This week I sat makeup free on my green velvet couch working on a client proposal when the idea pooped into my head to have our production assistant take a quick photograph of the moment. She whipped out her phone, I looked up smiling and that simple three-minute act turned into a brand story about entrepreneurship and staying on your hustle.
The story resonated with many of our followers on the various Forward Forty platforms and I used the image to tell a powerful story about my work but also highlight the stories of other women in business.
That’s what a great visual brand story does; it connects and when it is grounded with a strong, personalised image, it always wins.
A brand story captures attention, it can lead people to think differently about you or help build your credibility and of course, get you closer to the people you want to be noticed by. If nothing at all, it sets the stage for you to stand out in an overcrowded digital space.
Knocking these things out of the park is easy except for one thing. Ego. Oh, and fear! Ok, there you go, two things. After all, we are consumed with how we look and we fear what people will think when we put ourselves “out there.” I’m not going for a moment to say these fears are illogical or illegitimate but they should not be a deterrent to setting up your best, personalized brand stories and sharing them consistently over time. Here are some ways to get yourself prepared and get over your fears.
I always start here first. I decide the brand story first and by that I mean I always ask what I am trying to communicate to our tribe and I think about this long before I enter into the discussion with FF’s creative director, Mary. Because our lifestyle and membership blogs, as well as FFTV, cover so many topics – wellness, success, business, food, style, travel – the what becomes important because it focuses my team to look at resource allocation as we define the story. There are a few questions we always think deeply about: What is interesting to our audience? What feels relevant now? What is our objective with a story and of course, what feels good to us as a team? As the person whose image is used to tell a lot of the stories on our Instagram and Facebook accounts as well as FFTV, I want to feel authentic at all times. We also talk about what resources will be useful to make the shots stand out and do they add to the story or detract? This brings me to my next question that is equally important, especially when you’re using your images to tell a story about your brand i.e. what will be the emotional impact of your brand story?
We are about to do a body positivity shoot, it’s part of our brand story of inspiring women to feel confident about themselves in several areas of their lives, including their bodies. Part of the storytelling involves sleepwear, some of it is sexy. In mocking up the creative shots, I told Mary that I wanted our followers to feel confident and happy and even though part of the shoot is in lingerie, I did not want it to be overtly sexy. That would not be my public brand story and I want my story to be cohesive to the values I bring to the table and the things for which my audience sticks around.
Presenting a cohesive brand to your audience is key to showing people exactly who you are and what your business does. The goal is to connect with them before they even meet you and to do it with strong images with you at the centre of the visual story. Ok, it does not have to be you every single time, but personalised branding should allow your audience to know, trust, even like you and spread the word within their own networks about the things you stand for: professionalism, great service, exciting products etc.
To elicit the feelings you would like generated from the image story you build, start by jotting down words that make sense for your brand and to your audience. When they see your photos, do you want them to feel inspired, motivated, happy, giddy, wanting more? Empowered? And hey listen, please don’t get me wrong, showcasing your sex appeal is not bad at all, if it is your schtick.
Ok, now that you’ve decided on the feeling you want to evoke, chat about them with your photographer. Mary and I collaborate all the time on this, we discuss ideas, share inspiration boards, review images we like and those we don’t and we create a mood board, at times. Collaboration is key here.
Seems like every platform on social media has a different requirement. You’re not wrong to think so, that’s why it’s important to have a photo list; a crucial necessity when you are building a complex website. On your photo list, jot down all the images you’d like to create or have for your brand story and then think about what sizes you will need. If the ratio is important, this is where you should take note, also should the image be vertical or horizontal? What format is important to which platform? These questions will help you keep in mind exactly what you need to shoot and what you need to tell your photographer.
Now that the basics have been considered it’s time for you to think about the actual visuals and the first thing to pay attention to is the location of your shoot. When I first started using my image to tell the brand stories of Forward Forty, I would literally freeze up if there was a crowd nearby. Me! The same person who was willing to try any shot for the camera in a private setting clammed once people were around.
If this describes you, then don’t automatically select a public space for your initial brand shots, it will only serve to heighten your discomfort and no image looks great with an uncomfortable “model” with a grimace on her face.
Scouting your locations is imperative, make time for it, as it will save you loads of disappointment and effort during your production. Think of locations that make you feel connected, comfortable and relaxed, that way you can give your best self to the camera until you build up your experience.
When it comes to outfit selection I’m basically a pro. I select several outfits based on the story, the mood, the colour pallet, and how I want viewers/readers to feel. During our web TV production, this becomes intense, I lay out all the choices and together with my production assistant, we shoot every piece to make sure they look good on camera and not just good in our heads. If not, we move quickly onto the next garment. Never wing this part of the shoot. It’s way too important and it’s best to feel amazing with what you have on, you will give more of your self, your essence and shift your focus to giving off your best vibes in the actual image.
I love working with Mary, her vibes match mine. We laugh hard at the crappy shots, we celebrate and raise whoops of joy when we nail it! At the end of it all, there are just two important things you should take into account when searching for the right person to capture the images for your brand story.
1 ) Does their style match yours?
2 ) Does their vibe match yours?
Syle is the technical, the vibes is the energy. I place a ton on of emphasis on the latter. I suggest starting by looking at a photographer’s portfolio and asking: are the people in those photos exuding the emotion you’re going after? Is their mood board something you like and resonates. I once read that photographers elicit different things; some are amazing at getting big laughs and genuine smiles out of you while others excel at stripping down emotion and bringing our softness. Some work silently (I’m not a big fan of this); others like giving creative direction, which is something I adore as it makes me give much more in a shot. Do all this ideas jamming before; the pre-production collaboration is crucial.
You’ve got this. This is the day for you to leave your insecurities behind. You have done everything. You’ve made every list. You’ve assembled the team and poured through every detail. The night before the shoot, get rest, stress does not look pretty. On the day of the shoot be open, be prepared to laugh at yourself and have fun.
I promise you if you do this often enough, you’ll become a pro, evolve as a personality and content creator to admire with an incredible visual brand that aligns perfectly with the unique person that you are.