“What’s your brand?” It’s a question I didn’t know how to respond to then, and am still pondering now.
A few weeks before COVID-19 shut the entire world down, I was in Washington, DC, at the Dad 2.0 Summit. It’s an annual gathering of dads who are in marketing, content creating, blogging, and social media influencing on the topic of fatherhood.
Why, you may ask, was I attending a conference for influencers when I can’t influence my children to clean their rooms or not repeat four-letter words I let slip out in traffic?
I attended Dad 2.0 because I have the great fortune of being part of the Fathering Together team. Fathering Together is a non-profit that emerged out of a Facebook group called Dads With Daughters, which quickly became the largest dad group on the site, with over 124,000 members.
If you’re a dad with a daughter and aren’t part of the group, please consider joining. If you’re a dad with a son, we have a Dads with Sons group that is also a wonderful community of support.
*Quick plug- we’ve just published an e-book called Fathering Stories Volume 1, which you can get for only $1.99 at any site that sells e-books. It makes a great Father’s Day present!
I’m no stranger to networking at conferences and other gatherings. Most of them are in the church and non-profit world. I know how to give my elevator speech about whatever church or ministry I’m serving, the social justice causes I advocate for, about the web-tool I currently run, and about how I now chaplain the non-profit community.
But what is my brand? The people I met at Dad 2.0 all had a keen sense of what they’re about. Their social media, their websites, their books- everything has this well defined sense of purpose. I have all of those things, too, but they don’t really have one specific theme.
I’ve written a book about mental illness, several volumes of devotionals and bible studies, as well as chapters, articles, and blog posts on all kinds of topics. I used to be a very active blogger dealing with the religious/spiritual dimensions of current events (I’m trying to get back in the habit).
My social media is about… well, my life, I guess.
Scroll through my Instagram and you’ll see that I hang out with my family, I cook food, I brew beer, I share religious ideas, I advocate for social justice causes, and I have a very snarky sense of humor. Any one of these could be my “brand”. I’ve been encouraged by numerous people to pick one and really lean into it. I’m not sure I would be successful at this, but it’s theoretically possible.
However, I’ve spent the last two years detoxing from a twenty year period of my life where the role of “pastor” consumed me. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that “different people’s ideas of who/what they want a pastor to be” consumed me. I had long stretches where I lived in fear of anything I might do, say, think, or feel that didn’t fit within that ridiculous box we’ve all constructed.
I have had other times where it drove me so nuts I would do things to try to blow up that box, knowing darn well it would make other people upset, in a desperate attempt to claim my own identity. That’s not healthy, either.
I may change my mind about this later, but at the moment I simply do not want to have a “brand”. I believe attempting to have one would drag me back into those unhealthy places I’ve been trying to escape.
All of those niches others have identified as possible branding routes are all legitimate aspects of who I am.
I’m a clergy-person because I feel called to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in everything I do, and to care for and guide others along the journey.
I share my family’s exploits because being a husband and father is one of the most important things I’ll ever do, and because it brings people joy.
I cook, brew, and host gatherings because I love creating community and helping others build relationships with one another. Plus I love to eat…
I advocate for social justice because my gender, skin color, and socio-economic status afford me privilege I didn’t earn. I’m part of the problem, so I want to be a small part of the solution.
I share inspiring and humorous things because we live in a world that often seems so dark and cynical, (heck, I can get so dark and cynical) that I want to do what I can to pull us back toward the light.
I know and admire a lot of people who have developed certain brands and personas, and many of them are doing it from super healthy and joyful places. Good for them! But I’m not there right now.
This time of social distancing means that I haven’t had any of these “branding” conversations in a while, but the time will come when we can have large gatherings, and I know those questions will come again.
When that time comes, I may feel led to lean into one of these things I care about in a much more intentional way. But for right now, all of these things are parts of who I am. The things I put out for the world to see don’t add up to something that fits in one particular box.
I may have fewer followers on social media because of that, but I feel better than I have in a long time. That’s worth a whole lot more than whatever brand I might be able to create.