Branding and Online Credibility for Authors, Speakers, Event Planners and Creators

By Gail Z. Martin

Authors, speakers, event planners and other artist/creators are especially poised to benefit from social media's power, both for its ability to promote and to connect in ways uniquely suited to the demands and challenges of these particular professions.

Social media works especially well for this group of business owners in five key ways: Branding, Influence, Credibility, Connection and Engagement. Let's look at their common social media needs and then take a look at more specific recommendations for each group.

Branding: Authors (whether fiction or non-fiction), speakers, event planners and creators are a brand in themselves to an even greater degree than other professionals because their whole product relies on their own intrinsic talent and personality. Many books have been written and speeches given on every topic, but a new bestseller becomes a hit because of the author's unique perspective and voice. A stellar event takes on the personality of the long-time planner/promoter. Creative professionals, whether they are artists, musicians, game designers, etc. dare to bring something they have created into the world that is one-of-a-kind because of their insights and past experience.

It's important to realize that your brand is not the title of your book or your series or your speech/event or the name of your product. There will be many books, series, speeches, events and products—all tied together because you created them. You are the essential common branding element. Understanding this from the beginning makes your online life much easier. Get your name as a URL and either make it your main web site or have it redirect to your core site. Use your name for your Facebook fan page, your Twitter feed, your YouTube channel. That way you don't have to start from scratch every time you bring out a new book or product and your audience will accumulate in one place, instead of being fragmented across many smaller sites. That makes updating and maintenance much simpler and keeps it easier to remain a consistent presence.

The only exception is if you have an “alter ego" creating a completely different type of book/event/product with a totally different audience. For example, I also write fiction (epic and urban fantasy) for several large publishers. While I'm open about this and view it as an essential part of my differentiation and branding (i.e. transformational storytelling in a marketing setting), I have separate websites, twitter and Facebook pages for fiction and non-fiction because the interests/audiences are too divergent. Some people follow both 'sides' of me, but most are only interested in one or the other, so mixing the information (beyond what I talk about on my personal page on Facebook where I'm mostly just me) would be too confusing.

Influence: Authors, speakers/event coordinators and creators rely heavily on their personal networks. Some of this is due to the nature of the work, which tends to be largely individual, thus creating the need to tap into the outside grapevine and personal connections to get news, discover resources and gain recommendations that lead to new projects. As content and artistic creators, your work revolves around telling stories and truths, often with a goal of personal transformation. That requires a high level of personal influence, in order for your content to be heard and received.

This makes it particularly important to remember that every action on social media affects your connections with other people—and thus your influence. Your livelihood relies on you nurturing and expanding your personal connections, so every interaction should enhance and not detract. Not only should you consider your social media posts from the standpoint of reinforcing your brand, but you should also communicate with a plan to strengthen and expand your influence, especially since publishing, professional speaking, art and events tend to have a very small, tight-knit constituency.

Credibility: As with branding, your livelihood as a subject matter expert and purveyor of wisdom depends on people believing that you are who you say you are and that you know what you claim to know. Without that, you have no platform. Make sure that all of your social media posts enhance your credibility, since the only thing you are really selling is you. Consistency between your image and the reality of who you are is essential to your credibility, and to maintaining charismatic integrity.

Connection: On one hand, writing, speaking, event planning and creating seem very public, since your work gets put on display for the world to see, often to large audiences at once. Yet there's a lot of behind-the-scenes solitude that goes into crafting a book or speech, putting together an event, or making art. Social media is an easy and effective way to stay connected to your fans in between new releases and events. In today's world, you can't afford to be absent for the months or years it takes to create a new book, piece of art, composition or event. People have short memories, and there's a lot of noise coming from up-and-coming players. Use your social media channels to keep your fans informed about what you're doing, what's happening next (and when), and where to find you.

Engagement: Connecting with existing fans is one important use for social media, but so is building engagement with current and prospective fans. Utilize the 'social' part of social media to ask questions, have conversations and find out what your audience most wants to learn. Encourage feedback on your books, art, events, and speeches to discover how to serve their needs even better. They will love being asked and feeling that they play a part in determining what you bring to market. Engagement also creates a stronger tie between you and your audience than you gain from just informing them of coming attractions.

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the three vital core sites for speakers, authors, creators and event coordinators. I'll talk about more specific social media in a little bit, but when you're just getting started online or if you can only maintain a vibrant presence in a few places, start with these three. These sites are essential because they reach the largest audiences, are the first place others will go to check out you, and help you make the broadest range of connections. Use Facebook and Twitter to stay connected and engaged with your fans and prospects. Use LinkedIn to nurture connections with your fellow professionals, vendors, resources, mentors and other experts.

Your blog is also an essential part of your social media success if you're an author, speaker, creator or event runner. All the things I mentioned earlier about blogs holds true, with the additional caveat that your personal voice matters even more. You can use your blog to delve into the story behind your books, speeches and events. People love to see 'behind the curtain' and get the origin story for your characters or concepts. You can also react to news stories or current events that have some connection to your story/speech/event and share your personal take on the situation, revealing glimpses of how you think and how you view the world. Let your readers see a little of who you are outside of your books and presentations. Most importantly, get a conversation going and keep readers connected and engaged.

Before we move on, I want to touch on one more common aspect, and that's 'charismatic integrity'.

Your personality and perspective makes your books, speeches, events and art unique no matter how many others have addressed the topic. Part of that uniqueness comes from your one-of-a-kind perspective, your singular journey to overcome and learn in order to reach the conclusions or insights you share in your work. But another element comes from your charisma, that indefinable 'something' that attracts certain people—your tribe—to you.

Some people are blessed with an innate ability to turn the world on with a smile and attract people to themselves almost from the day they are born. Others grow into a more nuanced charisma, born of experiences, mistakes, hard-won truths and self-knowledge earned from pain and effort. It's a little like the difference between someone who is beautiful like a classic sculpture, and someone whose face testifies to character. Both are attractive, but while one is effortless and an accident of birth, the other is the result of triumphing over life's ups and downs.

Charisma can be innate, but it can also be developed. It can spark an immediate attraction, or come from multiple exposures, an acquired taste. One thing that holds true, however, is that people who are passionate about their message and comfortable in their own skin, without pretense or manipulation, exude a natural charisma that stands the test of time.

The other piece of 'charismatic integrity' is 'integrity'. That's different from credibility. Both credibility and integrity rely on trust, but where credibility has to do with having a true, believable message, integrity means that you are who you say you are, across every situation.

We've all either had or heard about experiences where a personal encounter with a celebrity or hero has turned out badly. Maybe the idol turned out to be self-absorbed, too busy, or downright rude. In the worst cases, the icon turns out to be nothing like his or her image. If the celebrity is an author, speaker, event emcee or artist, the truthfulness—credibility—of the work is not affected. But the integrity of the creator takes a damaging blow because the image is a sham. When integrity is violated, the credibility of the work rarely continues to matter. Violating integrity breaks the like-know-trust contract so profoundly that the audience no longer wants to hear the message from the messenger. And in a world were social media, cell phone cameras and Wi-Fi means perpetual scrutiny, a bad experience with a single person can destroy a career that took decades to build.

Excerpted from The Essential Social Media Marketing Handbook


Gail Z. Martin owns DreamSpinner Communications. Contact her at