Photo by Lisa Devlin
In its most basic terms, a brand audit is an assessment of a brand’s strengths and weaknesses. When thinking about your own brand, it’s a two-way street. Ask yourself the following:
1. What’s the view from the inside out?
Are you actually coming across as who you say you are? How do YOU feel about your brand? Are you reaching the audience you’re hoping for? Is what you’re offering differentiated enough?
2. What’s the view from the outside in?
Who do your readers / customers think you are? What kind of feedback are you getting? Is there any sense of passion? Any sense of loyalty?
Here’s a challenge: gather up a solid mix of what you’ve sent out into the world over the last year. Take screen shots of your social media profiles. Of your bio page. Of your logo. A handful of blog posts. E-newsletters. Presentations. Gather up your collateral; business cards, stamps, stickers, products and so on. What does all this stuff convey about you and your branding? Is it consistent? Does is say what you want it to say?
What do you want your brand to stand for? This is your chance to move into action.
When it comes to my own brand, I had one key inconsistency between the online and off. While my name is Shauna, I often used a nickname online, Nubby. It was a holdover from when I was in high school — when I first made my way onto the internet in 1997, everyone I knew had a persona. Part of that was due to the fact that at that point, the world wide web was still a very big unknown. A lot of that mystery evaporated in the decade that followed but most noticeably, at least to me, with Facebook, where everyone is who they say they are (or at least we hope!) Now, with a constant internet connection on us all times, the online and offline have merged into the same reality. While I always valued having a distinct divide between the online and off, I’ve since realized that it’s all mashed together now and above all, I value consistency when it comes to myself, my brand and my business.
At the same time, over the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of growing beyond just Nubby Twiglet, my blog and studio. While this blog will continue on as it always has, I’m also thinking ahead to what the future holds: The Blogcademy continues to grow and I am working towards launching another business in mid-2013.
The one common thread between all of these projects I’m working on is myself. As you’ve probably noticed over the last few months, I’ve transitioned all of my social media accounts over from just being under Nubby Twiglet to being under my name, Shauna Haider so that as I grow as an entrepreneur, they will grow with me.
During my online brand audit, these are some things I took into consideration:
Do all of your handles across your social media accounts follow the same naming conventions? I generally use this as my thought process: Nubby Twiglet is more well-known but I am the founder of my business and the voice behind the accounts. So for example on twitter, my handle is @nubbytwiglet but right next to it is my name, Shauna Haider.
Do all of your social media intros match? Think of this as your 10 second elevator pitch. How can you say as much in as few words as possible? Mine looks like this (and yes, I hate the cluttered background of the new Twitter headers so for now, black it is!):
a. Who are you?
What’s your name? What’s your company’s name?
b. What do you do?
What defines you? Is it a business? Is it a hobby? Being a parent? Something else? Tell us!
c. How can we contact you?
Include your email.
d. EXTRA CREDIT.
What’s something random you can tell us about yourself? What are you passionate about? What makes you excited? This makes you relatable.
3. Profile Photos.
This is a huge one. Do your images match across your profiles? A lot of people are very visual and though they might not remember your handle, they just might recognize you. For all of my accounts, I use the same photo of myself but if you’re a company with multiple employees, consider using your logo instead.
4. A Short & Long Bio.
When people visit your site, chances are that they’re curious as to who you are (I sure am — I always click on the About section!) When it comes to bios, I like to first get to the point. People are busy and chances are, they don’t want to read a novel about you so that’s where the few-sentence intro comes in handy. And then, if you want to read more, you can continue on.
5. A Consistent Voice.
I never, ever want to feel like I’m talking to a robot. While it’s important to be professional online, especially if you’re running a business, it’s equally as important to be relatable. How can you inform, help and entertain people in a style that’s true to you? The tip I’ve always remembered is that you should write blog posts (and social media updates for that matter) as if you’re talking to your best friend. Be natural.
6. A Consistent Image.
This is going to sound basic but I come across it often so here it goes: Does your website match your blog match your social media backgrounds? Does everything you do feel like it’s part of a bigger picture? If all your online brand components aren’t consistent, it can create a lot of confusion. If you can’t get on the same page with your brand, how can you expect others to? Think about the colors you’re using. The fonts. The logo. The backgrounds. The photos on all of your social media accounts. Everything. It should all tie back together. Whenever I complete an identity for a client, they receive a PDF guide with all of their lockups, fonts and swatches in one place. I’ve seen corporate identity guides close to 100 pages on length but for us small businesses and individuals, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. Just focus on the basics.
7. Define who you are and what you stand for.
Ask yourself why what you do matters through the following:
What value are you providing to your readers and customers? What makes your content unique? What’s your secret recipe? If you’re a blogger, think about your formula for developing original content — this is what differentiates you from everyone else.
I also like the idea of creating a slogan. My slogan on this blog is Design, Marketing and Style Magnified.™ I’m telling you upfront what this blog is about — not only design but also business-related content and “style” (lifestyle / personal style). To be fair, this is about four years old and probably could use some retooling to be even more specific but that perfect string of words hasn’t come to me yet!
So there you go. Brand audits are meant to test if you’re coming across as who you say you are, if you’re actually saying what you think you’re saying and if people are hearing what you want them to hear. It’s about creating a consistent message.
Readers: Is there something you’ve noticed about your brand that feels less consistent than you’d like? Have you ever overhauled one of your brands or shut one down? What did you learn from the experience?