Maybe it’s that bid towards authenticity that everyone’s raging about or maybe I’m a product of my hipster generation, but I really hate the idea of “branding” yourself. Klout scores, Twitter presence, page views, being an expert. If you want to be a writer or have an authority, branding yourself into a niche (preferably one you like) is the best way to get noticed.
I bring this up because apparently, I’ve been branding myself wrong on my LinkedIn profile. I guess saying “My name is Georgette, and I’m nice!” isn’t the right thing to capture an employer’s attention.
Two things come to mind when I think of branding:
That sounds negative in the hipster way, doesn’t it? Well, I refer to how cattle ranchers used branded cow hides with heated metal designed with the ranch’s insignia. Back in the day, it helped people know which cows belonged where.
In a way — as far as career goals go — branding works in that it organizes you down the path you want to head towards. I guess this is helpful for LinkedIn: Writers will go to this carrel, accounts here, and so on and so forth . . .
2) Zooey Deschanel
That sounds mean following the cow in the list, but she really does come to mind when I think of branding. I once read in an interview how she hated that people called what she did the “Zooey Deschanel” brand. This is understandable, because telling someone that they aren’t a person but a brand would be very hurtful and dehumanizing. But we do have to admit, that with the success of her show and her website, Zooey Deschanel tapped into this niche market. Consider the SNL sketch, Quirky Girl.
Zooey was in on the joke with this one because she knew that we took a few key elements of herself and basically used those to define her: she’s cute in a retro way, she has bangs, she makes crafts. Her brand makes her an authority on all of those things, I guess, and it makes people like her because they can make all of these assumptions about her.
She would totally have a great LinkedIn profile.
A random guy I met on the train told me I was branding myself all wrong on mine (don’t ask how we got to talking about that). Apparently calling myself a “writer or a blogger” in my headline isn’t going to bring all the boys to the yard (my words, not his), and that I was better off showing my Social Media skills instead.
I balked at this suggestion because I used my social media background to get me my jobs as a writer and blogger. I saw it as something I didn’t want to work with anymore, and I was pretty affronted when he so bluntly told me all of this. This is probably because I like to think of myself as a writer and blogger and also because I have a secret shame about my LinkedIn profile. It’s the same shame that comes up when I have to open my Word file called “Georgette_Resume_Part456B.doc” and I have to look over what I previously wrote for that past job. Usually I cringe.
The man — we’ll call him Geoffrey Chaucer — basically told me that I have a brand I’m not using. I hoped he meant in the people sense, rather than the cow hide one, but after talking to him about it, I had to accept that Geoffrey Chaucer was right.
The other day, I spoke to Imani and Devin about how we felt silly or annoyed when we would tell people that we wanted to be “writers,” mainly because of skeptics (as Imani pointed out) but also because it sounds so flimsy of a career path. Admitting to that hope makes us look childish, and I felt that when I spoke to Geoffrey Chaucer as I tried to defend myself as just a writer.
“You can be a great writer,” he placated. “But what else? There’s more to it now if you want to be a working one.”
That’s where he got me. “A working one” as opposed to “a starving one.” I have a fear of starving, mainly because eating is in my top eight favorite things to do.
Now, I see this working in the blogging case. Think about those Twitter authors you follow or who follow you. They’re establishing a presence to talk to people. There are Facebook contests for certain ones too, and I always see publications hosting #LitChats on tons of social media outlets. As much as we want to fight it, branding is there to reach out to readers and an audience. If anything, it brings your point of view across.
It’s become part of wanting to be a working writer. So pie connoisseur, Poor Writers representative, wannabe breakdancer could all very well fit my brand, I suppose. They’re niche markets right?