Branding Yourself in the New Normal

by Darlene Jackson, Creative Industry Liaison

Everywhere you look online, creations are emerging from artists who find themselves with the type of surplus time that only a pandemic can provide. The intentional and inventive ways that people are highlighting their art product, processes, fundraising capabilities, and promotional reach are pouring onto social media by the millisecond.

A rapper I’d never heard of, @joynerlucas, catapulted himself into the spotlight by creating a music video paying homage to Will Smith by imitating the many variations of characters Smith has played throughout his career. Will Smith saw it and as fate would have it, posted it to his gram. This independent artist, i.e., unsigned, established his brand and took his video and album to number one within a few days.

I’ve witnessed top-tier fashion muse and iconic DJ, Honey Dijon, pivot from a hectic touring schedule of live performances (now all canceled) to using the digital space to connect with her audience—not with live stream DJ sets (over 5 million people have viewed her Boiler Room video) but with short, hilarious, self-produced (and very profane), cooking vignettes. Maintaining her brand with this unexpected turn may very well become a new avenue of exposure and revenue for Miss Honey when this is over (if not sooner).

DO312, the nightlife and entertainment events portal was all things live and going out until the SIP order. Now they’ve remixed their brand by stating, “In light of the health concerns and restrictions regarding COVID-19, we’ll be adapting our content to reflect the community priority for social distancing and continue to help you stay entertained.” The company has taken to assisting artists with merchandise sales, highlighting the best things to do at home, the best podcasts to listen to, and the best upcoming weekend livestreams happening around the web. Way to flex and quickly switch-up to stay relevant and more importantly, useful to others.

My point is simple: if you can create anything right now, do it to establish, maintain, or remix your brand. Follow these tips for branding success.

3 Must-Do Steps to Help Get Your Branding Just Right

Here are three things you can do right now to begin branding yourself, properly.

Discover your brand


You already have a brand. It’s how you move about the world and how you’re talked about when you’re not in the room. Akin to the fragrance (or the odor) you leave behind, it’s the way people remember you and also what you do intentionally to be remembered. We brand ourselves to more easily connect with others. Would you say your brand is one of positivity or negativity? If you don’t like the answer to that question, consider what you might address.

Create the brand


Answer the questions:

What is your story and how are you different from others in your field? Describe what you can do or have done and how you learned to do it. Consider discussing where you come from, what influences you, and what is the philosophy/theory behind your art. Give this some thought and write it down.

What are your brand values? Traditional, trendy, cutting edge, classic, wild? Niche, mainstream, exclusive, inclusive, private, public? What causes are important to you? Think about this, write them down and post them somewhere you can see them. Use their proximity to your eyeballs to stay true to your brand values and come through authentically.

What’s the voice of your brand? Outspoken, serious, thoughtful, fun, playful, sarcastic, over the top, demure, compassionate, relaxed, casual? How do you feel and behave when communicating who you are and what you stand for to the world? By knowing your communication tendencies, you can genuinely translate your messaging. Pick out two brands you like and look at their social posts to see how they use their voice to create brand affinity.

Personal branding includes choosing your brand name, reserving it across all the social channels as well as the domain name (check, having your logo or typeface designed, and using these personal branding pieces ubiquitously across your entire social network.

Activate the brand


Gather your content
Be digital forward and use any available tools you can to get the upper hand on posting. Create as many posts as you can over each weekend and schedule them to go up on social media at specific times/days of the week. Use a free design tool like Canva to make brand-worthy posts, along with a social network manager like Buffer or Sprout Social (free for 30 days) and let the app tell you the best times to post each day.

Memories are a great way to repost something relevant that may not have gotten a big response a year or two ago when you were just making your online presence known. Get a jumpstart on content when you cycle through older posts and decide to either recycle or upcycle it and repost it. You can add more context this time around now that you’re a pro at hashtags and other search discovery tools.

Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader
Do you think deeply about your industry, the companies, the well-known players? Do you study a few technicians extra intently? If you can share some aspect of your knowledge of the industry via thoughtful analysis and review, critique, insider perspective, or information sharing (how to do a thing), you can create content to increase your audience’s knowledge. Do this consistently and note the reactions as you begin positioning yourself as a specialist or expert in your field. Soon enough, people in your industry will want your quotes and to interview you for being a thinker whom they can trust for an informed perspective.

Own Your Title
Although you’re still in school, it’s okay to start thinking of yourself as already belonging to the community of your artistic craft, so go ahead and own up to who you are becoming. Resist describing yourself as a student and embrace that you are a Director, or Actor, or Author! Try introducing yourself that way to people that you meet and soon it will come naturally. Let your brand take hold in your industry and be confident in your ever-growing abilities. #respectyourself

Build Your Portfolio
You may need a permanent site to showcase your projects, document your work, and raise your search results in Google. You may simply need an online presence. A website can behave as a portfolio for industries that require evidence of your creative process or artistic output. As you meet professionals in your industry, one way to find out if you need a website, digital portfolio, or simply an online presence (some established social network) is to ask others if they have them. Also, as you look for employment, are applications requiring them? That’s your answer.

Embracing your brand’s flexible nature (it’s an extension of you) allows us to grow as effectively in the virtual environment as we would in-person. Effective branding involves first knowing who you are and then learning how to communicate that to others. Make a virtual visit to the Career Center for a Self-Promotion Strategies appointment (found on Handshake) to discuss more customized branding techniques for your industry with me or the career advisor of your choice.