When I was little, I was always writing. I kept journals from just about the time I could write and I’d have folders of stories and poetry that I’d carry around and ‘organise’ constantly. At school I used to create these little ‘clubs’ where I’d organise a group of girls together, make up some mission or another that we were on, assign various roles, craft ‘club rules’, membership cards and distribute newsletters.
When I was 10 I made a magazine - it was creatively called ‘Angie’s News’ (I have never been called Angie, but anyway). Computers hadn’t been invented yet - kidding, they had, but we didn’t have one at home in the mid-80’s, so this magazine was all hand-written and drawn. I just loved doing this stuff and although I can’t really remember what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was already doing what i would always do.
Apart from the fact that writing, creating and organising have been glaring constants in my life from a really young age, now, as a woman with kids of my own, I also recognise some of the more subtle drivers that I realise have also always been there.
There’s this fascination with what makes us different and how those differences click together and allow us to connect. To me, it’s a little bit like a dance-off or something where one person shows their awesome and unique moves, then the other shows theirs, and then they dance together in a way that’s different again to each of them on their own.
That magazine was all about these very different stories brought together to create this collective, colourful and creative experience. I guess that’s exactly what a magazine and other collaborative efforts are - work groups, sporting teams, families, creative collaborations. All bringing people together and organising differences in a way that’s interesting, creative and different to any of its contributing parts on their own.
Marketing is like that, at least that’s the way I see it. It’s so much about expressing what makes people unique, and yet similar, and organising that story in interesting and creative ways. Ways that are different and yet familiar. We’re attracted to stories like that because of their difference, recognising that which is unique, but somehow we can also see ourselves in the difference. And that’s when connection happens. And that’s what marketing is really all about because that’s what people are all about.
I don’t think my story is particularly spectacular and it’s probably only interesting to me, but that’s ok. It doesn’t have to be anything, it just is. We all have a story and sometimes it’s so normal, so ordinary, and we’ve been doing it for so long, that we’re not even conscious of it. In fact sometimes we don’t even know what that story is.
When I work with clients on developing their brand, I take them through all this deep questioning and brainstorming to uncover these stories. Some love it and totally immerse themselves, while others come kicking and screaming, questioning the relevance, the difficulty, the discomfort in looking at these things - it can be pretty funny. But the reason story’s important is because it shines a light, a great big megawatt floodlight on where our greatness and genius lies. Greatness and genius meaning our innate talents and gifts that come so naturally to us, we hardly even know they exist. And the reason we find them in our stories over and over again, is because we can’t even help doing them - we just do, in all kinds of ways.
These are the things that only we can do in our own particular style and way. The things that at once, fire us up and get us sparking with energy, yet also give us such a deep sense of surety and deep knowing, we switch almost to autopilot where everything is easy and our intuition is sharp.
Once we recognise them, we realise these are the things that have always been there and the things that can become our superpowers when we cultivate them and use them intentionally. Except that can be harder than it sounds, at least when we’re trying to figure this out for ourselves. For some reason, it’s much easier to do for other people.
That’s where the connection piece comes into it and why when you can cultivate the courage to inject yourself into your brand, things often become a whole lot easier. When you can do that, you’re in alignment with who you really are and at the end of the day, that’s the difference, that’s the uniqueness, the realness, that people are hardwired to find familiarity and recognition in. It’s how we connect.
Only you can do you and in a world that’s overloaded like never before with people, brands, information, options, data, products and services, that’s a very powerful thing to have. If you can just let go of your ‘reasoning’ that YOU have to be this or that, or that your brand does, and find the courage to express yourself through your brand and your business, you’ll begin to grow something that people really can find connection in.
Now I know that even if you’re thinking this all sounds good and true, it’s still hard to make bridge between knowing this and putting it into useful action in your business. But do yourself 2 favours here ok?
Download the ‘What’s your mission anyway?’ workbook that I’ve included here and give it a go. It’s not a miracle weaver that’ll solve all your problems, but it will get you thinking about how what matters to you matters to your business.
Once you’ve done that, just put one little thing into action. This is not about radical re-branding, although you could be up for that, it’s about giving yourself permission to be who you are.
See a designer for a more colourful logo and website, add more of the way you really speak into your emails, write the blog post you’re dying to write, but are too scared to. Post a selfie on your Facebook page, be the haute couture stylist who’s a hippy at heart, the lawyer who has purple hair, the spiritual guidance counselor who has a potty mouth and calls a spade a spade. We make it hard because we make it hard, but it’s time to dip our toes in at least, even if we’re not ready to fully dive in just yet.
Have a great week,
Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash