Think about the things you buy in daily life. Consider, for example, a television. You go to the store and see televisions by Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, and AxE. The first three are all names with which you are familiar; the last is an unknown. Would you buy the AxE brand television? Most people would not.
The reason is branding. People like to buy products that make them feel comfortable, that have a reputation for delivering quality, that are known. It is no different with editorial services.
Branding works a bit differently when talking about services, but branding, for which reputation is an easy substitute, is equally important in services as it is in hard goods. We hire lawyers and doctors and plumbers and carpenters based on their reputation (brand).
The question is how does an editor create a brand?
It isn’t difficult to create a brand if you focus on what you want your brand to mean. If, for example, you want it to mean “always on time”, then you need to always adhere to the agreed upon schedule, even if it means giving up your long-planned holiday because the work is going slower than expected.
The first thing to do is to outline what you want your brand to say about you. The second thing is to realize that positive branding does not occur overnight – it can take years to establish a positive brand. Note that I mention positive branding. Unfortunately, there is also negative branding, and a negative brand can be established in minutes.
Positive branding says these are all good things about you. For example, my brand says that I am able to undertake very large, complex editing projects and deliver high-quality professional editing according to the agreed-upon schedule and with a detailed style sheet. These are all positive attributes.
Negative branding says these are all bad things about you. For example, rarely delivers on time; quality is mediocre at best; not very professional; complains constantly; fails to follow instructions; doesn’t ask questions about assignments and so doesn’t complete assignments as expected.
It is because negative branding is quick to be gotten and hard to lose that companies spend a lot of time, effort, and money to create positive branding and to rectify negatives. Unfortunately, with service providers, unlike hard-good providers, rehabilitating a negative brand is very difficult, often impossible.
Again, you begin by identifying what you want your brand to say about you. Once you have listed what you want said, you need to outline how to create that positive branding. If extra effort is required to meet a deadline, make that effort and casually let the client know you made that effort. On occasion, I have written to a client with a question and causally mentioned that I planned to work on the project over the weekend to ensure that the schedule is met.
When you determine what your brand should be, the one thing I would shy away from is the idea that you are reasonably priced. I don’t want clients to associate me with a low price; I want clients to associate me with high-quality on-time work that also happens to be fairly priced. But I do not want price to dominate because once it does then that will be the key to your brand – pricing – when the key should be the types and quality of services provided.
Promoting your brand is not difficult. At every opportunity, you need to mention it by emphasizing those traits that you are making a part of your brand. But when creating your brand, be cautious. Don’t include something because you think it is expected but you will have difficulty delivering. I know one editor, for example, who believes that it is important that he emphasize on-time delivery, something he rarely accomplishes. He wonders why his branding isn’t more effective.
For ideas on how to promote your brand, just look around you. Consider, for example, how my blog, An American Editor, works to promote my brand or how this blog, The Proofreader’s Parlour, works to promote Louise Harnby’s brand. The promotion is ongoing but without being “in your face”. Think about how a response to someone’s question can be designed to promote your brand.
Most importantly, remember that poor reputation and poor branding can be costly in a business environment.
Copyright 2014 Richard H. Adin
Richard Adin, An American Editor, is the owner of Freelance Editorial Services, which for more than 30 years has provided high-quality editorial services to publishers worldwide. In addition, he is the author of The Business of Editing: Effective and Efficient Ways to Think, Work, and Prosper (available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other bookstores), which focuses on the business aspects of editing, as well as of EditTools, a collection of macros designed to make editing more profitable.
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I am an Advanced Professional Member of the UK's national editorial society. Visit the SfEP website for more information.
All text on this blog, The Proofreader's Parlour, and on the other pages of this website (unless indicated otherwise) is in copyright © 2011–17 Louise Harnby. Please do not copy or reproduce any of the content, in whole or part, in any form, unless you ask first.