Slow Stories: Slow and Steady — Building An Enduring Personal Brand

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 11.19.00 AM.png

For many of us, the digital landscape has played a pivotal role in the development (and success) of our careers. Even in its earliest form, the web has provided a place for creativity and connection to intersect, for side hustles to flourish into lucrative businesses, and for online communities to transcend the web into long-lasting relationships. However, the advent of the internet has also created a new set of standards both professionally and socially that has given rise to the conversation around the troubling effects these expectations can have on our mental health and overall productivity.

This idea, in many ways, was my personal catalyst for pivoting my own business away from the constant demands of pumping out 24/7 content into working with brands to tell stories that have true longevity. And while we've spoken a lot about slow content as it relates to brand content in our past articles, today I want to address this further by honing in on how this can be applied to our content efforts as individual founders and content creators.

In our golden age of influencer marketing and digital entrepreneurship, many women I know (including myself) are presented with the challenge of building personal brands online that are reflective of our professional ambitions while catering to the creative demands of an ever-changing algorithm (if you haven't already, I recommend checking out Tavi Gevinson's hilariously candid take on the Instagram algorithm). This inevitably has created a "performative" environment that has given way to highlight reels and filtered realities. Furthermore, this topic is something that's come up a lot in our recent Slow Stories podcast conversations, and touching on this, here are a few primary trends that have arisen in these interviews with fellow founders:

1. Slow content goes beyond the surface level.

If you remember in our February column, we deduced that slow content is all about creating value and purpose. So while there's absolutely nothing wrong with striving for a swoon-worthy travel photo or striving to achieve and share a 30 under 30 list award, it's equally important to consider what value this content will ultimately bring to your audience and your personal brand beyond just beautiful aesthetics. Furthermore, it's also essential to think what you care about offline and if what you're sharing is reflective of the things that personally matter to you IRL. Establishing this narrative both online and offline is key when holistically creating a consistent personal brand across all channels.

2. As founders, slowing down our content can give us more time to do the work.

With the above in mind, and while it may seem obvious that the less content we create, the more time we have to actually work, the pressure to share the victories (and losses) in real-time has almost become expected of high-profile founders. From CEOs posing in power suits in beautiful offices to sharing "sneak peeks" of upcoming launches, planning and posting these moments can often detract from doing the work that's actually needed to bring your product or services to life. So being mindful about when and what we choose to share in this capacity can ultimately provide us with more headspace for innovation at work versus just filling space online.

3. Slow content will take a long time to become financially viable... unless we change our habits.

Just the other day I came across a friend's tweet who posed the question of how one can take a break from social media when they utilize it to make a living. The reality is that slow content has a very long way to go when it comes to normalizing our content creation and consumption habits. And for those select individuals who rely heavily on monetizing social and content platforms for their income, we'll all have to collectively work together to recalibrate our relationships to content both personally and professionally.

With all of the above in mind, the question then becomes: How do we build a personal brand without personally burning out? Whether you're a fashion influencer posting style photos or a food blogger sharing video recipes, these factors will depend heavily on your industry and your own relationship to content, but the universal starting place is simple: Think about your overarching narrative and how this can be carried through your content long-term. Below are a few tips to start planning a strategy that considers your personal needs as well as your audience’s needs:

1. Refine and redefine your content strategy.

In my first article, I spoke about the importance of creating a content calendar, and while doing this is helpful for long-term planning, it's important to recognize if and when you're overextending yourself or your resources. With that said, many influencers and content creators often face the dilemma of "oversharing" in order to cater to an established content cadence that their followers eventually grow to expect. And if you find yourself wanting to slow down your output, take time to refine and redefine your content strategy, the conversations you want to have with your audience, and what kind of content makes the most sense to do this. For example, it may be a case of putting your energy into one longer-form piece of content versus a series of daily updates that still gets the point across and allows you to really focus on the quality of the content and your message.

2. Decide how personal is too personal.

Many leading influencers and entrepreneurs often take positions on complex conversations relating to politics, religion, and so on. And while slow content is built upon the idea of authentic and honest content, it's still important to establish boundaries so that you can participate in conversations online that make sense for you and your platform long-term.

3. Engage and invite your audience to slow down too.

If you're generally feeling stressed about changing your regular posting schedule, simply start by using social media as a vehicle for it was inherently created for: be social. Connect with your followers and communicate with them. Effective change happens when we hold one another accountable, and inviting your followers into your process as a content creator or founder will ultimately prepare them for any drastic changes, and perhaps even inspire reflection on how they too can apply slower, thoughtful practices into their own content and brand-building endeavors.

Building a brand of any kind in 2019 can be challenging, and if you don't know where to start, I invite you to check out more from this column, and of course, listen to Slow Stories for more candid conversations from some of the world's most innovative founders and creators.

slow stories author.jpeg

Rachel Schwartzmann is the Founder and CEO of The Style Line LLC. She created The Style Line in late January 2011 via Tumblr and has fostered The Style Line’s brand in its growth since then. Rachel has been featured in esteemed sources including Forbes, Refinery29, and MyDomaine and has also spoken at Create & Cultivate and Columbia University on establishing a unique brand point of view and entrepreneurship. On October 1, 2015, Rachel took The Style Line in a new direction as a boutique content company with the introduction of its slow content agency CONNECT(ED)ITORIAL.