You have to figure out exactly what makes your brand amazing. There are plenty of people and companies just like you that already exist and if you don’t have some uniquely great thing, then you don’t really have much. It could be that you can do something that your competitors can’t or you can do it better, or you have some other angle or virtue you can’t find elsewhere. Ultimately, what makes your brand amazing is what makes your brand.
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Scott Turman.
Scott Turman is the founder of BrightRay Publishing, a company that provides content creation and publishing services for busy professionals looking to write a book. BrightRay Publishing has produced and published numerous top-selling books. He has previously developed software and cryptographic systems for organizations like NASA, Disney, and The Department of Defense, among others. He lives with his wife and son in Maitland, Florida.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve spent about 25 years working various IT gigs at places like NASA, Disney, a couple of Fortune 100 companies, more or less everywhere. Throughout these 25ish years, I’ve learned this: the better that I cultivated my personal brand, the easier it was to get the “big” gigs and higher asking rates. I always knew that I was worth the jobs and pay that I wanted, but I had to put in the extra effort needed to show the value that I could bring to a prospective employer or client. I’ve since spent a good portion of my career building personal brands for myself and others. It was more recently that I’ve gotten into the publishing industry. At first, I just wanted to write something that would help fellow IT nerds better negotiate with the often-predatory technical recruiters, but I was struggling to actually get the words down. Eventually I teamed up with Zoe, a writer and industry expert, to write and release Stop Getting Fu*ked by Technical Recruiters: A Nerd’s Guide to Negotiating Salary and Benefits. The success of the book and associates asking me how I did it made me realize that there are a lot of other people just like me — they’ve got knowledge or experience worth sharing, but they just don’t have the time or ability to do it themselves. We realized that we’d developed a way to get a book out of someone’s head and build their brand, and that’s how we got to BrightRay Publishing.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
So far, I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’ve made any marketing mistakes (at least, not yet).
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
In my opinion, what makes our company stand out is our efficiency and our effectiveness. Our process can pull the material from a client’s head and into a book in as little as six weeks, but that speed is just incidental. Plenty of companies can do something quickly. Our first priority is to create a book that is useful for both our client and their readers. Before we even work with someone, we have an initial meeting to determine if they have quality material for a book and whether their goals for writing a book are both reasonable and something that a book will help them attain. Once we can affirm that, we can then work with them to achieve their goals by writing a book that’s high-quality, will enrich a reader in some way, and helps to craft our client’s personal brand. Unlike our competitors, we don’t view the book as the endpoint and sole goal. Rather, we see the book as the tool to ultimately help our client.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We’re currently working on a book, How to Build Your Brand with a Book: Establishing Yourself as a Published Expert, as the complete at-home guide to writing and independently publishing a book to help build a personal brand. We’re hoping that we can share our knowledge with people that we may not necessarily get to work with directly. This way, we’ll get to help more people be able to access the “author dream”.
Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
I like to think of branding as the crafting and control of your narrative. What is your or your company’s story? What is it that you want others to see and know? That story — and everything you do to create it — is branding. Advertising is just about how you get that message out in the world, and how effectively you do it.
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
Like I’ve said, building your brand is really about deciding what you and/or your company’s story is and how you want to tell that story to others. Branding also acts as a quality signal for your company that a potential customer can’t really see or trust from an ad. And at the end of the day, it’s a legacy thing. The resources and energy put into your brand is worth it if you’re looking to ultimately leave a lasting impression on your clients and customers. Your marketing and advertising efforts will get your company in front of someone, sure, but a well-built brand is going to get them to remember it.
Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.
1.) First thing, you have to figure out exactly what makes your brand amazing. There are plenty of people and companies just like you that already exist and if you don’t have some uniquely great thing, then you don’t really have much. It could be that you can do something that your competitors can’t or you can do it better, or you have some other angle or virtue you can’t find elsewhere. Ultimately, what makes your brand amazing is what makes your brand.
2.) Define your professional narrative. What is the story or message that you want your brand to tell? If you can determine what exactly you want people to understand about your brand, deciding how to tell it becomes a lot easier.
3.) Consistency is key. Once you decide on your brand’s story, you need to keep it that way. Whatever you say is what you repeat. Keeping consistent also extends to your online presence — that means using the same profile pictures, usernames, bios, etcetera, and linking all of your professional social media accounts together.
4.) Control your online presence. You need to make sure that when people search for your brand’s name online, that your website is the first result they see. Controlling where and what others see about you is a matter of first getting a hold of what is already online, creating new content, and mastering SEO.
5.) Lastly, understand who your ideal customer or client is. Just like with our books, we know that we cannot build a brand to appeal to everyone on the planet. Our books are written for one single target audience in mind, and brands ultimately need to be built for the person most likely to benefit them. This way, your brand becomes special because it’s specific to them, rather than vaguely known because it’s broad.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
Zara is what I’d refer to as a “billion-dollar brand”. They’ve done an absolutely fantastic job of figuring out the kind of simplistic, Euro-stylish ideal customer and gearing their company toward that exact type of person. Their minimal-chic aesthetic is cultivated well and has been consistent throughout their entire existence as a company. What we can all take from that is seeing how following the basic process — identifying your ideal customer, making your brand for that customer, and staying consistent — can produce these kinds of results.
In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?
Like an advertising campaign, you’ll want to have some kind of quantitative data to measure the success of your brand-building campaign, but that data is probably not going to be sales. Instead, you need to figure out exactly what you want out of your campaign — followers, views, etcetera — and measure it by that. But a truly successful brand-building campaign is going to produce the kind of results that you can’t put a number to, and that’s your customer’s response. For that, you’ll have to talk to them (and talk to them and talk to them…) to understand what they really think about your branding and if it is effective. Again, you can’t get this stuff from a simple survey. You have to communicate directly with the people that you are trying to brand for.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
Currently, we’ve actually been finding Reddit to be the most helpful for our online branding efforts. Reddit might seem like “that scary underground site” portrayed in the media, but it’s actually a regular old platform, just like all of the others, that has thousands and thousands of subreddits, or groups dedicated to specific subjects or interests. When we have a new book coming out, we make well-crafted posts and/or comments on specific subreddits most related to that book. This way, we can find and post specifically for the kind of person that would most likely read the book and benefit from it. That’s not to say that Reddit is better than anywhere else, though. The best platform is going to vary from each individual or company. Ultimately, you have to consider where your ideal customer or client is going to be online and base your efforts around there.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
The biggest thing to avoid burnout is to never enter a venture that you don’t truly believe in and get excited about. If you don’t like what you’re doing when you start doing it, you’ll always be tired of doing it. That’s really it.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would like to inspire a small, specific, and therefore hopefully most achievable movement: make January 17th Katalin Kariko Day to honor the biochemist who’s done some truly amazing work in creating the COVID-19 vaccine. Her work has undoubtedly saved an incalculable number of human lives, and yet I’d bet that most people would have had to Google her name if I hadn’t explained who she is. I would further bet that most people don’t know Dr. Naringer Singh Kapany either, yet a lot of people enjoy the fiber optics that he invented to essentially create high-speed internet. And there are so many more people whose work and knowledge has come to improve our lives, and we don’t even know who they are. To me, that’s a sad fact that speaks to our broader societal worship of people who haven’t done anything to warrant the attention. Katalin Kariko Day would take the stance that we need to start celebrating the heroes and quit making the stupid and useless people famous instead.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My grandmother would always say, “It’s later than you think.” It was her reminder that you always have less time with your family, partner, work, and life than you can truly understand, and that you need to always concentrate on the things that actually matter. Ironically, she ended up living to 102, but most people aren’t going to. I am always aware of the fact that you never know if or when you’ll get cut short. It might be a bit morbid, but it’s the plain truth. Today is an opportunity that you might not have tomorrow. Wake up early and take each day for all that it’s worth. I live by that.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
As far as leaders in business, I technically have 4: Martin Eberhard, Marc Tarpenning, Ian Wright, and JB Straubel, the pre-Elon founders of Tesla. Their innovations undoubtedly have changed the world. I’d love to help them get a book or two out for obvious reasons, but foremost to share their genius with more people. Elon is amazing, of course, but I think we all know everything there is to know there. I know that these two are technically not business or entertainment, but I’d take any chance I get to thank Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman for basically saving the world.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
As we are slowly building up our social media, you can currently find us most on LinkedIn. If you would like to learn more about BrightRay Publishing, you can check out our website: www.brightraypublishing.com. Thank you. 🙂
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.