Creatives Academy: Image, Branding and Networking
I sat in class looking at three very well groomed gentlemen – one in white pants, another in a pink coat; two with handkerchiefs peaking out of their front pockets; all in fitting clothes. It’s Saturday morning. The sun is shining and none of us is working, save for the organizer. So it really did make one wonder what the occasion was. Two out of the three were distinctly familiar. Television – that’s where I had seen them – one of whom had also come to my school late last year as part of a panel of judges for a public speaking contest. Robert Burale is his name. He and his colleague, Derek Banga, were also judges in a fashion show program broadcast by a popular media station.
Yet here we are, in class. Sun shining, et all. One would be tempted (not sure what ‘one’) to give them a prodding look that would say, “We probably got a little too excited about class today, didn’t we? And probably took it a little too far on wardrobe. Wouldn’t you say?” …Or the like.
I restrained my thoughts.
But they did not bat an eyelid. The fellows knew what they were doing, looking all dapper for TV in a laid back gathering. And their straight shoulders revealed that they were adamant, that they would dress so again, and again.
The moderator introduced the panel and asked them to give an overview of their background including what they do for a living, and before anyone could say ‘Hallo!’, Banga was up and taking over, telling the class to also introduce itself so we can all be more familiar with each other.
We proceeded to introduce ourselves in an orderly manner beginning with the person furthest from me. We get to the third person and, huff! There was a halting again.
What is it this time, sir?
Banga felt that we were not bold enough; that we were not loud enough; that we stood funny and down-right sold ourselves short.
Apparently, there is no such thing as being just a blogger. We are supposed to scratch that out for life. We are formidable. We should think and present ourselves as the entity we want to grow to be. It was beginning to sound a little like church, prophesying the things that are not as if they were – so crazy an idea it just might work. So we did a rerun, this time with more gusto – standing up straight, chin up, feet together – the works. By the time we were done, everyone was a little shaken. We had just been taken through an introduction in Personal Branding. Wipe that brow.
Next thing we knew. We were being told to look at our shoes, that our shoes tell a lot about who we are. So what were our shoes saying about us that day?
Kind sir … let’s not even go there.
I happen to love comfortable shoes. Being endowed with the exuberance of a larger-than-average-female-size foot, and thus, with the scarcity of quality shoes my size in the market, I learnt to settle for comfort rather than trend years ago. Many times, in my early college days, I would go to town or to the market with a buddy to look for nifty shoes, with enough money to buy more than a pair and end up loaning all the money to my spoilt-for-choice-smaller-foot-size friend. Please note that I was the one to do the buying; hers was merely chaperoning. Needless to say, in the female secondhand shoe world, the smaller the shoe size, the cheaper the shoe, the more the variety and the more you can afford to buy. I tell you, there is no justice in this world.
My other friend told me that his mum is a size thirteen – an up-hill cart-wheeler when it comes to Mother’s Day shopping. The mum has thus had to look to her connections in Europe for shoe imports for guaranteed quality. I remember squirming in my-less-than-glam shoe, wondering whether I knew anyone with connections in Europe who could hook me up like that.
Banga had now literally stepped into my daze and stood right in front of me, waiting for people to get over the humor of their make-do weekend foot wear. Most of my classmates were feeling busted, and were laughing at themselves. I felt like he touched a raw spot. This man had no idea about the struggle a girl goes through. I was almost raising my hand in protest. But I was still weighing on my chances at imported European foot wear, fresh off a designer store. I looked at the shine of his shoe, as if at a glimmer of hope, and then at his face.
Kind sir … never mind.
Call it work in progress.
Burale, also a pastor, talked of how he began his business basically from his mobile phone, while professing to have built a nation-wide branding consultancy from Nairobi to Mombasa to potential millionaire clients. He basically faked it till he became it – a story of passion, vision and determination. Banga was an employee before he started his firm. He now works with clients from across the globe.
I learnt that I needed to give myself due respect as a writer, as a blogger and as a brand. It is the fundamental way to grow my brand. That meant learning to network, learning to hold a conversation, printing business cards … Yes. Bloggers need business cards too – a very intriguing thing indeed. I am still working on my corporate colors and I am sure to finish the job.
We talked on what to wear on different occasions, that contrary to popular belief, dressing expensively does not always open doors for you, that it may even cost you a contract. I learnt that dressing according to the occasion is a skill, that simplicity is also strength
Burale touched on invoicing, that at some point he was paid five hundred Kenya shillings for a talk he gave, and that he swore it would never happen again. How we invoice determines how our brand is perceived and valued. We want to make the most of our brand, so that we are sustained by the work we do.
Terryanne Chebet walked in much later, and talked about public relations and social media. I wondered about presence on the internet, and what identity an artist should go by, especially on their business card, i.e. real name verses stage name. It turns out, whichever I choose to go by, all brands and trademarks should connect to a singular entity at the end of the day.
It is said, that writers, as opposed to singers and actors, have a much harder time selling themselves in the media; that the reclusive nature of writers and other ‘off-stage’ artists, and their tendency to be entrapped in their own minds works against marketability of their brand. We need to be deliberate about getting out from beneath our shells.
I thought that was a good point to ponder on.