Nicola: What’s the client challenge of the week, then?
Judith: Well, interestingly, what was the name of the man that you said that was going on the cruise with you that was a bit of a branding expert?
Nicola: Oh, Mark Donnan.
Judith: Yes, ok, so the client challenge of the week is about branding. Logos, branding, graphic design, how your website looks, how important is that?
Nicola: You probably saw, because you liked it, I just posted something from Gary Vaynerchuk about branding on Facebook where he says, he’s written a rather nice medium post called, one second, I’ll drag it up. Something along the lines of “stop asking me about your personal brand, and get to work.”
Judith: Lovely. It’s another thing that people get hung up on, is that what he’s saying?
Nicola: Yeah, absolutely, and it’s a bit like the clients last week who want to live off their activities, which we’ve determined you can do if your activities are interesting enough. Actually, even if they’re rather mundane you can still build a brand around that. Gary V says he kept his mouth shut for the first ten years of his career, because he was actually learning about something and becoming a bit of an expert, i.e. wine, and it was only once he knew enough to start talking about it that he started building his personal brand. He didn’t even know he was doing that in the beginning, he was just trying to share his knowledge, so actually it’s about sharing what you know for the benefit of others, and if you do it in a way that’s uniquely yours, as Thomas Leonard used to say, it will be uniquely yours because it will be going through the filter of your experiences, et cetera. Just start. Just start executing, and your brand will build itself around you.
Judith: Well yes, because you become the brand in that example. I have a lot of clients who are setting up websites and there’s a lot of fuss about, “Do you like this one, or this one?” And I’m always frightened when they ask the group, because all it does is split the vote. 25% goes to number one, 25% with number two, 25% with number three, 25% with number four. How does that help you? Make up your own mind, bang up a banner, let’s get on with it. We can change the banner anytime we like.
I think it’s easy for me to say because I’m not a particularly visual person. When people offer me, you know, “What do you think?” honestly my mind often goes blank, but it’s difficult, isn’t it, fannying about with fonts? Oh, that should be a book, “Fannying About With Fonts”, or a blog post or something. So you just bang something up and get going do you, Nicola?
Nicola: I’m a highly visual person, but also I find graphic design one of the most boring things on the planet. Logo choosing is a pain for me, so what I tend to do, and in fact with we did with Own It, that will be an interesting example to talk about perhaps, was that I did brief a graphic designer who’d been recommended to do podcast logos. I had a little crack at it myself on Pixlr, so I sort of had a little bit of an idea about what I wanted. After having looked at a lot of other podcast logos on iTunes to see which ones stood out for me, I briefed the graphic designer, she had several cracks at it, I hated them all, I gave her feedback on where she was going wrong, she had another crack at it, I hated them all, so we ended up going with one of my logos in the end because I preferred it to anything she came up with.
I hated our blog design initially, but I went with the one that I knew would work for a podcast, and it was just good enough for the time being, and then yesterday I came across a rather nice theme called Wilson, which is a free theme, you can upgrade to get certain other little things, but we don’t really need them so I haven’t. You just get moving, get executing, and improve as you go along really. Look nice though.
Judith: Do you ever go to a website where you think, ‘Oh, I don’t want to work with them, because it looks so horrid’?
Nicola: Yes, often.
Judith: So it is important. You can see why the people who think it’s important, think it’s important, then. Do you see what I mean?
Nicola: Yes, but the people who are prevaricating about it are not graphic designers. If the people who thought it were horrible were graphic designers, then I would think they had a right to an opinion, but the people who aren’t graphic designers, in my opinion, don’t have a right to an opinion.
Judith: I think it’s an incredibly difficult thing to do, is to brief somebody who’s making a website for you in written and spoken words and expect them to translate that into pictures that you will love. I was talking to a client yesterday who I really do love, actually, and we were debating this issue and she said, “I gave the designer these colours”, and I went, “Well, they’re horrible”, and she said, “Yeah, they are horrible.” The designer produced something to the client’s order, and the client said, “No, I don’t like that”, and it must be terribly frustrating to be the person doing the visuals when we tell them, “Here are the colours”, and you use the colours and then we go, “Oh no, we don’t like those.” It just seems like an area that’s fraught, ridden, with nightmares, really. You know this thing that the web design people always say is, you know, we always say, “Could you make the green a little bit greener?” But they’ve no idea what we’re talking about.
So your advice to any business, unless they’re a little bit down the line and more sophisticated and upgrading, is just put up anything and get on with it?
Nicola: Well yes, just keep it really, really simple. Some of the best websites, like WPCurve.com, is grey, white, and black. If you can’t decide on a colour, even for an accent colour or highlight colour when you hover over a word, just go with grey white and black, with perhaps your favourite colour as the accent colour. For example, our accent colour is currently bright pink, out of the stripe in Own It.
Your talking about “could you make it a little more green” reminds me of a story when Heather was at Abbey Road Studios doing something for some film, oh, Sleepy Hollow. She was being the singing voice of the witch in Sleepy Hollow, and she was alone in the booth and she was just trying to get it right, and she had to keep doing this breathy little girl’s voice, and just singing over and over again. Anyway, suddenly this voice comes down from the sound booth above that says, “We’re getting there, but could you just make it sound a little bit more deceased.” Now, she is very firmly alive, she had no idea what that meant.
Nicola: She got there in the end.
Judith: None of us have got any experience of sounding dead, have we?
Nicola: No, but she got the gig, and if you watch the film, not the television series, that would have been marvellous, the film, she is the singing voice of Miranda Richardson, sounding deceased.
Judith: If logos, branding, your personal brand, and graphic design is not particularly important, but how your website looks is, how can we help people in this area? Are we saying pick something quite minimalist to start with and just get the content up there, and then fuss a little bit later on?
Nicola: Yes, because the brand will come from the pictures you choose on the blog posts. I’m very particular on the pictures, so I like used Photodune.net. If you go OwnItThePodcast.com/AudioJungle, and then click through to Photodune, you’ll actually find some amazing pictures. I find they’ve got much funkier, more distinctive pictures. You buy them literally for a dollar, or two dollars each. I’m very particular about the pictures, so that can create the brand. The other thing that creates the brand is your voice. If for example we’re creating a brand with Own It that’s coming from our personalities, because our voices are very us, we’re being very authentic and we’re being very us, and that’s part of your personal brand, in the same way that the way you write a blog post is very personal to you. Don’t be afraid of being uniquely you. That’s what will build your personal brand.
Judith: Yes, and there’s a lovely expression, isn’t there: “Be you, because everybody else is taken.”
Nicola: Yes, that’s a good one. I like that a lot. WordPress does have some really nice, basic – the default theme that comes with WordPress – there’s two at the moment – I think that’s 14 and 13, they are really nice themes. Just pick one of those two, tinker with the colours a little bit perhaps so there’s a flash of colour, but keep it really minimalist, and of course if you’ve got a lovely white and grey blog that’s really minimalist, the pictures you choose can be really, really, colourful. You don’t have to worry about the pictures matching your colours.
Judith: I must say I really like the white ones, and when I see somebody with a very minimalist one I’m terribly envious, and every time I do a re-brand I think oh, I’m going to keep it absolutely white and minimalist this time. I can’t do it. I wish I could, I’m too coloured-y.
Nicola: WPCurve.com is a really good example, it’s all white and grey and the only colour comes from the pictures, and a flash of colour on the numbers. If you go to The Minimalists website that’s another good example. If you go to Zen Habits, that’s another good example. It reminds me of when we were trying to do the magazine for ROARLocal. I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like, but I couldn’t express that in words. I wanted it to look architecture-y, which isn’t very helpful for most people, but I found a graphic designer who, I was skulking about some portfolios on E-Lance, and I found a graphic designers, ironically, 7 miles down the road in Brighton. You have to go onto an online forum to find a local graphic designer.
He had actually done a magazine for an architect, and I said, “I want it to look just like that”, and, “I love that, that’s great, that’s exactly what I’m after.” He sent me the first draft and it looked nothing like that, so I sent him back to his own portfolio and said, “That’s what I want it to look like. Give me that”, and he came back with the second draft and it did just look like that. If you are briefing a visual person like that, I would definitely find some examples of things you like.
Judith: Yes. They usually ask you for that, and actually, what you demonstrated in that story was that you did know what you want. I think the difficulty comes if you don’t really know what you want.
Nicola: Yes, but I think if you go and look at some, if you just put a search in Google for “beautiful websites 2014”, there are actually websites that collate beautiful websites. If you start looking through those and just take screenshots of the ones you like, even if you can’t articulate why you like them, the graphic designer will be able to discern from the ones you’ve picked, what elements you like.
Judith: Yes, I do think that they are quite gifted, that they can turn our weirdnesses into something that expresses us.
Nicola: Yeah. But really you shouldn’t be spending more than a day on this. In Dan’s “7 Day Startup” book, you’re allowed a day to pick the name, a day to get the site up, and I love that discipline because it means you cannot… I’ve got one client, coaching client, he’s literally nearly at the end of his “4 Weeks, Fast Start Masterclass” and he hasn’t done anything yet because he’s still deciding on the name. Obviously I’m giving him fairly gentle, but increasingly becoming urgent reminders.
Judith: I think you should keep him in remedial. He should stay behind in remedial week one until he’s got his name, Nicola.
Nicola: Yeah, possibly. Yes, he’s saying, “I can’t find the dot com now”, and I said, “Look, if I can find ClicksandLeads.com, you can find a dot com you like.” For heaven sake.
Nicola: Put ‘the’ on the front of it, for whatever it is you’re thinking of. That’s the other thing isn’t it; clients are so reluctant to tell you what their ideas and their names are because they’re worried that someone else will steal them.
Judith: How weird.
Nicola: Again, execution is 90% of business success, as Gary Vaynerchuk would say this, he would heartily agree, get it up there, get it rolling. You can always change the name later, you can always change the logo later, you can always change the website later. We changed the name of this just literally before the first episode went out, didn’t we?
Nicola: Because I hadn’t read your emails properly!