Establishing a Brand


Some people claim to spend all their lives trying to figure out who they are. I think I have a pretty good idea of who I am, but try to convince a web site designer of that. Seriously, I feel as if I have spent a good portion of my work life trying to get a web site designed. The attempt has failed for many reasons - a) enlisting family members who were too busy with their own lives to be able to see it through (this is not a slam, BTW, but the truth, it’s hard to create a web site for your sister when you are getting married, moving into a home, having a child, starting jobs of your own etc.; b) choosing designers who can’t seem to get the job done. Honestly, the last one broke my heart when I fell in love with his potential only to have him end up in the ER and never return to my site. (What, am I a magnet for those? I know some people continue to choose the wrong boyfriend, continuously returning to the same abusive type, but really is there a bad web site designer template hidden in my subconscious to which I continually return? Apparently, the answer is yes! This week, however, I met some amazing professionals who can for a small fortune get the job done. Yet, even to these knowledgeable experts, apparently I pose some interesting challenges. Am I “high-maintenance” at both love and work? Hmm…
The main problem seems to be I have too many interests – writer, teacher, photographer, pug lover. It seems I need to choose just one if I want a clear and coherent site. Notice that when you meet someone, one of the first questions out of your mouth is “What do you do?” and they answer something simple “Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief,” and hence forth that is how you define them. Voila, a button turns on in your head – that’s who they are! And, you can neatly catalogue, file, process them, forever defining them as such. Problem is how many of us are truly just a writer, just a mother, just a doctor, just an Indian chief? Each of us is more than these titles and even if our “job” is all that defines us, in today’s economy it is hard to find anyone who is not a slash-something-or-other.
Funny, many of the people I know in the writing or arts professions are very similar to me – they draw and paint, shoot photos, write poems, so why is it so hard to create a page that showcases all my interests. Isn’t that what the tabs across the top of the page are for?
After explaining my work (writing/teaching/photography, my blog (pug/pic focused, hence the name and my desires for the site (to sell my digital collage and photography, build an audience with a similar interest in pugs and bring my many pursuits under one umbrella) I was told, “wow, you have a lot here. What do you really want the site to do?” This was contradictorily followed by, “Hmm, should we perhaps broaden the scope -- pugs are a niche market, will you still be writing and interested in them three years from now?”
Let’s think about that. I bought my first pug 14 years ago, inherited my brother’s pug, 16 years ago. Since then I have gotten two others and am about to move on to a third. My license plate reads “Puggies,” I bear a tattoo on my back and my shoulder of my pugs, 75% of my photography is dedicated to them and they seem to keep popping up in my digital collage and every single incarnation of my very many business cards (again, part of the whole designer dilemma). Next month I even have an article coming out on a local pug rescue and social. So you see, the problem is not in developing a brand; I have been working on one all along.
Writing teachers always tell their students to write what they know and my photography teacher instructed me to shoot what I see. With pugs of my own and hordes around me they certainly qualify as what I know and what I see. With Alfie constantly jumping up in my face for kisses as I write this, it is hard to see much else! As a memoir-writing instructor I can’t help but tell students to write about their lives, that is what memoir is after all, so do what you teach, right? I can safely say that even should my interests turn to detective writing in the future, those novels would probably feature a pug or two (my motto, everything’s better with pug). And, really do I want my web site to generate interest in pugs, natch! Do I want it to generate more freelance writing, yup! Do I want it to help me sell my photographs and digital collage? You got it!
Our world likes to tell us we can’t do it all, we can’t have our cake and eat it, too. Maybe not, but are we any worse off for trying? Maybe by reaching for the whole cake, I’ll get more than a little bite. Maybe I don’t have to define myself as just one thing. Maybe I’m more than the sum of my parts, maybe one simple label can’t define me. Maybe I can love and write about pugs now and still go on to write the Great American Novel in the future. Maybe that novel might just include pugs and maybe instead of just writing about them, my work will include photos, video, a full-blown holographic display?! That’s right, did I mention that in addition to being a writer, teacher, photographer and pug lover I’m a Trekkie, too (as in Kirk, Spock, holodecks, etc.? Oh no, maybe I should include that on the web site, too. Maybe not...Perhaps it’s best to leave a little mystery and they are charging by the tab/page after all. Still, I am who I am and if my own life’s journey has taught me anything, no one gains by shying away from her true self. So here I am in my writing/teaching/shooting/drawing/pug loving/Trekkie obsessed totality and hopefully they’ll be a web page to show for it all soon.