As a PR major back in college, branding was a huge topic of study in my upper level classes, and one I enjoyed. We studied and practiced not only branding a company or organization, but ourselves – a valuable tool to use for anyone going out into the workforce wanting a job. So when I came across a well written horsey article on the topic of the personal brand, I got a little geeked out. I also started thinking about how ever since I stopped being employed by others in a traditional sense, I have been giving less and less thought to the concept of putting a somewhat strategic persona out there. I guess I just feel like it will just emerge naturally… but this article had me thinking differently on the matter.
Even as an amateur rider, a brand or reputation is important in the horse world, because this is a people business just as much as it is a horse business. Every person you interact with is an opportunity to further your riding, make a valuable connection to a helpful professional, learn something new, or just build your network of horse friends. For someone like me who wants to move up levels, train with talented riders, and have good experiences while doing so, having a good reputation is important.
In today’s world we have two basic arenas where our brand is built: online and in person.
As the world moves towards being highly social media oriented, revisiting how I frame myself to others through my online presence is certainly a good idea. I am personally friends on Facebook and Instagram with lots of individuals I’ve met in a professional matter, from old bosses to coworkers to college professors to equine professionals (farriers, trainers, barn owners, saddle fitters, veterinarians, etc). On Instagram and WordPress, I tend to follow and be followed by a mix of those who I know in real life and those who are complete strangers. Again because I see myself as a mature adult, and enjoy being a decent human who is supportive of others, I don’t think I have to try very hard to portray myself well on social media, especially keeping in mind who sees what I post and that I like maintaining clean professional relationships.
On the flip side keeping it professional online is certainly an area many individuals in my feeds fail miserably at, so I find I learn a lot of valuable lessons from others’ mistakes. From inappropriate rants to dramatic arguments to outrageous photos, it really can be shocking sometimes. I guess I am not totally immune. I made my own mistake recently when I rehomed Emma and made a gushy post about how much I loved her and the home she was going to – I should’ve known better and realized that advertising her rehoming would prompt negative reactions from individuals who otherwise would’ve never known about the change. At the end of the day, I did no wrong to anyone else, I did what was best for Emma and myself given my current state of life, and I did not get dramatic at anyone when I knew they were casting judgy remarks. I moreso learned a lesson on maybe being more private about certain things. It was a tough decision to rehome Em and I was seeking support from my online pals; rather it ended up making me feel worse about the situation. Luckily, lets face it, in my horse community locally I am a nobody, so I doubt anyone is dwelling on the issue but myself. As the article that prompted this line of thinking says, you can always change your brand – and it’s definitely easy to change it while nobody is paying much attention.
As far as my in person presence in the horse world, at this point it is pretty non existent. I live in the middle of nowhere and outside of trips to the store and get togethers with friends, I am not presently having many interactions in a professional sense (i.e. riding lessons, clinics, shows, meetings, and the like). This is something I look forward to working on in the next few years. I can’t network, open up future riding opportunities, and share my “brand” if I never leave my own farm.
Is your brand something you give thought to or do you just “let it happen”?