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Voice Bureau Asks

We ask 5 smart voices for their 100-word take on 1 provocative brand challenge. Today’s question is . . .

What did you learn from your biggest branding misstep?

Jessika Hepburn

Jessika Hepburn“In my almost ten years of entrepreneurship I’ve built, and worn, a number of brands and identities. Most of them weren’t all that awesome and some of them were downright terrible! Looking through my early branding attempts is like tripping through old school year books — you cringe at the hair but are also attracted by how young and recklessly stupid you were. I was at a Veda Hille concert years ago where she chatted with the audience about her first demo tape. She asked us, and this stuck with me, ‘How could you let me be so young in public?’ My whole business evolution has been one long process of being young in public. I am not formally trained, I have no bits of paper certifying I know what I am doing, everything I know I learned the hard way . . . by messing it up. I can say one thing for sure about my branding (and life) adventures: I’ve turned a gazillion wrong corners but every single one takes me in the right direction.

Jessika Hepburn is the editor and creative force behind Oh My! Handmade, a community where the diverse creative entrepreneurs of the world connect to build the work of their dreams, learn how put food in the fridge, and  find a big hug when things don’t go as planned (and they never go as planned).


Dave Ursillo

Dave UrsilloMy biggest branding misstep was thinking of my brand as something different than who I am as a human being. That includes my name, face, personality, and sharing my flaws and missteps just as much as my successes and victories. Your brand is as simple as being as ‘most you’ as you possibly can be, and proudly owning what you believe and why you do what you do. To many, that’s more terrifying than tossing impersonal copy around a $50 logo. What I tell every writer, artist, creative, blogger, or budding entrepreneur is that your face is your logo, so show it; your story is your mission statement, so tell it; your life is your business, so live it.

Dave Ursillo is a writer and entrepreneur who teaches creative self-activators how to live and love the journey while forging new freedom in their lives through their beloved crafts. Join his writers’ group at

Brit Hanson

Brit Hanson“I washed the poetry
out of my brand.

I replaced
the collections
with code;
my pencils
with pens;
Richard Wright
with his rigid Granny.

No, I’m not
being coy.

I lost my way
the moment I smeared,
crinkled and tossed
those lyrics and lines,
that intuitive atlas,
down the laundry shoot
with my sweaty tees.

Hurry to the basement
there’s still time.

You cannot —
must not —
wash out
the thing
that is
your poetry.

Brit is a poet and digital storyteller who offers story-based social media services at

Jenn Gibson

Jenn Gibson

I didn’t have a clear vision of aesthetic or identity for Roots of She in the beginning; I had this idea for a project, something I needed to birth, and I leapt and dove right in, pulling in pieces of previous projects and online journals. It wasn’t a good fit, but it was enough so I could begin, so I went with it. Within three months, I had revamped so many core items: banner, social media buttons, color scheme — and heck, while I was changing things, I moved from Blogger to WordPress. The end result of that evolution was a clean, simplistic site with an abundance of white space and sleeker lines.

“The huge lesson in it all was to slow down: No, things don’t have to be ‘perfect’ to launch, but not rushing the pre-launch, getting clear on the basics — from blogging platform to color palette to posting schedule — is so important and saves so much time and energy in the end.

Jenn Gibson is a life coach and the creator of Roots of She, a collection of true stories and tender wisdom for women, by women.


Tamarisk Saunders-Davies

Tamarisk Saunders-Davies“There’s no big, face-palm moment but I understand the word ‘brand’ to mean the promise of an experience, so branding missteps happen in my business any time I am not delivering on the type of experience I am promising. That might be a blog post I think is going to have everyone piling into the comments and sharing everywhere — and it has zero effect. It might be the somatic sensation that Twitter feels weird for me right now. Usually, things like that mean the experience that people seek when they hang out with me online isn’t coming through for them.

Tamarisk is a Connection Catalyst (AKA life coach) who helps courageous women take their lives from average to awesome.

In the comments, we’d love to hear:

What’s been your biggest branding misstep and what did you learn from it? And — out of curiosity — looking back, were there any signs you should’ve seen that would’ve told you were in the midst of a misstep?

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This is a Reader Edition of The Voice Bureau Asks, in which we hand our readers the mic. We want to hear your 100-word take on 1 provocative brand challenge. Today’s question is . . .

Why do you want a tribe?


Tribes. As business owners and brand creators, we’re “supposed to” have them.

We’re supposed to nurture them, inspire them, empower them. We’re supposed to email them regularly.

We’re supposed to know what to do with them. (This last part has confounded many a smart and enterprising brand creator, so if this part is confusing for you, you’re not alone.)

Most of knowing what to do with your tribe comes with understanding why you even want one — and that’s exactly what we’d like to talk with you about today.

We’re asking this question because in our recent Reader Survey (which is still open for contributions, by the way), contributors have said that one of their Top 3 goals for 2013 is to grow their community, readership, or tribe.

So we want to know — why?

What do you think you’ll get by growing your tribe?

What are you hoping for?

What’s the result you’re aiming for?

In the comments, we’d love to hear:

Why do you want a tribe? Lay it out for us and we’ll talk back.

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Let’s face it:

Creating a brand identity, relaunching a brand, or keeping your brand looking, feeling, sounding, and behaving like its most excellent self is a worthy challenge for any business owner.

Especially for new-ish brand creators who haven’t had the benefit of market response, peer feedback, and industry push-and-pull.

Wouldn’t it be nice to pick a successful brand creator’s brain on a regular basis, and get some answers to the questions that nag you most about creating your brand?

That’s the purpose of The Voice Bureau Asks, our every-Wednesday blog feature.

Each week, right here, we ask 5 smart business owner/brand creators for their take on a provocative brand-related challenge.

We’ve already asked our contributors the best way to defuse a tense moment on social media.

We took the pulse on how to make sending a scary business email a little easier.

And last week we asked you, our readers, to tell us a bit about you and what you’re curious about this year as you grow your brand, your content strategy, and your marketing plan.

This week we’d like to turn The Voice Bureau Asks over to you.

In the comments, would you share with us:

What’s your big, bad branding question — the one that keeps you stirring your latte nervously? (You’re not supposed to stir lattes, are you?) It might be about creating your visual brand, using your own natural brand voice effectively, designing a content strategy, marketing with more empathy and acumen, writing your own copy, or working with a creative pro like a copywriter or a web designer. Lay it on us. We’re listening. And no question is off limits.

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We’d love to get to know you better.

So we created a survey.

Would you contribute? You can participate anonymously, if you choose, and only the questions with asterisks (nothing too nosy) are required. Thanks in advance for your goodwill.

Thanks so very much.

Your responses will be used to help us generate a body of work that serves you excellently as you grow your brand.

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We ask 5 smart voices for their 100-word take on 1 provocative brand challenge. Today’s question is . . .

What do you tell yourself right before sending that scary email?

Laura Simms

“The scary emails I send usually fall under one of three categories: 1. Saying no,  2. Holding a boundary, and 3. Asking for something that feels really big to ask for. Once I’ve written the email, I scan it with two things in mind: ‘How would I feel if I was on the receiving end of this email?’ and ‘Would I stand by this if it was reprinted somewhere public and my heroes read it?’ Makes for a great integrity check before I press send.”

 Laura Simms is a career coach who helps people find work that feeds their purse and their pulse. Find her at Create As Folk.

Srinivas Rao

Srinivas Rao from BlogcastFM“One of my favorite phrases is ‘World War III is not going to erupt in your inbox.’ I send emails to influential people on a daily basis because I run a show where I interview them. I always make it a point to remind myself that if they say no or turn me down,  it’s not a reflection on me or my work. The other kind of email is one in which you try to resolve a conflict. I generally will try to avoid doing that via email. But when I have to, I remind myself that at least the weight of all that uncertainty will be off my shoulders and I’ve let the other person know how I feel.”

Srinivas Rao is the host-cofounder of BlogcastFM where he has interviewed over 300 bloggers, authors, and entrepreneurs.

Jamie Wallace

Jamie Wallace from Suddenly MarketingStep #1: Avoid sticky-wicket situations by making sure communications are consistent, clear, and complete. By keeping everyone in-the-loop every step of the way, you can usually eliminate the need for scary emails.

“Step #2: When life gets messy, and you find yourself – with fingers poised over the keyboard – unsure of how to say what needs to be said, aim to write something that is direct, honest, brief, and offers solutions. If possible, start with a phone call instead of an email.

“Step #3: Remember that even the scariest email is not the end of the world. Life will go on.”

At Suddenly Marketing, Jamie Wallace helps clients create resonant brands, standout content, and loyalty-inspiring customer experiences. And she makes sure they have fun doing it.

Kylie Bellard

Kylie Bellard from Effervescence“My tactic is to reread, reread, and then reread again, each time making sure my missive says what I want to say, how I want to say it. If I’m really nervous about an email, I sleep on it before sending it. Often after a night of sleep, I see typos that I would have missed otherwise. Then I press send, step away, and take a nice, deep breath.”

Kylie Bellard is an uber-compassionate coach and photographer who teaches people how to like themselves so they can bring all their wonderfulness to the world.

Emma Alvarez Gibson

“Risky emails are really frightening for me, I’ll admit. There’s always a stomachache, and often a shortness of breath. So I start by slowing my breath down. Then I think about how whatever issue is contained in the email exists outside of the email — meaning that communicating a problem is different from creating a problem. Then I imagine the worst possible outcome, and get good and comfortable with it. I know odds are good that that won’t be what happens, but am relatively prepared if it does.

“And then, finally, I hit send. And breathe some more.”

Emma Alvarez Gibson is made of words and branding. She’s working on her first novel.


In the comments, we’d love to hear:

What do you tell yourself to make sending those scary emails a little easier?  Add your perspective, then share this piece with your audience so they can see what you have to say, and weigh in, too.

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