So far in the previous parts of the Building Your Freelance Writing Brand series, you’ve learned the fundamental steps to building a brand, how the social web and compounding effect of blogging and content marketing can boost your online presence and brand, how to monitor your online brand reputation, and how to massage the search results that lead people to your brand online. Part 7 introduces you to the tangible elements of a brand and why they should be important to you as a freelance writer.
In simplest terms, the tangible elements of a brand are the physical representations and symbols of that brand. When I directed marketing and branding programs for AT&T and HSBC and worked with a myriad of other corporate clients, I’d always have to read, memorize, and police the corporate identity guidelines and the implementation of those guidelines. Typically, these documents were dozens of pages and explained every fine detail related to logo production and placement, typeface, white space, co-branding, and every other potential scenario you could imagine. I had to write those guidelines more than once. Believe it or not, there is a reason why corporate identity guidelines exist, and even small business owners and entrepreneurs, such as freelance writers, should have their own brand identity guidelines that dictate how the tangible elements of their brand can be used.
So what are the tangible elements of a brand?
The most basic elements are: logo, typeface, and color palette.
For example, when I worked for AT&T, the logo was well known, the corporate color was Pantone Process Blue, and the typeface was AT&T Garamond. Those elements have changed since I left the company with a logo update and a switch to a new AT&T Clearview font. However, the elements are standard and proper logo use dictates that no materials can veer from those guidelines. The reason is very basic — brand consistency.
Over time, tangible elements of a brand identity become physical symbols of a brand promise that elicit emotions in consumers’ minds. For example, regardless of whether you like Harley Davidson or not, when you see that logo, you know the brand stands for freedom and camaraderie. That’s the Harley Davidson brand promise, and the logo is a visual cue that can stand on its own.
There is a reason why some writers brand themselves as “Copyblogger,” “The Copywriting Maven,” and so on. They’ve branded themselves and that brand name, in time, has come to represent a promise and evokes emotions. When people see those brand names, they know they’ll get quality content, tips, advice, and insight from the people behind those brands.
A common question writers ask me is whether they should create a clever business name for their brand identity or use their own names. The answer to that question depends on your long-term goals. Do you want to position yourself as an independent writer or do you want to create the perception that your services are part of a larger, professional company? Depending on where you want your business to go, you should brand accordingly. Again, consider the compounding effect of blogging and social web participation. Whatever way you decide to brand your business, that is the name you need to use to represent yourself online as much as possible to get the biggest benefits. Always lead with your chosen brand identity to build your online search reputation. Also, consider how common your name is. If you use your name as your brand, how much competition is there in a Google search for that traffic? If your name is John Smith, than branding your freelance writing business with your given name isn’t the best choice from a marketing perspective.
That brings us back to the previous examples. Do you need to give yourself a clever name like the Web Content Diva to develop your own brand? The simple answer is no. However, you do want to ensure all of your online and offline activities are clear representations of your writer’s brand. Remember what you learned in Part 1 of this series. Brands are built from consistency, persistence, and restraint. Determine what your brand promise will be, and then ensure your activities, work, and the tangible elements of your brand clearly represent that promise again and again and again.
So how do you get started in creating the tangible elements of your brand? First, invest in a professionally designed logo (even experienced freelance graphic designers can create unique logos for as little as a few hundred dollars), and use it everywhere — on your website, on your business cards, in your letterhead, on your invoices, on your contracts, in your email signature, and so on. Leave no stone unturned when it comes to indirectly promoting your brand and building your brand’s position in people’s minds. Keep in mind, a logo doesn’t have to be a fancy graphic in multiple colors. It could simply be a wordmark (i.e., stylized text). The key is creating consistency in people’s minds in order to build your brand, which leads to brand loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing.
And that’s exactly what Part 8 of the Building Your Freelance Writing Brand will be about — how brand loyalty develops and word-of-mouth marketing follows at the hands of brand advocates and brand guardians. Stay tuned…