Are you a talented self-starter who needs a kick in the brand? Dixie to the rescue.

6 Apr

15 Minutes of Dame #3, By Dixie Laite

Identifying and refining your personal brand is important work that can be revelatory and even fun. But as one of my readers put it, it can also be “gut-wrenching.” (Ouch.)

In the interest of keeping your guts wrench-free, I thought I’d share one reader’s process as we worked together to help her figure out her personal unique selling proposition, or USP.

Here’s part of what Liz Gold wrote me:

“I’ve been a journalist for most of my adult life but have deviated to work as a telephone operator, in an arts recycling center, a day camp, a sushi restaurant, a diner and a retail clothing store.”

First thing, don’t get distracted by all the jobs you’ve had. Or the lack of jobs you’ve had. They may end up in your memoir one day, but they’re not important to your brand. What matters is who you are, what you can do well, and what people need. She went on to say she’s “always on the hunt for clothing swaps, loves dancing, especially old-school hip-hop beats,” and that she’s a “chameleon” who tends “to fit in among different types of crowds easily.”

She sounds awesome, right?

Are you a multi-talent like Liz Gold here?

Still, don’t get too distracted by what you like to do on a Saturday. Unless it’s a passion or avocation that you intend to weave into a service or product, it may not be relevant to your brand (on weekdays at least). Liz also wrote:

“I’ve been in business as a freelance writer for over a year. I write marketing materials for professional service firms (most of whom came from my last corporate job) and write a couple of columns for websites. Mainly, I do content for whitepapers, blogs, bios, case studies, sales letters, etc. But I don’t feel in alignment with what I’m doing, and I’m not getting enough work. I want to work with entrepreneurs, artists, start-ups, creative types who need writers—and corporate types who want outside-the-box thinking and are progressive on social issues. In other words, hip.”

She wrote that she really wants a mission statement and had an idea for a tagline: “Conscious content with attitude.” She’d already done the 20-10-4 word exercise and shared her final four words: raw, aware, connected and transformative.

I didn’t go through the exercise with her, so I called Liz to see if we could go beyond her traits, her hobbies, and résumé to get to some special, unique strengths she could plausibly market and monetize.

I asked her to think about the following basic but all-important questions (and you should too). In my ideal work:

  • WHO are my customers*?
  • WHAT do they need, and HOW am I uniquely well-suited to solving their problems?

Then I grilled her on her four words. They were fine words, but somewhat vague and hard to weave into a USP as-is. What did she mean by “raw”? (This is seldom a selling point, unless one is a stand-up comedian or a piece of sushi.) She explained that by “raw” she meant straightforward, authentic, edgy and funky, and that by “aware,” she meant “perceptive.”

When I asked her to tell me more about what she meant by “connected” and “transformative,” Liz told me about her connections to and interest in the LGBT, queer, transgender, sex-positive communities. It was clear she was passionate about alternative relationship issues. This was missing from her personal branding exercise, because she felt it might be limiting at best and scary at worst.

I told Liz I think we’d hit upon something. Here was an area where her four words—her authenticity, her perceptiveness, her connectedness and her ability to fit in in myriad contexts—and her professional expertise could be blended to compose a compelling, income-generating, and soul-satisfying USP.

There are lots of groups, businesses and individuals who need help crafting content to help them promote, market, publicize and communicate their message with savvy and sensitivity. Here’s where Liz comes in! She can brand herself as THE go-to person for helping businesses, organizations, non-profits and anyone needing solid content related to LGBT, queer, transgender, sex-positive, erotic and alternative relationship issues. She offers a unique combination of editorial expertise plus knowledge, connections, and understanding in these often-misunderstood areas.

While this doesn’t have to be the limit of what Liz does, she seemed excited about the prospect of applying her professional and personal experience to this market. She’s not restricted to only working on this, but as a mission statement and brand, she might think about marketing herself and what she has to offer to those whose problems she’s uniquely qualified to address.

In a world where you can’t swing a cat without hitting a freelance writer (please don’t swing cats), her passion and skill set make her special and attractive to clients she’d be excited to serve.

Liz: I’d be interested to know if you decide to pursue this, and how. Please keep in touch, and let us know how you’re doing. (And anyone out there needing someone like Liz write in and we’ll hook you up!)

Next time, we’ll talk about some surefire ways to improve your content (website, blog, flyers, Twitter feed, sandwich boards) to effectively get your brand out there.

* Make sure that the answer(s) to this question is not too narrow, and that the “who” or “whos” in question can supply you with the, how you say, “money.”

This is the third episode of “15 Minutes of Dame,” a column to help you create, develop and promote the living crap out of your own personal brand. Dixie Laite has been putting the “broad” in broadcasting for over 20 years, working in television, online, print and marketing for a variety of household name brands. She is currently Senior Editorial Director for TeenNick and also freelances as a writer, speaker and digital content strategist. Dixie’s column is published every other Wednesday on Follow Dixie @DameStyle, email her at and post your suggestions in Comments below.

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