Personal branding: persona and positioning

And why you need both

In my book on the subject, Chapter 2 introduces you to England's Henry VIII, the king from 1509 to 1547. He was the granddaddy of personal branding if ever there was one, and the perfect model for generating and expressing a memorable persona.

Henry-VIII-kingofengland_1491-1547Most people are familiar with the famous Holbein portrait of him standing tall, broad-shouldered, filling up the canvas in his regal robes and codpiece. An icon of strength and robust health, this king gave the people what they wanted: physical power, great wealth, cultural sophistication, grand architecture, athletic supremacy, and a direct link to God.

What you see was not always what you got with King Henry, but he lived in an age without mass communication or the immediacy of social media, so he could get away with projecting an inflated persona that suited everyone's needs. In today's world, authenticity rules, and you must build a brand persona you can live by.

So what is a brand persona?

It is a compilation of values, activities and interests that define a person. If you are an author, artist or business person, your work defines you to a great extent, but also the realm in which you work or the subject matter on which you focus. Add to that your activities. For instance, are you a runner? An equestrian? A motocross enthusiast? Do you love to cook, read, dance? And then there are societal interests like improving literacy, reducing poverty, protecting the environment, and so on.  What do you stay up late thinking about? Where would you invest your money to make a difference in the world? Where/how would you donate your time? What are you doing when you are at your best?

Your brand persona might not include all facets of your life and interests. Consider the top 10 that might come up in a conversation with a new acquaintance. You might only have 30 seconds with this person before you shake hands and say goodbye. If he or she is a potential customer, what would you hope might be remembered about you?

That's how a defined persona can help, by clarifying the kernel of you and making it easier to communicate and, therefore, easier to remember. And now we come to the logical next step.

Brand positioning

Suppose this person is a fine business prospect, but knows 10 other people who do what you do? How can you not only rise to the top in this person's memory, but also rise with distinction?

Remember that a personal brand is all about building trust with your audience. Your persona embodies all of your values, interests and drives that make you someone worth trusting and doing business with. 

Your positioning statement zeroes in on the places your persona intersects with audience  values and needs, and then shoots it to the next level by defining that which connects with and makes you irresistible to them -– capturing the essence of you that is different from (re: better than) anyone else.

Positioning statements are used broadly in brand differentiation. The secret is, you've got to get emotional. People make decisions on an emotional level. If you know your own core brand driver, it's the best place to start.

A personal brand positioning statement goes like this:

For [insert target audience], [Your Name] is the [insert point of differentiation] among all [insert frame of reference] because [reason to believe].

Here's a silly example: "For people who need dog walkers, Jane Dogmire is the most lovable and trusted of all dog walkers in the region because she is board-certified by Dogs United and comes with homemade peanut butter treats."

Jane meets the needs of her audience because she can be trusted to do the job right, and will keep her dogs happy, too.

Now, using myself as an example: I like history and historical fiction, researching and learning about my Irish heritage, and I work hard to share what I've learned in an entertaining way so that others will be interested, too. I know historical fiction readers are educated, like to learn as they read, expect to be entertained, and want high-quality writing. So I wrote my positioning statement like this:

For readers of historical fiction, Nancy Blanton is the award-winning author of Irish history adventure novels, combining research skills with a passion for Irish heritage to both inform and entertain.

Note how my values and audience values converge. Words like adventure and passion help tap into the reader's emotions. Normally, this statement would never be public, but would be used to guide me in creating advertising, marketing collateral, and online communications, and I could use the same words, or different words that do the same work.

Once you've invested the time to build your persona and create your positioning statement, most of the heavy lifting for your personal brand is done. These are the guiding forces for the decisions you'll make going forward with taglines, marks, colors, and so forth.

The big thing to remember is consistency. I know that every time I go to a Starbucks and order a mocha, with few exceptions I will get exactly what I expect and, therefore, I trust Starbucks. Stay true to the elements of your persona and positioning statement. Use the same words over and over. If your persona identifies your interests as horseback riding and cooking, don't confuse your audience by blogging or tweeting about golf and scuba diving. Be authentic, be consistent, and you will, over time, build trust. Trust brings customers.

BrandYourselfRoyallyIn8SimpleSteps_Blanton_cropMy book will guide you through all eight steps toward your own personal brand. For additional help, I can offer professional services.

Please sign up for my newsletter for events and new publication notices.

My latest novel, The Prince of Glencurragh, is set to publish in July 2016.

Oh, and...I really like dogs.

Could Groundhog's Day be Irish?

What, me worry? So many things in life actually do trace back to Irish, or rather Celtic heritage, but what about Groundhog's Day? I took it upon myself to discover the truth, because I knew you wouldn't have time.

I found a few articles that very loosely related Groundhog's Day to early Celtic feast days in Ireland. First of all, there was Imbolc, signaling the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It was also known as lambing season, when sheep began to lactate for birthing lambs. A lamb is a far cry from a groundhog, you might say, and you'd be right, but stay with me.

After Imbolc there was St. Brigid's Day, honoring the Catholic saint named for a Celtic fertility goddess. This event was celebrated on February 1. By at least one account, ashes in the fireplace were raked smooth at night and then checked in the morning to see if the saint had visited. Still no groundhog, but there's something about making an appearance that may have informed the modern event.

Then we have Candlemas, which was February 2. Now this involved fire and purification, with candle processions and special foods celebrating the birth of spring. I'm sure it was quite a good time, but with all that purification going on, to my mind more likely inspired the annual spring cleaning.

But then I came across a short paragraph by one writer, saying Groundhog Day traces straight back to the Romans. They used a European hedgehog, though. I'm not sure whether the hedgehog was more astute in weather prediction than, say, Punxsutawney Phil.

Personally, I like the legend of Cailleach, a mythical old woman who gathered firewood for the rest of winter. If she wanted winter to last longer she'd make a sunny day so she could collect more wood. If she was tired she'd sleep in, and let the day be dark. I think she deserved a far better public image to follow her, though. Couldn't she have been a sleek horse? Or maybe a black cat? But no, a groundhog. Really?

I'd like to tell you groundhogs are cute and cuddly, and therefore deserving of the attention they receive, even if they aren't Irish and they aren't much help with the weather. But I found more evidence online that in fact most groundhogs are aggressive and mean, and it takes a lot of hard work to tame them.

But I think maybe such a demeanor is appropriate, so that Groundhog Day can remain grumpy and mysterious. It's how we all feel, waiting for the winter to end.

 

BrandYourselfRoyallyIn8SimpleSteps_Blanton_cropPlease follow this blog if you are interested in updates.

Last year my new book on personal branding — Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps — was published in paperback and ebook. My new historical novel, The Prince of Glencurragh, is due out in summer 2016.

And please check out my award-winning Sharavogue, a novel of 17th century Ireland and the West Indies, for a fast-paced adventure you won’t soon forget.

SharavogueCoverMy website at nancyblanton.com provides more detail on books and upcoming events. Please visit!

Author branding: Put a tag on it

Give yourself a royal branding:The author branding worksheet, part 3

In this week’s post we will focus on the three the remaining elements of my author/personal branding worksheet, including:

TAGLINE MARKS COLOR PALETTE

(If you’ve missed the earlier posts, click on part 1 & part 2.)

These three elements are much easier to develop once you have completed the earlier sections that give a full understanding of your audience, your brand, its basis and driver, your vision and mission. Your positioning statement helps clarify exactly what your audience needs to know.

Chocolate HeartThese elements also call into play one of the basic rules of communication, and particularly electronic communication – the three second rule. You’ve heard of this rule in regard to candy dropped on the floor (is it still safe to eat?) and most likely in basketball (a lane violation), but it also applies to websites, advertising and any visual communication – like book covers. The rule is, you have three seconds to capture a person’s attention. Either it is visually compelling enough to get readers to stay, or they bounce off to something else: Click to another site, pick up another book, turn the page, goodbye.

Many things are constantly competing for a person’s attention these days. If you can’t grab them fast you’ve lost them. That’s why good headlines and strong graphic design are critical to your brand.

TAGLINE

Everyone does not need a tagline. Primarily they are intended for advertising, but businesses do use them as a hook on websites and signage and in numerous other ways. The main thing with a tagline is to use it consistently and do not waver. Wherever you used it make sure the words, capitalization and punctuation are exactly the same. Make sure it is clearly readable. And make sure it is unique and appropriate (which means you’ll need to do some searches to make sure your brilliant idea has not already been used and trademarked by someone else.)

Many people think writing a tagline is easy, and there certainly have been some classic tags that resulted from a sudden bolt of brilliance. But most of the time a good tagline requires creative thought about all the brand elements, focused brainstorming, and trial and error.

A great tag line is memorable, enlightens people about your business, and differentiates your company and product from competitors. Generally, a good tag line is a short, catchy phrase with an interesting and positive message delivered in 3-6 words.

-- simplewebsiteservice.com

Taglines are used in three ways: To highlight your brand driver or unique selling proposition, to introduce and showcase your brand, or to capture your positioning against your competitors.

There are five styles of taglines:

  • Strong claim
  • Showcase benefits
  • Showcase company
  • Question audience
  • Reveal customer emotions

For an author or personal brand, you are showcasing yourself and your values, so the third option may be the best choice, but I would not rule any of them out. Brainstorming should not be constrained.

Start by looking at the websites of other authors or professionals you admire. What is your first impression? Do they use a tagline? How is it used? What words do they use to describe themselves? Think about those words, borrow the ones you like, and list others you can think of that describe what you do.

Next, think about your audience and try to answer this question: Why should they be interested in you and what you do? Answer in as many ways as you can. Consider your particular strengths, your style or approach. And think about what makes you different from others who do what you do.

For me, I thought about my work in historical fiction, my focus on Irish history because of my own passion for it, and my decision to write it in terms of an adventure, with less detail than most historical fiction authors use, and with a faster pace. And, I decided to write my tagline as a call to action. The result?

Embark on an adventure in Irish history

It may not be the world’s best tagline, but it is appropriate for me and it does tend to snag people in when they read it at my book festival booths. Especially if they are Irish or traveling to Ireland.

Do some brainstorming by yourself or with someone else who knows you well. When you have a few options you like, test them on some friends or readers via email, Facebook or in person. See which option resonates the most, and then make it work for you everywhere: Your website, business cards, postcards, posters, one-sheet and wherever else it makes sense for you.

MARKS

A mark is that single graphic that stands for you, and would represent you when you cannot actually be present. For an author, in most cases your mark would be your name, and you might choose a particular type face to use consistently. You might be tempted to choose some of the more graphic typefaces that suggest your genre, like Edwardian Script for historical fiction, or Thriller for thrillers or mysteries. Resist temptation! You will be far better served choosing something that is clean and professional looking. If you decide to write in different genres you will have something that is effective across the board.

If you work with a graphic designer for your book covers (highly recommended), your designer can help you find a typeface that could work well on your covers and be repeated in all of your promotional materials. Once you’ve selected a typeface, stick with it even if you are bored and tempted to try something new. Your signature typeface becomes a core part of your visual brand.

If you will be self publishing, you may need an identity – a logo – that can be used for your book imprint. Again, the designer who does your covers can help ensure everything for your brand works together and can be used consistently. If you design your own there are a few things to remember.

  • Always keep your audience in mind. It is easy to get caught up in something you think looks cool, but you may be too close to the process. The graphic you like may not resonate or even make sense to your audience. As with the tagline, be open to feedback.
  • A logo should be simple, clean and strong enough to hold up equally as well whether you use it on the side of a city bus or the back of a ladybug. Don’t get too detailed with fine lines and shades that might not hold up. It’s a good idea to design first in black on white. Once that works you can think about colors. Print it in various sizes to see how well it reproduces. You may be sending it out to print media, and they are typically in a deadline rush in which your mark is not their priority. They can make a mess of even the best logos. A strong and simple mark will help you ensure consistency and protect your brand.
  • You will need multiple file types (such as jpg, eps, tiff) and multiple sizes to send to the various places you’ll use this logo, so understand what they are and how each is used.

COLORS

Queen_Eliz_The_Ditchley_portraitSignature colors are a great way to express your brand. Brand colors should be chosen for specific reasons. Queen Elizabeth, for example, chose colors of white and gold to represent her purity, and red and black to express her wealth (red and black dyes were very expensive in her time). Courtiers who wanted to identify with her went to great expense to wear the same colors.

In my last job, my organization operated an airport, a seaport, public marinas and public parks. So, the brand colors selected were light blue (air), green (land) and dark blue (sea) and were displayed in three wave-shaped bars indicating forward movement.

For myself I chose two shades of green, to reflect both the color most often associated with Irish, and the prominent color on the cover of my first novel. I added a third color of ocean blue for variety and balance. I wear the greens at every book festival, signing or speaking event, not as a uniform but via a scarf or a nice silk blouse so the message is not shouted but still effective. And, I use the colors prominently in my book displays.

colorselectionWhat colors should you choose? Here again I strongly advise working with a graphic designer who has experience with various media and how colors behave in each. Print colors do not look the same as screen colors, but designers can find the best options to give you greatest consistency across all media.

Think about the values you want to represent, and then take a look at a color chart to get some ideas.

http://www.pantone-colours.com

Color alone cannot be counted on to influence your readers’ behavior, because people tend to react to colors based on their own experiences, but it can play a role when it reflects the core values of your brand.

It’s the feeling, mood, and image that your brand creates that play a role in persuasion. Be sure to recognize that colors only come into play when they can be used to match a brand’s desired personality (i.e., the use of white to communicate Apple’s love of clean, simple design).

http://www.helpscout.net/blog/psychology-of-color/

I hope this series has helped you fill out your branding worksheet, or at least get a good start on it. I know it takes a bit of soul searching, but knowing your own brand sets you on a solid path for marketing yourself in a consistent and professional way.

Let me know how it works for you. I’m happy to answer questions and respond to your comments. Happy branding!

SharavogueCoverSharavogue is an award-winning novel of 17th century Ireland and the West Indies. It is both historical fiction and fast-paced adventure. You can purchase Sharavogue at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and most online booksellers. Visit my website at www.sharavogue.com for more information.

Follow this blog for research updates and announcements. I’ll be posting a new series soon about my on-the-ground research in Ireland for my upcoming book, a prequel to Sharavogue.

 

Author branding: What really drives you?

Give yourself a royal branding: The worksheet, part 2 Romanian_crown_7-11Picking up where we left off with last week’s post, I was walking you through the essential steps of my author/personal branding worksheet. (See the Royal Branding series here.) We started out by defining your primary audience and selecting the core values that define you and your brand. Now we take on the next four elements of the worksheet, including:

CORE BRAND DRIVER VISION MISSION POSITIONING

BRAND DRIVER

What is that, exactly? Basically, it is what gets you out of bed in the morning and what gets you through the day. It's that kernel of passion about what you do, stated in a concise and easy-to-remember way so that you and your associates or employees (if you have them) can buy into it and live it. I found the following quote from the book Brand Simple that explains it well:

You need a “brand driver” for external and internal use; the short phrase that captures the essence of your idea. For example, take GE: “imagination at work.” This is important so employees know how to make decisions that align with the brand. FedEx is great example…what’s their promise to customers and to themselves? On-time delivery by 10:30 am. If you ever watched Castaway, remember the way that brand promise unified everything for everyone in the early scenes? And that last scene where he delivered the package: that’s delivering on the brand promise.

So you can see, it is not a tagline, although it may sound like one and look like one, and your tagline may be derived from it. And you may think, “Hey, what I do is difficult and complex, and can’t all be captured in a simple phrase.” That’s probably true, and reducing all that complexity to its essence is no easy task. But think of it as a rallying point, a war cry. It may also be your unique selling proposition. What is the one thing about your work that, if you didn’t do it, the world could not become a better place?

To come up with my own brand driver, I worked down to my basic personal belief that we are all part of a continuum of the spirit, that what is accomplished or not accomplished in one generation affects other generations both before and after. Maybe my telling of a specific story satisfies an unfulfilled need from long ago, and has the power to change a perspective even just a little bit. What we do, what we accomplish, and how we use our gifts is of great importance. I am an author of historical fiction. Therefore my brand driver is: Illuminate the past to inspire the present.

You can state your brand driver any number of ways, but I like it stated as a challenge, kind of like Nike’s “Just Do It.”

VISION

Now, doesn’t it make you happy to have your brand driver in place? It is like discovering your purpose in life. The next step is thinking through your brand driver to the best possible conclusion. What would the world look like if you are wildly successful? For me, maybe the world would be a literate place where we would learn from and not repeat the mistakes of the past, so that things like greed-driven wars and preventable famines would not take place, etc.

Let your imagination go on this one. Try to capture your perfect world in a sentence or two. But it is your vision, so if it takes a paragraph or a page, let the words flow. This is really about why your new-found purpose in life matters, and it does.

MISSION

You have defined your universe. Now let’s bring it down to boots on the ground. Your mission statement is about what you do every day in service of your brand driver towards achieving your new world vision. You are an author? Well then you write, of course. But think in terms of a business statement. A business exists to make money, and to make money you must have a product or service to deliver. Do you have long-term goals and projected outcomes? Your mission statement is partly definitive, partly aspirational. And don’t worry about getting it perfect. Just write something you are comfortable with based on what you have worked on so far. Your mission statement can change. Many businesses tweak their mission statement regularly to reflect current business conditions.

In the 2014 annual report, the CEO of General Electric stated the company mission this way:

GE’S MISSION IS TO INVENT THE NEXT INDUSTRIAL ERA, TO BUILD, MOVE, POWER AND CURE THE WORLD.

GE imagines things others don’t, builds things others can’t and delivers outcomes that make the world work better. GE brings together the physical and digital worlds in ways no other company can. In its labs and factories and on the ground with customers, GE is inventing the next industrial era to move, power, build and cure the world.

See how that might inspire customers? Easy, right? Now write yours exactly like that only different. (JUST KIDDING!) Your aspirations may not be quite that lofty, but your mission statement should include a reference to your vision and how what you do will help achieve it. Note GE’s reference to labs, factories and customer contact.

Still need inspiration? Here’s a blog post that lists 50 mission statements for non-profits, and a few more from another site that show longer statements and a variety of business types.

Keep in mind your mission statement is something you might post on your website to tell your customers in a general way who you are and what you do, so think about it from the reader perspective and go for clarity over cleverness.

POSITIONING

Elizabeth_I_(Armada_Portrait)To develop your positioning statement, I refer you back to my Royal Branding series, part 4 on Queen Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s life was at stake so it is understandable that she would need strong positioning in the minds of her subjects, but why do you need a positioning statement? If you are an author, just go to a bookstore like Barnes and Noble and look around. If you are like me you will quickly be overwhelmed with the vast number of books out there and wonder why you even bother writing at all. Then get out of there fast and remember your brand driver and your mission. You are one of a kind. No one else has the same story and no one else can tell it the way you do. But where do you fit in the marketplace, and how will you explain it quickly to the literary agent or the customer standing next to you in the elevator?

To create a good positioning statement you should (1) define your target audience, (2) include the category or genre in which you operate, (3) articulate the benefit or unique qualities being offered and (4) give customers a reason to believe you will deliver on your promise.

You’ve already done most of the footwork on this one. What we are doing now is packaging it in a way that brings in your marketing strategy and how you want your audience/customers to perceive your brand in relation to all the others.

There is no sense in me reinventing the wheel here: This blog post from Cornell University gives you all you need to write a good positioning statement, including guidelines, a simplified template, examples, and even a free “statement generator.”

As you work through these steps I encourage you to

  • Take your time
  • Be creative
  • Allow for flexibility so you can live comfortably within your own brand constraints
  • HAVE SOME FUN

Whew! That is a lot to think about already. Since this post is now getting a bit long, I will come back next week to finish this series with Taglines, Marks and Colors.

And after all that brain work, maybe it’s time for some escape reading? Sharavogue is an award-SharavogueCoverwinning novel of 17th century Ireland and the West Indies. It is both historical fiction and fast-paced adventure. You can purchase Sharavogue at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and most online booksellers. Visit my website at www.sharavogue.com for more information.

And please follow this blog for research updates and announcements. I'll be posting a new series soon about my on-the-ground research in Ireland for my upcoming book, a prequel to Sharavogue.

Author branding: The work sheet

Steps on the path to your royal brand In last week’s post I summarized lessons learned from royalty—the first personal branders—covered in my 7-part series analyzing their techniques. This post gives you the steps I’ve laid out in my “personal branding worksheet.” I will cover how to complete the worksheet in two posts because it will get too long otherwise.

Irish runners, Woodcut by Albert Durer

As noted previously, there are many ways to go about personal branding, and you could spend years and thousands of dollars perfecting it if you choose. But I believe for an individual, and specifically for authors, this method is a simplified and effective way to create a workable brand that will represent you and guide you for years to come. Which reminds me to remind you: Branding, like book marketing, is a marathon, not a sprint. Be sure you can love and live with what you create because it should last for many years.

BEFORE WE BEGIN

In any kind of communications activity, the first thing you need to know is who you are talking to, and what they need. Who is your audience? Depending on your work and the types of writing you do, you may have one audience, or you may have several.

  • Are they distinct or do they overlap?
  • What do they need from you?
  • How do they get their information?
  • What do they expect, both from you as an author, and from you as communicator?

Think of one or two, or maybe a handful of individuals from your primary audience. What are they like? As an example, I write historical fiction, and my stories tend toward the hero’s journey and social milieu, and not so much toward battles and blood (although those are not completely absent). My readers are both male and female but a slightly higher percentage female. They love to read, like history and strong female characters. They want to be immersed in time and place, but also learn while they read. They are busy, smart and social.

I must always have this target audience in mind when thinking about my brand, and it helps me decide how best to express it, where and when. You can go into much greater detail than this, and define subgroups as needed if you write in more than one and very different genres.

How can you learn about your audience?

  • Watch comments in social media
  • Read reviews of other authors in your genre
  • Talk to them in bookstores or at book festivals
  • Ask friends who read your genre

And relax. It is not a perfect science no matter what the professional marketers say. In my case, I learned that some historical fiction readers were tired of the Tudor period and the proliferation of books on that era when so many other periods in history are not well covered. Also, I knew some readers are hesitant to invest an 800+ page novel. Who has time? I had heard complaints abut authors who overplay their research and include every detail instead of just what is important to move the story forward.

So, I targeted those readers by setting my story in a different time period, making sure it was fast paced, under 300 pages, and selective in detail. The result was successful and effective, but now some of my readers tell me they love the story, but maybe it moves too fast and they don't want it to end. They want it longer. They love learning about a period in time they have not read about before, but normally would not have looked for it when shopping for a book.

Perhaps I created a higher barrier to overcome in that readers aren't familiar with the period I’ve chosen or why they might want to read about it. But that’s okay, I know it is an exciting era, and highlighting this has become my challenge and my mission.

GETTING STARTED

With your audience in mind, let’s go. First, open a word document and copy and paste the list below. You may want to leave space between as we will be filling in under each one:

VALUES CORE BRAND DRIVER VISION MISSION POSITIONING TAGLINE MARKS COLOR PALETTE

VALUES

Your brand is not really about what you do. It’s about why you do it. Steve Jobs said Apple’s brand was not about a company that makes computers. It's about a company that values innovation, passion, aspiration and simplicity. Apple’s products support people who have those same values. You write books? Great – a lot of people write books. Your readers are interested in WHY you write them, what you believe in that makes you tell the stories you tell. The values that are most important to you are the building blocks of your brand.

There are so many values, a good way to start narrowing down is to pick from a list. Some companies ask their customers to pick values from a list that they believe describes the company, then they use those words in their brand materials. Sometimes they'll choose different words to help highlight different values they want their audiences to recognize. I found a link listing more than 400 values, but you’ll find many similar lists if you type “values list” into your search engine.

Look through and pick out the things that are most important to you, then narrow that list down to 10 or 20 words that you think define you as a person and as an author. Be honest. As we learned from Napoleon, it doesn’t pay to pretend to be something you are not, and it will be difficult to maintain a false façade.

With your short list, narrow it down again to those five or six values that define you but are also important to your audience. These are areas where you may be able to connect with them on a personal level. Values like Leadership and Generosity might be areas where your audience can relate to you. Hygiene and Poise are good values, but these may not be things you want to define your brand and, unless they are the topics of your books they may not rise to the top level of your brand values.

Once you have your values defined, you may want to sit with them a day or two to make sure you are happy with your choices, and feel confident they capture those parts of you that you want to project to your target audience. Then put them on your worksheet.

Next week we’ll pick up where we left off, using values to define your Core Brand Driver.

SharavogueCoverAnd in the meantime, embark on an adventure in Irish history! Sharavogue is the award-winning story of a peasant girl who vows to destroy Oliver Cromwell during his march of destruction across Ireland in the 17th century, and her struggle for survival on a West Indies sugar plantation. Winner of the Royal Palm Literary Award for historical fiction, it is available from online booksellers including amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Author branding: Lessons learned from royalty

As a follow-up to my series on author branding (A Royal Undertaking), this post focuses on applying the lessons learned from the first personal branders – kings and queens throughout history. Henry_face_youngThese were the people who first learned and demonstrated the power of a strong and consistent personal brand. Kings and queens needed their people to obey them, to respect them, and of course to pay taxes without storming the castle. Their personal brands could be communicated to all the places they could not go physically, to generate the acceptance they required to lead.

So what can authors, and truly anyone who needs a personal brand, really use from the royalty discussed in my series? First and foremost, remember that we are all the kings and queens of our own brand. BE A TYRANT. I remember hearing a story about Paul McCartney’s road crew complaining that he was difficult to work for because of his controlling and demanding management style. McCartney’s response? Hey, it’s my name on the marquee at every show, not yours.

From the Egyptian queen Hatshepsut we learned the basics to establish your personal brand:

  • Definition. Values are the basis of your brand and guide what you will and won’t do in your business and in your life. Values are what you want people to know about you, and get to the core of who you are. Hatshepsut’s primary values were leadership and legacy. Remember, in personal branding, you are promoting yourself, not your book. Readers want to engage with authors who are real people.
  • Opportunity. You can’t be all things to all people. Find a niche that will allow you to shine, and has subject areas that speak to you and can keep you interested. Branding is a long-term relationship. As pharaoh, Hatshepsut had the opportunity to build things, so she focused on art and architecture to create her legacy.
  • Focus. Hatshepsut focused specifically on a few main things that addressed her values. Don’t participate in every book event or every charity, choose one or two that fit your brand values and dig in. Many authors support literacy, for example, because what would we be without readers? And don’t run yourself ragged trying to be on every social media platform. Choose the ones that really serve you and fit who you are.
  • Endurance. A strong consistent brand can endure. Note that Hatshepsut’s has been around for nearly 3,500 years. Make sure your brand is authentic and something you can always support and protect.

Henry VIII: The key to King Henry’s personal brand is his persona. The powerful, charming, larger-than-life, man’s man image he created was something the citizens of his time already wanted, expected and respected in their king. He didn’t create something he wasn’t, but he did project and highlight those features that would please his audience. The virile king in shining armor beating his opponents in a jousting tournament, for example.

Authors, like royalty, can create a persona in the minds of their audiences and the general public, to thereby be remembered. What aspects of your personality define you? What interesting facts about your personal or professional background make you stand out, and are those aspects important to readers of your genre?

Elizabeth_I_Rainbow_PortraitQueen Elizabeth I took the next step by positioning herself in the minds of her audience. This was important because of the turmoil of her times, to distinguish herself from her sister – Bloody Mary – who ruled before her, and from her mother Anne Boleyn who had been executed for treason. Elizabeth distanced herself from these negative images by claiming her descendancy from the Trojans, King Arthur and Henry VIII, her divine right to rule, emphasizing her values of peace, religious unity, international trade and naval dominance, and her purpose to maintain the well-being, security and prosperity of her people.

  • Your positioning statement should establish you firmly in the minds of your audience.
  • Once developed, positioning can guide your marketing strategy and tactics to serve you for the long-term.
  • The colors, imagery and messaging you use should support your positioning and persona, be thoughtful and consistent, and repeated again and again.
  • Your persona must support your positioning statement and vice versa.

Louis XIV was the first royal I know of who, having defined values over fashion to drive his brand, insisted on written guidelines to maintain the brand’s consistency and therefore its power. A good written strategy helps ensure the brand is made visible and relevant to its target audiences.

DelarocheNapoleonLessons learned from Napoleon are more cautionary. To support a personal brand you must align your actions with your persona, and lean toward transparency rather than duplicity. When what you exhibit or say differs from what you actually do, you break down the trust that is essential to any brand. In today’s world of social media, we are all just an Instagram away from a trashed brand if we do not live our values. Napoleon also teaches us to listen to trusted advisors. Just as every writer needs an editor, every person needs to be open to other perspectives.

And from our American presidents Lincoln and Kennedy, we learn the value of harnessing the technology of the day to communicate most effectively with our audiences. Most definitely, today that is social media, but there are so many channels of communication available, so what is the most direct route from you to your audience, and how can you use it best? (Remember, content is king!)

Next week my post will walk you through the steps in a personal branding worksheet I first presented at the Amelia Island Book Festival in February. Sure, you could spend a year or two creating a personal brand. Or, with this worksheet and some soul searching, have your basic brand framed out in a matter of days.

SharavogueCoverEmbark on an adventure in Irish history with the novel Sharavogue, winner of the 2014 Royal Palm Literary Award. Now available from online booksellers. Author Nancy Blanton will be exhibiting at the South Carolina Book Festival in Columbia, SC, May 16-17, 2015. You may also connect with her on Facebook.

Author branding: Honest Abe to Camelot

Part 7 in a series on personal branding American presidents are not royalty, coming to power via election rather than bloodline, but they still enjoy many of the protocols of European royalty covered so far in this series, and have used personal branding as a primary weapon in their get-elected arsenal. Several of our 43 presidents have had outstanding personas, but two are particularly remarkable to me: Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. Their brands are so strong that you almost automatically think "Honest Abe" and "Camelot."

Lincoln1861

Every school kid knows the story of the impoverished Abraham Lincoln, growing up in a log cabin and reading books by candlelight. As Alan Brew writes,

"Lincoln’s life exemplifies what has been variously labeled 'the American dream,' or 'the right to rise' from rags to riches. In Lincoln’s case it is quite literally a rise from a log cabin to the White House. His story is the embodiment of Lincoln brand: gritty determination, honesty, family values, unswerving belief in America and the basic rights of his fellow men. His life offers a powerful testimony to dream. It is what ordinary Americans want to believe about social mobility and the opportunity to get ahead."

In fact, he was a highly intelligent lawyer and was one of the first presidents who was actively branded and marketed to the voting public by his political campaign. Sociology professor and author Jackie Hogan said in an interview, "There were all kinds of theatrics: pulling up a fence rail and parading around saying this fence rail was split by Abraham Lincoln. They created an image of him as an average Joe, and in many ways, he was not an average Joe. But he was very happy to ride that reputation into the White House.”

What Lincoln had that other presidents, and royals, lacked, was access to new technology, and he used it to advantage to receive and distribute information. This new technology was the telegraph. It had been used primarily by the banking and financial industry, but Lincoln was the first president to use it for wartime communication.

"Like social media the telegraph is an electronic form of communication. The telegraph increased the speed at which information and communication could be received it changed the world, it changed war, and it changed daily life."

--Scott Scanlon

Lincoln certainly had his detractors. It would be impossible not to, leading a nation in the time of a civil war, but he rose to power through his intellectual leadership, and in many cases was able to diffuse contentious situations through his powerful oratory. He was able to define, in elegant and often poetic layman's terms, the sides and meanings of an issue. Today we might call that "content marketing."

And though some thought his physical appearance awkward, he did try to look the part. "At his second inauguration, Abraham Lincoln wore a coat specially crafted for him by Brooks Brothers. Hand-stitched into the coat's lining was a design featuring an eagle and the inscription, 'One Country, One Destiny.' He was wearing the coat and a Brooks Brothers suit when he was assassinated."

Kennedy

While Lincoln came to power when the nation was divided, John F. Kennedy came into office on a wave of prosperity, the post-war boom. And where Lincoln had use of the telegraph, Kennedy had television:

"Once a commodity that few Americans with money possessed in the late 1940's, it was now in the homes of all Americans by the era of the 1960's. It was this medium that would blast across the screen the youthful, handsome, rich, John F. Kennedy with his young beautiful wife Jackie and their two vivacious children." xroads.virginia.edu

In the 1950s and 60s, when families were watching Ozzie and Harriet, and Father Knows Best on TV, the Kennedy family exemplified that perfect, happy image, and Kennedy played into it, allowing his family and particularly his children to be photographed "under his desk, in their playrooms, in the Rose Garden, in their schoolhouses, throwing parties, Caroline riding her pony, or John-John running toward the helicopters and planes which so often captivated him."

Kennedy also used his charisma and knack for rallying people around an aspirational cause that they already wanted, such as being first on the moon, or creating the Peace Corps. There was an unwritten rule that his dark side (the extramarital affairs, connections to organized crime, plot to assassinate Fidel Castro) were not to be revealed, and they were not until investigative reporters of the 1970s got into it the files. Kennedy was the last president to enjoy that kind of relationship with the press.

Lessons learned

So what are the takeaways from these two presidents that can be applied to author branding?

First, it pays to know your audience and what they want. Both Lincoln and Kennedy understood their times and identified their personas with the ideals of the time. Even though they were faced with very difficult issues and circumstances, their personas helped them maintain public support through crises, and have survived the decades. One might argue that the assassinations propelled them into indelible memory, but polls still rank them among the most beloved presidents, and their personas live on. For authors of historical fiction, readers want to understand the relevance of what you write for today's world.

Second, it pays to use technology to advantage. Today's social media and a fairly unforgiving consumer audience make the kind of duality these presidents experienced difficult if not impossible. But consistent messaging and a strong brand story, strategically distributed to target audiences, can create a memorable personal brand that will stand for you when you need it most.

Third, just as you create your own persona, think about the personas of your target audience: who they are, what they want, and what they need from you -- not to create a false image to project to them, but to clarify how to reach them best, and how to create and distribute content that is meaningful to them while still aligning with your own values and brand.

Previous posts in the series:

Part 1, Intro          Part 2, Hatshepsut          Part 3, Henry VIII

Part 4, Elizabeth I          Part 5, Louis XIV       Part 6, Napoleon

SharavogueCoverEmbark on an adventure in Irish history with the novel Sharavogue, winner of the 2014 Royal Palm Literary Award. Now available from online booksellers. Author Nancy Blanton will be presenting at the Amelia Island Book Festival, February 20-21, 2015. You may also connect with her on Facebook.

Author branding: 3 lessons from Napoleon

Part 6 in a series on personal branding Young Napoleon as First Consul of France.

For using personal branding to advantage, Napoleon Bonaparte was truly the emperor among history's royals. In Getty Museum's book, Symbols of Power in Art, Napoleon gets his own chapter, "A Case Apart." Historian Jules Tulard wrote, "There have been more works written about Napoleon Bonaparte than there have been days since his death."

His mother said Napoleon behaved like a ruler even from an early age (sounds like a typical toddler to me…) but struggled to fit in at school. He spent a lot of time alone reading, thinking and dreaming. At age 16 he wrote, "Always alone in the midst of people, I return home in order to give myself up with unspeakable melancholy to my dreams. How do I regard life today?"

David_-_Napoleon_crossing_the_Alps_-_Malmaison1

His dreams even then must have been quite powerful for, while he valued revolution and political reform, what he wanted most was personal glory. His path to power was through military leadership and successes, and he once advised one of his generals to concentrate on "strength, activity, and a firm resolve to die with glory. These are the three great principles of military art which have always turned fortune favourable to me in all my operations. Death is nothing; but to live defeated and without glory is to die every day."

Tulard regarded Napoleon's brand persona as "the myth of the savior," truly the great leader on the white horse, bringing power, prestige and glory to France. Napoleon had a brilliant understanding for how to maintain this image using portraits, objects and writings:

"From carefully falsified army bulletins, to paintings and engravings, to the jewelled snuffboxes adorned with his portrait and distributed to the bishops who officiated at his coronation as Emperor, Napoleon knew how to create a cult of personality that maximised his popularity and sought to win the loyalty of those who might oppose him." --From History Today, "Napoleon the Man," Gemma Betros

His portraits are carefully constructed to show him as a fierce and valiant military leader on the white horse, a thoughtful and compassionate government administrator, a god-like ruler with the scepter of Charles V and the hand of justice of Charlemagne. Eagles on carpets and furniture symbolize imperial power, the bee embroidered into clothing symbolize industry. His feet do not touch the ground but rest on ornate pillows, indicating his godlike authority. In these images he invested heavily, but he could not tolerate criticism and worked to suppress images that opposed this persona.

"When he rose to power in 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte had serious concerns about comedic references to his personage. He immediately ordered the closure of all satirical papers in Paris and let it be known that cartoonists who toyed with his image would be dealt with severely. In 1802, he attempted to insert a clause into the Treaty of Amiens with England stipulating that any British cartoonists or caricaturists who used his image in their art should be treated in the manner of murderers and forgers. The English rejected the unusual amendment."  --From psychologist Nichole Force in a post about the dangers of humor

DelarocheNapoleon

But over time his ability to suppress negative information was unsuccessful, especially when military defeats and other issues began to fray his persona and reveal the divergence between the image and the man. A series of key portraits depict his rise as a young officer and his eventual and dramatic decline, brought on, according to some historians, by his swollen ego and perhaps the remnants of the lonely teenager he had once been.

"Where the eager young officer would energetically mine others for advice, and the self-assured First Consul could openly admit to being wrong, as Emperor Napoleon became increasingly reluctant to hear the opinions of advisors, gradually preferring to work long hours in a solitude that suggested not so much ambition as quiet desperation as he led France to defeat." --Betros

Three takeaways from Napoleon

How can Napoleon's personal branding experience inform the personal branding of an author?

  1. A personal brand persona must align with the actions of the person. You've heard the old saying, actions speak louder than words. When what you exhibit or say differs from what you actually do, you break down the trust that is essential to any brand, personal or corporate.
  2. Prepare your brand for transparency rather than duplicity. In Napoleon's day duplicity served him by allowing him to appear to be doing one activity while covertly planning something entirely different. But in today's world of social media, this kind of misrepresentation is almost impossible to maintain and in the long run will get you smeared.
  3. Always be willing to listen to trusted advisors and well-intended feedback. Just as every writer needs an editor, every person needs to understand how he or she is seen from the outside. Nor can we see all perspectives in every situation. Most people want you to succeed, and their well-intended advice may not always be helpful but it is worth listening to, just in case. It can also help you to temper those things that drive you, so that they do not drive you into the ground.

Next week, Part 7 in the series will look at two American leaders who, although they were not royalty, created strong personas to help them gain the support of the populace.

Previous posts in the series:

Part 1, Intro          Part 2, Hatshepsut          Part 3, Henry VIII

Part 4, Elizabeth I          Part 5, Louis XIV

SharavogueCoverEmbark on an adventure in Irish history with the novel Sharavogue, winner of the 2014 Royal Palm Literary Award. Now available from online booksellers. Author Nancy Blanton will be presenting at the Amelia Island Book Festival, February 20-21, 2015. You may also connect with her on Facebook.

Author branding à la française: The Sun King

Part 5 in series on personal branding Louis_XIV_of_France

It should come as no surprise that when it comes to personal branding, the French take it to a higher level. The Sun King, Louis XIV, is the most outstanding in a long line of Louis who had impressive nicknames: Louis the Young, Louis the Lion, Louis the Saint. These guys had the right idea of personal brand. And then, there were a few who kind of botched it: Louis the Quarreler, and Louis the Prudent, the Cunning, the Universal Spider (this one deserves further exploration in another post!).

But The Sun King has transcended the centuries, reigning longer than any other monarch of a major European country (more than 72 years, 1643-1715). He is memorable for centralizing government, for his lavish Palace of Versailles, for his his grand poses (and shapely legs), and of course for his fashion sense.

Taking back control of his country from the Catholic cardinals, Louis XIV believed in rule by divine right. He valued fiscal and military reform, law and order, the arts, and thriving French industries that could be effectively taxed. To move forward with his goals, he had to start by eliminating the mammoth corruption and embezzlement by some of his advisors.

He gained the respect of the populace by focusing first on law an order, and relied on his new government ministers reporting directly to him to help establish and maintain his public image. King Louis understood that the display of magnificence and splendor created part of a king's power. He also knew the value of repetition. His portraits were numerous, and his images were distributed far and wide to reach as many of his subjects as possible.

According to Peter Burke, author of The Fabrication of Louis XIV, "Louis saw himself everywhere, even on the ceiling."

His personal symbol, or logo, was the sun, and anything that bore his standard -- his bed and his dinner table even if he was not present -- was to be respected as if he himself were there.

Brand guidelines

To maintain a consistency of image and message in all of this repetition, there had to be rules, and Louis understood this as well. In all its forms, his public representation had to convince the audience of his greatness. Louis identified with admired historical figures such as Clovis, the first Christian king of France, and Charlemagne. So, the artists, musicians and writers drew from such powerful images as a Roman triumph, an equestrian statue with the horse stomping some evil. In state portraits he was:

  • Larger than life, his eyes higher than the viewer

    Rigaud_Hyacinthe_-_Louis_XIV,_roi_de_France

  • Dressed in armor symbolizing valor, and/or clothing showing his high status (In the 17th century, elaborate wigs and high heels became the custom, and served to enlarge the king's impressive stature.)
  • Surrounded by powerful props such as globes, scepters, the sword of justice, thunderbolts and laurels
  • Wearing the expression and posture of dignity and grandeur

"As for the expression on the royal visage, it tends to vary between ardent courage and dignified affability. A smile is apparently considered inappropriate for the King of France," Burke wrote.

In addition to portraits, sermons, sonnets, poems, literature, plays, coins and tapestries all had to present the king in this idealized light.

Brand strategy

To help implement his brand, King Louis had Jean-Baptiste Colbert who devised and documented a strategy whereby the king would be glorified as a patron of the arts. This "communications plan" included a list of all the various media where the king could not only invest but be depicted, as well as a list of individuals, their strengths and weaknesses, who could be called upon for the work.

"The plan was put into place in the next decade," wrote Burke, "when we can observe the 'organisation of culture' in the sense of the construction of a system of official organizations which mobilized artists, writers and scholars in the service of the king."

Like the sun, King Louis rose with the work of his reign and the help of his brand advisors, but in later years experienced a "royal sunset" when expensive wars, fragmented politics and a shortage of talent contributed to the decline of his popularity. There would be two more Louis to rule France before the French Revolution of 1789, but none to reach so high a zenith.

The takeaways

What can we learn from the personal brand of the Sun King?

  • Again, that values rather than fashion must be the brand driver.
  • That guidelines are necessary to maintain the brand's consistency and thus its power.
  • And, that a good written strategy helps ensure the brand is made visible and relevant to its target audiences.

Next week, part 6 of the series will focus on Napoleon.

SharavogueCoverSharavogue recently won first place for historical fiction in the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards! You can purchase a copy from online booksellers and at the Book Loft on Amelia Island, FL. I will be presenting at the Amelia Island Book Festival Feb. 20-21.

Author branding: Like Good Queen Bess

Part 4 in series on personal branding Elizabeth_I_(Armada_Portrait)Sometimes called Good Queen Bess, Gloriana, or The Virgin Queen, the second daughter of Henry VIII became Queen Elizabeth I of England at the age of 25. She quickly and masterfully defined herself in the eyes of her people -- that is, she established her personal brand.

At a disadvantage from the beginning because she was female, protestant, and the daughter of the executed Anne Boleyn, she was also coming into power after the death of her half-sister Mary, aka "Bloody Mary." Elizabeth needed to establish a firm base of power that her courtiers and her people could respect and accept. In her case, facing the likelihood of Catholic assassins, a strong personal brand was truly a matter of life or death.

Values and positioning

Elizabeth had been in training for royalty for a long time. She knew what she wanted: Increased world trade, supreme naval power, religious unity, and economic prosperity. She didn't care for war, but did not shrink from it in order to protect and defend her power and her nation.

To those ends, Elizabeth not only created a powerful persona, but also "positioned" herself as a strong and just ruler, a most noble and formidable king in a gentle woman's body.

Positioning is a way to define yourself to your audience in a positive and memorable way, while differentiating yourself from your competitors or predecessors.

If I were to quickly write Queen Elizabeth's positioning statement, first I would beg forgiveness at being so bold and admit a royal positioning statement would require a lot of serious thought and development time. That said, it might go something like this:

For the people of England, France and Ireland, we (the royal we) descend under divine right from Britain's greatest monarchs, to establish peace, religious unity, international trade and naval dominance, and to maintain their well-being, security and prosperity. 

  • Elizabeth based her claim to the throne first on history, descending from the Trojans, linking to King Arthur and Henry VIII. This history and provides the background to her many symbolic portraits, and to this she added color choices, iconography, and especially consistency.
  • Elizabeth did not care to sit for portraits so eventually artists were given "approved" facial forms to paint from, adding to the consistency and agelessness of her persona.
  • She preferred white gowns to emphasize her fair skin and bright hair, and augmenting her image of purity. Her courtiers wore miniatures of her to show their devotion, and had their own portraits painted wearing Elizabeth's colors – black, white, red and gold. (At the time, red and black dyes were difficult to obtain and process, so they were restricted to the wealthy.)
  • In addition to portraits, Elizabeth's persona was communicated (and sometimes created for her) through poetry, drama, music and architecture.

Power of Portraits

Elizabeth had no advertising or social media to broadcast her message, so of course portraits were the best way to establish her persona. After the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, a famous portrait (above) shows her with the ships in the background and her feet upon a map of the world. Her hand rests on a globe below the crown, her fingers cover the Americas, indicating England's plans for expansion , and she is flanked by two columns suggesting her history. In the background  the ships are driven to dark destruction while Elizabeth enjoys the sunlight.

“Elizabeth’s savvy in regard to managing and manipulating public opinion was substantial. She spent lavishly on gowns, jewels, portraits and royal progresses, whistle-stop horseback tours of her domain that let her see and be seen. Her skill with rhetoric, both visual and verbal, was undisputed, as in the legendary speech delivered to her troops on the eve of the Spanish Armada. The queen, dressed in an Athenalike white gown and silver breastplate, told her men, 'I have the body of a weak, feeble woman, but the heart and stomach of a king—and of a King of England too.’” --Hanne Blank Virgin, The Untouched History

In what is known as "the pelican portrait" she wears pearls indicating purity, the Tudor rose indicating unity, and a pendant that shows a pelican mother caring for her young. In Elizabeth's time, mother pelicans symbolized self sacrifice of mothers to care for their young, and as an icon represented Elizabeth as mother and protector of her Protestant nation and her subjects.

Queen_Eliz_The_Ditchley_portraitLike a virgin

As Elizabeth aged and determined that she would never marry, she became famous for her virginity -- even though many believed she'd had a long-term love affair with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. She was celebrated as The Virgin Queen in the portraits, pageants and literature of the day.

Virginity was a courtly ideal. In younger days Elizabeth's virginity had represented her purity, innocence and chastity, making her a perfect bride for some wealthy prince. As she aged and all suitors were refused, her virginity was spun into a maternal sacrifice of herself for her country and her people, lending an air of holiness to her reign.

Elizabeth_I_Rainbow_PortraitWings to fly

Elizabeth was also immortalized by the poet Edmund Spenser in his epic The Faerie Queen, where she was represented as a goddess and the embodiment of beauty and virtue. In reality, about this time her skin had been damaged by small pox, she'd lost much of her hair, and had to wear wigs and heavy makeup. Still, her gowns in some portraits are magnificent constructions of high shoulders and great wings. The Rainbow Portrait, painted when Elizabeth was in her 60s, is actually one of her sexiest, with her white floral bodice, her loose hair and elaborate headdress, a mantle draped over one shoulder, and a cloak designed with eyes and ears motif, the serpent of wisdom on her sleeve, the a rainbow with the motto "no rainbow without the sun." She reminds me of the recording artist Cher in this one: Ageless and outlandish.

In spite of many difficulties during her reign, Elizabeth remained popular with the majority of her subjects, and was praised as a heroine of the Protestant cause and the ruler of a golden age. Following her death in 1603, the date of her accession was a national holiday for 200 years.

Reason to believe

So what can be gleaned from Elizabeth's positioning in terms of personal branding?

  • Your persona must support your positioning statement.
  • Once developed, positioning can guide your marketing strategy and tactics to serve you for the long-term.
  • The choices you make to represent your brand, such as colors, imagery and messaging, should be thoughtful and consistent, repeated again and again.

To create a good positioning statement you should (1) define your target audience, (2) include the frame of reference, as in the category or genre in which you operate, (3) articulate the benefit or unique qualities being offered and (4) give customers a reason to believe you will deliver on your promise.

Next week, part 5 of the series will focus on Louis XIV.

SharavogueCover2Sharavogue recently won first place for historical fiction in the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards! You can purchase a copy from online booksellers and at the Book Loft on Amelia Island, FL. I will be presenting at the Amelia Island Book Festival Feb. 20-21.

Author branding and Henry VIII: Royal persona

Part 3 in series on personal branding If England's King Henry VIII had been an author, who might he have been? Authors, like royalty, can project certain images to create a persona in the minds of their audiences and the general public, to thereby be remembered and gain policy support, or book sales as the case may be.

Henry_face_youngAs noted in Part 1 of this series, the proliferation of social media apps today make it nearly impossible to project an inauthentic persona. The moment you thought you had created a good one, someone would post an instagram of you carrying out the garbage in your underwear. But King Henry was able to create and project a persona that met his needs, and the Hemingway_facecorresponding author that comes to mind for me is Ernest Hemingway.

As young men, both Henry and Ernest were good looking with athletic physiques. Henry was known for having "an extremely fine calf to his leg," for example. Both played hard at sports, be it jousting or hunting, and both saw themselves as warriors. Both were interested in education and literature. Both married a few times. Both drank to excess. Both attained a "larger than life" persona that continued long after the men themselves had faltered due to illness and, well, bad behavior.

King Henry's Brand Persona

Henry-VIII-kingofengland_1491-1547Henry VIII valued education, religion, arts, architecture, innovation and ostentation. He used his physical size to advantage -- he was 6'2" at a time when most men were considerably shorter -- and in many cases his portraits show him taking up most of the canvas. In the background of some portraits he was surrounded by the cultural sophistication reminiscent of imperial Rome.

He excelled at sports and held jousting matches, wearing his gilded armor, satin and pearls, as a way of showing his wealth, strength and power to visiting dignitaries.

To promote his campaign for church reformation, he had pamphlets created and broadly distributed, and paid theatrical and minstrel groups to travel the land and portray Catholic priests as devils while he was the defender of the true faith. (Reminds me of the branding road show I once led for employees in various departments, but in my case the past was the devil and the new brand was the hero.)

In architecture, the exterior of buildings included hundreds of busts, the laurel-wreathed heads of emperors, imperial authorities and military heroes, suggesting these heroes were the foundation upon which King Henry's Tudor dynasty was built.

In art he was featured at the center of huge architectural structures in classical style, in at least one case receiving the water of life and the book of life directly from the angels, a clear reference to his religious persona as head of the Church of England with the divine right of kings.

Later in life, even after a jousting injury and other health conditions changed him dramatically -- and even though the noble king was responsible for about 70,000 executions -- the glorious persona that he had created still permeated. Fans of the Tudors television series may recall in the last episode just before Henry dies, he orders the portrait artist Holbein to change his latest, and accurate, depiction of declining, sickly Henry into the standing image of the strong, virile (note codpiece), magnificent king he wanted his people to see.

In part, I would say, the success of Henry's brand persona is that the powerful, charming, man's man image he created was something the citizens of his time wanted and respected in their king. It was an image that was easy to accept, and easy to follow because it met with their own values, and even in the face of horrible truths it was hard to let go.

Stay tuned for Part 4 of this series, next week: Elizabeth I

SharavogueCover2Sharavogue recently won first place for historical fiction in the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards. You can purchase a copy from online booksellers and at the Book Loft on Amelia Island, FL. I will be presenting at the Amelia Island Book Festival Feb. 20-21.

 

Author branding: A royal legacy

Part 2 in series on personal branding In my last post I talked about some differences between corporate and personal branding, and how values rather than product should be the core driver for the brand. Because kings and queens were probably the first successful users of personal branding, we can learn from their practices.

HapchepsutIn ancient Egypt, if the monuments and pyramids can attest, rulers valued nothing more than a legacy. Not only to be remembered by their people, but also to help open the doors to a prosperous afterlife, something akin to the Christian belief that good folks go to Heaven and get presents at Christmastime.

Way back in history, c. 1479 b.c., Hatshepsut became the sixth pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, one of few women to achieve that post, and she ruled successfully for more than 20 years. So concerned about legacy was this queen, she had an obelisk at Karnak inscribed: "Now my heart turns this way and that, as I think what the people will say -- those who shall see my monuments in years to come, and who shall speak of what I have done."

When her pharaoh husband died and she was named regent to serve while her infant stepson came of age, Hatshepsut saw a unique opportunity and took full advantage of it. She had herself declared king of Egypt. But now, especially because she was a woman in a man's role, she had to take steps to secure her throne.

She had herself portrayed as a man in the media of the day -- stone carvings -- complete with false beard, Khat head cloth and shendyt kilt, and looked much the figure of a man, showing strong shoulders, small breasts. (In fact, archaeologist have discovered she was obese, had very large breasts and suffered from a skin disease, the salve for which probably contained toxic chemicals that led to her death.)

She also renamed herself "Maatkare," basically a combination of words meaning truth, soul and Sun God (Re), suggesting she was in direct contact with the god and thereby legitimately held her throne.

In pursuit of her legacy, she focused on two things: Architecture and art. She built roadways and sanctuaries, erected commemorative obelisks, and carved her immense temple into the limestone cliffs near Thebes, containing more than 100 statues of herself in various religious poses.

Hatshepsut was basically everywhere. Even though her stepson, ascending to power after her death, did everything he could to remove and erase her legacy from history, most of it still remains.

And so, what four things can be learned from Hatshepsut's strategies for establishing a personal brand?

First, values. For Hatshepsut, they were leadership and legacy.

Second, opportunity. You may not be able to have yourself declared king like Hatshepsut, but in an author's world, to me this means finding a niche that will allow you to shine, and has subject areas that speak to you (like Re) and can keep you interested. Branding is a long-term relationship.

Third, focus. Hatshepsut did not try to do everything, but focused specifically on a few main things that addressed her values. She promoted trade, which made it easier to obtain the things she needed, like building materials for monuments, and art from all over the world. An author may have a lot of demands on his or her time and resources, and still needs time to write. Don't participate in every charity, choose one or two that fit your brand values. Don't try to attend every event or be on every social media platform. Choose the ones that really serve you in some way and fit who you are.

Fourth, endurance. A strong brand will endure. Note that Hatshepsut's has been around for nearly 3,500 years. Most of us can remember corporate brands we grew up with as kids, even if the company that created it no longer exists. I'll bet you can think of some authors right now who have amazingly durable personal brands. Their names alone conjure mental pictures. Bronte? Hemingway? Melville? Austen? Dickens? Twain? And the list goes on and on...

Stay tuned for Part 3 next week.

SharavogueCover2Sharavogue recently won first place for historical fiction in the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards! You can purchase a copy from online booksellers and at the Book Loft on Amelia Island, FL. I will be presenting at the Amelia Island Book Festival Feb. 20-21.

Author branding: A royal undertaking

Henry-VIII-kingofengland_1491-1547As an author of historical fiction who also has a strong background in corporate branding, I've often considered the brands created by historical figures. For centuries, kings and queens had to create their personal brands for some of the same reasons corporations use branding today -- mainly to be memorable and likable by their audiences, and to differentiate themselves from their predecessors or perhaps pretenders to their thrones. Think of Henry VIII, for example. He was not exactly the icon of honesty, charity and good will, was he, now that history has revealed his true nature? But at the time most of the people of England would never meet him, and yet would be called upon to pay taxes and fees, and perhaps support an army going to war. He needed to project an image of strength, devine empowerment, leadership and benevolence. His personal brand, the persona the masses were allowed to know, projected exactly that.

I call that personal branding, even though he was the figurehead of a powerful government much like a corporation. His persona was built around a single person whose actions could make or break the success of the brand.

The basic structure of branding remains much the same between corporate and personal branding. A strong identity is created to represent the business or individual, and to suggest the value in products or activities of that entity. If the entity makes the commitment to that value and consistently delivers it, trust will develop among customers. Over time, the symbol of the brand, or logo, can by itself trigger a feeling of trust. And trust, in turn, generates more business.

But there are also significant differences between corporate and personal branding, especially for an author.

Corporations typically generate many products and may have whole families of brands that fall under one overarching brand, like Microsoft or Kraft. Managers of these brands struggle to create a personal connection with customers in hopes of building brand loyalty, but often fail because of the public's mistrust of corporations. That's why you see them posting in social media alongside other individuals, trying to humanize their organization.

While an author may be generating and selling multiple products similar to a corporation, it is always yourself you are selling. Many readers may try one of your books, and if they like it they will look for anything published in your name to continue reading your voice, your style and your command of storytelling. It is the consistency of quality that will keep them coming back, because they trust that you will deliver, but readers also are attracted to your own values and personality. You can't go around meeting every reader and talking to them about your values, right? So personal branding can help you communicate who you are more broadly and efficiently.

Branding does not mean that you run out and design a logo. Many people like to do this because it seems like the fun, easy part of branding. You can, of course, but in truth your name is your logo, and believe me, good logo design is not easy. A brand does involve imagery, but all the imagery is based on some very serious soul searching and groundwork. Once that is done, the rest falls into place more easily and you do not have to reinvent it every time you need an ad, a poster or a one-sheet. That's where the efficiency comes in.

But first, what is your brand? And who are you?

Many who talk about branding say it is a concise and compelling statement about what you do and how your products are better than any others. And that is one way of doing it. But the strongest and most enduring brands in the world go deeper than that. Their brands are based on values. Instead of telling customers what you do (they already know that), tell them why you do what you do. What drives you? What gets you up in the morning? What is that belief deep in your core that stokes your passion and makes you work so hard? You must find it, and it must be authentic. Write that statement, and from that will flow your mission, your tagline, your colors, your communications plan, your content.

And as I said, it must be authentic. I can't imagine the difficulty for an author to constantly project a persona that is not real, because the truth will show up in your writing anyway. If social media had been around in King Henry's time, no number of portraits, statues or proclamations would have sufficed to maintain his brand against the tweets, instagrams and blog posts that would expose him.

But that's another story!

Today I'm starting a series on royal branding, taking a playful look at some of the kings and queens who created strong personas to support and protect their leadership, and what we can learn from them. More to come!

SharavogueCover2Sharavogue recently won first place for historical fiction in the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards! You can purchase a copy from online booksellers and at the Book Loft on Amelia Island, FL. I will be presenting at the Amelia Island Book Festival Feb. 20-21.