Authentic Branding and New Media Transparency

THE END OF SECRECY

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I borrow the phrase “The End of Secrecy” from visionary and speaker Tim Sander’s recent blog post, where he reminds us “You can’t hide anymore in the new digital world we live in…this is great news for good people. Secrecy is the ally to evil. Think about the future of business in a transparent world: No bad act gets hidden, no good act goes unnoticed. What does this mean? Same things I’ve been saying since 2002—nice, smart people succeed.”

Nice, smart people succeed. It is certainly a utopian vision. But with an internet so appealing to the masses and the inherent transparency of social media networks, such a vision of a more open and honest internet is a win-win for many passionate small businesses.

ignore-smWhy? Because consumers are smarter than ever. And they’re just plain tired of hard sells and traditional advertising. In short, the digital natives are restless.

But just what is “transparency” and
why is it important?

Transparency in business today means exposing your intentions. It means providing real value first, and it means developing an authentic personal or small-business brand. And today, an internet-oriented “brand” must convey WHO YOU ARE, not what you do.

A couple of weeks ago, we met Steven, our aspiring food critic. Steven isn’t sure where he’ll sell his restaurant reviews and lifestyle commentaries: online, in print, maybe both. What he does know is that in order to succeed as a food critic, he needs an online presence. He needs to take himself and “get branded.”

My recent post, “Brand Myself? Are You Kidding?” takes a hard look at the importance of self-branding in an internet savvy world. In this context, branding isn’t so much an effort to sell as it is an effort to share. For entrepreneurs like Steven, it’s a process of becoming the business he sees himself becoming.

But how do I go about branding myself?

becky_holmes_wondering_lgeSmall-business branding is a birthing process, and it’s never easy to know who you are before you’ve become it! Yet this is exactly what one must do in order to build an entrepreneurial business online. Here are some tips on branding yourself and your business successfully:

Be authentic. Express yourself in a brand that shows us who you are—your values, your voice, and your vision. If you’re uncertain about these, ask a brand image consultant (like us) to help you develop who you are into who you’re now becoming.

Provide value up front. This means giving something of real value to your visitors. When someone arrives at your blog, be sure to reward them for finding you. Share with them your personal experiences (lots of value there!), links to interesting places, and other helpful resources.

Avoid the hard sell. With small business websites, it’s obvious when someone is being obvious. Decades of print and mass media advertising have conditioned us to avoid the hard sell. Remember your readers can walk away with the click of a mouse. Don’t make it easy for them by pitching yourself on your home page.

Think like a surfer. When creating your content, think about how you surf the internet. Do you enjoy seeing cluttered homepages? When shopping for a product or service, do you find too much content overwhelming? Use your own online experience as a reference point.

Stay tuned for updates on Steven’s brand-building adventure, as well as ideas for new business bloggers.

Messina Marketing Group