The Personal Branding Dilemma
I used to work in marketing so I know branding, and I know it really well. In fact, I'm pretty darned versed in all kinds of marketing-speak and advertising concepts. When I started in corporate America many years ago as a Marketing Communications Specialist, I was just thrilled someone would pay me to write. It didn't matter what I was writing - I was happy to be doing it for a living. And then over the years, it slowly dawned on me...the writing wasn't giving me much joy any longer. I hated my job.
So, I left corporate marketing behind eight years ago in pursuit of my bliss. I realized I was miserable writing branding messages for things that didn't support better health, wellness, happiness, connectedness, joy, or anything else that particularly benefitted humanity or mattered to me. I was burnt out on corporate America, and I truly wanted to use my gifts and talents in a way that nurtured my spirit and helped humanity. I became a freelance writer.
What I discovered is that even as my own boss, the economics of the situation demanded I write marketing materials for corporations from time to time - at least until I developed a grouping of projects that allowed me to write in ways that gave me warm fuzzies and made me feel like I was somehow making a positive difference in the world.
Eight years is a long time (and also the blink of an eye), and in that period, I gradually shifted the mix of what I write and who I write for. After eight years, I am truly overjoyed the writing I do now meets my criteria for the perfect job:
This became obvious to me recently when one of my publishers took a look at some of my personal profiles, social media, websites, etc., and noted my bio and profile was all over the place. She wasn't wrong - it is all over the place, but then so am I.
As an author and writer, personal branding is important because I want people to read my books and articles. And, even with my years of experience in marketing, when it comes to myself, I'm terrible at personal branding. It isn't because I don't know how to create and communicate an effective brand, however. And it's not because I don't know who I am. It's because I have trouble identifying myself as a brand. Labeling myself in that way feels too limiting.
To build a personal brand, I have to focus on a niche or subject matter and continue writing and working in that area. And I've done that to some extent. Part of my personal brand is the cooking, food, health, and diet work I do, writing health-based articles, cookbooks, nutrition books, and more. And the other part of my personal brand is the paranormal, spiritual, metaphysical, and energy healing work, which includes writing books, teaching classes, and more. The problem is this: When I try to mix both branding messages into one place, my marketing message gets watered down and populations interested in either topic are confused and wondering if they have the right person.
I get it, I really do. A personal brand is a clear, concise message about who you are and the work you do. In this branding message, you want to clearly communicate what people can expect from you and your work. But to me, having a personal brand feels limiting, confining, and as if I will be stuck for the rest of my life finding just one way to use my gifts and talents to help others.
The solution I settled upon with my publisher was to have two distinct presences - both under my name (if only I'd thought of a pen name years ago). After all, Karen Frazier is not an uncommon name, right? One presence would focus on the health, wellness, diet, nutrition, and cooking. The other would focus on the paranormal, spiritual, energy healing, and metaphysical. And never shall the two meet.
Except. Except. Except.
In me, health, wellness, diet, nutrition, and cooking are all interconnected with spiritual, energy healing, and metaphysical. There is infinite cross-over between these areas. I know this because they intersect seamlessly in me. In my life, I can't separate one from the other because they are all part of the wholeness that makes up the very fiber of who I am. So to parse out these very important aspects of me into separate entities feels unnatural and untrue.
Likewise, I feel like if I settle on a personal brand (or two), I won't be able to include something else when I discover some new shiny object I'm excited about that I want to incorporate into my work and writing.
Barbara Sher wrote about people like me in her book Refuse to Choose, which is about a certain personality type called Scanners, people who are endlessly curious about and fascinated by - well, just about everything. As someone who went from major to major in college as I took my next fascinating class, who has had dozens (if not hundreds) of hobbies and interests over the years, and who wants to learn pretty much everything, settling on one - or even two - personal brands feels more than a little limiting.
But for now, I'll stick with my brands, branching out little by little as my interests and energies widen. From a business perspective, it's the smart thing to do. From a personal perspective, I don't have to allow my brands to define me, even if they only reflect a tiny fraction of who I am. Because ultimately, even if I have to have a dozen different personal brands, I plan to keep writing about things that matter to me and help others regardless of whether they fit within a narrow identity I've established to get people to read my work.