Are you currently working to create your personal brand or rebrand your business? Today’s branding tip is about transparency. In my work with my marketing clients, I often talk about how important it is to tell your personal story, to be authentic and not be afraid to share all of who you are. But just how open and honest should you be when it comes to sharing your story?
The simple answer is to share what you are comfortable sharing. If you follow my blog or subscribe to my newsletter, I tend to share quite a bit about what is happening in my personal life as well as my business life. Sharing our story makes us relatable and can also position us as experts in our industry.
Ask yourself before sharing a story:
- will people be able to relate to this story?
- do my clients need to hear this story?
- how can this story educate or help others?
- will this story position me as an expert?
In recent efforts at being more transparent, I have begun to share more of my art. The painting above is an example of a current project in process. I am taking a course with Whitney Freya this year called Super Soul Flow. One of the things we are asked to do is to NOT love our art, to not be attached to the outcome but to use painting as mediation and to enjoy the process. I feel a bit naked sharing an unfinished piece of work but part of self-love and authentic transparency does require at least a partial baring of the soul. It does not require that I wear my heart on my sleeve.
I struggled for so long with that inner critic’s voice that told me I couldn’t draw or I couldn’t paint, I couldn’t lose weight or run fast… In fact that inner critic can still be pretty demanding although I consider myself a recovering perfectionist. Sometimes I feel like a split personality, so confident and sure about some aspects of my life and work and insecure about others. For the past year, I have been working on integrating all of who I am into my work as a creative business coach.
I am not perfect but that doesn’t mean I am not great at what I do. By being more transparent, I am healing myself. This is my personal process. Yet, I am also very conscientious about what I share publicly, especially on social media.
Pat Flynn and Jon Lee Dumas are two entrepreneurs who are notorious for their transparency, even going so far as to post their monthly income statements. You might argue that when you’re making the kind of bank they do (6+ figures each month) it’s easy to share—perhaps even inspirational to your audience.
But it might also be off-putting to some, since talking about money is often seen as vulgar. In this case, though, it works to attract the exact audience they are after. Others will find other mentors, and that is, after all, the point of marketing.
Transparency comes in other forms as well. Struggles with alcoholism, depression, cancer and other health concerns are commonly shared. Stories of marriage and relationship triumphs (and tragedies) are told. Even spats between competing businesses aren’t off limits for some marketers.
That doesn’t mean, though, that you have to be frank and honest about all areas of your life and business. It’s important to remember that what you post online can have an impact on how you are perceived by your prospects and your current clients.
Yesterday I shared on my Facebook business page about my son’s 16th birthday on Sunday. What should have been a glorious day of joyful celebration was terrible. He had a total meltdown worthy of a 5 year old. I shed some tears, too, but my post was not about my son’s terrible behavior it was about how my husband and I chose to react – offering our son loving-kindness and respect when it would have been so easy to just be mad. I appreciated the outpouring of love and support from my community, sharing empathy and understanding what it means to parent a teenager. It was a relatable story, reading this I am sure many of you have similar stories.
I posted this on my business page, not my personal page and asked a powerful question about how we learn to master our reactions to difficult conversations. I didn’t post it on my personal page where it would embarrass my son. It was my story I wanted to share, not his.
Branding Tip: Watch Your Social Media Profiles
Here’s where a lot of business owners falter, especially when it comes to Facebook. You have your personal profile, to which you invite friends and family, and your business page, where you talk, well, business.
But there will inevitably be some overlap. Colleagues will slowly filter into your personal timeline, and you into theirs. Pretty soon, your business people are hearing all about your latest bout with the flu and that snarky thing your mother in law said yesterday. Too much? Maybe.
When it comes to your social media sharing, it’s important to pay close attention to not only what you say, but who you’re saying it to and how you choose to say it. Using privacy settings, contact lists, and even limiting who you “friend” can help maintain your privacy while still being transparent about your business offerings.
Remember, the Internet is Forever
While privacy settings can help, a better way to keep your personal business away from prying eyes is to simply not post it at all. Think of every blog post, Tweet, Facebook status update and Instagram pic as a billboard. If you wouldn’t post it on the side of the highway for all who pass to read it, don’t put it online either. The chance that it will “leak” (despite your best efforts) is great, and once it’s out there, you will not ever get it back.
So think twice about those nasty replies, intimate details, and other confidential information. You just never know who might be reading, and they will affect your brand image.
The bottom line? Know your audience and know yourself. If you’re not comfortable sharing certain aspects of your life and business, chances are they won’t be comfortable hearing about it, either. It’s okay to maintain some privacy, even in this transparent world of online marketing.
Choose what you are willing to share. In the case of the story about my son, I knew I would be supported. It’s not my typical story, in fact most of the times I get to brag endlessly about my kids. But not every day is perfect. Be willing to quiet that inner critic and show up with some level of transparency in your business. The best branding tip I can offer you is to stop hiding and show the world all of your beautiful self.