01 Oct Ep. 37: Separating You and Your Brand
Do I brand myself as myself or do I brand myself as a fictitious name? We live in a world where it’s fairly simple to do either or — but what is right? What is the right path to take? Should I be the one in the forefront, the face, the name, what everyone knows? Or should I create a brand around another name and build a culture around that?
This is a topic I honestly had to take some time and really do some research on because what I’m not going to tell you is what’s right or wrong. What I want to do is bring some information to you so that you can make an educated decision.
I came across a video where someone had asked this very same question to Gary Vaynerchuk and this really brought some light to the subject. He said, “Everything works. Not everything works for YOU.” And that’s really what I want to start this conversation off with is there is no right or wrong. You’re not going to be right or wrong. The real question here is what are your goals? Who are you trying to reach and how in the forefront do you want to be?
If we take Gary as an example, Gary Vaynerchuk himself is a brand. He puts out video and content and he’s sharp as hell on social media and through video marketing, but he also owns an agency VaynerMedia.
So there’s also the option of having both. You can be both a personal brand and a business brand. Gary has built an enormous following around him and his personality and the way he delivers content. I’m also certain his personality and the way he promotes himself has also weighed in pretty heavily onto his business itself. I’m certain he’s closed a lot of deals because it’s him. But I’m gonna also go out on a limb and say there’s probably a handful of people that are not overly familiar with who Gary is and go straight to VaynerMedia because they want the products and services they offer.
Personally, I have fought this battle for years. I started worx&co (which used to be known as Worx Graphic Design) in 2007, and when I launched the business I knew I wanted it to go underneath of a business name because that’s what I felt you were supposed to do.
Fast forward now to 2019 and there are personal brands everywhere and when I say personal brands, I’m talking about personalities. People themselves that are branded. Oprah, Ellen, Gary, Rachel Hollis, Drake, Puff Daddy. I mean, I could go on and on and on. These are all people we have come to know. We know what to expect from them. We know their personality and we are drawn to them for a very specific reason. It’s easier now more than ever to really launch your career or transition your career into having a personal brand.
What really started this conversation with myself and my team was when I started realizing I had a real passion and natural instinct to speak with people, to share information, to be in the forefront. I almost started really doing myself a disservice by being closed behind doors and not being in front of people. So then, of course, the question comes up: Okay, well, should we rebrand worx completely to be something along Laura’s name or is it time for Laura to branch out and start really owning herself as a personality, while also running a corporation?
Well, spoiler alert, if you’ve been following along, you know I have branched out and have now branded myself as LauraAura, but I’m also still extremely involved in the day to day of worxandco. Think of me as, I don’t know, the chick version of Gary V.
There were lots of questions and lots of decisions to be made in creating this transition. And those are some of the things I want to talk about today because whether you are just starting a business and trying to figure out which avenue to take or you are transitioning an existing business, there are lots of questions to be had. And, hopefully, I can help you answer a handful of them so you can make the best decision for YOU.
When it came time to decide if I was going to develop a personal brand, one of the first things I had to go and really think about is what did I want? What did I personally, Laura as the CEO, want for my career? I have a fantastic business with a fantastic team, but I really had to picture how I see myself within my business over the next few decades. I realized, while I am a fantastic graphic designer, I’m also a fantastic communicator.
When I first started my business in 2007, I swore to the high heavens that I will always be the sole prime graphic designer in my company cause that’s what I went to school for and that’s what I love. As the years went on, though, and I started meeting with more people and talking to more people and being asked to attend workshops, I started to develop this real deep passion for communicating with people about a positive and motivating message. Fast forward to not so long ago, I came to a fork in the road.
Did I want to continue staying in the day to day and doing graphic design or was it time for me to branch out and start really embracing who I have evolved to be?
There was this kind of mourning process, honestly, from thinking of what I went to school for and everything I had built. Like, oh my gosh, how’s this happening? I feel like I’m boycotting half of my life. And now, what I realize is I have a passion for really guiding the graphic designers on our team. I love to help them visualize and create and push and grow them. I don’t have to be the one that does the design anymore. What I need to be doing is getting in front of people and sharing a message.
One of the hardest parts of this whole process was being willing to step into the light. This, for me, took a couple of years and a pretty intense conversation in my office to actually break me down — like literally break me down to realize it’s okay to step into being a personal brand, it’s okay to have my name and face attached to something.
See, one of the biggest challenges is this whole imposter syndrome that pops up. Who am I? Why would they buy from me? This is ridiculous. People are going to think I’m greedy or conceited or want all the attention.
I can honestly say that since launching the LauraAura brand just a few months ago, I feel so much more at peace. I feel like I personally have a channel and a platform where I can really talk the way I talk and walk the way I walk.
Here’s where it comes back to: This may not be your path on your journey and that is a-okay. I just think it’s helpful to share the journey I have been on so that you can see the different options at hand.
Face of Your Company
One of the questions I get is I’m currently the face of my company, so should I be the brand or should the business be the primary brand?
One thing you really want to consider is thinking about the growth of your company. Can it grow when you are the only one people can turn to as a personal brand, as a singular person? It can get a little bit challenging when people think you are the only one they can work with. Your capacity can start to max out and even if you’re funneling people in and then directing them to someone else on your team, they’ve bought into you, not necessarily someone else.
This is where building online streams can really come into play, so if you know that, yes, I am going to be the sole person, I really want to be the one that everyone funnels through. You really want to consider creating some programs and strategies that can help you build revenue without having to work around the clock.
Also, keep in mind that the people following you personally may be coming to you for a different reason than they are coming to your business.
Let’s stay on the Gary V train here. People that are coming to Gary V are looking for inspiration. They want direct information, they want quick answers, and they want to get motivated. But people that are going to VaynerMedia, they’re looking for an online strategy, someone to build their eCommerce, or write their content for them. You can have the best of both worlds. It’s all about positioning.
Future of Your Business
Another factor to take into consideration is do you want your business to eventually run on its own or do you want to be able to sell it? It’s a lot harder to sell a business that is attached to an individual, so if you are in the business to build a business and then sell, build another business and sell, or you know eventually what your exit strategy is going to be and that does not include you being part of the business, then you’re probably going to want to lean towards building a brand around the company.
I also want you to really think about your target audience. What resonates with them? If I’m thinking about another large brand, let’s say Adidas, I’m going to go out on a limb and say there’s not a whole lot of people that necessarily know who the CEO and front of the business is. But the target audience digs right into the humanization factor of what the Adidas brand stands for and how it makes them feel.
But if we talk about Jenna Kutcher, her audience is all about that direct connection with her and her life. She is personally and directly influencing people about positive body image, how to run a business successfully, and all about her family life.
When you’re thinking about your target audience, I want you to really think about who are you going to be the happiest talking to and working with on a regular basis? And if you’re thinking, Oh my gosh, I don’t need that much contact, that’s way too in the forefront for me, that’s just a lot of like upkeep and maintenance. I really just want to focus on growing a business — that’s completely okay, too.
Separate Social Media Accounts?
One of the biggest questions I hear also is, Should I have separate social media accounts or should I keep everything the same? This can be a tough one, but I’m going to give you what I find to be successful.
So, I’m a huge advocate for keeping things separated but infusing a little bit of both in each. Now I know that probably sounds confusing. When I first opened my very first Instagram account, it was me; Laura as a human, as a woman, wife, sister, mother, friend. And on there I posted life pictures and places we were going and the food we were eating and just beautiful atmospheres, whilst also trickling in some business stuff as well.
And in the same respect on worx, we were focused on posting business things but you also saw some of the family things that were happening on the backside as well. Here we are, another fork in the road because what I really had to dissect was what are both of my audiences wanting now?
I think that your own Instagram account, your own Facebook page, it’s yours.
Yes, you should ultimately do what works best for you. But I like to think of it as target audiences. So my family may not be as interested in what I have going on in business and may not be interested in the messages I’m pushing out. In the same respect, the people that are coming to my business page are coming to consider purchasing or partnering with us, and while it’s lovely to have pictures of puppies and babies on there — that’s not their sole purpose for coming.
I chose in my business to separate the two so worx has its own platforms where we’re talking about branding and marketing and business. The podcast has its own channel because we were focused on specific topics to entrepreneurs and people just hustling in life. And then I have a LauraAura channel where I talk about all things life and business and just get real, raw, and ridiculous.
Outside of those three, I have just Laura Wallace, me as a woman. This is what I’m doing in my life and from time to time I will cross share one or the other if I find it interesting or that someone on the other side may benefit from it. But ultimately, I love to keep my family and my friends, my family and my friends. And stay really focused on the strategy of the business because ultimately we are trying to grow something. We are trying to help other businesses.
The other piece of this puzzle here is if you intentionally build a brand. I’m gonna go back to Jenna Kutcher. Her Instagram account is full of not just her but her and her husband and her and her daughter and places that they go. But that is a brand that she has built. That is what her target audience is coming to look for because honestly, she’s an inspiration as a woman, as a mother, as a wife. But on her podcast channel, it’s strictly business.
Now I know a lot of you are probably like having heart palpitations thinking, well how in the hell do you manage all those accounts? Like that just seems really overwhelming. And honestly, sometimes it can be. That’s where a social media strategy is so important and having people to really just help you dig into certain areas. There’s a whole episode I’m going to do on social media strategy, but the best way to gauge if you should have multiple platforms or not is to evaluate if your message is getting diluted because you’re not in front of the right people.
No Right Or Wrong
Again, there’s really no right or wrong complete hundred percent black and white answer to this question. But this is a time to really get real with yourself and do some reflection, while also stargazing into the future. What do you want for your business? How do you see yourself personally growing within it? What do you want to do more of? Me, I want to do more speaking. I want to record more podcasts. It made absolute sense for me to break out. But if that was not a career path of mine, there wouldn’t necessarily be any reason for me to pursue a personal brand.
You can do just as many powerful things as a one-person as you can as a hundred person corporation. It’s all about being intentional and strategic and talking to the right people and resonating with the right audience and ultimately being in the space where you shine. Success doesn’t happen overnight. If you decide to open up more channels, it’s going to be a little challenging for a while. Just in the same way as if you decide to scale your corporation, there’s going to be challenges with that as well. You might as well choose the challenges that push you closer to your goals and align with your business and your life.
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