As we have recently launched our new website, I’ve been thinking a lot about our brand. What we stand for, what makes us different, and how we can best articulate and promote our values and service offerings? At TE+A, we help guide our clients through this process, so we decided to put ourselves through the same paces and determined a blog was an excellent channel to share our thoughts.
One of the biggest current trends in content marketing and SEO is leveraging an industry related blog. When we advise with our clients, one of the key channels we review, and often come to recommend, is exactly that. If you are like us, and decide to commit your company to writing a blog, you may find that one of the main advantages of this endeavor is not just who will read it or the SEO uptick. It’s knowing yourself better.
The duality (and length) of the title for our first post attempts to create a tighter framing of the topic of branding and a blog, rather than just discussing knowing yourself and your brand as a general topic. It encompasses seeing both the positives and the negatives and moving forward from that point.
When representing the collective that is your organization, you strive to tell your story and make your position known to your target audience. However, you do so with a purpose and as the de facto spokesperson for your brand. A blog is a perfect platform for this type of communication. So how come the words didn’t just jump onto the page when I sat down to write this? Why didn’t I get a visit from one of the Muses as I often do? Why did it seem much easier in principle than it did in practice? The answer is that knowing yourself (aka – your brand) isn’t exclusive to how you see yourself. It’s also about how others see you and the dialog that exists between you and the marketplace. Many people want to be “the fairest of them all” when they reflect on themselves, but few, if any, are. So I took the road less travelled and decided that I would not succumb to vanity, one of the poorest substitutes for objectivity, and what I found was refreshing. Bottom line, if taken to heart, a blog helps you crystallize your brand messaging and helps to frame your core beliefs.
Knowing yourself and how you are perceived sounds simple on the surface, but once you get below the veneer, it also entails some soul searching. Some people are less able (or willing) to admit that they need help staying accurately informed of how their audience views them. Finding the right balance between how you ideally want to be perceived and how you are actually perceived can be challenging. However, the benefit of wrestling with this challenge is well worth the effort.
It starts with a close and thorough self-examination… or checking yourself out in the proverbial mirror. This requires more discipline than many people realize because we do not always get a clear picture of ourselves when we look in the mirror. You need to objectively look at yourself and let narcissism take a back seat to reality. This is similar to literally looking at yourself in the mirror. When we look at ourselves in the mirror we actually see an inversion of ourselves – it’s a mirror opposite of us — that’s why when we see a picture of ourselves it looks different. The same phenomenon occurs when we hear ourselves speak or, heaven forbid, hear ourselves sing. (Despite my lyrical knowledge sometimes I, sadly, find my own voice lacking in skill.)
It is instinctual for us to think of ourselves as better, or having more finely tuned qualities in comparison to others. On the other side of this coin, there are also those who are overly critical of themselves. In the terms of Sigmund Freud’s analysis of the psyche, we are torn between our Id, the former, and the Superego, the latter. We battle our narcissism and our altruistic or humble ideals. When looking in the mirror we have to account for these opposing forces and rely on our realistic mediator, the Freudian concept of the Ego, to guide us to a healthy combination of self criticism and self appreciation. If we stray too close to the Id or the Superego, we risk viewing our reflections in the mirror as a biased, fictitious truth.
Like in the Camera Obscura, we have to remember that even looking in a mirror, the reflection is not as it seems. One must be aware of these reflective flaws in order to truly know oneself, and thus, know one’s brand. How do you view yourself? How do your current and potential clients view you? You can’t be tricked by what you see in your reflection but must be aware of what obscurities are present. Mirror, mirror on the wall, you’re probably not the fairest of them all.
Rather you should listen to what people think of you. Understand how you are perceived, understand and communicate your business offering and goal to all relevant audiences, understand your SWOT, define your message map / value props, stop the “It’s all about me” and start a conversation with your audience and listen to their insight.
Companies constantly leverage experts in fields like marketing, management consulting, and research and conduct everything from focus groups to existing customer interviews to secret shoppers and diners, intercept interviews at point of sale, and social surveys. All of these take a significant investment of time as well as money. So how do you get the right balance between an accurate gut check on public perception of your brand and a reasonable budget? The answer is this: it’s different for everyone. There is no one prescription for all. It’s a process that requires you to work with your organization and your clients or customers. What is this process like? We have examples soon to follow in Part Two of this blog.