Whether you are a writer, musician, business owner, college grad or budding artist, you have an image. It’s an extension of who you are, an aura. It may be bold and easily recognizable or passive and harder to spot, but it’s there. It comes out in how you dress, how you do your job, how you drive, dance or make decisions. It’s an expression of who you are. If it’s weak, and you are trying to reach people, it might be time to turn up the volume. Without any discernable image, you will have a difficult time conveying who you are.
Sometimes there can be a temptation to hide behind a professional front. If you are a government agency, university or major corporation, this is preferable. But, if your audience is local and your reach is more hopeful than expected, an exclusively professional image will end up excluding the very people you are trying to reach.
People like people. (They dislike them as well, but that’s another article!) They prefer to deal with people rather than computers. That’s why it becomes paramount to pour out who you are into things that represents you, like websites and storefronts.
If one of your needs is to convey your abilities because they are not immediately apparent, such as for a doctor or architectural firm, then there is an opportunity to be creative. In Portland, we are fortunate to have a supportive community for blending creative talent and professional ability.
Some Bigger Examples
One of my favorite Portland businesses, New Seasons Market, has managed to keep their image personal through the years despite astounding growth. The colors, the fonts, the space, even the product line are all appealing. But the employees are the front-line extension of the owners. There is a careful attention to preservation of personality, not just functionality.
Whether you like their coffee or not, Stumptown Coffee has skewed their image corporate and professional. They reorganized a few years ago to go national. Their website does not feature people, but products, storefronts and lots of copy. For selling hot coffee, their image is, well, a bit cold.
Some Smaller Examples
Salt & Straw has a neat story to tell. Though their website is a bit dated, their branding is great. In the About Us section, you immediately feel like you know the owners, who are cousins. They tell their personal story and show candid photos of their lives.
VooDoo Doughnuts, while unappealing to me personally, definitely has a personality. In fact, their personality is so profound, that they have managed to garner quite a bit of national attention since they opened ten years ago.
Social Media and Branding
One of the most positive things about social media is that now there is a platform to connect directly with your fans, customers and clients outside of doing business. It’s really a very old-world concept. The difference is that now we share a lot more with a lot more people. It’s a natural place to express yourself. Granted, that can be a scary thing for some. It really ups the ante when it comes to offering consistent service to the public. Here are some tips:
- Start small, test the waters.
- Share who you are, don’t try to sell yourself. Talk about things you like.
- At the same time, be sensitive and show some love. Not everyone will share your opinion.
- Listen to your audience. Be open to criticism.
Be yourself. If people respond negatively, you can choose to ditch your efforts, change your audience or revisit who you are. The last one takes the most effort and is the least popular but tends to yield the best results.
Build your brand around your personality
Let your business extend around who you are. Decide what you want people to think of when they hear your name. When you don’t have to suppress your personality, you’ll enjoy your job even more!