Amid the hustle and bustle of getting things done, it’s easy to lose sight of who we are and what we’re about—it’s easy to neglect our brand. We can get so caught up creating that we forget the “why” behind our work, and everything we do starts to feel fluid and ungrounded. If we’re not careful, we can go project to project, all the while our brand becomes less distinct, less consistent and less compelling. In the short term, we may stay busy, but when we look ahead, there is no long-term vision.
It’s not always easy to get space to reflect on your brand. It takes being intentional and making it a priority, though it’s always worth the effort. You may be a leader of a production company. You may work for yourself. Whatever the case, we encourage you to carve out the time and space and run a brand audit on your brand. Here are three things to consider as you walk through that process.
What’s your story and who is the hero?
Doing a brand audit starts with the foundation of a brand: the story. What is your story? Do you have a story? Who is the hero of that story? To understand the story of your brand is to understand who you are and what you do, but it’s also to understand the clients you serve, what problem they have, and how you help them overcome it.
We believe the easiest way to approach your brand as a story is to follow the StoryBrand framework, as established by author and speaker Donald Miller. He, and his company Story Brand, offer a lot of resources, but the basic idea is this:
The human mind loves stories. We are all compelled and shaped by stories. We all want to be part of a story. And every great story follows a pattern. Your brand should also follow that pattern, establishing your own story, inviting people into that story and guiding them through it. You are not the hero of the story; you are merely the guide; they are the hero of the story.
Here is that pattern, using a sample of what StoryBrand calls a brand script:
As you evaluate your brand’s story, we recommend that you follow the brand script’s pattern to identity and solidify every part of your story:
Who is your target audience? Where are they from? What are they like? What do they want? This is the hero of your story. They are the focus of everything you do.
What problems are they facing—internally, externally, philosophically? What are their challenges? Where do they need help? What unique problem does the service you provide solve?
Who are you as the guide? How can you be empathetic and authoritative? Why should they choose you? What makes you different? Think about case studies and testimonials. Think about communication and messaging that feels compassionate and understanding, whether you’re on the phone or writing copy for your website.
How will you help the character? In what ways will you give them what they need to overcome the problem? What is your plan for them to become the hero? Make sure you display this plan in a few easy steps on your website.
5. Call to Action
What are the actions they need to take to follow the plan? Call you? Email you? Fill out a form? Learn more about you first? There should be clear calls to action on your website, social media, email, etc.
A note on CTAs:
This is one of the simplest, easiest ways you can improve the way you market. Start with your website and then work through how you put together emails. Are there overt and clear calls to action throughout? Give your audience a way to directly respond every step of the way.
Here are a few brands doing call-to-actions well:
Slack, the “collaboration hub”, has found great success, especially as of late with the shift to more remote work. They do a great job of not only making their CTA’s obvious, but integrating their StoryBrand Framework. It’s easy to see who their customer is, what problem they’re solving, and how they solve it.
Evernote’s promise is simple – Your notes. Organized. Effortless. And with a clear CTA to sign up for free, it makes trying out their product straightforward and easy.
As the travel industry as a whole continues to feel the effects of our current climate, Airbnb has made a calculated shift to expand and feature their offerings including Online Experiences. This landing page is a great example of shifting their StoryBrand Framework to solve their character’s new set of problems – in this case, feeling stuck and unable to travel.
If someone follows your plan and calls to action, what does success look like? How can you paint a picture of success in your marketing?
Through using the StoryBrand process, you should start to clarify and solidify your brand’s story. As you do that, take a look at your website, your social media, your email—the actual work you do. In what ways do they line up with your story? In what ways do they not? And the most important thing to remember is that your brand is not the hero of the story, though you’re probably really cool and great at what you do.
How are you any different from your competition—and how are you communicating it?
Now that you’ve done an audit of your brand’s story, it’s time to move to brand positioning. We know that “positioning” is a very market-y word, but it really is essential. Because if your brand isn’t distinct and different, if you aren’t positioned well in the market against your competition, then why would anyone choose to work with you? It’s that simple. Without the right positioning, you won’t make it, or at the very least, you won’t be what you aspire toward.
Positioning is really about two things:
- What makes you unique?
- How are you communicating that?
You can’t have one without the other; you need both to be successful. Start by making a list of what you believe differentiates you from your competition. Maybe ask some friends and colleagues. Ask former and current clients. Look at what other companies and people are doing in your line of work. Why would someone choose you over another company? This is what’s known as your value proposition; it could be anything from pricing, to speed, to style, to customer service, to something entirely different.
This list will not only help you with marketing, as you think about how to communicate and position your brand, but it will also remind you to keep being you. Sometimes it’s easy to see what others are doing, get discouraged, and end up trying to replicate what they’re doing. And while there’s a place for finding inspiration and “stealing like an artist,” the best thing you can do is figure out what you do well, what you do differently and just keep doing that over and over, better and better.
It may go without saying, but the more you get a grasp of what you makes you different, the next step is to clearly and boldly communicate it, front and center, over and over. If the way you portray your work and talk about who you looks and feels no different than your competitors, then you need to go back to the drawing board. It’s one thing to identify your differentiators; it’s another thing to be smart and consistent about communicating them to clients and future clients. That’s the essence of positioning.
Are you keeping everything consistent?
In all of this, consistency is still the key. Whether you’re communicating your story, positioning your brand, or something entirely different, none of it matters if you don’t keep your designs and messaging consistent. Having a consistent brand that looks the same, that feels the same, wherever and however someone is interacting with it is what builds credibility and ultimately trust. It lets people know what to expect from you and why they should work with you.
Similar to how you made a list of what makes you different and unique for your positioning, it’s good to make a list of all your marketing assets. This could be your reel, portfolio, social media accounts, business cards, emails, invoices, slide decks and so many other things. The point is to find every piece of brand material you can and then to assess it for consistency.
Once you make and assess your list, figure out a way to prioritize what needs to change about your brand. Focus first on the stuff that potential clients will interact with the most, the low-hanging fruit. Then you can start to chip away at every marketing piece and your brand will begin to become more cohesive and coherent than it ever.
Get Started on Your Brand Audit
There are many ways you can go about auditing and refreshing your brand, but these three things mark a solid, simple place to start. It’s a good thing to do at any time because brand drift is real and can happen when you get busy creating and serving clients.
As you assess and clean up your brand and communication around your brand, you will be positioned for success when your busiest times hit. Even more, it’s a good, rewarding experience that will teach you about yourself, your company and make you even better in the end.
Learn more about building your StoryBrand from the expert himself, Donald Miller, by checking out his book Building a StoryBrand.
Are you going to be creating new content for your brand? When it comes to video content, editing is a major part of storytelling. Read our blog post on Editing Secrets from Legendary Editor Walter Murch.