we have found ourselves being drawn towards have all been open in sharing their story of how they arrived in the business world. By weaving that personal journey into the way they communicate with the outside world it only enhances our connection with that business. When we talk to other freelancers or those looking to setting up on their own, the number one piece of advice I give them is to think about what their personal brand is and how this should be reflected both online and offline. So here are some of my top tips:
Talk honestly and authentically
Think about the last piece of content you read that really stands out or leaves a lasting mark. I bet that it spoke directly to you with honesty, sincerity and authenticity. In an age where we’re flooded with messages, articles and advice it’s harder than ever to get that cut-through you’re really looking to achieve. Don’t be afraid to say something bold, new or honest. You may divide opinion but connecting with someone does require a level of vulnerability and putting a stake in the ground. This article from Entrepreneur lists six of the best business minds who’ve mastered the art of their personal brand. Interestingly all six ignore the "corporate" rules of being leaders of large businesses and talk honestly and openly about both their business successes and failures and also their personal ones.
So you’re launching a new business, starting a blog or offering your services as a freelancer. The initial first steps are to set-up a digital presence via a website, various social media channels and email. Not only are these now business basics but they also operate as your “shop window”, a place where prospective customers can take a peek before deciding to find out more or hire you. So it amazes me that still so many people scrimp on the quality of their design, photography and copywriting. Any work you produce is a reflection of yourself – make sure you take pride in all aspects of your online and offline presence in order to make the right first impression.
Stand out from the crowd
These days everybody has a website, Instagram and business cards. So how can you make sure you stand out from the crowd? I’ve got a few nuggets of wisdom for this one!
- Copy but don’t be a copycat. You don’t want to be a carbon copy of someone else out there – after all, all of us are different in our own ways. However, it’s totally fine to take inspiration from others doing the job well out there. We definitely have our favourite bloggers/entrepreneurs that have influenced our style and voice. We're just careful to always quote who's inspired us and give them the credit they deserve.
- Ask for advice from fellow business owners/freelancers. Don’t know the answer? Why should you? This is all brand new and you’re going to learn as you go. It’s OK to ask other people for advice on how best to do things. What’s nice about the self-employed community is that people are willing to help each other. So if you need advice about how to best capture your style with photography or create a tone of voice that’s 'own-able' then there are plenty of forums to raise your hand in.
- You don’t need to use all channels. A lot of the time people believe they need to set up an Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. but I don’t think this is the case. Work out what channels are right for your business and the audience you’re talking too. Also time is a factor – if you don’t have the time to run 5 social channels then pick one or two and do them really well. Quality always over quantity. Perhaps Twitter is best for your witty one liners or Instagram best shows off your design/photography work. You'll find the right social channel that fits with you and allows you to post regular, high quality content.
Get inspiration from the world around you.
Finally, we find that some of our inspiration comes from wider topics/themes than our core business of advertising and marketing. We look to fashion, feminism, spoken word, art and photography to inspire us daily with our own content and point of view. It’s important to keep on top of current trends that don’t just affect you but the audience you’re talking to. Presenting yourself to the world means you're more than one "label". We're business women, creatives, sisters, daughters, friends, writers and expats. Talking on different levels about different subjects enables you to give a more rounded view of yourself and the world as you see it.
Here are a few people I’ve drawn inspiration from:
Lena Dunham: actress/writer/director – I love her tone of voice, honesty, vulnerability and dedication to women’s rights. We regularly read Lenny Letter and love the content and guest writers who write on a range of subjects that allow us to see the world through somebody else's lens.
Megan Ellaby: fashion blogger who stands out from the crowd. It isn’t just about her style but also her thoughtful approach to her blogs, styling, photography and overall content. You get the sense Megan could be your pal and isn’t offering intimidating fashion advice. Her warmth, Mancunian wit and being unafraid to laugh at herself makes her accessible and likeable. Plus I haven't met anyone yet who doesn't want her wardrobe and haircut.
As we both work in the advertising world there are two figures that inspire me in terms of their content/personal brand. The first is Tom Goodwin, Head of Innovation at Zenith. He isn’t afraid to be himself or bring up a difficult subject. I also admire how often he can tweet/talk about interesting stuff throughout the day AND win at his career. Tips please Tom?
Second is Cindy Gallop, who in a world that is constantly telling us to conform not only blows s**t up like Michael Bay but also says it how it is with a greater purpose to create more conversation and equality. Watch Cindy here on one of my all time favourite Ted Talks. It isn't for the faint hearted. But that's why we love her.
The last inspirational person on my list is one of my old work friends and all round top gal Ashley. After quitting her job in media she opened up her own calligraphy business Palepress London, specialising in creating beautiful, bespoke design and modern calligraphy for weddings, brands, events and one off commissions. From her Instagram feed to her website, the quality, beauty and passion for her work is really apparent. Her collaborations with other independent businesses such as Wild Wood flowers is an amazing example of creatives collectively working together, and it's even more amazing that she's created her whole branding, website and social herself.
As two girl bosses trying to cut through in a still very much male-dominated industry we're constantly striving to stand out, stand up and create a brand we're proud of. Don't be afraid to be you and put your voice out there and as the great Eleanor Roosevelt said: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent".