Brand Building, Gradually

The amazing Salt Lake City Public Library
The amazing Salt Lake City Public Library

This past weekend, I was in Salt Lake City at IBPA’s Publishing University. This was my second year at this event, whose stated purpose is to “offer a professional, community-oriented environment where you’ll be exposed to new ideas and creative thinking that will support your individualized publishing goals.”

Since I pretty much made the decision to self-publish The Incident Under the Overpass after attending last year’s event, I went this year with the intention of figuring out how I’m going to go about sales and distribution.

I picked up some good insights in that regard. There were some good marketing ideas, too. But I’m a little prickly about saying I need help with marketing, since marketing communications has been my stock-in-trade for the last twenty years. I’ll say it here, though: I need help. And here’s why.

I’ve begun to realize that marketing this book I wrote is going to require marketing myself, in a big way. More so than with any job search I’ve ever been on.

I hate marketing myself. Because I’m not for sale (though my book will be); because I’m not naturally a spotlight-seeker; and, ultimately, because rejection sucks.

And marketing yourself also implies a personal brand, another idea that makes me prickly. Especially when you consider the source of the word, an insignia at the end of a hot iron that gets emblazoned onto the flesh. But I think that’s one reason I’m okay with thinking of Anne McClane as a sort of brand. She’s the one that’ll get seared, not me.

Last year, my friend David (not to be confused with brother David) attended a conference where Sally Hogshead spoke. I had not heard of her before, but she’s pretty big into the whole personal branding thing. One of her books is called Fascinate: How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist.

She’s also the creator of something called the Fascination Advantage assessment, which is supposed to help you figure out how the world sees you. I’m no expert in such things, but it feels like a well-thought-out overlay to the standard Myers-Briggs personality survey. I took it, because David recommended it, and he’s not the type to mindlessly peddle such things.

So, according to this assessment, my Fascination Advantage is: Mystique

I wondered at first if all the traits were named after X-Men (or rather, mutants.) I wasn’t going to complain if they were. I’m okay with that—I’ll take Mystique.

Turns out that’s not the case, as the other advantages are called Alert, and Trust, and Prestige, among others. Here’s what Sally Hogshead has to say about people whose primary advantage is Mystique. They are:

  • Observant
  • Calculated
  • Private
  • Curiosity provoking
  • Substantive

I’m okay with that, too.

Her premise is that knowing your primary advantage allows you to build your personal brand, and use it to accomplish whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish.

But there is something else to my personal brand, something this assessment missed. Something that makes accomplishment take a lot longer in my world. And that something else is this: I am SLOW. I’m not a fast runner. I’m a slow reader. It can take me a long time to truly comprehend something. It took me a really long time to finish writing The Incident Under the Overpass.

I was slow to realize that the hanging sculpture in the atrium depicted a face
I was slow to realize that the hanging sculpture in the atrium depicted a face

I was reminded of my slowness, in humbling fashion, my first morning in Salt Lake City. The weather was mild, and it was perfect for an exploratory run. But after about a minute of an easy-paced jog, I was winded. I took a guess at the elevation—I ventured somewhere in the 3,000 ft. range. For lungs accustomed to two feet below sea level, that was taxing enough. Before my run (walk) was over, I found a plaque near the Mormon Temple, that gave an elevation of over 4,000 feet. I felt less bad about being slow.

And the labor was definitely worth it. The state capitol was just a little ways beyond the Temple. There was a line of cherry blossom trees in full bloom, and snow-capped mountains on nearly every horizon. In the solitude of that lovely morning, something dawned on me. Not in that exact moment, though; remember, I’m slow.

Here’s what dawned on me: maybe my slowness is born of deliberation. Maybe that’s what Sally Hogshead means by “calculated.” Taking the time to contemplate the beauty of a cherry blossom, or a single tulip in bloom, or a plaque about the founding of a city, will usually bear some future fruit. Maybe that deliberation is necessary to the way I communicate.

Being slow and deliberate is not for everyone. It requires an extra reserve of patience. But I think it might be the only way I’ll find marketing myself tolerable. There’s a line from Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant,” that feels like a nice endorsement of my slow, deliberate way:

The Truth must dazzle gradually / Or every man be blind

I’m okay with that, too.

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