Most folks think of branding in terms of identity hooks – as a personalized word mark, logo or colophon that can be impressed upon the memory through visual bombardment. In my career as a communications professional, nothing has been harder to illustrate for my colleagues than the true concept of brand appeal.
When asked by one of my then-VPs to define “branding,” I came up with this brief definition: “Branding is a set of positive expectations created in the mind of the client (consumer, customer) based on previous excellent performance, delivery of goods or services, or satisfaction of intellectual/sensory needs.” In short, it is the customer’s expectation of a great “repeat performance” that keeps him coming back for more. This is brand appeal at its most basic.
The same holds true for authors and their published work. The appeal of a publicity-leveraged “Author Brand” is what drives millions of fans of various popular novelists to purchase (and read) essentially formulaic recyclings of plot, setting and character development, book after book. As poor as some of these books may be as “literature,” they deliver the goods (fantasy, wish-fulfillment, sheer entertainment), as promised by the brand – that is, by the author in question.
This leads to the inquiry, “How does one create an independent Author Brand that works toward building a reputation (and sales)?
Let’s assume that one has written a book of competitive quality that can make it in the marketplace.
We live in a world of increasingly decentralized and personalized communications. The old wisdom had it that the best form of brand-marketing is word-of-mouth. Well, guess what – it still is. Only now, those conversations at the corner bookstore are aided and abetted by thousands (even, potentially, millions) of online peer-to-peer communications channels. Self-branded “influencers” in any number of fields, who form blogger-nodes in these conversation networks, now play as important a role in alerting target audiences to quality books as did the print reviewers of old.
The trick for the modern author (and author publicist) is to understand the dynamics of synergistic social media networks, and to tap into multiple conversations in ways that begin to penetrate awareness on a variety of levels.
These are some best practices for beginning to establish that independent Author Brand:
• Create a review-quality “short narrative,” rich in keywords, about the book and its author, with a view to capturing the attention of the widest audience – and disseminate in conjunction with a smartly crafted multimedia promotional campaign.
• Be sure that the author becomes involved, as a member, with a broad spectrum of cultural organizations and relevant professional networks. These include arts, religious, academic, and movement-oriented groups that are “word-friendly.” Establishing those face-to-face member relationships within aggregated networks can constitute a first step in reaching out to a vast array of affiliated online audiences.
• Promote the Author-as-Spokesperson. There is no better way to leverage multimedia communications than to put forward a book’s author via a custom personal/book website, robust Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, YouTube and twitter account. A “video ready” author who can delineate the story behind his or her publication is the most valuable p.r. tool – naturally! – in making intimate connections with audiences that will lead to the creation of the Author Brand.
• Do not underestimate the value of events and personal appearances. Combined with intelligent promotions, advance work, and the right venues, book readings, signings and presentations can go a long way to creating greater awareness and brand appeal. They also provide excellent earned-media and Q&A opportunities, and even allow for possible celebrity and expert participation. And whenever possible – capture those events on video for further leveraging via multimedia channels.
Patrick A. Berzinski is the Founder and CEO of Tranquility49 LLC (www.tranquility49.com), a New York-based enterprise-communications firm with clients in cities throughout the U.S.