WHO AM I, ANYWAY? DECIPHERING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
Nancy Hytone Leb
An artist wants to produce art. It’s that simple. Regardless of discipline or level of success, what drives an artist is a deep and personal passion to express themselves creatively. For many artists, thinking of themselves as a business entity brings about a shudder or two. The idea of self-promotion makes them run and hide. It’s the classic right-brain, left-brain conundrum.
In classes and workshops, artists often ask why they need a "brand." My answers are many:
- Because you already have one. Like it or not, everyone has a perception of you, so you must do your best to control it. Your reputation speaks for itself - keep that in mind as you try to grow your arts business.
- Because you want (and need) Brand Advocates.
Brand Advocates can be early supporters, buyers or donors. They are people who believe in you and your work and recognize your potential.
- Because social media and the internet have both simplified and magnified how critically important self-promotion is for an artist. Social media makes you accessible everywhere. It is expected that you have an online presence if you’re in the business of selling something or increasing awareness of a product or service.
- Because a brand makes a direct connection to your audience. A brand helps you build awareness both as an artist and a creative entrepreneur.
- Because a brand will help you focus your message and your unique artistic voice. It represents the essence of your art business.
To state it simply, brands are all about perception. Your brand represents what you are known for.
The Starting Point
Before an artist starts to tackle the brand identity process, he or she should step back and think about both vision and values. Artists need to define what they want to do and why it’s important to them. Without that concrete foundation, a brand is less authentic and doesn’t truly represent the artist. And, brands that don’t represent the artist (or the company or the organization) struggle to survive.
Brands also need to consider mission statements (who you are, what you do, why you do it and for whom you do it) so it helps to have those key points defined. While mission statements look internally at the organization and are based on facts, brands reflect an external viewpoint and are based on customer emotions and benefits. Brands are about finding alignment between what the customer is thinking and what the artist is saying.
Figuring out how to best communicate your brand isn’t easy. Writing a brand statement is a good way to begin the process. List your attributes and strengths. Think about your target audience and decide to whom you are talking. Above all, remember honesty is the best policy.
A brand statement is rarely a tag line but it is a tool to help you start focusing your communications in customer-friendly terms.
A brand statement needs to fill in these blanks:
To (my target audience), I (or my product) offer (uniqueness).
Another way to focus your brand is to develop your elevator speech. Wikepedia defines an elevator speech as an “overview of a product, service, person, group or organization, or project and is often part of a marketing, fundraising, or public relations program.”
In other words, you need to introduce yourself, talk about your art or your project and its uniqueness in 30 to 60 seconds. You never know when you’ll meet the dream collector, investor or presenter.
When the elevator speech is mastered, make sure you also develop a written version. In today’s technology-driven world, e-mail is often the first communication with someone. You need to be able to quickly introduce yourself and your art, and convince the person to continue reading.
As you begin the process to develop and refine your artistic brand it’s essential to keep an objective perspective. You make art, and that’s an incredibly personal and passionate pursuit. You might not have the best perspective on your work. It’s important to consult with friends, family or associates who know you, know your work and understand your business and marketing intentions.
Keep in mind that your brand might evolve as your work changes. What represented your thinking five years ago is possibly not as relevant today. As long as you remain true to your professional values and vision and don’t try to change your brand once a year, you should be fine.
You also need to remember that your brand is reflected in every aspect of your arts business. Everything from your e-mail communication, to your voicemail greeting and all your promotional materials should reflect the same thinking and clarity of ideas. What’s most essential is that you both believe, and live, your brand.
Portions of this article have been reprinted with permission from The Business of Art: An Artist’s Guide to Profitable Self-Employment published by the Center for Cultural Innovation, 2012 www.cciarts.org.