If you’re a writer, then you need a solid personal brand to help you market your work. And if you Google information about personal branding, you’ll find a lot of guidelines about finding your audience, clarifying your values, and highlighting your purpose.
All those things are great and important, and we’ll come back to them later. However, you may still have trouble turning the answers into a personal brand.
And we’re writers, so let’s use some writing prompts to delve deeper.
I wrote the following four prompts and the associated reflection activities for a one-hour training with my team at work, and each prompt takes an average of four minutes. You can do them all at once or as writing warm-ups before you start on your WIP.
Prompt #1: 5 Minutes
You’ve just improved the world (not necessarily through your writing), helping the cause you’re most passionate about. Write a letter from the perspective of someone whose life you’ve improved and who wants to thank you for your work.
Prompt #2: 3 Minutes
Write a list of the interests and obsessions you’ve had, especially those that people may think are weird or that have mildly frustrated the people around you. For example, I enjoy reading fast food nutrition facts aloud and grossing myself and everyone else out while we eat said unhealthy food.
Prompt #3: 5 Minutes
Imagine yourself as a wish-fulfillment character. For example, you might be the Hero(ine) of Ages or the queen of a fantasy land. Write a character profile for yourself.
Prompt #4: 3 Minutes
What uncommon or quirky skills and abilities do you have? What things often happen around you or to you? What things do others do that bug you? What absence of skill in others most annoys you?
For example, I have had a weirdly high number of homeless men tell me life stories of questionable accuracy.
Now we’ll reflect on each of the prompt responses to find patterns and meaning.
Prompt #1 Reflection: 5 Minutes
Either by making notes about your previous writing or by writing about your feelings during the exercise, look for deeper knowledge of what helps you find purpose and fulfillment.
For example, I changed the subject of my letter partway through because I re-acknowledged that while systemic changes are efficient, they don’t bring me the same fulfillment that personal interaction does.
Here are some questions you might want to consider.
- Did the group of people you helped and your target audience overlap? Are they connected?
- What values and abilities led you to help and enabled you to succeed?
- Do you feel that this action is part of your “life purpose”? How can your purpose fit in with your brand?
- What makes you particularly suited to tackling this issue?
- How can this cause relate to your writing career, or do you prefer to keep them separate?
You don’t need to have a single defined “life purpose” at the end of this exercise. Just try to point yourself in the right direction.
Prompt #2 Reflection: 3 Minutes
Look over your list and find patterns. Group your interests into categories or reflect on why or how you developed those interests. Some questions you might want to ask yourself are:
- What items on your list are fairly unique to you, and what do they have in common?
- What marketable expertise or skills does your list reflect?
- What do these interests and obsessions say about your strengths?
- What values and habits set you apart?
If you have an unusual but marketable interest, then you can use it to put a fresh twist on your writing or marketing. For example, Marie Kondo’s lifelong obsession with tidying is unusual, and it’s also made her a lot of money.
Prompt #3 Reflection: 3 Minutes
Fantasy-you is probably more confident and self-actualized that now-you, and by analyzing fantasy-you, you can bridge the gap between reality and fantasy.
- What strengths do you already have that you can hone to develop the presence that fantasy-you had?
- What trait, habit, etc., makes you powerful?
- What do you need to do to become fantasy-you?
- What makes you a compelling character?
- If you were to use a toned-down version of fantasy-you’s aesthetic in your personal brand, would it work, and would you like it?
- How can fantasy-you’s way of carrying themselves, having confidence in themselves, and so forth help you project the best version of yourself?
- What do you learn from the differences between real-you and fantasy-you?
I’m not saying that you need to market yourself as a fairy princess. But if you understand why you’re attracted to the idea of being a fairy princess, then you can have a better grasp of your ideals and the type of person you’d like to project yourself as.
Prompt #4: 3 Minutes
Much as with prompt 2, we’ll look at what skills and abilities you’re drawn to or naturally have.
- Do you see any patterns?
- Can you spot any skills or abilities that could be your x factor?
- Does what annoys you tell you what you’re good at but are so submerged in that you don’t notice?
- How do people perceive you? How can you use assets to boost your brand or downplay negative aspects?
The thing about your x-factor is that you may not realize that you have it. Sometimes when you’re good at something, it’s so natural to you that you just assume everyone can do that thing. Look for talents you’ve overlooked or haven’t given yourself enough credit for.
Now that we’ve gotten some information, we need to bring it together to make something coherent. First, go back and make sure you can answer these marketing questions:
- What are you selling? What do you want your marketing to do? Your product might be your book or your editing services.
- Who is your audience? Who would buy what you sell? Develop a persona for a single ideal customer.
- What do you offer that your audience wants? In other words, how do you set yourself apart from other writers you do the same thing?
You’ll come back to these questions over and over as you market yourself, so your answers don’t need to be perfect. But you want a general idea of what you want your personal brand to do for you. For example, you could want your personal brand to help you get a book deal and make friends with other writers online.
Choose 3 Words: 10 Minutes
Okay, I admit that I needed more than 10 minutes to do this part, but that’s about how long we allotted for this task in our training.
For this exercise, we’ll try to distill the information we’ve gained into three words. Using a dictionary and thesaurus as you need to, pick three words that gel with your personality, describe your work, fit with your values and purpose, and create the mood you want your audience to feel about your brand.
You don’t need to explicitly use these three words in your marketing, but you can use them as a guide when you choose brand colors, design a logo, choose a theme for your website, create content for social media accounts, and even write your actual book.
You can choose words of any part of speech that you like, though because I’m an editor I recommend choosing grammatically parallel terms (all nouns, all present-tense verbs, all adjectives, etc.).
Your words might include peace, believe, fly, explore, be, still, ethereal, elegant, love, survive, discover, become, magic, or adventure.
Obviously these exercises won’t solve all your personal branding problems, but hopefully they help you on your way.
What are your biggest struggles with personal branding, and how have you addressed them so far?