Entrepreneur Kendra Bracken-Ferguson knew in sixth grade that she wanted to be a publicist. She saw a US President giving a speech and was entranced when the press secretary handed him some speaking materials. She wondered: Who was that mystery person working hand-in-hand with the most powerful person in the world?
While not everyone may discover their chosen path so early in life, she said developing a passion for your business is vital to branding success. Bracken-Ferguson knows plenty about the subject; she became the first director of digital media at Ralph Lauren and later started Digital Brand Architects (DBA) in 2009, which was among the first agencies to manage bloggers. From there, she started BrainTrust, a digital brand manager marketing agency. Her first client was Halle Berry.
Bracken-Ferguson recently joined a LIFT Labs’ Female Founders and Funders event for a virtual discussion with Kia Brooks, deputy director of The Gotham Film and Media Institute. Brooks leads a Gotham program called Owning It, dedicated to supporting, connecting, and empowering women and non-binary creators and entrepreneurs.
Here are Bracken-Ferguson’s seven tips for establishing your brand — and enjoying the ride at the same time.
1. Translate your ideas into a brand story
What makes you wake up in the morning? What never fails to excite you? Those questions are vital to identifying your core motivations and getting to the heart of what makes you so passionate about starting your own company. Harnessing that will help you deliver a brand story that’s truly worth telling.
“Owning my story is being able to express not only what I’m passionate about, but also what I’m really good at,” said Bracken-Ferguson.
2. Make a great first impression
Customers have short attention spans, so they must quickly know what you’re all about and what the brand represents. That means your social media has got to tell a crisp, concise brand story.
“What’s the first thing you want people to take away when they encounter you? The answer has to be quick,” she said.
3. Entrepreneurs need some level of tech-savvy
Bracken-Ferguson argues that founders should not rely on other team members to handle all aspects of technology because it keeps them a step removed from building their products. If founders have tech knowledge, it adds flexibility in product development and allows you to respond quicker to new opportunities.
Remember, being tech-savvy doesn’t require you to be a talented web developer. You can rely on common tech tools that make things easier on you. For example, Canva can help with logos, presentations, and graphics. Squarespace helps with website building.
4. Unite your team around common goals
You have to be able to trust your core team. Differences in opinion are fine, even preferable, but the ultimate goal must be a common vision for the organization.
“The fundamental thing for me was integrity and trust and knowing that if I’m on a team with someone, we’re all going to be a collective unit moving toward the same goal,” she said. “Yes, everyone’s going to have their personal agenda, but we’re not going to get mired in that personal agenda and not do what we need to do.”
5. You don’t have to be just one thing
Own what you’re good at. That comes first. But there’s no need to be pigeonholed into one product, service, or industry. Think about the possibility of expanding your business offerings gradually. With numerous social media and publicity channels, enhancing your branding to reflect a business change is easier than ever. Just remember, you don’t want your business — or brand — to get too diluted.
6. Hold yourself accountable for achieving your goals — both business and personal
Create a flow chart not only of job-related tasks but also passion projects. That can help hold you accountable for achieving business success and personal goals. A solid work-life balance can be especially difficult for startup founders known to grind away for hours on end, but it’s crucial to happiness and mental well-being.
7. Give yourself some wins
Remember to be realistic and break tasks into bite-sized pieces. That creates accountability for getting the important things done. Unachievable goals only cause frustration. You must focus on the positives.
“You have to have a list with action, and you also have to be realistic. If you wake up in the morning with a to-do list with 30 things, you’re never doing that all in one day. Give yourself the space to say ‘what are the five things I need to be accountable to do today,’ ” Bracken-Ferguson said. “You have to set yourself up for success.”
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