Accept Your Flaws, Celebrate Your Feats: Your Brand Will Thank You

Blog by Brijana Prooker, KOTAW Girl Gang member at KOTAW Content Marketing, boutique branding through storytelling studio

Branding secret for business success by Brijana Prooker | KOTAW Content MarketingMy mom has always told me she doesn’t love me for what I do, but for who I am. Meaning, her love for me is not based on what I did or didn’t accomplish in a day — it’s based on the essence of what makes me me.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and how it relates to branding.

Mostly because KOTAW’s branding this year probably hasn’t checked off a single bullet point in a so-called essential content marketing to do list.

And yet our brand remains strong as ever.

Worth the Risk

What I love most about the KOTAW brand is that we choose authenticity over popularity, quality over quantity, each and every time.

We also speak the hell up. We don’t shy away from controversy; be it boldly telling our stories of surviving domestic violence or proudly sharing our fierce admiration of Hillary Clinton and vehement disdain of our current commander in chief — well before he had this title and way before most people (and even most publications!) were expressing an opinion.

We’ve made it both our personal and professional mission to use storytelling to dispel ugly myths about Pit Bulls, who are sadly the most neglected, abused, regulated and mistreated type of dog in America. Which means we don’t flinch or back away when someone tells us they don’t like Pit Bulls. We use it as an opportunity to tell stories about our sweet, sassy, lovable Pit Bull — and KOTAW’s Brand Ambassador! — Ivy (like the time she acted as a seeing eye dog for our friend’s blind, diabetic Poodle who was staying with us, pressing her body up against his everywhere he went until he had memorized every single inch of our house, front yard and back yard) and countering inane stereotypes with facts.

The KOTAW Girl Gang takes branding risks without ever considering them risks. Because standing out and standing up for what we believe in is so inherently a part of who we are.

Avoid Branding ad Nauseam

The KOTAW Girl Gang also refuses to do anything just for the sake of doing it, to fulfill some arbitrary quota in order to land ourselves at the top of some social media superstars list that wouldn’t change our lives or even one day.

And this is not some fancy way of excusing the fact that it’s June and this is only the second blog we’ve published all year. It is, however, a way of explaining it.

Regardless of what you think of President Trump, hopefully everyone can agree that it’s been a pretty unprecedented year.

When I woke up on November 9th to see tweets from people in relatively the same field as KOTAW — content marketing, social media, brand storytelling — that were along the lines of “10 Dope Ways Snapchat Can Bring in the Dough” or “How Your Content Marketing Calendar Can Supercharge Your Success!” I wanted to vomit.

We had just elected a bigoted, misogynistic sexual assaulter to be our president. On a regular day, I could care less about my (non-existent) content marketing calendar. At this particular point in time, these “social media gurus” might as well have been reading their marketing ebooks and listing off their Twitter impressions in the middle of a funeral.

Humanize Your Brand

There’s a reason the KOTAW Girl Gang doesn’t automate our social media. I will never look the same way again at brands that tweeted superficial, regurgitated digital marketing nonsense at a time when millions of people were grief stricken and terrified out of their minds.

Sometimes going on with “business as usual” just isn’t possible. And there are times when not speaking up speaks volumes in a way your brand might never recover from.

I’m not saying your brand can’t bounce back from blips and faux pas. When a tragedy happens, many of us don’t know what to say or how to react because there’s nothing that can be done to undo the tragedy.

But oftentimes just admitting that brings some relief. It humanizes you, and it’s that quality that has the power to make people connect with you and your brand.

Don’t Be the Perfect Brand; Be the Go-To Brand

So I will happily admit KOTAW’s 2017 content marketing foibles. Our social media accounts have been a bit quieter than usual and our blog is lacking in new content. Just to be clear, I’m not blaming this on Trump — the KOTAW Girl Gang has also had a lot of really good things going on that have occupied our time. To name a few of my own: An essay I wrote about being disabled in the current political climate was published in Hello Giggles and my sister Kelsey and I took KOTAW’s Pit Bulls and Personal Branding project to a whole new level by organizing an extremely successful — and magical! — charity yoga event benefiting our favorite Pit Bull non-profit organization, Stand Up For Pits Foundation. And my PR efforts landed Stretch, Strengthen and Stand Up For Pits in Positively Woof and This Dog’s Life. Plus Ivy got an entire third article devoted to her adoption story, which is so beautiful it brings tears to our eyes.

Brijana Prooker - Hello Giggles, Positively Woof, This Dog's Life

Just a few of the many extracurricular projects keeping Brijana and the KOTAW Girl Gang busy.

How do I know the KOTAW Content Marketing brand is still thriving and what lessons can this teach us all about branding?

I’ll let these comments the KOTAW Girl Gang has recently received on social media answer that question:

“Words can’t describe the joy that you bring into my life… through your kindness, thoughtfulness and encouragement. When I need to smile, I know I can always drop by your page to take a look at your beautiful family that you have so selflessly shared. Your family inspires me to be a better person!”

— Jennifer Broderick

“Bri: You and your family are the most precious and kind people I know. I’m forever thankful for your love and support. You guys are a warm, comforting blanket on cold days.

“Even if I’m not connecting with you often, knowing you are there is enough.

“You have brightened my soul in dark times, though you weren’t aware of my battle. And that says it all I believe.”

— Irenee Alma

“Just love this beautiful family. My gran would have had a tear in her eye the way you guys love.”

— Mandy van Zyl

“The more we can get the word out that it’s okay for girls to be independent, self-confident and creative, the better this world will be for all. Thanks for all you do to encourage girls and women and our furry friends.”

— Chloe Pink

What’s my takeaway? (Besides, of course, a heart that is very, very warm!)

1. Be a source of joy and inspiration.

Not one person said they love the KOTAW Girl Gang because we post X social media posts a week or publish X blogs a month. People tell us they seek out our content when they need to smile or feel better. What more could anyone ask for?!

2. Think more about how you’re making your audience feel than about your own ego when telling your brand story and creating a brand strategy.

(Just like how my mom doesn’t love me for what I do, but for who I am.)

This is especially true for how you act outside of the public sphere. Too often I see brands that are all about positivity and politeness publicly, but are rude and unprofessional in private messages.

Your brand extends beyond what is published on your blog and social media pages. Turn someone off privately and they will never look at your “polished public image” the same way again.

Make people feel good about themselves both privately and publicly, and you’ve got a fan of your brand for life.

What’s an example of a brand that makes YOU feel better about yourself? What brand do you seek out when you need inspiration or crave a belly laugh? Has a brand ever lost your loyalty because of a disconnect between their public and private personas? Please share in the comments section below. You know the KOTAW Girl always loves to hear a good story!

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