More on Branding and Communicating What We Do

In my post two days ago, about the speed of change and how my business specifically has changed in its shape and focus, I promised to share a recent experience of a friend’s comment which shocked me and made me think more about how well or otherwise I convey to others a sense and understanding of what I do, what I offer professionally.

I’ve weighed up whether to share this process of questioning and re-defining, lest existing and possible future clients wonder whether I actually know what it is I’m doing. I decided to take that risk, on the basis that my sharing how I’m working through the questions might help one or two people having similar challenges.

I’m actually pretty clear about what it is I “do”. I’m just wanting to be as sure as I can be that I am communicating that as well as I can.

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Before sitting down to write this, I re-read my posts from only a few weeks ago, Just What is it You Do, Again? and Just How Valuable is Personal Branding? I was surprised to notice how my thinking has shifted even in that short space of time.

Partly that’s because I’ve been doing a couple of courses that have prompted me to look more closely at these questions.

But a significant trigger for some of the shift was an observation made by a friend of mine when we met for one of our infrequent but always interesting coffee chats. This was the event I referred to above. It was only a week after I’d written those two posts I’ve just mentioned and I actually felt I was getting a real handle on the business of answering the “what is it you do?” question.

Little did I know I was about to get a bit of a cold-shower wakeup message along with my caffeine hit.

In bringing my friend up to date on my doings, I thought I had explained fairly well how I was focused on what I saw as the twin or interrelated elements of my business, namely business coaching and social media strategizing. (Putting that in “title” or “label” terms, I am a business coach and a social media strategist.)

I recall I mentioned in the process of my update a few other specific items, which to me were more in the way of aspects of the coaching and strategizing roles, rather than add-ons or extraneous activities.

But I was in for a surprise.

Having listened to my little tour of my recent business activities and my sharing about some emerging possibilities, my friend said: “I don’t really know what you do. You jump around all over the place”. (That might not be exactly what he said, but if not it is close enough for the purpose of this story.)

I was taken aback, but it was cool. Real friends tell you the truth, even if it is uncomfortable.

So when I recovered I accepted that I had some more work to do on communicating clearly.

And because I tend to over-think some things – for the benefit of the NLP reader I’m more auditory-kinesthetic than visual – I sometimes find that I can break out of a loop of thinking by being deliberately visual. Doing a mindmap, doodling, drawing pictures (strictly stick figures).

This time I thought, how do I often communicate visually what I do? My business card.

So what would I have on my business card that gave people an idea of what I do?

In considering some design ideas – leaving aside such details as phone numbers – I found myself working through my own understanding of how I really want to present myself in a business context.

I got stuck on what label to use. I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable with labels – “Director”, “President”, “Coach”, “Chief Wizard” etc – even though (because?) I’ve been using labels for the twenty years I’ve been in business. I’m not saying I’m ready to give up on labels, but at the moment I find them somewhat restrictive.

I love being a social media strategist. And I love being a coach. I see the two working seamlessly together and am not interested in giving up on either. So I’ve been using the double label “Business coach and social media strategist”, just as previously I used “Business coach and blogging evangelist”.

But maybe the time has come for some simplification.

I want to have the freedom to explain what I do more in terms of the needs of the person I’m speaking to now, or who is reading now what I’m posting, than to be constrained by a label and that person’s preconceptions about what a particular label means or doesn’t mean.

So, long story short, I worked through some texts for my next business card and produced the versions above:

  • from the double titled one top left
  • to the “kitchen sink” version – 3 labels – on the top right
  • to the relative simplicity of one label – “Social Media Strategist” – bottom left
  • to no label, just how to find me – my web+blog address – bottom right

I’m really warming to some version of the last-mentioned design – name plus Web address.

So how will people know what I do? It will emerge in the conversation.

Or it won’t.

But by not having a label there might less prospect of the conversation being skewed by pre-conceptions about what one or other label might mean.

I know I’ll still have to work out what to put in the field for “Title” when I register for events. 🙂

I welcome comments. If you feel you have a better solution I would love to hear it.

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About Des Walsh

I show business owners and other professionals how to navigate the social media maze and use LinkedIn effectively. I'm an author, speaker, business coach, social media strategist and LinkedIn specialist. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get my weekly Social Business Bites.

Comments

  1. I guess one approach that I’ve taken to the dilemma is to use the title ‘Founder’ and then to have ConsciousComms as the company name, be indicative of what I do. Then I explain what the company does, which is focus on helping people find their voice to communicate with their customers and audience, or more recently, just simplifying the explanation down to “learning to use twitter, facebook, and blogging, instead of traditional advertising”. It seems that there’s plenty of people who ‘get’ that, but don’t understand it, enough to either lead to further conversation, or bring the conversation to an end, and talk about something else instead.