BRANDING VS. REPUTATION
The first thing I find myself doing every morning as soon as I wake up is I check my email, then go onto facebook. I read past all the complaints going on and look for someone who posts something funny or creative, maybe just my desire to be inspired. I then check the few comments on my usual smart ass postings and then check the photos of Hayden to see how many people decided to comment on how cute he is. I then ask myself, am I using facebook to it’s full potential? Am I missing out on an opportunity to be “liked” and reach a broader audience and show them my work? People have become professional facebookers in the photography world, and we can no longer deny the fact that it works! People are wiping out their advertising budgets and are generating new clients through social media, so why am I just sitting back and watching it take place?
As a new photographer establishing a business my first thought was to work on my brand. After having a class on branding I was asked to think about what is more important to focus on, branding, or your reputation? My initial thoughts were that branding and reputation are synonymous. What I realized is making that the case is the goal.
To me branding is projecting who you are and what you want your business to be. Your reputation is who you really are, you can’t fake a reputation. We are at a crossroads between the old and new, brought mainly about by social media. I’ve come to recognize that the brand I build and project online will mean nothing without the reputation that must be the foundation. Foundation means everything to a business, do I want to rush mine and build on sand?
Reputation is built differently then branding. I can’t go online and post something funny that get’s a big response and stop there and have a reputation built. Anyone can post 1 great photograph out of 100 taken, but realize your client will see the rest, and it’s those remaining 99 that will establish your reputation.
I realized that I have made a lot of groundwork already in building a reputation. From the start I’ve treated every customer like they we’re my best despite what package price they ordered, something I will continue to do. I’ve been blessed to serve and donate my time and talents with free military family portraits as well as working with the team at Mission-Focused to document God’s work being done. Again, the fact that there was not a penny paid does not reflect in what I provide them. I am blessed with some great testimonials from my clients stating that I went above and beyond their expectations. I have a good foundation to work with, now I need my brand to represent that.
So my bottomline is this. I absolutely believe photographers need to build their personal brand. I believe that like it or not people will book a photographer based upon your image, your personality. They are booking YOU. If you ignore that then you will get passed by. However, don’t let building that be your end result, succeeding at your craft and exceeding expectations should be. If you achieve that then your clients will have lasting memories, and you will have repeat business. Make sure your brand and reputation do become synonymous. Have better use of time management – could the time you and I spend on facebook / twitter / linkedin be used to provide an even better product and experience for our clients? Lastly: Be Original – it’s very tempting to copy someone’s branding tactics that work. To be honest people are getting rich off of encouraging others to mimic them, truth is they know they will fail because it’s not authentic. People can tell when you’re being you and when you’re trying to be someone else. Find yourself.
– Trevor Stolebarger