This month in #ReadySetWrite, Christy Kate McKenzie, leads you through writing your brand story...
I spent four hours at work today writing a brand story for a re-branding proposal I am working on. Four hours writing 235 words. Seems excessive, but those are some really good words, I tell you. Now, any sane woman would run screaming from the room at the mere mention of writing about brand stories after that, but lucky for you, I am not sane.
When writing a business plan, it’s a general belief that all business plans have the same 7 sections in them, but I’m not sure I buy into that theory. I believe a business plan should fit your business and if that means leaving out commonly used sections or adding new sections based on the nature of your business, so be it!
The business plan you write for your writing career is not one you would use to approach a bank for funding so you can stay at home and write (if only they offered writing loans…), so it doesn’t need to be crammed with logic and numbers. On the contrary, your business plan will serve as a map for you to develop your career in a way that will help you reach your writing goals. You might never show it to another soul… Or you might copy and paste bits of it (the really impressive bits) to use on your website or send in query letters.
Either way, you don’t need to follow a strict template to create your business plan. We are going to chuck the next two commonly used sections of a business plan out the window and replace them with something that is more suited to a creative business—and something you will probably feel more comfortable writing. After all, your business plan should represent your business in a way that shows, not just tells, how you approach your work. It should convey the tone and theme of your business, much like the dreaded ‘S-word’ does for your books. (No, not that one! I’m talking about the synopsis!)
In a traditional business plan, you follow the Executive Summary with your Company Description and a section on your Products and Services. These headings are a bit dry when you are trying to build a career out of your passions, so let’s scrap those and look at how to better represent the writing business you are trying to build.The Company Description would normally detail the legal structure of your business, its history, a summary of past growth, and a summary of both short and long term goals, and the Products and Services Section? You guessed it! It details what you are selling, to whom, and why your products or services are better than your competitors’.
I think this area of your business plan can be better served with a brand story. I know what you are thinking. What is a brand story and why does it take so long to write?
What is a Brand Story? A brand story is a marketing tool used by companies to inspire emotion in potential clients. Gone are the days of plain old advertising. Today, brands want to strike a chord with their target customers. They want you to feel as though you are buying from an old friend.
A great example of this is how McCain’s in the UK developed a series of commercials showing real-life families eating dinner. These commercials spoke to ‘ordinary people’ and warmed our hearts with the love families display while sharing a meal.
For writers, a brand story can often be used as a blurb on a website or an author bio. It should tell your readers who you are and what you write, but also give them a feel for your voice and an idea of what to expect from your stories.
Why does it take so long to write? You might be thinking you don’t have time for this, but please reconsider. It doesn’t always take that long to write. If I had been writing about my own work or perhaps something that I knew well, it wouldn’t have taken long at all. This particular story isn’t one I knew by heart. There wasn’t even a story to begin with. I had to write it from scratch. You may have to write yours from scratch and it may be difficult finding the right words, or the words might flow from your heart and the story may write itself.
Neither is representative of whether it’s a good story or a bad story. But either way, it has to be highly commercial and serve the purpose of drawing interest to your brand. For our purpose, that means drawing readers to your work.
Wait… Didn’t I tell you earlier that no one had to read it?
That’s right, I did. The thing is, even if no one ever reads it, having it clearly developed will help you to find your voice and stay true to yourself as a writer. We don’t always know our own story until we draw it out, but once we do it forms the very essence of who we are as a writer.
Okay, enough of that. Let’s get back to business.
It’s time to pull out the notebook you started your business plan in last month and get creative! For the sake of this exercise, we are going to assume that you will use your brand story somewhere public, like your website, to attract readers.
Think of your brand story as an actual story—like the fiction you write—and answer these questions:
1. You are the protagonist of your story, so who are you really?
Are you a military wife who writes while the kids are asleep to pass the time while waiting for your hero to return? Are you a retired professional who loves to transport her readers to exotic locals and give them a peek into your past adventures? Are you a single, small-town girl who loves her home and its quirky residents just as much as she loves a Happily Ever After?
If I were to rank the answers to these question from most to least important, the answer to this question would be tied for first place. Take a moment to think of who you are. Who you are determines the mood or tone of your writing and knowing this helps you find your voice.
2. What genre are you most comfortable writing in?
You may think you have answered this in the question above, but you haven’t. This question is more about what you write and should be focused on your work, not you. Combined with the answer to the first question, the answer can identify your voice. Do you write clean romance or do you have a more daring side to your prose?
Your voice is a great indicator of whether you are writing in the best genre for you. I’m not saying you can only write in one genre, but the genre you are most comfortable in where your voice fits best will likely be the one you find most rewarding and your readers will be able to tell in your writing.
3. Why do you write?
This is a good place to bring in personal touches. Give your reader an insider’s view of what makes you tick as a writer. Remember to keep it upbeat. This is not the time to tell a sob story capable of moving you to the next round of X-Factor. Readers don’t buy books on a sympathy vote.
Try to keep your answer relevant to your overall brand. Make it marketable. Instead of saying ‘I write because I enjoy it’ try ‘I write because I enjoy whisking my readers away to foreign lands I’ve visited for adventures which inevitably lead to romance’.
4. What is your promise to readers?
This may be even more important for you to know that your audience. In the ever-changing world of publishing, it can be tempting to chase market trends instead of write from your heart. Stating what you promise your stories will offer readers— a happy ending, a sexy romp, heart-pounding suspense—will keep it clear in your mind.
Keeping your promise to your readers means that you can venture further from your comfort zone and write outside of your genre and those loyal to your brand will take that chance with you. They know that even if you have found yourself writing a paranormal romance, it will still deliver the same emotional kick they have come to expect from you.
Now that you have a better understanding of who you are as a writer and how to ‘brand’ yourself, have a go at turning your answers into a short blurb. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
* Hold back. Don’t go overboard and write a novel here! Keep your brand story short (aim for less than 250 words) and snappy, like an elevator pitch, and make sure you are able to communicate it simply.
* Dig deeper. Make sure your voice shines through in your words and remember that even though you are, in essence, your brand, your brand story shouldn’t promote you. It should promote your style and your promise to your readers.
* Be authentic. Use your words to create a deeper understanding of your writing and speak the truth. Even if you use a pen name and don’t want to tell the world about your personal life, keep the things you do say—however vague—true.
Christy is an aspiring author, fairy tale fanatic, peanut butter connoisseur, and wannabe mermaid. For more information about her and her writing, check out her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.