Create To Build Your Identity
When you create and share your message, it’s not just a way of bringing people to you, it’s also a way of developing and honing your identity.
What you’re doing is, very intentionally, building your identity, a personal brand – who you are, what you stand for – in plain sight of your audience.
Identity, in this sense is not visual elements such as logos or design styles, it’s the work you produce and share that helps people discover, connect and associate with you. Think of producing content not as a means of getting people to simply pay attention, but earning their attention via the development and growing credibility of the identity you’re building.
The more you create over time, the stronger that identity will become. It’s a very different approach from putting up sporadic ranty posts on LinkedIn.
From A Personal Space
2020, for me, has been a year when I’ve done quite a lot of reflection.
I consider myself lucky to have already built a space to which I’m so closely attuned (You Are The Media) and, over this very challenging and difficult year, I found YATM’s many demands energising.
You Are The Media has long been the channel that helped me build my own identity. It’s the main space from which I share ideas and gather people around a ‘campfire’ with events which, this year, have taken place mainly online.
It has helped me become known and build an audience. If YATM didn’t exist, my creativity and sharing would probably be intermittent (I commit to write for the YATM community every week) and I would have less self-confidence (as the YATM audience has grown, the more assured I have become). I create to share a point of view and hopefully, others can see the value and apply some of my thinking, their side.
What Identity Means To Me
This is what building an identity means to me:
— It defines and cements my personality – high energy, upbeat, a bit shouty and informal
— It clarifies the values I live by – trust, togetherness and organic growth
— It delivers a message of what is possible to others – mine is that ‘it is possible to carve out your own media space and become a trusted industry voice – you can do it too’
— It encourages me to be consistent – I have always believed in a human cannonball approach where you continually test, so I can share what works and what fails
— It encourages connection – finding a way to bring people closer together, initially via a weekly email, acts as an opener from which you get to know each other better
— It is me – I live by what I believe in.
It Becomes Your Calling Card
The routine of producing work that shapes your identity helps people connect with you. The familiarity and resonance this builds soon becomes a connector.
Here are some examples of others doing the same thing:
✅ Gordon Fong is vocal about Dorset being a great place to do business in and he promotes the idea that we should all be developing a sense of place and being a part of the communities we work and live in.
✅ Alan and Emily Braithwaite from Yellow Tuxedo have painted the world yellow, this is reflected in an upbeat tone for businesses to raise online visibility.
✅ John Espirian is someone who lives by what he believes in – being ‘relentlessly helpful’ (and he is).
✅ Nawar Saadi has encouraged people to think more about poetry as a way of connecting with each other and has built a space for others to share with Union In Speech.
✅ Ali Carmichael from ExperienceUX is vocal about user-centred design and not to forget the things that make us tick as people when it comes to online behaviour.
The work you produce and the visibility you build helps others see you for who you are.
How Does An Identity Help You?
A clear sense of identity acts as a signpost for the audience you’re building.
It helps attract those who are your people, the ones you want to bring over to your side and turns away those who are not the right fit.
This is how having a strong identity can support everything you do:
✊ It helps people connect with you. When people know what it is you stand for (read more on finding the one thing you stand for) it becomes easier for them to make a judgment on whether you are for them.
✊ People know what it is that you do. Your identity becomes the path along which people can find out more about you and your business. Having a very clear connection between what you stand for and how that’s delivered makes what you do more resonant.
✊ You become seen as an authority in your industry. The leaders in every market are leaders because they earned their place as trusted voices. The “what you say” goes hand in hand with “how you say it.”
✊ It shows the type of person you are. To be truly effective and to have longevity a lot comes down to ensuring you sound just like you, not some made-up version of yourself you feel you have to be in order to fit in. Living life as an act is not tenable when you have the intention to deliver over the long term.
✊ Your approach becomes what people turn to when they’re looking for an answer to their questions. Becoming known for who you are breeds trust which in turn builds credibility.
What About You?
When you have an identity and people know you are the right person for them, it means they know how you can help them. (It also saves you the advertising spend of telling others who you are and why you’re right for them).
Here’s what you can do to start sharpening your identity so you attract the right people.
Be clear on your perspective.
Constantly changing direction causes confusion. For instance, I emphasise the importance of growth via owned channels, so it would defeat YATM’s purpose if I suddenly switched focus to social media advertising. You have to make things clear for your audience, from what’s in it for them, to not letting them down. When your values align with your business you hit the sweet spot
Show up and share regularly.
Your identity grows stronger the more you commit to delivering and promoting your message. If you’re happy to just post on the odd occasion, what happens is that you become the same as many other people. It’s down to you, are you happy to sound and look the same or find a way that champions your individuality?
Build a space to gather and celebrate people.
The reason that You Are The Media Online has been a success this year is that people were already a part of the YATM space. The Zoom events became another means of bringing people together and an opportunity to further extend reach. If you focus on your own space that you bring people to, you can lead from the front (and when the space is yours, you’re not tied to a landlord’s whim!).
Bring something different but always add value.
Your identity is shaped by what others take away from your content and their recognising that you are the person who helped out (or facilitated something for them). Adding extra value can mean introducing people to each other or nurturing a space that others feel comfortable in.
Help others win.
Providing the framework for others to learn and do better (professionally or personally) can help create long-lasting relationships.
Put your heart into it.
When people can see that you’re committed and that what you create and share is more than just a job to you, your content becomes something more. It is possible to build a community, but the reason you do it has to go beyond just seeing everyone as a potential lead.
Sharing consistently on all levels (content, identity, perspective), through the marketing channels, you choose to commit to, will help to create an identity that sounds and looks just like you.
Your audience gets to see and really hear you, so they know what they’ll get when they interact with you. Developing a strong identity is powerful as it allows those who are the people you want to reach, recognise the values you both share.
When what you say resonates, it helps to build trust, develop loyalty and build stronger relationships. And what’s particularly personally rewarding, is the idea that you crafted everything with your own hands and heart.